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.
 

Shabbos 130-131 Shabbos מכשירי מצוה ,Corona,and drawing the line

Shabbos 130-131 Shabbos מכשירי מצוה ,Corona,and drawing the line
Our Daf starts a new Mishna and a new chapter, but it is connected to the last Mishna of the previous chapter which taught that all actions that form an essential part of the process of מילה  (circumcision,) may be performed on shabbos, when the bris is performed on time, namely on the 8’th day.
In this Mishna, Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Akiva dispute to what extent this permission goes.
Rabbi Eliezer goes further than the previous mishna, and rules that not only may one perform all essential parts of the circumcision process, but also preparations for the process, such as bringing the knife through a public domain, or even cutting wood to burn into coals in order to burn the knife before use, if one did not do so before shabbos.
Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, rules that any preparation that could have been done before shabbos, may not be done on shabbos, and only things which could not be done on shabbos, may be done on shabbos.
Rashi explains that Rabbi Akiva holds that only things that are directly part of the circumcision process may be done on shabbos, seeing as the process itself can only be done on shabbos, but things are preparatory to the process, known as מכשירי מילה , may not, seeing as they can be done before shabbos.
It seems from the way that Rabbi Akiva makes this distinction, that he limits  the definition of the circumcision process itself to things which can only be done on the day of the circumcision, and considers everything else to be in the category of מכשירי מילה  (preparation for the circumcision process), which is not permitted.
On Daf 131a, Rabbi Eliezer goes further and incredibly extends this permission to transgress shabbos in order to prepare for   most other  mitzvot that apply biblically on shabbos, such as lulav, matza, and shofar, though not for writing tefillin and mezuzot!
We have a similar debate regarding performing melacha for food purposes on Yom-Tov (Megila 7b)- The Tana Kama holds that that one may only do melachot that are part of the food preparation itself, such as slaughtering an animal or lighting a fire, but not to source or prepare objects needed for this process, such as sharpening a knife or chopping wood.
In contrast, Rabbi Yehuda holds that one may even perform מכשירי אוכל נפש, melachot need to prepare for the food-preparation process on Yom-Tov.
Unlike Rabbi Eliezer regarding מכשירי מילה, though, Rabbi Yehuda limits this leniency to preparations that could not be done before Yom-Tov.
Later in our perek (Shabbos 137b,) the Gemara indeed says that Rabbi Eliezer holds like Rabbi Yehuda but goes even further than him and permits even preparations that could not be done before-hand.
All these opinions based themselves on Pesukim, and it is not clear that the two debates are logically connected to one another but let us at least examine the possibility that these are indeed connected conceptually.
According to Rabbi Akiva regarding מילה and the Tana Kama regarding Yom-Tov, only things directly part of a normally forbidden action that has been permitted by the Torah, are included in the permission. According to Rabbi Eliezer regarding מילה   and Rabbi Yehuda regarding Yom-Tov, even preparatory actions for the permitted act are allowed.
How do we determine whether it is part of the action, or simply preparatory?
According to Rabbi Akiva, Things which can be done only on the day of the permitted action itself, are considered part of the action itself and permitted, whereas things that can be done the day before are not considered part of the action itself, but rather preparatory to the action, and may not be done.
Rabbi Eliezer either agrees that things that can be done before shabbos are not considered part of the action, but rather preparations, but permits preparations too, or holds that even preparations that can be done before shabbos are considered part of the permitted action and may thus be done.
Regarding yom-Tov, the debate seems somewhat different.
Both Chachamin and Rabbi Yehuda agree that actions  preparatory to the food production process  that could have been done before Yom-Tov  are not permitted, and both agree that things that could not be done before Yom-Tov, are considered preparatory and not part of the actual food production process.
Their argument is not about what is considered part of the actual process and what is only considered preparatory, but only about whether such preparations that can only be done on Yom-Tov are permitted on Yom Tov , and is based on how they interpret the pesukim in that context.
whatever we conclude, in both cases, we see that the more stringent opinions draw the line long before the more lenient opinions in terms of the scope of what the Torah permits.
This is not surprising, as if this were not done, one leniency could lead to another, and one could land up spending the whole shabbos or Yom-Tov doing melacha.
If we follow Rabbi Yehuda and permit מכישירי אוכל נפש that can only be done on shabbos, what is to stop us permitting מכשירין דמכשירין (preparations for preparations) or permitting מכשירין that can be done before shabbos?
Yet despite this concern, the view of Rabbi Yehuda was accepted on Yom-Tov, whereas the extreme leniency of Rabbi Eliezer on shabbos was not. (see relevant sugyos)
Once again this seems to be based primarily on his status as a שמותי, explained by Rashi to mean either of the school of Beit Shamai, which we do not follow, or someone in שמתא (excommunication,) due to his refusal to accept the majority view of Sanhedrin in the famous argument over the stove of Achnai (Bava Metzia 59b.)
Yet there are times that despite this, we do rule like Rabbi Eliezer, and perhaps there is also an underlying logical reason his view was rejected as well.
Perhaps, the slippery slope is indeed a factor here- if we go so far as to allow one to cut wood in order to burn coals in order  to  forge a knife, which he indeed permits, what is to stop us allowing a person to perform any melacha in order to get paid in order to buy the knife, effectively destroying the entire shabbos?
Even in matters of pikuach nefesh, and avoiding dangerous situations, we have seen that Chazal have drawn the line at certain points.
Where the chances of danger to life are negligible and there is no limit to how much melacha one can do to avoid such negligible chances (like running around killing wasps on shabbos,) Rav Huna places limits on pikuach nefesh (Shabbos 121b.)
When an everyday activity that involves a small risk has been accepted by society as a normal part of life (דשו בו רבים ), we have seen that such risks can become halachically acceptable- if we don’t draw a line somewhere, we would need to spend all day locked at home forever, and even that has its dangers(Shabbos 129b.)
Every leniency or stringency must be constantly balanced in order to prevent other key values from being unproportionally affected, and to prevent a slippery slope.
During the current Corona plague, we are constantly faced with the question of how far to go to contain it.
If we go to far, we can land up stopping normal living entirely and create even greater economic, social, educational, spiritual and psychological dangers.
If we do not go far enough, we risk countless deaths and the ultimate destruction of the health system and economy as well.
For example, when we give people space to go out as long as they keep a 2 meter distance between one another and wear masks, they decide that they do not need to wear masks if they keep a distance, or to keep a distance when they are wearing masks.
Some decide that neither precaution is necessary.
When we open schools with no distancing on condition that masks are worn, we land up relaxing the need for masks when the weather is too hot, and that causes the next wave of the plague.
The Torah always implores us to strike the right balance, and Chazal are tasked with working out exactly where and how it does so. We need to try and do our best to follow their example.