Eruvin 105 Intellectual honesty opposed to a philosophy of leniencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

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

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

The second part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

הדרן עליך מסכת עירובין והדרון עליך

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The issue raised in point 3 requires much analysis:

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

 This and the related rules of

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

AND

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

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

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

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

They also argue that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eruvin 101-102 bolting the door, minhag, and the new Rav in town

In our earlier post on Eruvin 74-75, we discussed the situation where a community had received a lenient ruling which it followed and was later given a more stringent ruling by a new authority.

We noted the ruling of the Rema that a new Rav may indeed repeal the lenient ruling of a previous Rav, and that this might also apply to repealing an earlier stringent ruling.

The later might be more problematic, given the general rule (Pesachim 51a ) that דברים המותרים ואחרים נהגו בהם אסור אי אתה רשאי להתירן לפניהם  – things that are permitted but others were accustomed to forbid, one is not permitted to permit in front of them.

If this is the case for a stringency that a community took on by itself, how much more so should it be the case for something which they took on because of a ruling from their previous Rav!

In our Misha at the bottom of Eruvin 101, there is an explicit reference to a similar situation where Rabbis repealed existing lenient or stringent practices, though it is not clear whether the original practise was based on an earlier ruling of a Torah scholar, or simply developed over time.

The mishna continues to discuss actions that might resemble the מלאכה  of building on shabbos, including inserting a bolt whose one head is large enough to use to pound food (and thus considered a useful vessel already ) into a door in order to lock it (I have followed Rashi’s explanation here for the sake of brevity but this is a complex discussion in the Rishonim in its own right.)

The  Gemara later makes clear that if the bolt is already permanently connected to the door and is easily moved without the rope breaking (see Rashi and other Rishonim who give different explanations) even Rabbi Eliezer permits locking the door with it, as doing so no longer resembles building.

In contrast, if it was already connected to the door, but cannot be moved without the rope breaking (once again following Rashi’s explanation) , Rabbi Eliezer forbids doing so, seeing as it is not properly connected already, whereas Rabbi Yossi permits, seeing as it already has the features of a useful כלי and doing so does not resemble building.

The Ritva explains that this is because a person does not usually permanently set aside a useful כלי  as a bolt and it is clear to all that this is only a temporary fix and not an act of building .

Fascinatingly, both Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yossi bring support for their view from an incident in the shul in Teverya.

Rabbi Eliezer reported that the original custom in that shul was to lock the door with such a bolt, and when Rabban Gamliel and the elders came, they forbade it.

In contrast, Rabbi Yossi accounts that the original custom had been not to do so, and that when Rabban Gamliel and the elders came, they permitted it!

Although they do not appear bothered at all by the fact that according to Rabbi Eliezer, Rabban Gamliel and the elders forbade something against the existing custom to permit it, Tosfos are bothered by how according to Rabbi Yossi, they permitted something against the existing custom to forbid it.

This is because , as mentioned above, we have learnt (Pesachim 51a) that if something is permitted but others have treated it as forbidden, it is forbidden to permit it in front of them.

Seeing as the member of that shul were long accustomed to prohibiting this, how could Rabban Gamliel and the elders come and permit it?

Their answer could have  far-reaching ramifications for the authority of minhagim in general, and we shall hopefully get the chance soon again in Pesachim to discuss this issue in more detail.

For our purposes, we shall note that Tosfos distinguishes between a custom which people took on because they mistakenly believed something was actually forbidden, and a custom which people took on as an extra chumra despite knowing that it was actually permitted.

In the former case, their minhag was taken on due to error, and one may certainly permit it to them.

In the later case, no error was involved, and one may not later permit it.

Tosfos understands that according to Rabbi Yosi, the members of the shul refrained from locking the door with such a bolt because they mistakenly believed it was forbidden, and Rabban Gamliel and the elders were well within their rights to correct their error and permit it!

What is still unclear is what the reason was for their initial error? Was it simply ignorance on their part, or was it because another Rabbi had mistakenly (at least in the view of the later Rabbi) told them that it was forbidden (as Rabbi Eliezer indeed held?)

If the later is true, it would solve our original problem of how a new Rabbi can permit something forbidden by the previous Rabbi if in his view, the previous Rabbi was wrong.

It is also possible, however, that seeing as the community was doing the right thing by following their Rabbi at the time, their stringent practise cannot be seen as an error, and in such a case, the new Rabbi may not permit it.

The role of rabbinic authority in the acceptance of minhagim is itself worthy of much discussion, and as mentioned, I hope to continue this when we reach the relevant sugya in Pesachim, Hashem willing!

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

Eruvin 100 Running on grass on Shabbos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eruvin 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.