Eruvin 105 Intellectual honesty opposed to a philosophy of leniencies

This short daf deals with various work needed for the maintenance of the מקדש , to remove impure items from it, and how and by whom it should be done.

This is based on a debate in the concluding Mishna of the Masechta regarding how to remove a dead שרץ  (creeping creature/bug) from the Temple.

The Masechta ends, however, by focusing on a rather cryptic statement in the final Mishna by Rabbi Shimon: מקום שהתירו לך חכמים משלך נתנו לך שלא התירו לך אלא משום שבות – “The place where the sages permitted it to you, they gave you from your own, as they only permitted it because of a rabbinical prohibition.”

Whatever the meaning of this statement, we might instinctively think that it has something to do with the debate in this Mishna itself.

Yet the Gemara understands this as a flashback to two other debates that Rabbi Shimon was involved in:

  1. Although the Chachamim hold that even if one stepped one אמה outside the תחום  (shabbos zone), it is forbidden to return, Rabbi Shimon allows a leeway of up to 15 אמות  because the people who measure the תחום  do not do so precisely and leave a safety net of this distance inside the תחום.

The first part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

“That which they (according to me) permitted you, ie 15 amos, was really yours to begin with, due to the safety net made by the measurers.”

  • Although Chachamim permitted retying a string that came loose on a musical instrument required for the Temple service, due to the rule of אין שבות במקדש , Rabbi Shimon forbade it, seeing as he held that this is a biblical prohibition, and only permitted tying it with a bow.

The second part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

“They only permitted  tying a bow which is a שבות, not tying a knot which (according to me) is a biblical transgression.

Rashi and Tosfos both explain that Rabbi Shimon makes these statements here because they are connected to his ruling regarding the string of an instrument.

Tosfos adds that this discussion was interrupted by listing the other things permitted because אין שבות במקדש  (there are no rabbinical prohibitions when it comes to Temple service) and Rabbi Shimon is now returning to explain his position there.

They both explain that Rabbi Shimon is going out of his way to stress that his leniency regarding the תחום  was not due to his taking shabbos lightly and a general policy of leniency, but because he felt it was objectively the correct ruling, seeing as the safety net was intentionally placed for that reason.

In contrast, when  it comes to making  a knot, he believed that a biblical prohibition was involved and only permitted a bow, in keeping consistently with the rule of אין שבות במקדש, even though the Chachamim were lenient.

Although both Rashi and Tosfos explain the positioning of Rabbi Shimon’s “clarification” of his approach based on the recent placement of the late dispute, it seems fitting that the Maseches concludes in this way.

After all, as we have seen so many times, Eruvin is not just about the technical and specific laws of Eruvin, but also about the power of rabbinical decrees as a whole and many global rules of psak halocho.

We have seen many leniencies when it comes to rabbinic decrees, such as ספק דרבנן לקולא, אין שבות במקדש, אין גוזרין גזירה לגזירה etc , as well as many exceptions to these rules.

Rabbi Shimon, in particular, is known for many leniencies in the rules of Shabbos, among them דבר שאין מתכוין מותר, מלאכה  שאינה צריכה לגופא פטור, לית ליה מוקצה,  גגות חצירות וקרפפים רשוצ אחת הן,  כתבי קודש  etc.

However, as we discussed early in the Maseches (see post on Eruvin 7,) halacha ideally should not be about having a philosophy of leniency or stringency, but rather about searching for the objective truth.

It is so fitting that such a Masechta should end with no other than the “lenient” Rabbi Shimon clarifying his position that his leniencies do not flow from any זלזול (making light of) the laws of Shabbos, chas veshalom, but from his objective view of the truth in each case.

Just like he was lenient so often in cases where he believed the truth required leniency, he was not afraid to be stringent against consensus when he felt that the truth required it.

Although a poseik might often be required to take local circumstances or even “meta-halachik” factors into account when issuing rulings, Rabbi Shimon, forever the idealist, seems to be teaching us that the ideal derech of a poseik and Talmid Chacham, namely intellectual honesty and objectivity, must never be forgotten.

הדרן עליך מסכת עירובין והדרון עליך

Its been an incredible journey, and we will miss you, as we temporarily move on to exciting new territory with Maseches Pesachim, Hashem willing, truly inspired and looking forward to the next round!

Eruvin 104 Soccer on Shabbos and when a גזירה’s reason doesn’t apply

One of the more contentious issues in many communities today is the question of children, teens, and even adults  playing  sports on Shabbos.

On the one hand, many argue that not only does this practise not confirm with the required atmosphere for the holiest day of the week, it also involves many other halachik problems.

On the other hand, most of these points could be arguable, and there is a strong argument that for many, they can certainly enhance their “oneg shabbos” , itself a major mitzva.

Some of the issues raised against playing games like soccer even in a private domain, are:

  1. Running itself is prohibited on shabbos. (see Shabbos 113a)
  2. The game is not in keeping with the spirit of shabbos and could even be in the category of forbidden weekday activities (see Peninei Halacha Shabbos 24/9 based on Rav A.I. Kook)
  3. Running on long  grass is problematic as one might come to uproot the grass while doing so, itself a forbidden melacha on shabbos. (see M.B. 336/25)
  4. Playing with a ball along the ground is prohibited on shabbos. (see M.B. 308/158)
  5. A ball is muktza (see S.A. O.C. 308/45)
  6. There is  a Midrash (Eichah Rabba parsha 2, possibly also referenced in the Yerushalmi  Taanis 4/5 ) that blames the destruction of the city טור שמעון on the fact that they played with balls on shabbos.

We saw in a recent post (see Eruvin 100)  that although walking in a rushed manner and running on shabbos are forbidden due to the passuk in Yeshaya forbidding weekday activities, in particular walking in a weekday rushed manner, running for the sake of a mitzva is permitted, as is running for “oneg shabbos” or even to get to an activity from which one will get “oneg shabbos.”

As such, the first 2 points seem less problematic, and although some have argued that given its nature as a commercial sport, soccer might be different to running and still be considered a weekday activity (Pninei halacha based on Rav A.Y. Kook ), this argument seems rather subject to debate, given that  both running and all sports are popular both privately and commercially.

In fact, given one’s busy school or work schedule during the week, they are actually far more popular on weekends than on “weekdays” and singling out sports like soccer as being particularly commercial in nature when it is a game played casually by young people in their backyards in most places in the world seems somewhat subjective.

We saw in that post that there is no issue with walking on grass on shabbos, even on long grass, and even with shoes with nails in them, due to the principle of דבר שאין מתכוין מותר.

We also saw that although the Mishna Berura forbids running on long grass and consider it פסיק  רישיה, this does not apply on short grass, and the Aruch haShulchan disagrees strongly and permits running on short grass as well- we also  analyzed the basis for this disagreement in classical sources.

Even on long grass according to the Mishna Berura, this would at worst only be rabbinically prohibited as פסיק רישיה דלא ניחה ליה  , seeing as one derives no benefit from any grass uprooted during the game.

The fifth point is a sugya in its own right, and needs to be dealt with separately, but the Rema (O.C. 308/45) rules that this is not an issue in any case, and the sixth point is aggadic material which needs to be understood but is not necessarily halachically relevant. Indeed, it is not mentioned by most Rishonim and Achronim at all ( see though Aruch haShulchan O.C. 38/70  who does bring it into the discussion.)

For the purposes of this post, I would like to focus  on point 4, which is based on a discussion on this very daf.

The Gemara has been discussing the prohibition of השמעת קול, making sounds with objects (as opposed to the voice) on shabbos, which is rabbinically forbidden in case on comes to fix a musical instrument.

The Gemara has been entertaining the later rejected  possibility that not only קול של שיר, the kind of sounds that accompany song are forbidden, but even other sounds, such as knocking on the door, making noise to wake someone up ,clapping hands to scare away birds, or drawing water with a wheel-run device are also forbidden.

One of the attempted proofs the Gemara brings is from a ruling of Rav quoted by Rav Yehuda that women who are accustomed to play with hazel-nuts  (rolling them like marbles, which Rashi explains was a common pastime for ladies) may not do so on Shabbos.

The Gemara at first assumed that this is because of the sounds they make and that this ruling is proof that even non song-related noises are forbidden.

It rejects this proof by explaining that the reason for this rabbinical prohibition is completely different, and is due to the concern that they might fill-in any holes in the courtyard ground that get in the way of the game (where the hazelnuts could be trapped.)

This could involve the melacha of building (indoors or perhaps in  courtyard) or ploughing (outdoors.)

It brings further evidence that this must be the reason from the fact that Rav Yehuda also forbade rolling apples along the ground, though they do not make noticeable sounds like hazel nuts.

However, it is very possible that this decree is limited to

  1. Women who play this game commonly, and not others for whom the concern is not so common
  2. Hazelnuts and apples which are relatively small and easily trappable in small to medium sized holes in the ground, and not larger spherical   objects such as a melon or a modern-day soccer balls (I am using this term for the sake of clarity although it is not a precisely accurate description for these items.)
  3. Situations and/or times where the ground used is usually already smooth and/or it is not common for players to smooth the ground out before or while playing.

Due to points 2-3, playing soccer is clearly rather removed from the decree that formed the basis for Rav’s ruling, and applying this prohibition thus seems to be quite a stretch.

Although one might argue from the case of the apples that the decree was not limited to small spheres such a hazel-nuts but included round items of all sizes, it is just as likely that it included items as large as apples, but not significantly larger, as argued in point 2 above

The issue raised in point 3 requires much analysis:

There is a general rule of אין בית דין יכול לבטל דברי בית-דין חבירו אלא אם כן גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין  – one court may not annul the words of an earlier court unless it is greater than it in wisdom and numbers  (Megila  2a ) .

 This and the related rules of

  1. 1.        כל דבר שבמנין צריך מנין אחר להתירו  (Beitza 5a-anything voted as forbidden by a court/group of authorities  requires another vote to permit it)

AND

  •  לא פלוג רבנן (B.M 52a-the Rabbis do not differentiate between different cases in their decrees but rather make blanket rules )

seem to preclude annulling a decree such as this just because the concern of smoothing out holes does not apply commonly in a friendly soccer game.

Yet, there are various times where Tosfos argues that decrees do not apply in our day precisely because the reason for the decree is not relevant in our day.

For example, they argue that the prohibition of clapping, banging, and dancing even to song does not apply in our time because we are not expert in making/fixing musical instruments anymore and there is no concern one would do so (Beitza 30a ד”ה “תנן” )

They also argue that

  1.  the  prohibition of drinking מים מגולים  did not apply in their time as snakes were not common )Beitza 6a)
  2.  a bird used for children’s entertainment might not be muktza (Shabbos 45b),
  3.   the prohibition of entering into a partnership with idol-worshippers did not apply in his day seeing as the concern that they would make one swear by their idols was not relevant )Sanhedrin 63b ד”ה “אסור”, though the exact point Tosfos is making there is subject to much debate)

Whereas the question as to how the Tosfos are able to do this despite the principles quoted above requires a serious analysis, and one commonly suggested explanation is that they are not suggesting that the decree no longer applies but that the circumstances at hand are SO clearly different to those under which the decree was made that they were never included by Chazal in the decree in the first place.

While even this less controversial explanation of the approach of the Tosfos might not be accepted by many other Rishonim, there appears to be some precedent for it on our very daf.

One of the things that our Mishna permitted in the Mikdash as part of the long list of rabbinic prohibitions mentioned in our perek that do not apply there, was drawing water from certain pits with a wheel.

The implication of the Mishna is that this would be forbidden rabbinically  outside the Mikdash , and after suggesting that this is due to the prohibition against making sounds, the Gemara answered that it is out of concern that one might come to draw water to water his garden or ruin.

Despite this, the later Amora Ameimar permitted drawing water in such a way in the town of Mechoza, because there were no gardens or ruins there, until he saw that they used it for other forbidden purposes, such as soaking flax.

This seems to indicate that a later authority  (Ameimar) may permit something forbidden by an earlier authority (in this case none other than a Mishna) because the circumstances under which the decree was made do not exist.

The approach of the Tosfos thus seems clearly anchored in precedent, and even in the unlikely scenario that the decree against playing with hazelnuts and apples on a rough surface extended to larger spheres on a smooth surface, in a time and place where it is not common to play soccer on surfaces one would need to smooth during the game or directly before, there would still be reason to argue that such far-removed circumstances were never included in the decree in the first place.

Given the multiple reasons for leniency mentioned above and the fact that we are dealing with at most a rabbinical prohibition, forbidding soccer for reasons of this decree thus seems to be a rather stringent approach to the question.

We can also add to this the fact that the Tosfos on our daf say that even in the circumstances described on our daf with hazelnuts and apples, we should not protest and women and children who do this due to the principle of מוטב שיהיו שוגגין ואל יהיו מזידין , and there is strong argument that this principle also applies to teenage boys and other males who are also unlikely to listen.

At the end of the day, there are certainly worse things that kids could be up to these days, and although there might be other halachik, ideological, and policy issues that need to be taken into account before permitting it, this particular concern certainly doesn’t seem like cause for a major confrontation with them.

Having said this, achieving some balance is important- Given that Shabbos and Yom-Tov are supposed to  be special opportunities for spiritual pursuits such as davening, learning Torah, singing songs of praise, and strengthening the family, and not just for physical enjoyment, it seems clear that if these essential aspects of shabbos are replaced chas veshalom by sporting activities, this is a serious lack of כבוד שבת and is certainly forbidden.

As such, even if we permit  (or turn a blind eye to) kids playing sports during the afternoon while adults would usually be resting, it is essential to gently encourage and educate them to be a full part of the shabbos experience, both in shul and at home.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha

Eruvin 97-98 and 103 שבות במקדש וכתבי קודש

Eruvin 97-98 and 103  שבות במקדש וכתבי קודש

One of the main themes in the later part of this concluding chapter of Eruvin is the rule that אין שבות במקדש – there are no rabbinical prohibitions of Shabbos in the Temple.

For example, one may

  1. use a bolt that is attached to the door but drags on the floor to lock a door  (Eruvin 102a)
  2. return the bottom hinge of a door to its place (Eruvin 102b)
  3. put a bandage back on (Eruvin 102b)
  4. retie the string of a musical instrument that broke (according to those who permit מכשירי מצוה  ( see Gemara Eruvin 102b-103a)
  5. Cut a lesion off the hands of a kohain with one’s hand (Eruvin 103b)
  6. Scatter salt on the ramp (Eruvin 104a)
  7. Draw water from certain pits (Eruvin 104a)

When required for Temple service, even though they all involve rabbinic prohibitions and are not permitted elsewhere.

This leniency is limited to rabbinically forbidden actions that are needed for the Temple service, and do not apply to actions done for personal benefit, even if they are performed in the Temple.

Although, due to our many sins, we do not have a Temple today, this rule might not be completely irrelevant in our times, at least according to certain views.

The Gemara (Eruvin 93a) discusses the converse of the above-mentioned case, namely whether a שבות  needed for the Temple service may be performed outside the Temple.

For example, may one cut off a lesion from a kohain outside the Temple to make him fit for the service inside the  Temple?

Rav Yosef claims that this would not be permitted!

Yet Rav Safra brings an earlier Mishna (Eruvin 97b)  to dispute this claim.

We have learnt that if one was reading from a holy scroll on the איסקופה (threshold of his house), assumed at this point to be a private domain, and the scroll rolled to the ground of the public domain below, so long as one is still holding it in one’s hand, one may roll it up again.

This is because it has not yet “rested” in the public domain, being still in his hand, and although there would normally still be a rabbinic prohibition against doing so in case it falls from his hand and he comes to bring it in from a public domain, a biblical prohibition, when it comes to כתבי קודש  (holy books), this שבות  does not apply.

Rav Safra  amazingly assumes that the sanctity of holy books has the same law as the Temple service, due to their sanctity (see Rashi on Eruvin 93) and attempts to derive from here that in the face of such concerns, the rule of אין שבות במקדש  extends to outside the Temple too.

According to this interpretation of the rule, it does not refer to the geographic location where the שבות  is concerned but rather to its purpose- There is no שבות  when it comes to matters of sanctity!

In fact, the Gemara (Eruvin 98a) actually first explains that this lenient ruling is based on the view of Rabbi Shimon that כל דבר שהוא משום שבות אינו עומד בפני כתבי הקודש- “anything rabbinically forbidden regarding shabbos does not stand in the face of holy writings.”

However, Rav Safra’s proof is rejected (Eruvin 93a) based on the Gemara’s conclusion (Eruvin 98a) that the mishna was dealing with an איסקופה כרמלית  , not one that is a private domain.

Seeing as bringing it back into this כרמלית  from theרשות הרבים  would only be rabbinically prohibited, one is permitted לכתחילה  to roll it back so long as it is still in one’s hands without being concerned that it will  fall from his hands- this is in keeping with a general rule of אין גוזרין גזירה לגזירה (see Tosfos Eruvin 98 ד”ה “אלא”  who discusses this in more detail.)

As such, there is no proof from this Mishna that one may perform a שבות  needed for the מקדש  (or sanctity) outside the מקדש  .

However, while the Gemara rejects Rav Safra’s proof that such a שבות  may be performed even outside the מקדש, it does not seem to question his analogy between Temple service and holy writing (though see Tosfos haRosh Eruvin 93a ד”ה “ולאו” .)

As such, should we conclude from other sources, as Rav Safra continues to attempt to do and Abaya seems to concede, that שבות דמקדש  may be performed even outside the מקדש, it might follow that holy writings may be recovered outside the מקדש  as well, so long as no biblical transgression is transgressed.

However, not only does Rava (Eruvin 93b)  seem to conclude that we have no proof that a שבות במקדש  may be performed outside the Mikdash, the conclusion of the Gemara on Eruvin 98 seems to be clear that we do not follow Rabbi Shimon’s leniency regarding כתבי קודש .

As such, it seems that there is no blanket rule that one may perform a rabbinical prohibition for the sake of holy writings on Shabbos, and on the contrary, the default rule seems to be that it is forbidden in cases where there is a concern of coming to a biblical prohibition.

Yet as Tosfos (Eruvin 93a) points out, the Gemara (Eruvin 97a) permits bringing in Tefillin that one finds in the public domain and are in danger of desecration, 4 amos at a time, something normally rabbinically forbidden.

He concludes that there are indeed times when   שבות  might be permitted for the sake of holy writings, such as in that case where they are in danger of actual desecration.

Tosfos haRosh goes further and suggests that when holy writings are in danger of desecration in the street, it is the equivalent of שבות במקדש במקדש  – a שבות  regarding the מקדש  INSIDE the מקדש, a rather abstract concept that requires further analysis.

In our case, however, it might not be dignified for the holy writings to be left in the public domain, but they are not in danger of actual desecration.

Although only Rabbi Shimon permits a שבות  in the latter case, everyone seems to agree that it is permitted in the former, an application of the rule of אין שבות במקדש  even in our day- Holy books are evidently the closest thing we have to a Temple!These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha

Eruvin 100 Running on grass on Shabbos

This is one of those daf that are  filled with an array of different colorful topics not directly related to Eruvin per se, spanning from other shabbos laws to advice regarding marital intimacy.

One of them is the prohibition of climbing or making use of trees on Shabbos and Yom-Tov.

The Gemara also brings a Beraisa that says that one may not even walk on grass on Shabbos, apparently in case one uproots it while walking.

This supports a ruling to that effect of Rami bar Aba in the name of Rav Assi, who bases this on the passuk )Mishlei 19/2)  “ואץ ברגלים חוטא”- one who is “אץ” with his legs is a sinner.

Rashi explains that this implies that walking can be considered a sin and doing so on grass on shabbos is precisely such a case.

The Gemara brings another Beraisa that rules to the contrary that walking on grass on shabbos is permitted.

The Gemara gives several options to reconcile these two Beraisa’s:

  1. The stringent  Beraisa is talking about walking on moist grass, which Rashi explains is forbidden, whereas the other is talking about walking on dry grass which Rashi explains is considered as if it has already been uprooted. Perhaps this is because dry grass  does not grow, is no longer deriving much nourishment from the grounded and detaching it might thus not fall under the מלאכה  of קוצר (harvesting) which includes detaching anything from the place where it grows.
  2. The one Beraisa is talking about during the dry season, and the other is talking about during the wet season.
  3. The stringent  Beraisa is talking about someone who is not wearing shoes. Rashi explains that the grass gets stuck around his toes and is easily torn.
  4. The stringent Beraisa is talking about one is who wearing shoes with nails in the bottom which cause grass to be torn .
  5. The stringent Beraisa is talking about walking on long grass which is more easily uprooted.

Though there appear to be some differences in the גירסא  (wording) of the above distinctions, they seem to be conclusively rendered mute by the Gemara that concludes that “today” that we follow Rabbi Shimon who holds that דבר שאין מתכוין מותר, it is permitted under all the above circumstances.

We have discussed multiple times in our posts on Maseches Shabbos the rule of דבר שאין מתכוין- when an otherwise permitted action might result in an unintended  secondary forbidden action.

Although Rabbi Yehuda and the Amora Rav forbid such an action, Rabbi Shimon and the Amora Shmuel permit it, and many Amoraim rule accordingly, including the later authority Rabbah- one of the only 3 times he supports a leniency of Shmuel against a stringency of Rav.

In our case, one wishes to perform the ostensibly permitted action of walking on grass, and there is a concern that while doing so, one will unintentionally transgress a second forbidden action of uprooting the grass

As we also know from various places, when the secondary forbidden action is inevitable, it is known as פסיק רישיה  and even Rabbi Shimon forbids the otherwise permitted action .

As such, it should follow from our Gemara’s application of Rabbi Shimon’s leniency to walking over grass in all these different circumstances that it does not consider uprooting the grass to be an inevitable result even when the shoes have nails in them or where the grass is long! (Alternatively, this could serve as a proof for the view of the ערוך who permits פסיק רישיה דלא ניחה but that is for a different discussion!)

If so, it seems that Rami bar Aba and Rav Assi who applied the passuk in Mishlei to this act, in line with the stringent Beraisa, must have held like Rabbi Yehuda and his view and accompanying דרשה  from the passuk is rejected together with the stringent Beraisa.

A very practical question involves whether this lenient ruling applies to running on grass as well.

On the one hand, the pressure exerted by running on the grass is certainly greater than that exerted by walking, both because of the speed as well as the different mechanism of running.

On the other hand, it is certainly not clear that running on short grass with regular shoes is more likely to uproot the grass than running on long grass with nailed shoes, and if the later is not considered פסיק רישיה, the former might not be either.

In addition, if there was a distinction between walking and running, one would expect the Gemara to make that distinction- it would be a perfect way to reconcile the two Beraisa’s!

One might counter that running is already forbidden on Shabbos as a weekday activity (see Shabbos 113a) but running  to learn, shul  or for the sake of another  mitzva is permitted (see Brachos 6b and Rif’s girsa there) , as is running for עונג שבת   (סמ”ק רפא) , so that argument seems rather mute.

If it was indeed פסיק רישיה  to run on grass on the way to shul, for example, one would expect the Gemara to say so at some point.

The Biur Halacha (O.C. 336/3) however, brings the סמ”ג  (לאוין סה) , who quotes the Yere’im as bringing our Gemara as a proof that one should not walk on grass on shabbos where it is impossible not to uproot it while walking!

He quotes others who questioned these words of the סמ”ג  based on the seemingly obvious fact that the Gemara rejected the view that forbids walking on grass because we follow Rabbi Shimon, implying that it does not consider it to be פסיק רישיה  under any circumstances- after all, this is how most of the Rishonim seem to have learnt the sugya!

He suggests that the סמ”ג  and יראים were bothered by the fact that the Gemara rejected all the distinctions made to reconcile the stringent Beraita with the lenient one, because we follow Rabbi Shimon, but did not reject the derasha of Rabbi Assi that started the discussion.

They therefore assume that Rabbi Asi’s derasha is still upheld and he must be referring to running on tall grass, which is considered to be  פסיק רישיה.

Based on this reasoning, he cautions in  the Mishna Berura (O.C. 336/25)  against running on long grass on Shabbos.

This seems to be quite a chumra, given that it is based on a distinction not made by the Gemara, as well as a novel interpretation of a סמ”ג  and יראים  that we do not see in most of the Rishonim (see Aruch haShulchan 336/21 who indeed rejects this stringency for these reasons,) but it opens the door to the possibility that under certain circumstances, there is a distinction between running and walking, and even when running is permitted on shabbos, for a mitzva or oneg shabbos, it might be problematic where uprooting the grass appears closer to inevitable.

Would the Mishna Berura extend that stringency to other types of running that might be closer to פסיק רישיה  such as running on regular grass without shoes or with nail-studded shoes?

Seeing as his ruling is already novel, and he never mentioned such obvious possibilities, it seems that even if we follow his stringency, we should apply the rule of אין בו אלא חדושו (we do not extend a novelty beyond what is stated,) unless it is clear to us under certain circumstances that there is a case of פסיק רישיה.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha

Eruvin 67 and 68  שבות דשבות  by a non-Jew and a Jew

Just as it is forbidden for a Jew to perform melacha (forbidden work) on Shabbos, it is usually forbidden for a Jew to ask a non-Jew to perform melacha for him on Shabbos, or to benefit from melacha done for him by a non-Jew on Shabbos, a topic we have discussed numerous times in previous posts.

However, there are exceptions, and one of them is where the melacha is performed for the sake of a mitzva or in the case of great need or suffering- The majority view in halacha is that it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform something that is only a שבות  (rabbinically prohibited action) on shabbos for the sake of the above.

As we shall see,  there is much debate regarding the scope of this leniency, with some opinions extending this leniency to any שבות  for any case of מצוה  or great need/suffering, and others limiting it to certain kinds of שבות  and/or certain special מצוות  or situations.

Furthermore, many later poskim extend this concept to any שבות דשבות , allowing even a Jew to perform an action that is only rabbinically forbidden for TWO separate reasons for the sake of a mitzva or in case of great need or suffering, and a minority view of Rishonim who allow one to ask a non-Jew to perform even a biblically forbidden act in such cases.

What all the opinions seem to agree with is that one of the main starting points, if not THE starting point for all these discussions is the sugya on our daf!

1: The Gemara relates how the warm water needed for a child spilled, and Rabbah advised the people to go get more from the house.

They replied that they had not made an eruv chatzeiros (and could thus not carry from his house to the shared courtyard or other house where they were.)

He advised them to rely on theשתוף  (form of eruv done to join all courtyards in a מבוי.)

They responded that this had also not been done.

He then suggested that they get a non-Jew to get more hot water for them.

At this stage, we should already be able to read between the lines and deduce the following about this case:

i.                    The only halachic issue involved was bringing the water through an area that had not been linked by an eruv, in other words a rabbinical prohibition (seeing as עירוב חצירות  and שתוף מבואות  would not help in a biblically defined public domain.

ii.                  Despite this being only a rabbinic prohibition, a Jew was not allowed to bring it even for the sake of the child.

iii.                The usual prohibition of asking a non-Jew to perform a forbidden action on behalf of a Jew did not apply in this case.

What is not clear from the Gemara is

1.      What kind of child this was talking about and what precisely the water was needed for?

2.      Whether the permission to ask a non-Jew to perform a forbidden action for the needs of a Jewish child would apply even to a biblical prohibition or is limited to a rabbinical prohibition like this.

3.      Whether the permission to ask a non-Jew to perform a prohibited action for a Jew is limited to this precise case, applies to any needs of a child, applies to any very important needs, or in the case of rabbinically forbidden actions, applies to any situation.

2: The Gemara proceeds to tell us that Abaya was unhappy with his Rebbe Rabbah’s permissive ruling, and wanted to object, but was constrained by his other Rebbe Rav Yosef.

Rav Yosef learned a golden rule from Rav Kahana, who learnt it from Rav Yehuda:  If one has an objection to a permissive halachik ruling of one’s Rebbe, if the objective involves a rabbinical prohibition, one should first follow the lenient ruling, and only afterwards bring the matter up with him.

Afterwards, Rav Yosef proceeded to ask Abaya what his objection had been.

Abaya replied that he wanted to object based on a Beraisa which compares אמירה לנכרי  (the prohibition of asking a non-Jew to perform a forbidden action for a non-Jew on Shabbos ) to  הזאה  ( sprinkling [the ashes of the red heifer] to purify someone.

The Beraisa tells us that both are  שבותים  (rabbinical prohibitions on shabbos) and do not push off shabbos.

The wording seems a little spurious- seeing as both are שבותים, surely it is is obvious that they do not push off shabbos?

Possibly for this reason, the Rishonim (See Rashi for example) understand that this is even for the sake of  mitzva, for example if erev pesach falls on shabbos and someone needs to be purified in order to be able to bring his קרבן פסח . Furthermore, this is not just any mitzva, but a mitzva whose failure to observe is punishable by kareit.

As such, it seems from Abaya’s objection that the case was one were the hot water was needed for a mitzva relating to the child, and probably a mitzva of similar weight.

There is such a mitzva that relates to a child, and this is ברית מילה!

As such, it know seems probable that this question was not about any needs of any child, but for the sake of the ברית מילה  of a baby, and this is indeed how many Rishonim learn the case, but back to that later.

3: Rav Yosef  replies to Abaya’s objective by making a distinction between a שבות שיש בו מעשה  and a שבות שאין בו מעשה . He backs this up by pointing out that they did not ask the non-Jew to go and heat up more water for the child! (This “proof” is omitted in certain גירסאות  (versions) of the text, something that makes a big difference to the flow of sugya, but that is for a little later.)

It is clear from Rav Yosef’s reply that not all שבותין  are equal- there are some (those that involve an “action” like sprinkling ashes) that are not permitted even for the sake of the great mitzva of ברית מילה  or קרבן פסח , and there are others (those that do not involve an action like telling a non-Jew to bring water through a courtyard that has not been “joined”) that are permitted, at least for the sake of such a mitzva.

What is not clear is what the meaning of the phrase “שבות שיש בו מעשה”  (a rabbinical prohibition of shabbos involving an action) and its opposite are.

There are several possibilities that could spring to mind, among them:

i.                    Perhaps the most obvious meaning of the text is that sprinkling ashes involves a physical action by a Jew, as opposed to telling a non-Jew to perform a forbidden action, which involves only “speaking” by a Jew.

 We know that speaking is not necessarily the same as a physical action, and that there is a debate when it comes to חיוב מלקות  (liability to corporal punishment [which generally only applies for a prohibition involving an action]) whether speaking qualifies as an action (see for example B.M. 90a)

 According to the view that it does not, the distinction here is obvious, but even according to the view that it does, it is possible that this only applies regarding חיוב מלקות  but that a different threshold applies when it comes to being overridden by a mitzva, certainly a great mitzva like this.

If this is the distinction referred to by Rav Yosef, it could be that any prohibition that does not involve an action by a Jew, even if it involves a biblical action by a non-Jew, would be permitted.

This is the view of the בה”ג  and רבינו חננאל – however, it does not seem to fit the “proof” that Rav Yosef brings for his distinction, namely the fact that the non-Jew is not being asked to heat the water for the baby, in others words he was not being asked to perform a biblical prohibition.

This seems so inconsistent with the simple meaning of Rav Yosef’s distinction that these authorities do not have this “proof” in their version of the text (what exactly this means and how it works is a fascinating topic in its own right!)

ii.                  It is possible that  שבות שיש בו מעשה  refers to the rabbinical prohibition of telling a non-Jew to do an actual “מעשה” as in “לא תעשה כל מלאכה”- a biblically prohibited מעשה, which is forbidden even for the sake of a mitzva, just like sprinkling is.

שבות שאין בו מעשה  would then refer to the rabbinical prohibition of telling a non-Jew to perform something which is only rabbinically forbidden as a שבות  and only actually considered “doing a melacha.”

Although creative, and perhaps a little forced, given that Rav Yosef does not refer to  עשית מלאכה  but rather to מעשה, this fits in with the “proof” brought by Rav Yosef, namely the fact that the non-Jew was not asked to perform a biblical melacha act such as heating up hot water for the baby.

This approach is taken by the Rif and quoted by various other Rishonim (see Rashba and Ritva, for example, who raise various difficulties on it, and Rosh on Shabbos Perek 19/2 who accepts it)

It would follow from this that one may NOT ask a non-Jew to perform a biblically forbidden at on shabbos even for a great mitzva like Bris Milah-One may only ask him to perform a rabbinically prohibited action like forbidden carrying though an area that does not involved a biblical public domain.

It is still not clear whether this permission applies to only Bris Milah, the other mitzva subject to כרת  for non-fulfillment, such as korban pesach, other mitzvos defined as מצוה רבה (extra great mitzvos), any mitzva, any situation of great need or distress, or perhaps for any need (Tosfos Gittin 8b limits it to milah) but some basis for permitting שבות דשבות על-ידי עכום  is at least present.

iii.                A third explanation of Rav Yosef’s distinction is that a שבות שיש בו מעשה  is an action that is applied to an object that physically changes it  (the emphasis on the “בו” referring to the object, also not the most obvious reading.)

The prohibition of telling a non-Jew to perform a forbidden action on shabbos might be limited to one that changes the actual object, and not something that simply changes its position. We have discussed in an earlier post (Shabbos 96) how the prohibition of הוצאה  is considered to be  מלאכה גרועה  (inferior melacha) for this reason.

This explanation is brought by the Ritva in the name of הרב החסיד  (usually Rabbeinu Yona [thanks to מו”ר הרה”ג מנדן בלחמן שליט”א  for pointing this out and pointing me to Ritva Eruvin 41b where he indeed brings this in the name of Rabbeinu Yona] )

If this explanation is accepted, the permission to tell a non-Jew to perform a forbidden activity on shabbos even for the sake of a bris would be limited to the melacha of carrying and other things that do not involve change to the item. This melacha might even be permitted even on a biblical level, such as when a real public domain is involved!

What is clear according to all 3 opinions is that we have not yet seen a blanket permission for any שבות דשבות  on shabbos.

At most, we have seen permission even for a Jew,  to perform a שבות  that does not involve a physical action, for the sake of the mitzva of milah, korban pesach,  or its equivalent, and that would include telling a non-Jew to do anything for such a purpose, even if it is biblically prohibited, without the need for a שבות דשבות  at all, and certainly where a שבות דשבות is involved.

According to the third explanation, even a שבות דשבות  like telling a non-Jew to perform a rabbinically forbidden action on Shabbos, even for the sake of a bris milah, would only be permitted if the action does not involve a physical change in the item, and would thus be limited mainly to asking a non-Jew to carry something on shabbos through a forbidden domain.

It is only  according to the second explanation that this sugya could set a clear precedent for the distinction between a שבות  and a שבות דשבות , and even there, there is no proof that this is permitted for anything less than a mitzva of the stature of ברית מילה  or קרבן פסח.

We certainly do not seem to have any precedent for permitting a שבות דשבות  by a Jew himself, even for the sake of a mitzva or great need, in other words allowing a Jew to performing something that is 2 levels removed from a biblical prohibition, and only forbidden because of TWO separate rabbinic prohibitions, for  example, two people turning on a light in an unusual way in order to be able to read a siddur or learn.

In fact, even the second explanation seems to be  based on the difference between something done by a Jew and something done by a non-Jew, and although according to the first explanation, this distinction could be limited to when only one שבות  is involved (such as sprinkling or asking a non-Jew to heat up water,) we certainly have precedent for making this distinction with a שבות דשבות  as well.

Yet, the view of many Rishonim, including the Rambam (Milah 2/9), is that a שבות דשבות involving a non-Jew is permitted for any mitzva  and this seems to be the normative halacha (O.C. 266/5.)

In addition, many Achronim extend this permission to a שבות דשבות  performed by a Jew as well  (including האלף לך שלמה קמו – see Peninei halacha shabbos 9/11 and ג בהרחבות for an impressive  list that also includes the Chazon Ish and Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l)

Clearly, we have much work to do still on this sugya and/or there are other sugyos and/or sevaros  involved.

A little later on daf 68 is another case with a child that plays a major role in this discussion, as does a fascinating sugya about buying a house in Eretz-Yisroel on shabbos (Gittin 8b.

In addition, a thorough analysis of the principle of אין גוזרין גזירה לגזירה  and the reasons for the prohibition of אמירה לעכום could also be in order,  but that’s it for tonight- Shavua tov and Chodesh Tov!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 33 and 34 שבות בין השמשות and Eruv Techumim

Eruvin 33 and 34 שבות בין השמשות and Eruv Techumim

Our Masechta is starting to move deep into the detailed laws of עירוב תחומין, another type of Eruv that we have not focused on much till now.

In addition to the forbidden melacha of transporting things from one domain to another, there are also limitations on where a person himself may walk on Shabbos.

Though there is no prohibition on walking from one domain to another, there is a prohibition of walking outside one’s תחום של שבת, one’s shabbos domain.

This domain is measured 2000 amos (around or a little less than a km) from the place where one is or intends to base oneself for shabbos, as at nightfall before shabbos.

By default, it is measured from one’s own house, or if in a halachically defined city or enclosed private property, from the halachik boundaries of that city or private domain.

There is a debate on the next daf (Eruvin 35) as to whether the law of תחומין is biblical or rabbinical, but the 2000 Amah domain is very stringent, to the point that if someone leaves this area on shabbos, he might have to stay put within his own 4 amos for the rest of the shabbos!

Clearly, this has a major impact on people who wish to walk from one village to another on shabbos, sometimes even from one suburb to another, if the suburbs have significant open space between them (about 139 amos, which is not very much.)

In suburban neighborhoods with large open yards, this could even affect walking from one house to another, as each house might make up its own תחום!

This also applies to going for nature walks or hikes outside fenced resorts, or even within unfenced resorts.

To address this problem, Chazal allowed one who intends in advance to travel more than 2000 amos but less than 4000 amos from his shabbos base, to make an ערוב תחומין before shabbos.

By placing some food just under 2000 amos away from his base and intending to make that place his symbolic shabbos base, he would be permitted to go anywhere with a 2000 amah radius of where he put his food, rather than from his house.

The disadvantage of doing this, is that his house will now be on or at least closer to the boundaries of his new shabbos domain in the other direction, limiting his walking over the same shabbos in that direction- as such, his shabbos movements need to be planned very carefully.

One of the requirements for the food used for the Eruv is that the food has to be accessible from the place that one makes one’s new symbolic shabbos base.

The Mishna on 32b tells us that If one places one’s Eruv food on top of a tree, this might thus present a problem.

If one’s intended shabbos base is at the bottom of the tree, but the Eruv is more than 10 handbreadths high, and more than 4 handbreadths wide, the part of the tree above 10 handbreadths might form its own private domain.

This means that carrying his Eruv from the top to the bottom, assuming the tree is in a public domain, would be forbidden, and the Eruv would thus be invalid.

The mishna rules that if the Eruv is below 10 handbreadths, the Eruv is valid.

This seems to be despite the fact that an area between 3 and 10 handbreadths above a public domain might be considered a כרמלית (neither a private or public domain) and carrying the Eruv from there to one’s shabbos base at the bottom would thus be rabbinically forbidden.

In addition, there is a rabbinical prohibition against making use of a tree on shabbos, which extends to removing something from it.

As such, regardless of where it has been placed, it should be forbidden to remove it, and the Eruv should be invalid.

The Gemara solves the later problem (and according to Rashi, by implication the former too) by explaining that the validity of the Eruv is based on whether it may be carried to one’s shabbos base during the period of בית השמשות on shabbos eve.

Although its precise time and definition is also subject to much debate, this is generally viewed as the time between שקיעה (sunset) and צאת הכוכבים (the time the stars come out), and is also referred to as ספק חשכה ספק אינה חשיכה , a time when there is a doubt whether it is considered night yet or not.

This means that during this time, it is a doubt whether it is shabbos yet or not.

When it comes to biblical law, it goes without saying that one has to treat this time as if it is shabbos, due to the rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא .

Yet when it comes to rabbinical law, it is possible that Chazal followed the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא and did not treat that time as shabbos, thus making performing rabbinically prohibited activities (שבותים) permitted during that time.

It is also possible that seeing as Chazal were aware of the ambiguous nature of this period, but did not want to confuse us whether it is shabbos or not, they intentionally applied rabbinical prohibitions during this time as well, making it no longer a question of doubt.

The Gemara explains further that the author of our Mishna follows the view of Rebbe, who holds that Chazal did not impose their own rabbinical shabbos restrictions during this twilight period.

As such, at the crucial time of בין השמשות that determines the validity of the Eruv, the biblical prohibitions of removing something from a tree (or transferring it from a כרמלית to a רשות הרבים) does not apply, and the Eruv is valid!

On 33a, the Gemara brings an explicit Beraisa where Rebbe and the רבנן argue about an Eruv placed at a height of between 3 and 10 tefachim on a tree.

Rebbe is of the view that even though this area is a כרמלית and the Eruv may thus not be moved to the public domain at the base of the tree on shabbos itself, seeing as this rabbinical prohibition did not apply during בין השמשות, the Eruv is valid for the entire shabbos.

The Rabbis disagree, arguing that any Eruv that cannot be moved to one’s shabbos domain, is invalid- the Gemara seems to understand that while they agree that בין השמשות is the definitive time, they hold that these rabbinical prohibitions apply during בין השמשות as well.

This crucial debate is also found on 34b, regarding the same Mishna’s permission to place the eruv in a pit deeper than 10 tefachim, even though it too forms its own private domain.

The Gemara understands that this part of the mishna is referring to a case where one’s chosen shabbos base above the pit is a כרמלית , and that this once again reflects the lenient view of Rebbe that rabbinical restrictions of Shabbos do not apply בין השמשות.

It follows from all the above that according to Rebbe, though biblical prohibitions of shabbos apply from sunset on Erev shabbos, activities that are only forbidden rabbinically remain permitted until dark, which could be extremely useful for those well versed in shabbos laws (and very dangerous for those who are not.)

According to those Rabbis who disagree with him, both biblical and rabbinical prohibitions come into force the moment the sun sets on Friday. (I have assumed for purposes of this post that what we refer to today as sunset is the same as the talmudic concept of שקיעה, something which is in fact the subject of an entirely different discussion.

Given the rule that הלכה כרבי מחבריו, (the law usually follows Rebbe against his colleagues,) it seems likely that his lenient ruling here might actually be authoritative.

However, we need to examine closely at least one other major source on this subject.

This is an explicit Mishna (Shabbos 34a ) which states that during ספק חשכה ספק אינה חשיכה , the twilight period, certain actions forbidden on shabbos are forbidden, but others are permitted.

At first glance, this might seem to support the lenient view of Rebbe.

However, when examining the list, one finds some things that are only rabbinically forbidden on shabbos which one may also not do during twilight!

The list of forbidden things:

  1. separating tithes from ודאי (produce that has definitely or probably not been tithed)
  2. Immersing new vessels (טבילת כלים)
  3. Lighting candles

Whereas lighting candles is clearly a biblical prohibition, separating tithes and immersing vessels seem to be rabbinical prohibitions, yet they are still forbidden during twilight!

The list of permitted things:

  1. Separated tithes from דמאי (produce bought from an ignorant person who has probably but not definitely already separated tithes.)
  2. Making an Eruv
  3. Insulating hot food

The above 3 are all rabbinical requirements.

This Mishna seems to take a view between that of Rebbe and the Rabbis and permit certain rabbinically forbidden actions during twilight but forbid others.

This needs serious clarification, and there seem to be two main approaches to reconciling these Mishnayos amongst the commentators, but that is it for our daf!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Eruvin 20-21    The פסי ביראות  , public domain, and more on rabbinical laws

One of the main themes of this chapter is the special dispensation that Chazal gave to allow travelers to Yerushalayim for the chagim to draw water from wells for their animals.

The sides of these water-pits or wells were usually too steep for livestock to walk down to and drink, in contrast to people who were nimble enough to do so.

Seeing as the pit or well was surrounded by walls and more than 10 אמות  wide, it was defined as a private domain, and carrying the water from it to the public domain outside was thus forbidden.

To include an area around the well large enough for the animal to stand inside and drink in this private domain, Chazal made do with 4 double posts on each corner.

Each post was 6 handbreadths wide in each of its 2 perpendicular directions, forming a half square or widened L shape.

Although usually a private domain needs to be enclosed by proper partitions, with more closed space than open space, or at least a צורת הפתח, in the case of the special public mitzva of aliya laregel (going up to Yerushalayim for the festivals,) Chazal were lenient.

It seems clear from Daf 20a that this leniency is based on the fact that this method is already an acceptable form of enclosure  on a biblical level, otherwise Chazal would not be able to create such a method on their own to change the status of a רשות הרבים דאורייתא. This goes so far as to make someone who throws someone from a רשות הרבים into this enclosure liable to the biblical penalties prescribed for desecrating the Shabbos.

The implication of this is that the area around the wells is considered a fully-fledged public domain.

We have mentioned a few times already the view of Rashi (Eruvin 6a) that to be considered a public domain, a city needs to have at least 600000 people in it.

It is hard to imagine that the rural villages or city-outskirts where these wells were situated met this definition, which raises considerable difficulty with Rashi’s view.

It is possible that we are referring to the wells outside large population centers which were extremely crowded and busy, but even then, it seems a little far-fetched to imagine 600000 people frequenting them- Even during the busy period of aliya laregel, the population was unlikely to be concentrated in one such location at any time- further analysis is thus needed.

In the earlier dapim of the Masechta, we spent time  examining  the differences between biblical and rabbinical laws, and where they are found in the hierarchy.

We saw that on the one hand, we are usually stricter with biblical mitzvos, something we see all over through various halachik principles, but on the other hand, sometimes Chazal were more stringent with rabbinical laws in order to strengthen their authority.

On daf 21b, we see the incredible drasha of Rava, based on Koheles, that one should be even more careful with דברי סופרים  ( “the words of the scribes”- a term usually used for laws made after the time of Moshe, but itself requiring its own discussion) than with the words of the Torah.

This is because there is a range of positive and negative commandments in Torah, with a range of punishments, but when it comes to דברי סופרים , they are all treated equally severely to the point that העובר על דברי סופרים חייב מיתה  – one who goes against the words of the sofrim is liable to death.

Given that the maximum punishment carried out in court for one who transgresses rabbinical laws was generally מכת מרדות  (lashes for rebellion,) lower on the hierarchy of punishments than the 39 lashes given for biblical prohibitions under the correct strict conditions, this statement seems rather exaggerated, to put it mildly.

We see a similar phrase elsewhere, regarding  one who intentionally puts off saying the evening shema till after midnight, and the attack on Rabbi Tarfon by robbers while sitting to say shema was attributed to his failure to follow the authoritative ruling of Beis Hillel who hold that this is not necessary. )See also the Mishna  Sanhedrin 88b regarding Zakein Mamrei, and the Mishna in A.Z. 29b)

Furthermore, on our daf, we are told the incredible story of Rabbi Akiva who used this principle to justify his risking dehydration in captivity to use the little water he had for the rabbinical mitzva of נטילת ידים!

This extreme example might be the key to how to understand this entire concept- after all, we all know that one is only liable to given up one’s life for 3 of the worst biblical transgressions. We also know that one is often permitted to transgress rabbinical prohibitions even for curative purposes where danger to life is not involved.

This makes it virtually undisputable that this is not a normative halachik concept, but rather an idea, which might occasionally be applied halachically, but whose main purpose is to teach us the pivotal role of rabbinic law in Torah life. Specifically because of the many leniencies Chazal themselves applied to their decrees, it is necessary for them to remind us both in general and in certain specific cases how rabbinical law, routed in Torah law as it is (we will hopefully have future opportunity to discuss in what way this is the case ,) essentially stems  from the same divine authority.

Why Chazal choose to highlight this in certain cases specifically requires careful study, but we will leave that for another time.

Coming back to the issue we raised with Rashi’s view that a true public domain on a biblical level must have 600,000 people at a minimum, perhaps we can relook at the פסי ביראות  and why they need to be already validated as a partition on a biblical level.

Our assumption was that this must be because otherwise, chazal would not have the ability to treat them leniently in the case of the wells.

Perhaps, however, this assumption is not fully necessary?

There are times when Chazal do treat rabbinical laws as strictly or even more strictly than biblical ones. As we have seen above, and even times when the usual rule of אין גוזרין גזירה לגזירה   does not apply ( see גזירה שמט יעלה הים שירטון  as a possible example as well as recently on daf 20a “גזירה שמא יאמרו עירוב מועיל לבין הפסין” )

Perhaps, when it comes to something as novel as creating a new type of partition, Chazal were unwilling to do this even in an area which is only rabbinically treated like a public domain, out of concern that this would become a generally accepted type of partition even in cases they did not intend it to be relied on, maybe even in a real public domain?

This opens the possibility that the typical area around a well might indeed not be a true רשות הרבים  according to Rashi!

The problem is that Rashi himself seems to say explicitly that we are dealing with a true רשות הרבים  and true רשות היחיד-there are also numerous sugyos that imply that we are dealing with a true רשות הרבים  , including on our daf itself- I think that we might be able to work It out, but that’s is for today!

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Shabbos 150-151 לפני עור, work done by a non-Jew on shabbos, and שבות דשבות re-examined

On the previous daf, the Mishna taught us that it is forbidden to hire workers on shabbos or to ask one’s friend to do so on one’s behalf.

Although hiring workers does not involve any specific melacha as such, Rashi explains that it goes against the passuk in Yeshayahu (58) which tells us to honor the shabbos and refrain from weekday activities and discussions, namely a “rabbinic” prohibition.

The Gemara ask why it is necessary to forbid asking one’s friend to do so- after all, he is equally obligated in the laws of shabbos!

Rashi understand that because he is equally obligated not to engage in weekday conversation, telling him to do so goes under against the prohibition of “putting a stumbling block in front of the blind,” interpreted by chazal among others things to refer to causing someone to sin)A.Z. 6b.)

It requires some analysis to determine whether one can transgress the biblical command against causing someone to sin by causing him to do something that is only rabbinically prohibited.

It could be argued that a rabbinical sin is not a stumbling-block on a biblical level and one can thus not transgress this prohibition if the sin one causes him to do is only rabbinical in nature.

On the other hand, one could argue that the prohibition is not specifically against causing someone to sin on a biblical level, but on putting a stumbling block in front of him on any level, and a rabbinical prohibition, once forbidden by Chazal, is certainly a stumbling block.

The irony would then be that hiring workers oneself on shabbos might only be a rabbinical prohibition but asking one’s friend to do so would be a biblical prohibition!

The way Rashi understands our Mishna seems to be a proof for this later understanding as he says explicitly that asking one’s friend to hire workers involves the prohibition of putting a stumbling block in front of the blind.

Whether the Gemara itself is a proof for this depends on whether there are any other legitimate ways of explaining why this should so obviously be forbidden.

It is of course possible that Rashi means that he transgresses the prohibition of “putting a stumbling block before the blind” on a rabbinic level, but we would need some precedent for such a thing for this argument to be convincing.

There are indeed times when chazal refer to transgressing a biblical prohibition and mean it on a biblical level (see for example Rashi Sanhedrin 82 regarding נשגז )but for Rashi to claim that this is such an example without saying so explicitly would seem unusual.

Perhaps the act of telling one’s friend to hire workers itself goes against the prohibition of weekday conversation?

However, this is not likely, seeing as the Gemara answers that the Mishna is needed to tell us that even asking a non- Jewish friend to do so is forbidden.

It answers that we already know that too, as it falls under the shvus (rabbinical prohibition) of אמירה לנכרי (asking a non-Jew to perform a forbidden melacha on shabbos.)

If telling someone else to engage in a weekday conversation was also considered weekday conversation, there should be no different between asking one’s Jewish friend or one’s non- Jewish friend


If yesterday we dealt with the general prohibition against telling a non-Jew to do melacha on shabbos, today’s daf deals with work which a non-Jew has done on his own initiative on shabbos.

The rule of the Mishna and accompanying Gemara is that if he performed it for his own benefit or for that of another non-Jew , one may benefit from it, whereas if he did it for a Jew, one may not.

The Mishna gives an example of a non-Jew who brings a reed-based wind instrument on shabbos to play during the eulogies for a Jew who died and is to be buried after shabbos.

It rules that it may only be used if it was brought from inside the techum (area in which walking is permitted on shabbos.

It then discusses a case where a non-Jew dug a grave or made a coffin on shabbos and It is now wanted for burying a Jew after shabbos.

It rules that if it was done for a non-Jew, it may be used for a Jew, but if it was intended for burying a Jew, he may not ever be buried in it.

The general rule coming out of the Mishna seems to be that it is permitted to benefit from a melacha done by a non-Jew on shabbos only if the non-Jew did it for himself or another non-Jew.

If he did it for a Jew, even without being told to do so, it may not be used.

The question is for how long it might not be used: in the first case of the reedpipes, the Mishna does not say that they may not ever be used again for a Jew (though see Rashi who does make this assumption.)

Yet in the second case of the grave/coffin, it says that they may never be used, at least for the Jew they were made for.

Perhaps the distinction lies in the fact that walking outside of the techum is only a rabbinic prohibition according to the view of this Tana (this is a dispute in various places, see Beitza 36: for example.)

On the other hand, making a coffin or grave is a biblical prohibition.

If this distinction is correct, we would conclude that if a non-Jew performs a biblical melacha for a Jew on shabbos, he may never benefit from it, but if he only performed a rabbinic prohibition , he may do so.

However, the assumption that the non-Jew who brought the reed pipe from outside the techum has only performed a rabbinically forbidden act is highly problematic for various reasons.

  1. Even if walking from outside the techum is only rabbinically prohibited, carrying an item from outside also involves the biblical melacha of הוצאה ( transferring something from one domain to another.) – If there was an eruv, there would not be an issue of the techum either.

One could answer that the Mishna is dealing with something brought through a non-built up area that is not defined as a private or public place , but a כרמלית, which too is only a rabbinical prohibition, but one would still be faced with the question why the important factor is whether it came from outside the techum and not whether a biblical or rabbinical melacha of carrying was performed. The Tosfos and other Rishonim deal further with this issue., but I will move on.

  1. We have learnt many times that according to most views, it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform an act that is only rabbinically forbidden on shabbos for the sake of a mitzva (שבות דשבות לדבר מצוה) .

We have seen that some later authorities understand that this principle even permits a Jew to himself perform an action that is only rabbinically prohibited for 2 independent reasons for the sake of a mitzva.

If so, seeing as the instrument is being used for the mitzva of כבוד המת (honoring the dead,) a truly great mitzva, and leaving the techum is only rabbinically forbidden, surely it would have been permitted to ask the non-Jew to bring it lechatchila on shabbos to avoid delaying the burial afterwards?

It is true that the Tosfos are of the view that this principle does not apply to any mitzva, but only certain special mitzvas mentioned explicitly such as circumcision and settling the land of Israel, and this could be a proof for this view, but this not the view of most authorities including the Rambam.

  1. In any case, the distinction we suggested between biblical and rabbinical melacha performed by a non-Jew would not survive the Gemara’s discussion of this Mishna.

The Gemara, for a different purpose ( establishing the law in a case where it is not certain if the non-Jew performed the melacha for a Jew or a non-Jew ) compares this to a different case, where a bathhouse is heated by a non-Jew on shabbos for whoever comes.

The ruling in that case is that if the bathhouse is in a place with a non-Jewish majority, we assume that it was heated for non-Jews and a Jew may bath there immediately after shabbos.

If the majority or even half the people the bathhouse serves are Jewish, then a Jew must wait כדי שיעשה (the time it takes to heat the bathhouse) after shabbos before using it.

Heating the bathhouse clearly involves at least one biblical melacha, lighting the fire and perhaps heating the water, depending on the temperature it reaches, yet the prohibition to use the bathhouse is limited to the period of כדי שיעשה and not forever.

Perhaps the real distinction lies in who the object of the forbidden action is going to serve. In a case where the non-Jew had a specific Jew in mind as the beneficiary of his actions, such as the case of the grave or coffin, that Jew may never benefit from his action.

On the other hand, other Jews, may benefit from it after the period of כדי שיעשה, and in a case where he had no specific person in mind, like the bathhouse and possibly the reed-pipes, any Jew may benefit from it after the period of כדי שיעשה .

These issues form the subject of long and major discussions in the Rishonim before the final halacha is determined- I have just come to take you through a preliminary analysis I have done on my own, in order to open the subject for further study.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Shabbos 141-142: טלטול מן הצד- moving Muktza items indirectly and the panic button on the key chain

We have learnt elsewhere in the masechta that it is permitted to move certain types of muktza when one needs them for a permitted purpose, or where the place they occupy is needed for a permitted purpose.

The focus on these daf is how to move Muktza items when neither of those leniencies applies.

This discussion focusses around whether טלטול מן הצד שמיה טלטול, in other words, whether handling something indirectly is considered handling as far as the prohibition of handling Muktza is concerned.

The Mishna on 141b discusses a bed with straw on it that was intended as fuel for a fire.

A person now wishes to move the straw so he can lie on it, but seeing as the straw was not designated as a כלי, the leniency to move a כלי שמלאכתו לאסור for a permitted use or the place it occupies, does not apply.

The Mishna rules that one may not move it with one’s hands, but may move it with one’s body, such as with one’s shoulders.

Rashi explains that this is considered טלטול מן הצד, indirect handling, which is not considered טלטול as far as the laws of Muktza are concerned.

The Gemara brings a related ruling of Rav Nachman regarding a radish buried in the ground.

It was common practise to take whole, harvested vegetables, such as radishes, and bury them in the sand to preserve them during the dry summer.

Rav Nachman rules that if the raddish has been buried with its narrow top facing down, one may pull it out by its wider bottom, seeing as one will not be displacing any sand while doing so.

On the other hand, if the raddish was buried with its wider bottom facing down, one may not pull it out by its narrower top, seeing as it will be moving sand out of the way, which is Muktza.

The Gemara questions this ruling based on our Mishna.

Seeing as the person is not moving the sand directly, but it simply pulling out the vegetable, this

Should be considered טלטול מן הצד and should be permitted, as with the straw in the Mishna.

In light of the above, the Gemara concludes that the halacha is not like Rav Nachman and that this is permitted even if sand is moved out of the way while pulling out the vegetable.

We have various other examples of this leniency in the first few mishnayos of the new chapter on Dapim 141-142.

The Mishna rules that a person may carry a child with a stone in his hand, even though the stone is Muktza, in an enclosed courtyard (see Rashi) – this also seems to be an example of indirectly handling the Muktza stone while moving something that is not Muktza (the child.)

On Daf 142b, the Mishna permits one to tilt a barrel of wine over in order that a stone sitting on top of it will fall down, yet another such example.

Back on Daf 43a, there is a dispute regarding what to do with a corpse that ls lying out in the sun on Shabbos, given that it is Muktza

We should recall that moving a Muktza item for its own protection (מחמה לצל) is not usually an acceptable reason for moving Muktza items- yet human dignity also dictates that something must be done to prevent the corpse from rotting.

Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel rules that it may be rolled from bed to bed, seeing as this is indirect handling, and thus permitted.

Rav Chanina bar Salmai in the name of Rav, on the other hand does not allow this, and suggests an alternative solution.

It seems to follow that unlike Shmuel who permits טלטול מן הצד, Rav forbids it.

The Gemara brings a מחלוקת תנאים (tannaic dispute) regarding whether one may move a corpse on shabbos in order to save it from burning in a fire- the Tana Kama forbids it, whereas Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish permits it.

It suggests that this is also a dispute regarding whether טלטול מן הצד is permitted or not, but rejects this suggestion, and says that both Tannaim could hold that טלטול מן הצד is usually forbidden, but that Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish made an exception for a corpse so that the relatives don’t come to extinguish the fire instead.

It seems from this that the Gemara has concluded that טלטול מן הצד is forbidden.

Furthermore, even if the gemara was simply giving an alternative explanation of the tannaic dispute, but not completely rejecting the possibility that they could be arguing about טלטול מן הצד, there is still clearly a dispute about it, and Rav appears to forbid it- the halacha usually follows Rav in disputes against Shmuel in everyday halacha.

Tosfos raises an even larger difficulty that this places Rav in contradiction with himself, as on our daf (141,) it is the house of Rav that proves from the Mishna that טלטול מן הצד is permitted!

When examining these cases carefully, one can see that although they have much in common, there are also some differences:

  1. In the case of the straw, the straw is moved in an unusual way, namely with one’s shoulder rather than one’s hand, but not in the course of moving a non Muktza item it is attached to.

In the case of the child and the barrel of wine, the stone is moved indirectly, in the course of moving a non muktza entity(the child or barrel)

In the case of corpse, it is not clear what type of טלטול מן הצד is employed, moving it directly with an unusual part of the body, or moving it with a bed.

  1. In the case of the child and barrel of wine, one’s intention is to move the child or access the wine in the barrel, not to move the muktza item (the stone,) which is simply moved as a secondary effect of moving the non muktza entity.

In the case of the corpse, the intention is to move the muktza item itself, namely the corpse.

In the case of the straw, it is not completely clear whether one is moving the Muktza item (the straw) in order to make it spread out evenly and be comfortable to lie on, or whether one is moving it out of the way so he can sleep on the non Muktza item(the straw)

It is interesting that Rashi on Daf 43b defines טלטול מן הצד as כלאחר יד, a back-handed manner, the term normally used for performing a forbidden action with a שנוי (in an unusual manner.)

This would make this leniency an extension of the exemption from punishment for performing a forbidden melacha in an unusual manner, going a step further and permitting it completely when it comes to handling Muktza items in a רשות היחיד (private domain,) which is only rabbinically prohibited.

It would still be a חדוש as we do not generally permit a שבות דשבות (something forbidden only rabbinically for 2 independent reasons) for any reason whatsoever, but just for the sake of a mitzva (like bris milah), and even there, the scope of the leniency is subject to debate- see earlier posts on שבות דשבות.

Back to the contradiction in sugyos and the opinion of Rav, the Baalei Tosfos and the Rosh both suggest that there is a difference whether the טלטול מן הצד is performed for the sake of the Muktza item, or for the sake of the non Muktza item.

In the case of the corpse, it is performed in order to bring it into shade, namely for the sake of the Muktza item, and is thus forbidden according to Rav.

In the cases on our dapim, it is done for the sake of the non Muktza entities, ie the bed, the child, or the barrel, and is thus permitted.

This distinction seems to based on the assumption that in the case of the straw, one is moving the straw for the sake of the bed, not in order to make the straw more comfortable to lay down on, a point noted by Rabbeinu Yona and the Rosh.

Although there are different approaches in the Rishonim as to the definition and scope of טלטול מן הצד , the distinction made by the Tosfos forms the basis for the generally accepted halacha that it is permitted to move a Muktza object together with a non Muktza object, only if one is doing so for the sake of the non Muktza object, and not if one is doing so for the sake of the Muktza object.

In some countries where violent crime is unfortunately common, it is common for people to have panic buttons that link to a security company when pushed.

These buttons are often put on one’s keyring together with one’s keys.

Assuming that the panic button is muktza, and that the danger is not at the level that constitutes pikuach nefesh (neither which should be assumed,) would it be permitted to carry the key-chain around inside an Eruv even though one is inevitably moving the panic button with it?

It seems from the above as seeing that it is impossible to remove the panic button without handling it directly by simply shaking it off, this should be a classic example of handling a muktza item (the panic button) indirectly while directly handling a non muktza item that one needs (the key.)

As such, it should be permitted even if the button is indeed muktza and the criteria of pikuach nefesh do not apply.

Obviously, if there is indeed no concern for pikuach nefesh while going out, it would be better to remove the button before shabbos, and seeing that there is a strong argument for pikuach nefesh in any case, this leniency might be rather spurious.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

Shabbos 137 The constructive wound and misaseik (unintentional melacha) revisited

I had the zechus recently to listen to a video-shiur by Rabbeinu haRav Osher Weiss שליט”א, on the subject of דבר שאין מתכוין and פסיק רישיה (forms of unintended melacha we have discussed before in various posts.)

He discussed a question which I have often been bothered by, that seems so obvious, yet doesn’t seem to be dealt with by the Rishonim (early commentaries) at all.

The question centers on what the source for the leniency of דבר שאין מתכוין is- after-all, seeing as it applies not only on shabbos but in other areas of halacha too (see earlier entries,) it can not simply be based on the requirement of מלאכת מחשבת.

He gave an explanation very similar to what I have myself suggested, obviously with better proofs, but started out by saying that whenever we encounter an obvious question that is not dealt with by the Rishonim at all, we should generally assume that the answer was so obvious to them that the question didn’t even begin.

It then becomes our task not simply to answer the question, but to explain why the answer is actually SO obvious.

Of course, before jumping to this approach, one needs to go through the entire shas with all the major Rishonim and be sure that the question was in fact not asked, at a minimum going through all related sugyas.

As I am not Rav Osher Weiss and do not have close to that level of knowledge, this is simply not possible for me, even with the help of the Masores hashas (cross-reference printed in most editions of the  Talmud) and even with the Bar-Ilan search tool.  As such, although I try to check for parallel sugyas and do my homework, I often simply miss something.

Here is an example of this happening to me:

We have established in this chapter that one is permitted to perform all essential actions that form part of the circumcision process on the eighth day from birth, even if it falls on shabbos.

In contrast, if the bris is delayed for whatever reason and not performed on the eighth day, one is not permitted to perform it on shabbos, and waits till the next day.

The Mishna discusses a case where a mohel had 2 different babies to bris, one whose eighth day fell on shabbos, and one whose eighth day fell on the next day.

Somehow, he made an error and circumcised the younger baby when he was only 7 days old on shabbos, and the older one the next day when he was 9 days old.

The Mishna rules that this is an example of desecrating shabbos בשוגג (in error) and he is required to bring a קרבן חטאת (sin-offering.)

However, we have seen earlier in our study of Shabbos (Shabbos 72), that there is a way of performing a melacha unintentionally, known as Misaseik, for which one is exempt.

Although this exemption could possibly apply with other transgressions that do not involve הנאה (pleasure), this exemption is particular applicable on shabbos due to the requirement for מלאכת מחשבת.

We have discussed a substantial debate between the Amoraim Abaya and Rava, as well as Rashi and the Tosfos, regarding under which precise circumstances a melacha is considered  מתעסק and thus exempt from a korban.

To sum up, according to Abaya, the classic example is one who intends to lift up an item that is detached from the ground and lands up cutting (detaching) an item connecting to the ground.

He intended to perform a  permitted action, namely lifting, and landed up mistakenly performing

1.      a different action, namely cutting

2.      on a forbidden object, namely something attached to the ground

This is very far from his original permitted intention, both in terms of the מעשה (action) and the חפצא  (object the action is applied to) and he is thus exempt.

Rava is more lenient and holds that the classic example is one where one’s actual action is only different to one’s intended action in terms of the object it is applied to, not the action itself.

The classic case, according to Rava,  is thus as follows:  One intended to apply an action (namely cutting) to a permitted item (namely something detached from the ground, and landed up applying that SAME intended action, to a different object (something attached to the ground) that it is forbidden to apply that action to.

We also showed that Rashi (Kerisos 19b)  interpreted the case Rava is referring to as one where he knew which item was permitted and which was forbidden, intended to cut the permitted detached item, but his hand slipped and he landed up cutting the forbidden attached item instead.

Seeing as his intended action was not applied to the intended object of his action, it is clear that לא נעשתה מחשבתו (his thoughts were not fulfilled,) and he is thus exempt.

However, if he intended to pick up a certain item thinking it was detached, and later discovered that it was really attached, it is considered as if his intentions were fulfilled, and is not considered מתעסק  but rather שוגג  ( a transgression action performed intentionally but unknowingly,) for which he is liable to bring a sin-offering.

The Tosfos, in contrast, understood that it is precisely this later case that Rava is referring to, pointing out that in a case where his action was not performed on the desired object, he would be exempt even if his intended object was also forbidden!

According to Tosfos’ explanation of מתעסק, the classic case is thus precisely when one intends to apply an action to an object which he believes is permitted, but after doing so, it becomes clear that it was in fact a forbidden object.

Surely the case of our mishna is a precise example of such a case, and should thus be exempt completely, rather than liable to a sin-offering as per the Mishna?

A person intends to perform an action (circumcision) on what he thinks is a permitted “object” (the 8 day old child) and later finds out that it was a forbidden “object” (the 7 day old child.)-

According to Abaya, seeing as he intended to do the action of circumcision, he would be liable.

According to the way Rashi understood Rava’s view,  one could argue that the Mishna is not referring to a case where his hand slipped and circumcised the wrong baby (something rather disturbing and hopefully very unlikely,), but to a case where he thought the baby he was circumcising was the 8 day old when he was really the 7 year old .

Such a case would understandably result in liability.

Yet if we follow the generally accepted view of Rava according to Tosfos, the case of our mishna should be classic מתעסק and result in zero liability (at least as far as shabbos laws are concerned.)

I searched zealously through the various Rishonim on the daf, and although it is always possible that I missed something, I failed to find anyone who asks this seemingly obvious question.

I reached the point of frustration where I wondered whether this was an example of the type of question Rav Osher had referred to, whose answer is SO obvious to the Rishonim  that the question doesn’t even beg asking , but I couldn’t figure out why- what was I missing.

In desperation, I started looked through the Achronim(later commentaries,)something I always prefer to do only once I have come up with my own approach to an issue (a very Maharal style  approach  I have learnt from my Rebbe, Rabbeinu haRav Blachman שליט”א   )

I felt like such a fool when I saw that Rabbi Akiva Eiger, often considered as the king of the Achronim, points that that the Gemara itself asks this question in the main sugya of Misaseik (Kerisos 19b) and answers that this case is different, seeing as circumcision involves the prohibition of   )עושה חבורה  making a wound(, which falls under the melacha of שוחט ( slaughtering or taking a life, the blood spilled being considered a partial taking of life.)

Although a melacha performed with only a destructive purpose (מקלקל, see earlier post) usually does not result in liability, there is a view that there are 2 melachot to which this exemption does not apply, seeing as they are by definition destructive- wounding, and burning.

The Gemara in Kerisos says that seeing as מקלקל is not an exemption for these melachot, NEITHER is מתעסק.

There we go- I forget a Gemara I had learnt- question asked, question answered.

Yet this answer needs some serious explaining- after all, these melachot might not be subject to the exemption of מקלקל, but that is because they are by definition mainly destructive acts.

Yet the other exemptions based on מלאכת מחשבת do apply to them, so why shouldn’t מתעסק?

Furthermore, if we accept that answer of the Gemara in Kerisos as final and authoritative, we will be faced with a סתם משנה  (anonymous Mishna) that supports the view that מתעסק בחבורה חייב  (one is liable for an act of Misaseik that involved wounding,) which has major implications for this melacha as well as the other melacha singled out, namely making a fire.

Even more problematic is the fact that in the main sugya of מקלקל בחבורה  (Bava Kama 34b,) Rabbi Yochanan rejects the view that one is liable for such a purely destructive act even for these melachot and applies the obligation to situations where there is a need for the result of the action.

Making our Mishna reliant on this view thus places Rabbi Yochanan in direct opposition to a סתם משנה, whereas he is the one who always stressed the fact that we always rule like a  סתם משנה.

There is much more to discuss before we can answer these questions, but that’s it for now….