Eruvin 69-71  The Lomdus of “Bittul Reshus”

Eruvin 69-71  The Lomdus of “Bittul Reshus”

 
The main theme of this daf relates to the concept of  בטול רשות  and how and when it applies.
We have mentioned before that the mechanism of choice for multiple inhabitants of one courtyard is to make an עירוב חצרות  whereby food is set aside on behalf of everyone in one of the houses, symbolically “joining” them all into residents of the same domain.
This is of course a symbolic mechanism which does not in any way affect the actual ownership of the houses and shared courtyards, and serves merely as a reminder not to carry from a private domain to a public domain proper- something Chazal were concerned enough about to prohibit carrying from one private domain to another owned by different people in the absence of such an eruv.
This eruv can only be done before Shabbos, as doing it on Shabbos resembles מקח וממכר  (commercial activity.)
If one or more of the inhabitants did not participate in the eruv before shabbos, the eruv is essentially ineffective.
This is because although all those who participate in the eruv are considered as if they share each other’s houses as well as their share in the common courtyard, the courtyard is also owned by those who did not participate, and therefore subject to different ownership than the houses of the participants.
This means that no one can transfer items between their houses and the common courtyard or vice versa.
One solution available is the mechanism of בטול רשות , also referred to in the Mishna as נתינת רשות .
The relationship between these two phrases requires analysis in its own right-for one approach, see Rambam Pirush haMishnayos Eruvin 6/1, 6/3 and 6/4 who seems to understand that נתינת רשות sometimes refers to making the eruv and sometimes refers to בטול רשות.
Whereas the phrase בטול רשות  seems to indicate a one-way mechanism by which the owner removes himself from ownership, control, or some other connection to his share in the courtyard (or possibly also his house,) the phrase נתינת רשות seems to indicate a two-way mechanism similar to a gift where the owner “gives over” one of the above at least symbolically to the other inhabitants.
There is a debate between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel as to whether this may be done on shabbos, and the Gemara explains that Beis Shamai view בטול  as a form of two-way transaction whereby the non-participants  give over their “authority” over the courtyard to the participants, effectively leaving the courtyard owned in its entirety by the participants and making the eruv effective.
Seeing as such transactions are forbidden on shabbos, it may not be performed on shabbos.
In contrast, Beis Hillel view this as simply  סלוק (removing oneself from authority), a one-way mechanism that achieves the goal of making the courtyard owned solely by the participants due to his share being irrelevant, rather than owned by them.
Such an arrangement is permitted on shabbos, and at first glance, it might appear to be a form of הפקר- declaring one’s property to be ownerless- once his share of the courtyard is ownerless, the others remain its sole owners and their eruv is valid/
However, there are limitations that apply to the rules of הפקר  that do not seem to apply here.
For example:
i.                    Hefker needs to be declared in front of three people )Nedarim 45a), yet one person can be מבטל רשות to 2 people, and there is no indication here that someone else needs to be present (Tosfos deals with this issue in Pesachim 4b)
ii.                  According to the view that one needs to be מבטל רשות to each one of the people who were included in the eruv, simply making one’s share הפקר is clearly not enough
iii.                Hefker removes all legal connection between oneself and the object, to the point that anyone else can perform a קנין  (transactional act) on it and acquire it. In addition, the person who declared it הפקר  would need to perform an official קנין  in order to reaquire it- doing so in one’s mind would not do the trick. In this case, there does not appear to be any ability on the part of those who benefit from this בטול to take legal ownership of the property, but the benefit is limited to symbolic permission to carry within the area “as if” they owned it. Furthermore, it does not seem that a legally valid קנין needs to be made by the original owner in order to cancel this בטול.
iv.                It is not at all clear that declaring something הפקר  on shabbos is permitted, as the Ramban points out (Pesachim 4a)- it could be included in the general prohibition of commerce.
 
The concept of בטול  can be found in various other areas of halacha, for example:
1.      בטול חמץ  – one is required to declare any chametz left in one’s possession before midday on erev pesach “nullified like the dust of the earth.”
According to Rashi (Pesachim 4b,) this seems to be a way of fulfilling the mitzva of תשביתו  (removing chametz from one’s possession) and Tosfos seem to understand that it is a form of הפקר that creates a situation where that mitzva is simply not relevant anymore
 
2.      בטול ע”ז – an item of idolatry may become permitted if it is nullified by the idol-worshipper- this can done by breaking part of it, possibly a sign of its lack of importance to the owner (see A.Z. 52b.)
 
Though all 3 usages of this phrase seem to share in common the idea that one is declaring or showing that the item is no longer of importance to him, there is no need to assume that the “lomdus” (logical mechanism) in all three is similar. It is very possible that בטול חמץ  is a real form of הפקר  which בטול עבודה זרה  is certainly not, and that בטול רשות  is something completely different.
After all the phrase בטול  is also used regarding  בטול תורה  (wasting time when Torah could have been studied,) בטול עשה and   (avoiding performing a positive mitzva,)  בטול and none of them have anything to do with הפקר or ownership.
More specifically, whereas בטול חמץ  and בטול עבודה זרה  seem to work on a biblical level to avoid the prohibitions of owning chametz on pesach or an item of idolatry, בטול רשות  is a rabbinical measure which might simply be meant to have a similar symbolic effect  to that of the eruv.
However, there are views in the Rishonim, principally that of the Ramban (Pesachim 4b,) who  seem (at least a first glance) to assume that all three work on a similar mechanism and thus attempt to leave הפקר  out of the discussion altogether.
Although a thorough analysis of the various views as to how these different instances of בטול  work is still required, it is clear that whatever explanation is offered will need to pass the test of the different rules Chazal prescribed for each of them, in the absence of some other “external” explanation for the rule in question. The topic is vast- I have barely scratched the surface of the many sugyas and mefarshim that relate to the topic.
 
 
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 62, 65 Bittul and Sechiras reshus and hotels on Shabbos

After some fascinating diversions into the realm of the prohibition of making halachik rulings in front of one’s Rabbi, respecting the privacy of married couples, ruach hakodesh, and much else, we return to the discussion of the main theme of the chapter’s opening Mishna.

We already know that although from a biblical perspective, there is no prohibition against transferring items on shabbos from one private domain to another adjacent one, even if it is owned by a different person, Chazal prohibited transferring things from one private domain to another if the second domain is owned by a different person.

This prohibition was designed to prevent one from getting confused and transferring from a private domain to a public domain and extends even to transferring objects from a private domain owned by an individual to one which he shares with other individuals.

This was the standard situation with the shared courtyards that multiple homes would commonly  open up to in Talmudic times (still common in older neighborhoods of Yerushalayim and other cities),also applies to the communal spaces and corridors of apartment buildings and gated communities, and to a certain extent, as well to the public space in cities which are enclosed enough to meet the criteria for being considered private domains.

Chazal limited this prohibition to shared spaces where an ערוב חצירות  has not been made- the eruv here does not refer to the physical or symbolic partitions that are necessary to make it into a private domain, but to the eruv process we have discussed before where food is used to symbolically convert the entire area into one single private domain.

There is another option available , known as בטול רשות, where everyone except for one resident can “nullify” their ownership thus making the one resident the halachik owner for the duration of shabbos, also making it one large  private domain.

Though this could be  a reversible decision, it is rather complex and the precise lomdus by which it works requires its own discussion- more of that later.

For reasons discussed in the Gemara (Eruvin 62a,) the option to make an eruv only applies when all residents are Jewish as the symbolic eruv mechanism is not available to a non-Jew, nor is the option of בטול רשות.

The Mishna on 61b discusses the laws when one lives in a courtyard with an idolater (the applicability of these laws to monotheistic non-Jews and a ger toshav are a discussion in their own right, which I hope to address sensitively and correctly at one point.)

Rabbi Meir is of the view that even if there is only one Jew living in the courtyard, he may not carry in or into it, whereas Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov holds that so long as there is only one Jewish household  there, no eruv is needed even.

Once there are more than one Jewish households living in the courtyard, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov agrees that an eruv is needed theoretically- however, seeing as the idol-worshipper cannot be part of the eruv, the only way forward is a third mechanism, namely that of שכירות רשות.

Unlike בטול רשות  which does not transfer ownership in any way to anyone else, this involves the עכום renting his rights in the property to the Jewish residents, making them the only halachik owners of the space, after which they can make an eruv amongst themselves.

The Gemara on Eruvin 62a refers to a debate as to the nature and status of this “rental” and notes that it was understandably not common for the non-Jew to agree to such an arrangement.

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How does this affect one who stays in a hotel on Shabbos?

Theoretically speaking, a hotel is generally owned by the same person, group of people, or company, and all areas from the rooms to the corridors and public areas should thus be viewed as one large private domain, so long as the entire area is surrounded by halachically acceptable partitions.

As such, one would think that there should be no issues carrying from room to the public areas and versa, within the public areas, or from room to room.

However, this could be a little more complex given that rooms are “rented” out to different people, and there are typically both Jewish and non-Jewish guests, hotel-owners, managers, and other staff staying there at the same time.

If we view this as a regular שכירות , and if שכירות קונה  (renting a property makes the renter the halachik owner during the period of the lease, at least in certain regards,) then the hotel can no longer be regarded as one private domain owned by the hotel owner, but is more similar to a courtyard with multiple houses, each owned by different people.

This would essentially make all the complexities of עירוב, בטול רשות, and שכירת רשות  applicable to a hotel situation.

In truth, the general rule seems to be that  שכירות לא קניא  (a rental does not confer temporary ownership- see A.Z. 16a  but c.f. B.M. 56b and Pesachim 6a, and a topic for another post.)

Yet Strong evidence that these rules indeed apply to a hotel situation can be found on Eruvin 65a, where Reish Lakish and the students of Rabbi Chanina spend Shabbos at a פונדק , where a non-Jew also was renting a room, but was not currently there. The owner, on the other hand, was there.  (A פונדק   generally appears to refer to an inn where people stay temporarily while travelling, both long and short-term  [see Tosefta B.M 8/28 (Leiberman) ]and seems at face-value at least to be equivalent to a modern-day hotel-)

The Gemara relates how they wanted to do שכירת רשות  from the owner but were uncertain whether he had the authority to do this, seeing that the relevant room was rented out to someone else.  It explains that their uncertainty related to a place where the law entitled the owner to evict the renter at any time, but that if he did not have the right to do this, it was clear that he was also not able to perform שכירת רשות.

As a hotel manager or owner certainly does not have the legal authority to evict  guests any-time he wants to(at least in most modern locales,) it seems that one would have to perform שכירות רשות  with any non-Jewish guests themselves.

However, most of the  Rishonim (see Rashba, Ritva, Rosh for example) note that if the owner has a תפיסת יד  (degree of control) over the rented property still, such as the right to store property there, he can certainly perform the שכירות רשות  even if he lacks the right to evict the tenant.

They prove this from the fact that even שכירו ולקיטו  (the hired laborer) of the owner may perform this שכירות given their connection to the property, and an owner with rights to keep property in the rooms is certainly not less than a שכיר.

As such, seeing as hotel owners or managers (who ostensibly have the law of a שכיר) store hotel furniture, decor, electronic devices and other property in the rooms, have the right to enter to inspect or clean the rooms (at least when guests are not present) and maintain general responsibility for the rooms, it seems that they certainly would have the ability to perform this שכירות רשות, assuming it is even needed. (One could  counter  though that seeing as all the items kept in the rooms are for the use and  benefit of the guest during his stay, this is not the same level of תפיסת יד  that one who may use the rooms for his own storage-after all, the manager or even the owner usually cannot just store his own private things in the rooms at his whim!)

There is also another case at the bottom of the daf where a similar question regarding שכירת רשות  in a פונדק  arose, adding more strength to the argument that hotel settings might also be subject to these requirements, though still subject to the points raised above.

It seems that for whatever reason, as far as the requirements of eruv and שכירת רשות  are concerned, we do consider שכירות  as a form of קנין.

Perhaps these laws are simply not dependant on absolute ownership but more on utility and control- this would make sense given the reason that Chazal required eruv chatzeiros  to prevent people transferring from one domain to another- as such, it is not objective ownership that is important but rather the appearance of residence. (there might be reason to differentiate between short-term and long-term rentals (more than 30 days as well, but that is beyond the scope of this post.)

In order to avoid all the complexity regarding these issues, many people perform  שכירת רשות  in hotels where possible (and so I have seen Moreinu haRav Asher Weiss שליט”א, though  he told me it might not really be necessary.)

Based on the above arguments, doing so with the owner, manager, or other appropriate staff member of the hotel seems to be acceptable normative practise.

 However, there is also strong reasoning in favor of those who do not do so for short stays less than 30 days- of course, please see below disclaimer as usual!

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 57 and 58 Nature trails on Yom-Tov and measuring the techum with Google Earth

Whereas most of daf 57 focusses on the extended boundaries of cities, in particular another possible leniency that according to some allows an additional 70+ amos to be added to the city- proper’s boundaries, the Mishna at the bottom of 57b takes us into new territory- the correct method for measuring the techum.

In a time where walking between close-by city’s was normal and often required, much effort was made by each community to measure and mark the techum of their city, and 2 people worked together to do this rather complex task.

This requirement, however, is FAR from obsolete and should be done in any community where leaving the halachik boundaries of the city on Shabbos or Yom-Tov is common- this would include walking between two suburbs of a city that are separated by more than 141 amos of open space, a fairly small area which is enough to make them considered two different cities halachically, as well as towns bordering natural areas where people like to enjoy the trails (Ramat Beis Shemesh being a great example, with our lovely nature walks.)

The method set out by Chazal, and hinted at in pessukim, was that a rope measuring 50 amos would be held at either end by each partner at chest level- after shifting forward 50maway from the city, this would be repeated until 40 such measurements had been taken, and the techum boundary would be marked at this point .

This process would be done 8 times, at each end of the 4 sides of the square/rectangle that the city had been fit into, after which the final process of squaring the techum itself could be carried out.

The Mishna tells us that ” אין מודדין אלא בחבל של נ’ אמה לא פחות ולא יותר” – We may only measure with a rope of 50 amos, no more and no less.

The Gemara bases this length on the passuk describing the width of the Mishkan’s courtyard. “ורוחב חמישים בחמישים” – its width was 50 with 50. The seemingly spurious “with 50” teaches us that it should be measured with a rope of 50 amos, and this seems to serve as a precedent that things which require precise measurements should be measured with a rope of 50 amos.

The Gemara understands ( as per Rashi’s explanation) that any more than this would be too hard to pull tight enough, resulting in some sagging and a shorter measurement for the techum.

Similarly, any less would result in too much stretching and hence a larger techum than required.

The Gemara proceeds to discuss what material the rope must be made of and seems to conclude that it needs to be made from flax, due to its relative accuracy.

Whereas the length of the rope used appears to be non-negotiable, it is still not clear whether the Mishna is telling us that a rope MUST be used, or simply that if a rope is chosen, it must fit the required length.

It is also not clear whether the Gemara requires the rope to be made of flax and nothing else or whether it is simply allowing anything as accurate as flax, and by “kal vachomer”, anything more accurate .

One Nafka Minah ( practical ramification) of the first question could be if one wanted to measure the techum with the car’s odometer, or with google Earth tools.

If the Gemara requires rope and only rope, then despite its greater accuracy and efficiency, this would not be acceptable.

If on the other hand a flax rope was simply the lower limit of how accurate the measure may be, then these modern tools would clearly be fine and perhaps even better.

In a Beraisa brought by the Gemara, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya points out that there is nothing better for measuring than “chains of steel”, but the Navi ( Zechariah 2/5 , in a vision describing the future messianic period) describes how Yerushalayim will be measured with a “חבל מדה”( a measuring rope.)

Although at first glance this might seem to prove that the rope is an absolute requirement even when more efficient methods are available, it is also possible to interpret this in a way that is consistent with the second more lenient possibility.

It could be that Rabbi Yehoshua is not bringing the passuk to exclude more efficient or easier methods of measuring, but just to exclude steel chains or other bulky materials which though more technically accurate, are not usually used as measuring tools due to their heaviness .

After all, handling a 50- amah wide metal chain is hardly a simple task even for two strong men!

The phrase “חבל מדה” would then not be taken completely literal but would teach us that the method used for measuring must not only be reasonably accurate but also something efficient enough to qualify as a “measuring rope.”

It is also possible that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya is not bringing the passuk as a stringency which comes to exclude more accurate or more efficient methods, but as a leniency to teach us that even though a rope is not the most accurate of methods, it is still acceptable!

In looking through the Rishonim, I did not see much discussion about this question, but was delighted to see that the Meiri actually interprets Rabbi Yehoshua precisely like the second suggestion above, and rules that steel chains ( and by implication other more efficient and accurate means ) certainly may be used .

He notes that some disagree and are stringent, and I found in my search that the Or Zarua (2/163-Eruvin) indeed does so.

Amongst the later Poskim, I have not found anywhere that the Shulchan Aruch or Rema discuss this issue, but did find that the Aruch haShulchan( O.C.399) takes it for granted that Rabbi Yehoshua came to exclude steel chains and that a rope specifically must be used.

As I first heard from Rav Asher Weiss שליט”א , the Rema ( C.M. 25/2) rules that even though we usually follow the rulings of the later authorities assuming that they have already seen and taken into account the rulings of the earlier authorities, if they were clearly not aware of an earlier authority’s ruling, a contemporary poseik can follow that earlier authority.

It is well known that the Meiri’s work was not known to the Mechaber, and while it might have been known to the Aruch haShulchan ( it certainly was to the Mishna Berura who quotes him) it is not clear how much of it was known to him.

Given that הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב , there thus certainly seems to be strong reasoning in favor of following the lenient approach and using the modern tools of technology to measure the techum, provided it is done with the agreement of a top-level Talmid Chacham.

It should of course also be borne in mind that a car’s measuring device, as well as the standard distance tool on Google-Earth measures total distance including the vertical component of slopes.

In contrast, the laws of Techumim generally allow one to consider only the horizontal component of the total displacement between the two points.

As such, unless one uses technological tools that can measure the “as the crow flies’ horizontal component of the displacement, one could land up being much more stringent than required.

This brings up one more major leniency that could be applied to the “Table Mountain ” conundrum. (for those who have not seen the earlier posts, this is a unique feature of the City of Cape-Town, which surrounds the over 1000m base to summit peak on 3 sides. We have been discussing whether the entire mountain or parts of its can be included in the city-limits, given the rules of עבור העיר and the 4000 amos cut-off point.)

The vertical height of the mountain is well over 1000m above the sea-level neighborhoods- Up and down, that’s about 2000m from the “walking ” distance measured by google earth that can be deducted from the techum limits once one leaves the last house of the city (or from the 4000 amos cut off point for עיר העשויה כקשת!)-unfortunately, the almost 6000 metre gap measured through google earth between the two opposite legs of the city still seems to result in far too much empty space to include the whole mountain in עבור העיר.

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 55 The extended techum and Table Mountain continued, and self-sacrifice for Torah

Today’s daf has a solid mix of aggadic material and a return to the technical rules regarding how to work out the extended shabbos domain of a city.

I wish to start with the halachik side of the daf, כדרכינו בקודש, even though some of  the aggadic material precedes it, and hope to return to the Agadot thereafter.

For the sake of clarity, the אגדה includes all content in the Talmud that does not involve the halachik (legal) process, including מדרשי אגדה  that comment on the narrative portions of the Tanach or complement them and ethical and other advice- see מבוא התלמוד attributed by many to Rabbeinu Shmuel haNagid, one of the first of the Rishonim  and published at the back of מסכת ברכות  for his exact definition, though note that his view on the source and authority of agada is subject to much debate amongst the Geonim, Rishonim and later authorities (my in-depth Hebrew article on this subject is currently work in progress.)

We have already learnt that the general rule is that the techum (shabbos domain) of a city in which one is permitted to walk on Shabbos  stretches to a maximum of 2000 amos (between about 800-1000 m) from the last house in the city’s halachik borders (recall that 2 houses separated by 141 amos or more of empty space might be considered halachically to be in 2 different “cities.”

We have also seen recently that this applies in theory, but that in practise, the distance one may walk from the last house of the city might be significantly more, for 2 reasons:

  1. The limits of the city proper might stretch significantly beyond the last house, such as when the shape of the city is irregular (non-rectangular or grid-like) in which case some open space might be included in these limits themselves.
  • The techum of the city, while theoretically stretching 2000 amos from the end of the city-proper, is effectively measured by placing a rectangular block at the corners of the city and not a circle, meaning that while the shortest this techum will extend is 2000 amos, at the diagonals, it will extend significantly more (by pythagorus.)

The first rule is not applied universally, and one needs to be familiar with all the different shapes discussed in the sugya and which other shapes would be treated like these shapes, before jumping into using this potentially very useful tool.

For example, while a circular city has a square circumscribed around it, including the empty-space outside the circle but inside the square in the city proper itself, and a trapezium seems to be  viewed as if it is was the smallest rectangle that it could fit inside, a rectangular city is left as is, and  a parallelogram could be more complex.

There is also some discussion as to whether the square needs to be on the North-East-South-West axis of the world or can face any direction.

One of the more fascinating shapes describes is the עיר העשויה כקשת – a city in the form of a bow (or rainbow.)

The Beraisa  initially taught us that we draw a fictitious line from the one extreme of the bow to the other (this line is known as the יתר and represents the string which would be pulled back by the arrow before the arrow is released ) and view all the empty space between this line and the houses of the city as part of the city-proper, measuring the techum from this line.

However, Rav Huna rules that this only applies if the length of this line is no more than 4000 amos, allowing someone whose shabbos base or house is in the middle of this line (the spot where the arrow would be placed)  to walk to the city within his own 2000 amos (see Rabbeinu Chananel for his full explanation.)

However, if the length of this line is more than 4000 amos, the empty space is not included in the city limits, and the techum is measured from each individual house.

According to Rabbah bar Rav Huna, the space between the bow and the middle of the line also needs to be less than 2000 amos in order to include the empty space in the city proper, but according to his son, Rava, this is not necessary, and Abaya supports  his lenient view, seeing as anyone in the city could reach the middle of the  line by walking first to the end of the city.

Tosfos suggests that  according to Rava son of Rabbah bar Rav Huna, if the distance between the bow and the line itself is less than 2000 amos, the 4000 amos  restriction on the length of the line might not apply due to the same reasoning of Abaya- the midpoint of the line could be accessed through the 2000 amos or less route to the bow itself- this too is subject to debate amongst the Rishonim.

Tosfos further assumes that the 4000 amos limitation on  a bow-shaped city does not apply to the case discussed earlier where a house or row of houses  protrudes outside the grid of the city. In such a case, even if it is more than 4000 amos to the fictitious parallel row of houses we draw on the opposite end, the empty space is included in the city proper. 

Although he attempts to explain the reasons for this distinction, he admits that the Ri (one of the two most senior Baalei haTosfos) holds that this limitation applies to that case as well. Once again, this topic has generated much discussion and debate amongst the Rishonim and can also affect L shaped cities.

Though there is so much more to learn and understand regarding the above and other related issues (those whose appetite has been whet might enjoy the extensive treatment of this issue in the Rashba, Ritva, Meiri and other Rishonim) ,it is now clear that including the empty natural space between the extremes of an irregularly shaped city is far more complex than it might have originally seemed.

We are not even close to theoretically allowing climbing table mountain on shabbos or Yom-Tov  even without the other multiple halachik challenges one would face (though as per accompanying images from google Earth, it seems that the “Lions Head” Mountain might fall completely within the techum of Cape Town City, and at least on Yom-Tov where carrying is less of an issue, with the guidance of the local Rabbis and eruv experts, the gorgeous trail up and down MIGHT indeed be permissible.

In the beginning of the daf, various explanations are given of the passuk “לא בשמיים היא ולא מעבר לים היא  ” – (it is not in heaven nor is it on the other side of the sea.)

I would like to focus for a minute on the explanation of רב אבדמי בר חמא בר דוסא  who derives by implication that although the Torah is indeed reachable for us, even if it were not, we would be liable to reach to the sky and cross the sea in order to get it.

There are times indeed when Torah goals seem unobtainable to us, and although we should be encouraged by the fact that in essence, they are vey much obtainable, we need to push ourselves and be prepared for self-sacrifice in order to achieve these goals despite how unobtainable they seem.

The Rosh Yeshiva זצ”ל , Rabbi Tanzer, was a prime example of someone for whom no goal was too far away when it came to his life’s mission of spreading Torah.

Starting with the literally huge distance diagonally over the Atlantic that he set out on together with his young wife, leaving behind their friends and extended families in an era of very limited communication for what was at first envisioned as a 2 year stint in Africa, he moved onto the virtually impossible goal of turning what was then a virtual spiritual wasteland into a vibrant Torah center.

This was not a job he fulfilled from the ivory tower of an office, or even a classroom, but one that took him literally from door to door begging parents to enroll their children in his fledgling Torah day-school.

Almost 6 decades later, the Yeshiva College campus has served  as the largest center of the Johannesburg Jewish Community and educated generations of students who span the Jewish world, from Rabbis and Torah teachers to businessmen and professionals, as well as some combinations of both.

Returning briefly to the more technical parts of daf, the rather superficial summary we have done above and the fastest reading of the daf reveals how an understanding of mathematics is essential to being able to make the complex calculations needed for taking full advantage of the shabbos techum- One also clearly needs some conception of how much a factor raw mathematics was in Chazal’s reasoning, something that only a good knowledge of both Chazal’s methodology and mathematics would allow.

Though those who knew him know that Rabbi Tanzer was first and fore-most a Rosh-Yeshiva who was most at home in the Beis-Midrash and who got the most joy out of those students who went on to become serious Torah Scholars, he always pushed his students to excel in their general education as well, creating a generation of students with the knowledge required not only for their chosen careers, but also for understanding many areas of Torah that are beyond the reach of those who lack this knowledge.

The Gaon of Vilna, broadly considered the greatest Torah figure in many centuries, was famous for stating that it is impossible to fully understand the Torah without understand all the forms of general (I prefer not to use the term secular) wisdom (see “haGaon” by D.E. Eliach for citation) , something he himself accomplished, and though neither he nor our Rosh Yeshiva would encourage one to give more priority to general studies than to Torah, chalila, I personally have found great benefit from the general education I received under Moreinu haRav Tanzer and his team, not just in my business, but most importantly in so many areas of my Torah Study.

Although reaching the wisdom of the Vilna Gaon is certainly like reaching for the sky, and building en empire of Torah like the Rosh Yeshiva did is certainly also above most of us, we can learn from him to be prepared to try our absolute best, and if we do so, the results will speak for themselves, with Hashem’s help!

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 52 and 53  The enlarged techum, nature walks on Shabbos, and Agada

Queenstown/New-Zealand: techum options?

In loving memory of our dear Rosh-Yeshiva of Yeshiva-college, South Africa, Moreinu haRav Avraham Tanzer of blessed memory, who passed-away peacefully Tuesday night in Johannesburg.

It has been my great privilege to work in the international travel space, with the opportunity to show people so many of the wonders of Hashem’s creation around the world.

One of the highlights of spending a Shabbos in such places is the opportunity to enjoy spectacular shabbos walks amongst gorgeous scenery.

Of course, while going for a pleasurable walk on shabbos is a great way of fulfilling the mitzva of oneg shabbos, and might thus even be considered a mitzva as far as certain laws are considered (making an eruv techumim for example,) one has to be aware of the halachik issues involved, amongst them the prohibition against carrying on shabbos outside a closed area and the prohibition of leaving one’s shabbos domain/techum.

One who camps out in nature is very limited by the later and will usually only be allowed to walk within a 2000 amos range of his tent, even if he is not carrying anything.

In fenced resorts, so long as the entire area is מוקף לדירה  (fenced for the sake of human habitation,) one might be able to measure the techum from the fence of the resort.

Moreover, in resort towns and cities, one might be able to measure the techum from the last house of the city, baring in mind that legal city limits and halachik city limits are not the same thing, and that a gap of more than  140 amos between houses or property walls might be considered a break between two halachically separate cities.

This can mean that in spread-out suburbs or resort towns, one might not even be able to walk from one side of the town to the other, and would be limited to 2000 amos from the building or fenced-in property one is staying in, placing a rather substantial limitation on one’s walking options on Shabbos.

The Mishna at the bottom of Eruvin 52 has some consolation, however, which can be very significant:

Although the space between houses that is permitted for them to be considered part of the same town is rather small, the idea of the עבור העיר – extended halachik limits of the city (as in a שנה מעוברת  [leap or extended year] or אשה מעוברת  [pregnant woman], or according to a different version debated on Eruvin 53, אבר (limb) or extra components of the city) means that substantial amounts of empty space might indeed be included in the halachik city limits.

For example, if a house of the city protrudes on its one side (the north-east corner as per Rashi’s example)  forming an irregular shape, we draw a fictitious protrusion opposite it (on the south-east corner) , and then “square” the city with a perpendicular line from the original protrusion to the fictitious one, including the empty space in-between within the city proper.

We will also  see  (Eruvin 57b) that this also applies to other irregularly shaped towns that do not form a typical square or rectangle style grid, and by using this method, large areas of open natural space can often be included in the limits of the city proper, before we even start measuring the 2000 amos techum around it, which we have already seen is also squared in a way that makes it effectively significantly bigger (Eruvin 49b.)

Chazal determined (Eruvin 57b)  that the techum of shabbos needs to be measured physically with a rope 50 amos long, a point which Rashi uses on our daf (Eruvin 52b at the bottom) to explain the view that there is a 15 amah safety net for someone who mistakenly left the techum, a topic I would love to analyze further in the context of halachik safety-nets in general.

As such,  whether one may rely on satellite images such as those available on google earth to measure this techum, or even on a car’s distance metre, is for a different discussion, one I hope to go into when we get there, Hashem willing.

The process of measuring the techum was taken very seriously in Chazal’s time, and markers were placed on the roads to show where the techum ends, as Rashi on our daf also points out.

Given that sufficiently measuring the techum for a once-off trip might not be feasible, and does not even seem to be common -practise in fixed  Jewish communities, possibly because of the common use of Eruvin, the practical use of these very powerful tools might be limited by pragmatism, but one who knows these laws sufficiently should be able to at least pre-measure the route of any planned  nature-walks as well as map-out the shape and geography of the town before shabbos, in order to ensure than everyone can enjoy these gorgeous walks in a halachically correct manner.

In my first post on this masechta, I recalled how despite my fondness for it, there was some concern raised as to how I would be able to keep up with contemporary relevant posts given its technical nature.

I noted then that besides for the great opportunity to focus on some of the most important rules of Eruvin, Shabbos, and halachik psak in general, there are also plenty other topics in the masechta, and even a fair amount of aggadic material, even if less so than  in the first two masechtos in the shas.

In fact, my affection for Eruvin started during my time as a Rebbe in Yeshiva-College, under the late Rosh-Yeshiva Rabbi Tanzer זצ”ל  and יבל”א  his son Rav Dov Tanzer שליט”א, himself a revered Torah giant of note who mentored me not only in chinuch but in the intricacies of constructing eruvin in the many resorts we used for school Shabbatonim and seminars I ran.

I also pointed out that sometimes Chazal used some of the most technical of discussions to teach us some of the most relevant general principles of halacha and Torah life, and that as we focus on the equally essential minute details of each subject, we need to constantly keep our eyes open for these messages.

Today’s daf is one of those, and while it starts with the extremely technical methods used to calculate the extended borders of a city, it moves onto a wealth of aggadic (non-halachik) material.

There is much discussion from Chazal to the Rishonim and beyond as to the status and role of this kind of aggadic material, which the Rambam teaches us contains the secrets of the Torah (Pirush haMishnayos/intro to חלק), but without detracting chalila from their sanctity and importance, Rashi  (Shabbos 30b ) explains that Agadot are a genre used to draw close the hearts of people and get them interested in the material about to be taught.

Chazal were fully aware that as human beings, we love stories and allegories, and that before, after, and sometimes in the midst of our delving deep into complex halachik intricacies, some of their great non-halachik teachings and traditions should be brought delivered in this format.

Going further, the Amora Rabbah was always particular to start every learning session with a   מילתא דבידוחתא, literally a matter of a joke )Shabbos 30b.)

Given that even the everyday chatter of Torah scholars requires study )A.Z. 19b) , there is little doubt that even these jokes contained wisdom, and are certainly different to the extremely frowned upon ליצנתא  (cynical or mocking humor) which Chazal (Derech Eretz 5/5) warned us against.

Our beloved Rosh-Yeshiva, Rabbi Tanzer of blessed memory, as with everyone in his life and career, followed in Chazal’s path, and always started his words of Torah with a joke or story, which in his wisdom he linked and made relevant to the material he was about to teach.

A master of human-nature almost impossible to find, we can never replace him, but we can certainly do our best to follow in his ways, if only our everyday chatter could come close to the level of his.

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 44 and 45 Returning from emergency travel on shabbos

A very common issue faced by emergency workers is what to do after taking someone to the hospital.

Everyone agrees that whenever there is a chance of danger to life, one may desecrate shabbos in whatever way  necessary to try and save that life.

As such, it is obvious that taking a person whose life might be in danger to the hospital is not only permitted, but obligatory.

On the other hand, once the immediate danger has passed and the person has been taken to hospital, those who took him there could land up being stuck at the hospital for the rest of shabbos, unable to drive home, or even to walk home if the hospital is not within the techum of his house, assuming walking home is even safe.

Those who do this for a living or as a labor of love on a regular basis could thus land up being almost every shabbos in a hospital reception area.

Whereas halacha is halacha, and במקום שיש חלול ה אין חולקין כבוד לרב  (in the place of Chillul Hashem, such as when a Torah prohibition is about to be broken, we do not consider a person’s honor or dignity, no matter how great he is- Brachos  19b  ,) it would obviously be very useful to find a halachik way for him to return home.

There is also the very real concern that if a halachik way to return home is not found, people will be more hesitant in cases of doubt to take people to hospital, itself causing more danger to life.

At the bottom of Eruvin 44a, the Mishna tells that anyone who leaves the techum under permitted circumstances  and while on his journey, is told that he is no longer needed,  is allowed to walk within a 2000 amah radius from where he is at the end of his mission.

This is despite the usual rule that one who has left his techum, even by force, has to stay within his 4 amos.

At the end of the Mishna, we are told that anyone who left in order to “save” may return to his original place- this seems to mean that he may travel home even more than 2000 amos.

In order to reconcile this apparent contradiction, the Gemara on 45a attempts to distinguish between leaving for regular permitted reasons, and “to save,” the later being treated even more leniently.

Though neither the Mishna nor the Gemara has yet defined what either “with permission” or “to save” means, it seems likely that “with permission” means for certain approved mitzvos, whereas “to save” means for purposes of saving lives.

Yet as examples of leaving ברשות  (with permission,) Rashi on the Mishna  lists leaving in order to testify about the new moon, saving from invading troops or from a flooding river, and a midwife coming to assist with a birth.

Whereas the first example is not a matter of life and death, and the second might be referring to saving property which is also not a matter of life and death, the third example certainly seems like it could be .

Rashi on the Gemara, however, while explaining the possible distinction, seems to consider the birth not to be a life and death matter but saving one’s property from invaders to have the potential to become one (or at least a danger of injury) , should he fail to return home and be chased by them.

As such, the permission to return home would not be because he left for permitted purposes or even life and death purposes, but because his current situation is one of life and death.

However we explain the distinction, the Gemara rejects the distinction, seeing as there is an explicit Mishna (Rosh haShana 2/5 )  that includes one who left the techum to save from troops in the list of people who may only travel 2000 amos from the place where their mission ends.

It thus concludes that there is no blanket permission even for one who left “to save” to travel more than 2000 amos to return home, and 2 different opinions are brought as to what exactly the permission is, both based on current danger and not the fact that he left due to danger.

Based on this sugya, it seems that someone who travelled outside the techum on a life-saving mission, would be permitted to walk no more than 2000 amos back..

It seems that this is despite the concern that without permission to return home, people would be reluctant to return.

If even travelling more than 2000 amos, a rabbinical prohibition, was not permitted after such a mission, it seems to go without saying based on this sugya alone, that transgressing a biblical prohibition in order to return home would not be permitted.

It is, of course, still possible, that the phrase להציל in this sugya is referring to saving property, and that one who left in order to save lives might be treated more leniently.

If this was the fact, though, the Gemara’s suggestion that “to save” should be different to other permitted reasons seems to make little sense- after all, why should saving property be more important that testifying about the new moon, something the entire calendar is dependant on, and that even breaking shabbos on a biblical level is sometimes permitted for (see Mishna  Rosh haShana   )

However, this is not the only word on the subject.

There is a debate in the  Mishna (Beitza 11b) between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel regarding whether it is permitted to open and close  shutters on Yom Tov .  Beis Shamai rule that both are forbidden whereas Beis Hillel rule that both are permitted.

Ullah explains that the Mishna is referring to the shutters of shops(assuming one is selling for yom-tov needs in a permitted way.)

He also understands that this is an example of 3 things that are permitted סופן משום תחילתן (the end because of the beginning.)

He understands  that Beis Hillel permit opening them in order to supply the Yom-Tov pilgrims, which is considered a bona fide Yom-Tov food need, and  close the windows afterwards  because if one is not permitted to close it, he might refrain from opening it.

As such, we view closing it as a permitted need of Yom-Tov too!

The other examples that Ullah brings are:

1.        putting out the skin of a freshly slaughtered animal for people to step on, thus helping to preserve it. Even though this would normally be forbidden on Yom-Tov, if we do not permit it, the owner of the animal might refrain from slaughtering it for Yom-Tov, and thus this is also considered a need of Yom-Tov

2.       A Kohain who has a bandage on his hand  and needs to remove it in order to perform the Avoda (Temple service,) may also put it back, as if we do not permit him to do so, he might refuse to remove it and the Avoda will not be done. This is thus also considered “part” of the Avoda and permitted.

What we seem to learn from these cases is that when an otherwise forbidden action is permitted for a certain essential  purpose, “undoing” that action might also be permitted if failure to permit doing so will result in the essential purpose not being fulfilled- Essentially, the “undoing” action is viewed as a need of that essential purpose as well.

It is not clear from the sugya whether these 3 (and another 2 that some in the sugya add) are meant to be the only such examples, or examples of a general rule- how such lists are generally viewed is beyond the scope of this post.

While based on the way we interpreted our sugya back in Eruvin, it is understandable why returning from a permitted journey outside the techum is not included in this list, given that there seemed to be no such blanket permission to do so, we need to understand why.

Making things more complex, Tosfos on our daf, as well as the Rashba (on the sugya in Beitza) asks why Ullah did not include this in his list, seeing as it seems clear that this is the reason for the Mishna’s leniency here, and answers that it is because in the case of the Eruv, it is so clear from the Mishna that the reason for leniency is סופן  משום תחילתן that there us no need for Ullah to mention it.

How these Rishonim  understands the conclusion of our sugya which seems to have rejected a blanket permission to return home, requires further analysis.

What is clear is that they indeed view the permission in our Mishna to return to one’s place as permission to return home, and even if they would admit that it is limited to 2000 amos, they certainly hold that the reason for the leniency is סופן משום תחילתן . It also seems that they hold that Ullah’s list is not exhaustive and that he only mentions things that we might have thought were not permitted or were permitted for other reasons.

In fact, The Ritva indeed quotes the Ramban who takes issue with this Rashba based on the conclusion of our Gemara!

Once we have established the scope of this principle and whether it applies to one who left the techum or not, we also need to examine each example given and establish whether the principle only applies to rabbinical transgressions or even  to biblical ones.

At that point, we might be closer to being able to work out whether someone who has left his home for a permitted purpose like saving a life on shabbos should be permitted to return home, and whether he may transgress only rabbinical or even biblical transgressions to do so.

As usual, much more to analyze and discuss, but hopefully this is a good start.

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 41 and 43 Landing on shabbos, Flying Elijah, and תחומין למעלה מעשר

One of the nightmares faced by the Torah observant traveler is the possibility of a flight being delayed and arriving at the destination airport on Shabbos.

While whether being on a plane per say on shabbos poises any halachik problems is a subject deserving its own discussion, once a person is already in the air, this is no longer within his control.

However, on landing, one is phased with various issues.

Some of them could be faced at the airport itself, if the entire airport is not one large private domain, or if entry forms needs to be filled in on arrival, not to mention luggage handling.

However, one of the most challenging issues is if and how one may get home or to the nearest Jewish community  from the airport.

Even if one is able to leave one’s luggage at the airport and walk, one must deal with the issue of תחומין, the main topic of our perek.

The opening Mishna of the perek taught us that if  a person left his techum (shabbos domain) on shabbos, even by force, he is not permitted to return on shabbos and is confined to the 4 amos radius he currently finds himself in, a seemingly very harsh ruling for a rabbinical prohibition.

This applies even if he is inside the techum of a house or city.

It follows that if a person left the techum that he found himself in during twilight on erev shabbos, whether the departure city or wherever he was in the air at the time, something that doesn’t take very long on  a plane, he might be required to stay within 4 amos of wherever he lands up on shabbos, and not even be able to walk within the techum he has landed in.

The rule that an enclosed area is considered like 4 amos (also discussed in our current dapim)  might allow him to walk within in the airport itself, depending on how that sugya is interpreted and concluded, but leaving the airport would be forbidden.

In truth, this is not a totally new question from the age of aviation but is tied to an old question regarding people who disembark from a ship on shabbos.

In our Gemara, Rav Chananya asks whether the laws of techumim apply more than 10 tefachim above the ground or not.

At first glance, it seems that this must have something to do with the fact that  an area more than 10 tefachim above the public domain is either a private domain (if it has the minimum width) or a מקום פטור , and walking on it is thus considered insignificant when it comes to techumim.

The Gemara immediately clarifies that a pillar that is more than 10 tefachim high and 4 tefachim wide, part of it within one’s techum and part of it outside the techum, may certainly not be used as a legal way of leaving the techum. This is because it is considered ארעא סמיכתא (solid or supporting ground,) a phrase we have seen before regarding land that slopes at a comfortable gradient for walking up  as well as the area below 3 tefachim in a public domain.

In this context, Rashi explains that because it is fit for walking on (presumably due to its flat and wide nature), walking on it is considered הלוך מעליא  (proper walking) and the laws of techumim certainly apply.

It therefore limits the question to a pillar or raised area that is less than 4 tefachim wide, which is harder to walk on , to someone jumping from inside his techum to outside it, or according to a different version,  to a boat in water more than 10 tefachim deep, which is also considered to be 10 tefachim above the ground.

It seems from this that the question about whether the laws of techumim apply above 10 tefachim or not has nothing to do with it being a private or exempt domain as opposed to a public domain or Karmelit, but rather to do with the fact that it is not an area fit for normal walking.

This requires further analysis, but moving on through the sugya, the Gemara suggests various proofs that the laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim.

The first proof is from a case in our Mishna, involving a boat at sea, which the Gemara now seems to take for granted is considered to be above 10 tefachim from the ground .

The Mishna brought the case of various Tannaim who were on a boat on shabbos. Once they had left the techum, they were technically not allowed to move outside the 4-amah radius they were sitting in at the time shabbos started.

Yet Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Elazer ben Azaria walked anywhere on the boat, in keeping with their rule that an enclosed area is treated like 4 amos.

Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua, who did not accept this leniency when it came to someone who left his techum on shabbos, predictably stayed within their 4 amos.

If the laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim (like in a boat at sea,) their stringent action makes no sense.

As such, the Gemara wishes to conclude that the laws of techumim  do indeed apply above 10 tefachim.

This proof is rejected given the possibility that laws of techumim do not apply above 10 tefachim but they still wanted to be strict on themselves, in case they passed through shallow water which put them within 10 tefachim of the seabed.

The Gemara brings another two proofs which are both rejected, but now that we have seen that the Gemara takes the view that a boat is to be treated as being higher than 10 tefachim so long as the water it is sailing in is more than ten tefachim deep, I will proceed for now to the final attempted proof.

The Gemara brings a case where someone made an oath that he will be a nazir on the day that the son of David (Mashiach) comes.

Such a person must act like a nazir during all weekdays going forward, seeing as mashiach might have come that day  already and he is simply not yet aware of it.

However,  on shabbos or Yom Tov, he does not have to act like a Nazir.

The Gemara assumes at first that this is because Eliyahu haNavi needs to accompany him and is not permitted to travel so far out of his shabbos domain to do so- apparently even though he is able to fly (an assumption whose halachik significance needs its own discussion of course.)

It thus wishes to conclude from this that the laws of techumim indeed apply above 10 tefachim, otherwise flying such a distance would not represent a problem for him.

The Gemara refutes this proof, given that the passuk in fact tells us that Hashem will send Eliyahu “לפני בא יום ה” – BEFORE the day of Hashem comes, namely the day before.

As we were promised that Eliyahu would not come on a Friday, to avoid disturbing our busy shabbos preparations (itself quite an astonishing statement about the importance of shabbos preparations,) it follows that Mashiach will not come on a Shabbos, and he does not have to act as a nazir.

The Gemara then asks why he is not also exempt from  his vow on a Sunday- after all, seeing as Eliyahu cannot come on Shabbos because of techum issues, Mashiach cannot come on a Sunday- it wants to prove from the fact that he is not exempt on Sunday that Eliyahu could indeed come on shabbos, because there is no prohibition of techumim above 10 tefachim from the ground!

The Gemara answers that it unable to derive from this that there is definitely no issue of techumim on shabbos because it is possible that this was unsure whether techumim apply above ten tefachim or not.

Due to this uncertainty, the vower must take into the account that Eliyahu (who knows the halacha even if we don’t)  might have come on Shabbos, and thus must act as a Nazir on Sunday out of doubt.

However, that does not mean that we can prove from here that there is certainly an issue of techumim above 10 tefachim.

As such, the core question regarding whether the laws of techumim apply above 10 tefachim remains unresolved in the Gemara.

Although we are strict regarding his vow, keeping with the rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא , as far as the rules of eruvin themselves are concerned, it follows that we might apply the general rule that in matters of doubt ספר עירוב לקולא .

Assuming that this rule in turn is a derivation of the general rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא (something we touched on briefly in an earlier post but that requires further analysis,) it would then follow according to the opinions that תחומין   are biblical after 4 parsa (about 16 km) ,  this leniency might not apply if he has travelled more than that amount since twilight on erev shabbos, an almost certainty with air travel. (see however Ramban, who raised and rejects this distinction.)

Putting the above concern aside, it follows that where prohibitions of techumim are involved, we might be lenient and someone who has travelled through the air, like one who has travelled through the sea, has not transgressed any techum related prohibitions and is thus not subject to the 4 amos restriction.

However, it is still not so simple.

Besides for the question of the larger biblical techum, there is also the question of when and where his shabbos base is determined to be.

After all, if there are no techumim above 10 tefachim, and he was at sea or in the air during the critical twilight period of erev shabbos, he had no techum to become his shabbos base at that time, and it could be argued that he thus has NO shabbos base other than his own 4 amos.

If this were true, then even if disembarking were permitted, and even if he were to be allowed to enter the terminal building,  he would not be allowed to leave the port or the airport on shabbos!

The Ramban notes that he has seen many who have the custom to indeed stay in port under such circumstances.

He suggests that this might be based on the Raavad who understands the Gemara as concluding that we are strict out of doubt regarding techumim above 10 tefachim, not only regarding the vow, but also regarding the laws of Eruvin, an exception to the general rule of ספק עירוב לקולא.

He rejects this view out of hand, and then suggests that it might be due to the above concern regarding him not having any shabbos base at all.

Bringing various sugyos and Rishonim as support, he concludes that this is not a concern, and that in the  absence of a person’s shabbos base being defined during twilight, it is defined as the first valid techum he enters on shabbos itself, in this case the port or city he has arrived in .

Given that, he could technically walk as far as anywhere within the city and within a 2000 amah radius of it.

This would obviously only apply if the port, the parts of the city he walks through, and his home  are halachically considered within the same city (with gaps of less than about 140 amos between the houses or enclosed property’s walls,) something that might apply in city airports but not in many international airports that serve large cities but are situated outside the halachik city  boundaries itself.

Furthermore, unlike a boat which sails in the water till the moment it reaches port, a plane reaches 10 tefachim of the ground just before landing, far away from the airport terminal on a long runway ( a point I saw was raised by Rabbi Daniel Dombroff of New Jersey in a brief online post on the subject.)

Even with the Ramban’s reasoning,  his first valid shabbos base would then be by the landing site, which is unlikely to be in an area that is מוקף לדירה  (surrounded for purposes of dwelling) and is almost certainly in an area larger than a בית סאתיים  (5000 squares amos or about 500 square metres,) and unlikely to be within the techum of the city (though once we square the city and its 2000 amos to define its effective techum, the later is certainly still possible.)

As such, he would only have 2000 amos from that point, and it is likely that by the time he gets to the terminal building, he will have already left his techum and thus at best, be confined to the terminal, and at worst be confined to the 4 amos he is dropped off in.

This seems to be the  basis of common practise to avoid leaving the terminal building, even if the terminal is within the techum of his city.

However, I see some theoretical reasoning for being lenient regarding walking from an airport too, when the terminal is within the city’s techum, in a similar way that the Ramban was lenient in allowing one to walk home from the seaport so long as the port is within the techum of the city.

This is because the plane itself is more than 10 tefachim above the ground, even once it has landed.

Even though some opinions are stringent with a wagon, considering it to be ארעא סמיכתא , a plane while taxiing is very different to a wagon for various reasons, among them:

i.                     It is in a state of continuous and forced motion and cannot simply stop when it wants.

ii.                   It is not only difficult, but both dangerous and forbidden to walk around on it during the taxi stage. (I was interested to see that in a different context, for this and other reasons, מראה הבזק חלק ה brings reasons for leniency even in a wagon or high motorcar)

As such, there is a strong case that his first viable shabbos base to be encountered is not the point at which the plane lands, but at the point where the plane stops, which is far more likely to be within 2000 amos of the terminal or even within the techum of the city.

This is obviously far simpler when an airbridge is used, rather than a bus system, given that there are bona fide partitions around the whole area he will be walking through.

In practise, due to the extreme complexity of this question and the many variables which can change the halacha, it indeed seems hard to be lenient and allow one to leave the terminal building.

It goes without saying that one should do one’s absolute best to ensure a good safety net of time between anticipated landing and shabbos to allow not only for usual arrival procedures and travelling home, but for a reasonably normal delay, and if it is clear that one will land after shabbos once on the plane, to request permission to disembark before take-off.

However given that this is a common issue, perhaps Jewish communities could be encouraged to  get an eruv expert to map the techum of their city and establish whether their airport is indeed within its techum, in which case local halachik authorities  could rule that  in cases where staying at the airport over shabbos is an extreme destruction of one’s Oneg shabbos and/or involves serious discomfort, walking home or to a community center or member’s home might be a valid option.

Though I have not researched the geography of Moscow, it could be that based on the below link,this is precisely what Russia’s Chief Rabbi once did!

https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/177710/russias-chief-rabbi-takes-a-very-long-shabbos-walk.html

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 30-31 The Kohain in the plastic bag and טומאה on a plane

Much attention was attracted a number of years ago by a photo of a Chareidi man sitting on a plane with a plastic bag wrapped around him.

The man was a kohain and was attempting to avoid the prohibition against Kohanim becoming ritually impure due to contact with a dead body.

The body, however, was not on the plane, a situation which is worthy of its own discussion.

In this case, the concern was that the plotted airpath of the plane passed over a Jewish cemetery close to Ben-Gurion Airport, something which reportedly happens from time to time.

The impurity of a Jewish grave rises above the grave, to infinite heights, and a kohain is thus technically forbidden to “fly” over it, unless he is inside something that serves as a חציצה (barrier) between him and the rising טומאה.

Whereas his action seems extreme and somehow instinctively ridiculous, particularly given the fact that most pious and learned people do not seem to practise such stringency, some discussion is indeed in place.

There are a few reasons why this might not be a valid concern, among them:

  1. Flight paths are never cast in stone and can and do change at anytime (making it a likely case of דבר שאין מתכוין) that is not פסיק רישיה)
  2. In case of doubt regarding טומאה ברשות הרבים (impurity in a public place,) we are lenient. Even though the plane itself is a רשות היחיד, the doubt is based regarding the ground below, which is a רשות הרבים.
  3. The plane itself, being its own “tent” or enclosure could possibly serve as a very effective barrier between the kohain and the rising impurity

The first 2 points are far from simple, but we will focus today on the third:

In order for this point to have any standing, one would first need to show that a plane fits the definition of an ohel (“tent” or enclosure) that acts as a barrier against rising impurity- for example, if the plane itself is made of metal and susceptible to impurity, it might not function as a barrier against it.

Without going into this question (but see Rashi 30b אהל זרוק לאו שמיה אהל ,)it is still far from straightforward, and is tied to the sugya at the bottom of 30b, going onto 31a.

We have established that although the food used for the Eruv needs to be edible and permitted to someone, it does not have to be permitted to the person making or using the Eruv.

For example, a Nazir may rely on an Eruv made with wine, even though he is not allowed to drink it, and a non-kohain may rely on an Eruv made with תרומה, even though he is not permitted to eat it himself.

Further than that, Rabbi Yehuda holds that the Eruv of a kohain may even be placed in a cemetery, somewhere that he is not allowed to go to avoid becoming impure.

The Gemara brings a Beraita that explains that this is because he is able to go there inside a container style cart (see text and Rashi for precise names and definition), which serves as a חציצה (barrier) between him and the graves.

It then links this dispute to a dispute regarding an אוהל זרוק ( a moving “tent” or enclosure.)

Unlike the Tana Kama who holds like Rebbe that such an enclosure does not protect one from impurity outside, Rabbi Yehuda holds like Rabbi Yosi bar Yehuda who is of the view that it does.

This debate seems to relate directly to our case of the plane flying above the cemetery.

The plane seems to be comparable to the enclosed wagon, seeing as it moves, and could thus be a typical case of an אהל זרוק.

That would make our case subject to the dispute between Rabbi Yehuda who is lenient, and the Tana Kama who is stringent.

Should we follow the usual rule of following the majority opinion, as well as the rule that the rulings of Rebbe are accepted over those of his colleagues, things would then not look so good.

The Rishonim also have different views regarding the precise scope of this debate.

Rashi defines a אהל זרוק as an אהל המטלטל , a tent that is moved/movable.

It is still unclear whether this is referring to a “tent” (read:container) that CAN move/be moved, or one that IS actually moving.

The simple flow of our sugya seems to imply that Rabbi Yehuda considers the אהל זרוק to be a valid barrier to the טומאה even while it is moving, otherwise the kohain would not be able to ride through the cemetery inside it. This is how the Rashba understands Rashi here as well, as well as the sugya itself.

However, he also quotes Rabbeinu Chananel who opines that the debate is only regarding a movable “tent” that is currently stationary, but that even Rabbi Yehuda admits that while it is actually moving, it is ineffective as a barrier.

The Rashba considers this later view to be problematic and seems to tend towards the simple meaning in our sugya, but the Ritva seems to adopt it as normative.

Given the fact that the plane is actually moving, some Rishonim would thus invalidate it as a barrier even according to the view that a movable “tent” is a valid barrier.

As such, relying on the plane itself as a barrier is unlikely to be sufficient, and one or more of the other reasons for leniency mentioned earlier in this post might need to be applied. This seems even more clear given that the Rosh explicitly rules like Rebbe due to the rule quoted above.

If all these reasons to be lenient and any others are found wanting, the kohain in the plastic bag have been onto something after all.

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 24-25    The infamous קרפף, and Eruvin in resorts

We have seen that even though on a biblical level, an area surrounded by halachically acceptable partitions is considered a רשות היחיד , and one is  liable for transferring an object from it to a רשות הרבים, various concerns made Chazal impose other criteria in order to be able to carry with such an area.

In an area greater than a בית סאתיים , the area of the courtyard of the mishkan, which was 5000 square amos, inferior partitions made of only vertical or horizontal components, are not always sufficient.

In order to carry from one adjoining רשות היחיד  to another, an עירוב חצירות  is required, a requirement that forms the main subject of the next chapter.

We also see on our daf that an area that has not been מוקף לדירה (enclosed for the sake of habitation) might also not be considered a רשות היחיד .

Examples of this are enclosures used for growing vegetables. As the purpose of the enclosure is to protect the vegetables and not to mark an area for human habitation, the area has not been מוקף לדירה  and it is not treated with the leniencies of a רשות היחיד .

In addition, if such an area is contained within an area that has been enclosed for habitation and not fenced off, it can also nullify the partitions making it forbidden to carry within the entire area.

This restriction can have a major impact on large holiday resorts, particularly those in nature reserves, whose fences enclose a large area that usually includes many such areas that are not only not  enclosed for habitation but are also not even fit for habitation- these could  include natural bush and/or jungle, large ponds or lakes, and even areas inhabited by wild animals.

Not every such גינה  or קרפף  is subject to this stringency, however.

The Mishna on daf 23a told us that so long as a קרפף is less than our now famous בית סאתיים  measurement (5000 square amos,) one is permitted to carry within it.

Although there is some debate in the Mishna as to what criteria are needed even for such an area to be permitted, the Amoraim on daf 23b rule leniently like Rabbi Akiva that this permission is not dependant on any conditions.

On our daf 24a, Rav Nachman teaches us that a קרפף larger than this which was originally not closed for purposes of habitation may be validated for such purposes with a relatively simple fix:

One makes a gap in the boundaries of more than 10 טפחים, thus invalidating them, and recloses it with the correct purpose in mind.

While this could be a solution in resorts that agree to such an act, it might only work if there are no areas larger than a בית סאתיים  that remain physically unfit for habitation- this requires further discussion but could be a lingering constraint in the way of using the properties boundary fences as valid Eruv partitions.

Another issue commonly encountered is the issue of bodies of water on the properties, such as large ponds or lakes, larger than a בית סאתיים  which are unfit for human habitation, and might even contain crocodiles, hippos, or other dangerous animals.

Our Gemara makes it clear that although a body of fresh water which is fit for drinking  does not invalidate an area that has been enclosed for habitation (as Rashi points out, there is no greater habitation-related need than water!), this does not apply if the water is not fit for its normal use, which Rashi identifies as drinking.

As such bodies of water most often do not contain water that is fit for drinking, even in the absence of dangerous animals that make it their home, they might be problematic, depending on what the halachik definition of “fit for drinking” is and how the particular body of water fits that definition.

Another interesting question is whether there are any solutions for a  קרפף  that is slightly over the 5000 square amos threshhold.

On Daf 25a, the Gemara discusses whether one can reduce its area by partitioning part of it with trees and says that this is not sufficient .

It does allow one to build a platform large and high enough to be its own רשות היחיד  inside that area, thus taking it below the threshold.

Lots more to say and discuss about קרפפים  but it almost Shabbos, so Shabbat Shalom for now!

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.