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.

Shabbos 148 The unhelpful rebuke and clapping hands and dancing on Shabbos

 
On our daf, Rava bar Rav Chanan asks Abaya about a Mishna (Beitza 36b) that says:
 
לא מספקין ולא מטפחין ולא מרקדין ביום טוב.
One may not “mesapeik”, “metapeiach”, or dance on Yom Tov.
 
When one examines the original Mishna, one sees that these prohibitions are brought as examples of a general rule that all שבותים (rabbinical decrees relating to forbidden work) that apply on Shabbos, also apply on Yom Tov.
 
The Gemara there explains that these 3 decrees were all made because of the concern that one might come to fix כלי שיר (musical instruments) on shabbos.
 
This   would involve the biblical prohibition of מתקן כלי (fixing a vessel,) a תולדה (derivative) of the אב מלאכה (category of forbidden work) of מכה בפטיש (the final hammer blow.)
 
Whereas the meaning of the third of these actions is relatively clear ,  the Rishonim discuss what  מספק  andמטפח  are exactly- for purposes of this post, we shall go with Rashi’s definition in Beitza, that they refer to clapping hands and clapping one hands on one’s leg.
 
Both of these activities involve making sounds which accompany music, and like with  dancing, Chazal were concerned that if they were to be done on Shabbos, one would also come to fix the musical instruments they accompany should they break.
 
 Following the  principle of לא פלוג רבנן  (the Rabbis did not discriminate with their decrees,) it follows that even in situations where musical instruments are not present, seemingly harmless activities performed for the enjoyment of Shabbos and Yom-Tov, such as clapping hands or banging on the table to singing, or dancing, are forbidden.
 
Rava bar Chana’s question to Abaya concerned the fact that despite this, it seems to be common practise amongst the people to do so, yet we do not protest about it.
 
There is an obligation in the Torah of “tochacha”- rebuking one’s neighbor when he is doing something wrong (Vayikra 19/17)- so why is this not applied in this case?
 
Abaya answered that הנח להם לישראל מוטב שיהיו שוגגין ואל יהו מזידין – “leave the Jewish people alone: better they should transgress unknowingly rather than transgress knowingly.”
 
From his answer, it is clear that Abaya acknowledged that public practise was indeed incorrect, but justified the failure to protest with a general rule that when it comes to things that people are unlikely to follow even after rebuke, it is better to refrain from rebuking them in the first place and let their transgression remain in the far less severe category of שוגג    (unknowing transgression.)
 
Abaya brings another example where this rule applies from the laws of Eruvin, a fitting introduction to our next exciting masechta!
 
In order to be permitted to carry within a  מבוי  )side-street or alley that is closed on 3 sides, but open on one side to a public domain(, one has to place either a לחי  (upright pole) on one side of the entrance, or a beam across its width (the precise requirements and different opinions on the matter are discussed in the first chapter of Eruvin, see Mishna on Daf 11b.)
 
Rava had ruled  that one should not sit inside this מבוי  right by the לחי  in case something one is holding falls out of one’s hands, and rolls into the public domain, in which case one might come to retrieve it and desecrate shabbos.
 
 Abaya points out that people seem to ignore this ruling, sit in such places all the time, and no one protests. He explains that this is for the same reason.
 
The Gemara points out that this rule does not only apply for rabbinical prohibitions such as the above two decrees, but also to biblical prohibitions.
 
It gives the example of תוספת יום הכפורים (adding on to the fast by starting a little before nightfall) which is a biblical requirement, is ignored by many people, yet we still do not rebuke them for it.
 
Whether this would apply also to more serious biblical prohibitions and/or those that are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, such as eating on Yom-Kippur, lighting a fire on shabbos, or eating non-kosher animals requires more analysis.
 
 On the one hand, the Gemara does not seem to make any such distinction, on the other hand, from the fact that the example given is a relatively unknown biblical law derived by Chazal from דרשות  and possibly also not of the severity of eating on Yom-Kippur itself, it could be argued that this applies only to  less severe and/or lesser known biblical transgressions.  (see Rashba, Meiri, and others who indeed state that this rule does not apply to prohibitions which are explicitly stated in the Torah, and Rema O.C. 608/2 who rules this way.)
 
 
It is fascinating that this tendency to ignore this prohibition has followed us through centuries, and it is common practise to this very day among many observant Jews to ignore this prohibition and dance, clap, and bang while singing on shabbos.
 
While this is clearly reason not to rebuke people who are so accustomed to doing this that they are not likely to listen, it is certainly not justification for  Bnei Torah who are fully aware of the prohibition to intentionally ignore it.
 
Yet, one finds that many Bnei Torah and Torah scholars have also taken on this lenient practise over the centuries, and it is thus pertinent to try and find some reasons that justify this practise in the first place.
 
Below are a few possibilities.
 
1.    There is a well-known rule that אין גוזרין גזירה על הצבור אלא אם כן רוב הצבור יכולין לעמוד בה – Chazal did not make decrees on the community unless most of the community were able to bare it (Bava Basra 60b.)
 
What happens if Chazal made a decree, thinking that the community was able to handle it, but it later become apparent that it was too much for the community to handle and the decree never took hold?
 
The Rambam (Mamrim 2/6) rules that in such a case, the decree is null and void!
 
The Rambam goes further (Mamrim 2/7) and says that even if it appeared for a while that the decree was or might take hold, but in later generations it became clear that it had never taken hold, the decree may be annulled, even by a lesser Beis Din..
 
Although it seems from Abaya’s answer that he admitted that the decree had taken hold but simply didn’t see rebuke as being effective in this case, it is possible that in later generations it became clear that it has in fact never taken hold at all, and can thus be annulled. (I saw later that Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. 2/100) takes a somewhat similar approach to what I suggested here, with a few differences that might answer some of the outstanding issues.)
 
 
2.    It is possible that the things that even Bnei Torah do were never in the category of the forbidden decrees in the first place.
 
For example, it seems from a parallel sugya (Eruvin 104a), that not any noise is forbidden under this decree, but only “השמעת קול של שיר” – (making sounds of singing.)
 
Rashi explains that this refers to “הנשמע כעין שיר, בנעימה ובנחת”-the kind of sounds that sound like a song, with a gently rhythm. 
 
 
 
Later in the sugya, he goes further and explains that only soft, pleasant sounds that would help someone fall asleep are forbidden, but loud noisy sounds that would wake someone up are permitted.
 
As it is doubtful that the kind of noisy clapping and banging common amongst Yeshiva Bochrim and at a Chasidic Tisch (Friday night get-together with the grand Rabbi of the sect) would help anyone fall asleep, or be considered “pleasant” to the musical ear.
 
Such clapping or banging might thus not ever have been forbidden, seeing as it would not be done at any self-respecting musical event.
 
The Aruch haShulchan (O.C. 339/9) applies a similar idea to dancing, and claims that the type of dancing commonly done by Bnei Torah while singing  on Shabbos is not in rhythm to the music, and does not fit into the decree against dancing at all- see there for more details.
 
It seems to me that the wording of Rashi  )(Beitza 30a) back this distinction , as he defines מספקין   as “hand on hand”, מטפחים as “hand on the thigh”, and מרקדין as “with the legs.”
This seems to imply that dancing involves the same kind of accompaniment to the music as clapping does, namely in tune to the music, but with the feet, rather than the hands.
 
Otherwise, it is kind of spurious for Rashi to tell us that dancing is done with the legs!
 
If it wasn’t too much of novelty for me to make on my own, I would go further and argue that Rashi holds that מרקדין  is not simply referring to dancing movements, but to the sound one makes with one’s feet while dancing in tune to the music, and the main concern is this rhythmic sound generated by the dancing, not the dancing itself.
 
3.    Tosfos (Beitza 30a) rules that this decree only applied in Talmudic times where it was common for musicians to fix their own musical instruments on the spot if they broke, but in today’s times, where we are not trained to do that, and instruments are generally taken to professionals to fix, there is no such concern, and the decree does not apply.
 
The halachik weight of the Tosfos in Ashkenazi halacha is evident by the fact that the Rema (O.C. 339/3) brings this view, yet it is difficult for several reasons, among them:
 
a.    The biblical obligation to listen to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah or wave the Lulav on  Sukkot was pushed aside by a rabbinical decree out of concern that one might carry it  in the public domain to an expert who would teach him how to perform the mitzva (Rosh haShana 29b.) This shows that Chazal were not only concerned that one would come to fix something himself, but also that one would take it to an expert to show him what to do.  If this concern  pushes aside a biblical obligation, surely it would be enough to forbid voluntary actions such as these?  Although this seems like an obvious question, the major Achronim (later authorities) who take issue with the lenient view of the Tosfos do not seem to bring this as one of their concerns- perhaps this is because we do not compare one decree of Chazal to another, and the fact that they made such a decree specifically by Shofar, Lulav, Megila and nothing else could show that they had unique considerations in those cases (it should also be noted that this decree was made by the Amora Raba, many centuries after the tannaic decree against clapping and dancing.)
b.    The Gemara says (Beitza 5a) that anything that was forbidden by the decree of a court, needs another court to permit it, even if the reason for the decree no longer applies.  Elsewhere (Megila 2a,) it goes further and says that a later court may not annul the words of an earlier court unless it is greater in both wisdom and numbers.
The Rambam (Mamrim 2/2) learns a general rule from this and other places, that once Chazal have made a decree and the decree has taken hold, a later court may not annul it, even if the reason it was made for no longer applies, unless it is greater in wisdom and size.
He goes further and rules that decree made as a  סיג  (to prevent one transgressing a biblical transgression) cannot even be annulled by a later court that is greater both in wisdom and in numbers (even in the unlikely event that one is found.)
 
As  there was no such court in the time of the Baalei Tosfos, and there is also no mention by them of the decree being annulled,  even without the Rambam’s further stringency, it seems clear from this Talmudic rule that even if the original concern that we might come to fix musical instruments no longer places, the decree should remain in place.
 
 
Either one has to find a way to explain that despite the לא פלוג  principle, this decree never included  our modern circumstances in the first place, or one is forced to concede that the Baalei Tosfos have a different approach to the Rambam and indeed hold that decrees of Chazal can become permitted when the reason no longer applies in society at large.
 
Protagonists of the later suggestion would need to show that they apply the Talmudic principle that a later court cannot annul the words of an earlier court to something completely different to such decrees.
 
During the course of writing this up, I discovered that the Meiri (Beitza 5a) disagreed with the Rambam and holds that if the reason for the decree no longer applies, a later court may annul the decree even if it is inferior to the original one, and the requirement for the court to be greater in size and number only applies when the reason for the decree still applies!
 
Perhaps the Tosfos follow the approach of the Meiri and hold that seeing as the reason for the decree no longer applied in their time, they had the right to abolish the decree in their own courts despite their inferiority to the  courts of the Amoraim. Whether they did this explicitly (in which case it is somewhat missing from their words) or considered the common minhag together with rabbinic sanction thereof to be the equivalent of it being annulled requires further discussion, should this approach be followed (see the above quoted Igros Moshe where he makes the later suggestion.)
 
In practise, whereas many Talmidei Chachamim are indeed careful to stick to the parameters of the original decree, the Rema has brought the permissive ruling of the Tosfos, giving people permission to rely on it, and baring in mind all 3 above reasons for leniency and the fact that this is a dispute in a rabbinical prohibition, it seems that there is strong reason to permit leniency, certainly for the sake of Oneg Shabbos and Simchas Yom-Tov.
 
As everyone agrees (see O.C. 339) that clapping in a back-handed manner (with the top of one’s hand on the palm of the other hand) or banging without any rhythm at all is permitted, this is certainly a good solution for someone who wishes to satisfy all opinions, and for Sephardim who follow the rulings of the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch on the subject.
 
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 148 The unhelpful rebuke and clapping hands and dancing on Shabbos
 
On our daf, Rava bar Rav Chanan asks Abaya about a Mishna (Beitza 36b) that says:
 
לא מספקין ולא מטפחין ולא מרקדין ביום טוב.
One may not “mesapeik”, “metapeiach”, or dance on Yom Tov.
 
When one examines the original Mishna, one sees that these prohibitions are brought as examples of a general rule that all שבותים (rabbinical decrees relating to forbidden work) that apply on Shabbos, also apply on Yom Tov.
 
The Gemara there explains that these 3 decrees were all made because of the concern that one might come to fix כלי שיר (musical instruments) on shabbos.
 
This   would involve the biblical prohibition of מתקן כלי (fixing a vessel,) a תולדה (derivative) of the אב מלאכה (category of forbidden work) of מכה בפטיש (the final hammer blow.)
 
Whereas the meaning of the third of these actions is relatively clear ,  the Rishonim discuss what  מספק  andמטפח  are exactly- for purposes of this post, we shall go with Rashi’s definition in Beitza, that they refer to clapping hands and clapping one hands on one’s leg.
 
Both of these activities involve making sounds which accompany music, and like with  dancing, Chazal were concerned that if they were to be done on Shabbos, one would also come to fix the musical instruments they accompany should they break.
 
 Following the  principle of לא פלוג רבנן  (the Rabbis did not discriminate with their decrees,) it follows that even in situations where musical instruments are not present, seemingly harmless activities performed for the enjoyment of Shabbos and Yom-Tov, such as clapping hands or banging on the table to singing, or dancing, are forbidden.
 
Rava bar Chana’s question to Abaya concerned the fact that despite this, it seems to be common practise amongst the people to do so, yet we do not protest about it.
 
There is an obligation in the Torah of “tochacha”- rebuking one’s neighbor when he is doing something wrong (Vayikra 19/17)- so why is this not applied in this case?
 
Abaya answered that הנח להם לישראל מוטב שיהיו שוגגין ואל יהו מזידין – “leave the Jewish people alone: better they should transgress unknowingly rather than transgress knowingly.”
 
From his answer, it is clear that Abaya acknowledged that public practise was indeed incorrect, but justified the failure to protest with a general rule that when it comes to things that people are unlikely to follow even after rebuke, it is better to refrain from rebuking them in the first place and let their transgression remain in the far less severe category of שוגג    (unknowing transgression.)
 
Abaya brings another example where this rule applies from the laws of Eruvin, a fitting introduction to our next exciting masechta!
 
In order to be permitted to carry within a  מבוי  )side-street or alley that is closed on 3 sides, but open on one side to a public domain(, one has to place either a לחי  (upright pole) on one side of the entrance, or a beam across its width (the precise requirements and different opinions on the matter are discussed in the first chapter of Eruvin, see Mishna on Daf 11b.)
 
Rava had ruled  that one should not sit inside this מבוי  right by the לחי  in case something one is holding falls out of one’s hands, and rolls into the public domain, in which case one might come to retrieve it and desecrate shabbos.
 
 Abaya points out that people seem to ignore this ruling, sit in such places all the time, and no one protests. He explains that this is for the same reason.
 
The Gemara points out that this rule does not only apply for rabbinical prohibitions such as the above two decrees, but also to biblical prohibitions.
 
It gives the example of תוספת יום הכפורים (adding on to the fast by starting a little before nightfall) which is a biblical requirement, is ignored by many people, yet we still do not rebuke them for it.
 
Whether this would apply also to more serious biblical prohibitions and/or those that are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, such as eating on Yom-Kippur, lighting a fire on shabbos, or eating non-kosher animals requires more analysis.
 
 On the one hand, the Gemara does not seem to make any such distinction, on the other hand, from the fact that the example given is a relatively unknown biblical law derived by Chazal from דרשות  and possibly also not of the severity of eating on Yom-Kippur itself, it could be argued that this applies only to  less severe and/or lesser known biblical transgressions.  (see Rashba, Meiri, and others who indeed state that this rule does not apply to prohibitions which are explicitly stated in the Torah, and Rema O.C. 608/2 who rules this way.)
 
 
It is fascinating that this tendency to ignore this prohibition has followed us through centuries, and it is common practise to this very day among many observant Jews to ignore this prohibition and dance, clap, and bang while singing on shabbos.
 
While this is clearly reason not to rebuke people who are so accustomed to doing this that they are not likely to listen, it is certainly not justification for  Bnei Torah who are fully aware of the prohibition to intentionally ignore it.
 
Yet, one finds that many Bnei Torah and Torah scholars have also taken on this lenient practise over the centuries, and it is thus pertinent to try and find some reasons that justify this practise in the first place.
 
Below are a few possibilities.
 
1.    There is a well-known rule that אין גוזרין גזירה על הצבור אלא אם כן רוב הצבור יכולין לעמוד בה – Chazal did not make decrees on the community unless most of the community were able to bare it (Bava Basra 60b.)
 
What happens if Chazal made a decree, thinking that the community was able to handle it, but it later become apparent that it was too much for the community to handle and the decree never took hold?
 
The Rambam (Mamrim 2/6) rules that in such a case, the decree is null and void!
 
The Rambam goes further (Mamrim 2/7) and says that even if it appeared for a while that the decree was or might take hold, but in later generations it became clear that it had never taken hold, the decree may be annulled, even by a lesser Beis Din..
 
Although it seems from Abaya’s answer that he admitted that the decree had taken hold but simply didn’t see rebuke as being effective in this case, it is possible that in later generations it became clear that it has in fact never taken hold at all, and can thus be annulled. (I saw later that Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. 2/100) takes a somewhat similar approach to what I suggested here, with a few differences that might answer some of the outstanding issues.)
 
 
2.    It is possible that the things that even Bnei Torah do were never in the category of the forbidden decrees in the first place.
 
For example, it seems from a parallel sugya (Eruvin 104a), that not any noise is forbidden under this decree, but only “השמעת קול של שיר” – (making sounds of singing.)
 
Rashi explains that this refers to “הנשמע כעין שיר, בנעימה ובנחת”-the kind of sounds that sound like a song, with a gently rhythm. 
 
 
 
Later in the sugya, he goes further and explains that only soft, pleasant sounds that would help someone fall asleep are forbidden, but loud noisy sounds that would wake someone up are permitted.
 
As it is doubtful that the kind of noisy clapping and banging common amongst Yeshiva Bochrim and at a Chasidic Tisch (Friday night get-together with the grand Rabbi of the sect) would help anyone fall asleep, or be considered “pleasant” to the musical ear.
 
Such clapping or banging might thus not ever have been forbidden, seeing as it would not be done at any self-respecting musical event.
 
The Aruch haShulchan (O.C. 339/9) applies a similar idea to dancing, and claims that the type of dancing commonly done by Bnei Torah while singing  on Shabbos is not in rhythm to the music, and does not fit into the decree against dancing at all- see there for more details.
 
It seems to me that the wording of Rashi  )(Beitza 30a) back this distinction , as he defines מספקין   as “hand on hand”, מטפחים as “hand on the thigh”, and מרקדין as “with the legs.”
This seems to imply that dancing involves the same kind of accompaniment to the music as clapping does, namely in tune to the music, but with the feet, rather than the hands.
 
Otherwise, it is kind of spurious for Rashi to tell us that dancing is done with the legs!
 
If it wasn’t too much of novelty for me to make on my own, I would go further and argue that Rashi holds that מרקדין  is not simply referring to dancing movements, but to the sound one makes with one’s feet while dancing in tune to the music, and the main concern is this rhythmic sound generated by the dancing, not the dancing itself.
 
3.    Tosfos (Beitza 30a) rules that this decree only applied in Talmudic times where it was common for musicians to fix their own musical instruments on the spot if they broke, but in today’s times, where we are not trained to do that, and instruments are generally taken to professionals to fix, there is no such concern, and the decree does not apply.
 
The halachik weight of the Tosfos in Ashkenazi halacha is evident by the fact that the Rema (O.C. 339/3) brings this view, yet it is difficult for several reasons, among them:
 
a.    The biblical obligation to listen to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah or wave the Lulav on  Sukkot was pushed aside by a rabbinical decree out of concern that one might carry it  in the public domain to an expert who would teach him how to perform the mitzva (Rosh haShana 29b.) This shows that Chazal were not only concerned that one would come to fix something himself, but also that one would take it to an expert to show him what to do.  If this concern  pushes aside a biblical obligation, surely it would be enough to forbid voluntary actions such as these?  Although this seems like an obvious question, the major Achronim (later authorities) who take issue with the lenient view of the Tosfos do not seem to bring this as one of their concerns- perhaps this is because we do not compare one decree of Chazal to another, and the fact that they made such a decree specifically by Shofar, Lulav, Megila and nothing else could show that they had unique considerations in those cases (it should also be noted that this decree was made by the Amora Raba, many centuries after the tannaic decree against clapping and dancing.)
b.    The Gemara says (Beitza 5a) that anything that was forbidden by the decree of a court, needs another court to permit it, even if the reason for the decree no longer applies.  Elsewhere (Megila 2a,) it goes further and says that a later court may not annul the words of an earlier court unless it is greater in both wisdom and numbers.
The Rambam (Mamrim 2/2) learns a general rule from this and other places, that once Chazal have made a decree and the decree has taken hold, a later court may not annul it, even if the reason it was made for no longer applies, unless it is greater in wisdom and size.
He goes further and rules that decree made as a  סיג  (to prevent one transgressing a biblical transgression) cannot even be annulled by a later court that is greater both in wisdom and in numbers (even in the unlikely event that one is found.)
 
As  there was no such court in the time of the Baalei Tosfos, and there is also no mention by them of the decree being annulled,  even without the Rambam’s further stringency, it seems clear from this Talmudic rule that even if the original concern that we might come to fix musical instruments no longer places, the decree should remain in place.
 
 
Either one has to find a way to explain that despite the לא פלוג  principle, this decree never included  our modern circumstances in the first place, or one is forced to concede that the Baalei Tosfos have a different approach to the Rambam and indeed hold that decrees of Chazal can become permitted when the reason no longer applies in society at large.
 
Protagonists of the later suggestion would need to show that they apply the Talmudic principle that a later court cannot annul the words of an earlier court to something completely different to such decrees.
 
During the course of writing this up, I discovered that the Meiri (Beitza 5a) disagreed with the Rambam and holds that if the reason for the decree no longer applies, a later court may annul the decree even if it is inferior to the original one, and the requirement for the court to be greater in size and number only applies when the reason for the decree still applies!
 
Perhaps the Tosfos follow the approach of the Meiri and hold that seeing as the reason for the decree no longer applied in their time, they had the right to abolish the decree in their own courts despite their inferiority to the  courts of the Amoraim. Whether they did this explicitly (in which case it is somewhat missing from their words) or considered the common minhag together with rabbinic sanction thereof to be the equivalent of it being annulled requires further discussion, should this approach be followed (see the above quoted Igros Moshe where he makes the later suggestion.)
 
In practise, whereas many Talmidei Chachamim are indeed careful to stick to the parameters of the original decree, the Rema has brought the permissive ruling of the Tosfos, giving people permission to rely on it, and baring in mind all 3 above reasons for leniency and the fact that this is a dispute in a rabbinical prohibition, it seems that there is strong reason to permit leniency, certainly for the sake of Oneg Shabbos and Simchas Yom-Tov.
 
As everyone agrees (see O.C. 339) that clapping in a back-handed manner (with the top of one’s hand on the palm of the other hand) or banging without any rhythm at all is permitted, this is certainly a good solution for someone who wishes to satisfy all opinions, and for Sephardim who follow the rulings of the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch on the subject.
 
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 147 Bathing, swimming, and showering on Shabbos

The Mishna teaches that if someone washes on shabbos in a cave filled with water or in the hot-springs of Tiberius , he may not carry the towel home ( even where there is no prohibition of carrying) , in case he comes to squeeze it the water out of it .

Even if he used many towels and they are thus not so wet, it is still forbidden.

On the other hand, if there are many people who did so, they may carry the towel/towels back, even if they all shared one towel and it is soaking wet.

This is because they will likely remind one another not to squeeze out the wet towel.

We recall that there are two מלאכות that can be involved in squeezing liquids out of solids on Shabbos:

  1. When one intends to use the squeezed out liquid, the prohibition of דש, threshing is often involved , though it is only deorayso for grapes, olives, or possibly other things that are mainly squeezed for the liquids absorbed in them.
  2. When the liquid is absorbed into an absorbent item like a fabric, and the liquid is one that indeed has a cleaning affect ( such as water,) the melacha of מלבן ( whitening or laundering ) applies, even if the liquid goes to waste.

As the water squeezed out of the towel goes to waste, and it is not clear that the melacha of threshing would even be applied to a towel, it is mainly the later melacha of מלבן that we appear to be concerned with.

We also recall that Chazal )Shabbos 40a) forbade washing or immersing one’s whole body in hot water, even if it was heated before shabbos, but permitted it in cold water or in naturally heated springs such as the חמי טבריה ( the hot springs of Tiberias. )

We saw that Chazal )Shabbos 109b) considered washing in the sea on Shabbos perfectly acceptable but forbade floating or swimming ( without one’s feet on the ground) in case one would come to build a raft)Shabbos 40b/Beitza 36a.).

We saw that this prohibition applied not only to the sea or rivers, but also to a pool, even in a private domain, if it did not have a barrier or rim around it ( such as a simple pond or hole in the ground- Shabbos 40b)

Our Gemara deduces from the wording of the Mishna that discussed one who has already entered hot water, rather than permitting one to do so, that in the first place, one may not do so ( though see Tosfos based on the earlier sugya that washing in חמי טבריה are permitted even לכתחילה! )

However, it infers similarly that pouring water over one’s entire body is permitted in the first place, in accordance with the view of Rabbi Shimon who only forbade entering a warm body of water, not pouring such water over one’s body.

Two other opinions are then brought, the Tana Kama who holds that even pouring cold water over ones entire body is forbidden, and Rabbi Yehuda who holds that one may pour cold water over one’s whole body, but not hot water.

Based on the above sugyos alone, we would conclude that

  1. Immersing one’s body in hot water, even if heated before shabbos, is forbidden rabbinically. This would include taking a hot bath, even if the water was heated before shabbos.
  2. Washing or Immersing in cold water or in hot springs is permitted, so long as one does not carry the wet towel back on his own inside an eruv or outside an eruv even with others.
  3. Standing in the sea to cool off or wash is permitted so long as one does not lift one’s feet off the ground, float, or swim.
  4. Swimming in a home pool with a rim is permitted by Talmudic law.

All the above would apply only if one is naked or wearing a plastic or non-absorbent bathing-suite (less absorbent types of nylon bathing-suits might fit into this category, but this is for a different post) – otherwise the concerns of actually laundering the garment or coming to squeeze it out afterwards could also apply.

In practise, given all the halachik complications, Ashkenazi poskim from the Magein Avraham (O.C. 326/8) to the Aruch haShulchan (O.C. 326/9), Mishna Berura(O.C. 326/21), and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Even haEzer 2/13) have consistently backed up the longstanding Ashkenazi custom, already quoted in earlier sources such as the Trumos hadeshen (255) not to enter bodies of water at all on shabbos, either for washing or swimming.

Rav Ovadia Yosef and his son, Rav Yitchak, the current Sephardi Chief Rabbi (see Yalkut Yosef Shabbos 2 siman 301/1-7), admit that there is no specific halacha or Sephardi custom that forbids swimming or washing in a private swimming pool on shabbos, but for some reason, are hesitant to allow it in practise.

Having a cold shower is a different story, and seems to be permitted- however, because of the small possibility that this minhag even includes pouring cold water over one’s entire body , Rav Moshe (O.C. 4 74/75) only permitted it in practise if one is suffering discomfort from the heat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gemara questions this ruling based on our Mishna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbos 115-116 Saving Holy scrolls, amulets, and the Torah of a heretic


On Daf 115b, we are told that even though it is permitted to save holy scrolls from a fire on Shabbos (understood by the Gemara as moving them to somewhere which only involves a rabbinic transgression), blessings and amulets, even if they contain scriptural verses with Hashem’s name, are not included in this leniency, and must be left to burn.
One possible reason for this is that they simply do not have the necessary level of holiness warranted to transgress shabbos for, albeit on a rabbinical level.
This could be backed up by the parallel sugya (Shabbos 61a) which proves that even they are not holy enough to warrant shabbos transgression, they certainly do require burial if damaged, and leaves open the possibility that one might even be forbidden to take them into the toilet.
Another possible, though, is that there is actually something wrong with these things and/or the person who wrote them, and although the earlier sugya would require a rather creative reading in order to justify such an interpretation, there is certainly much evidence pointing in this direction as well.
Rashi, as an example of a verse written in such amulets, gives the example of כל המחלה אשר שמתי במצריים לא אשים עליך (all the illnesses that I placed on Egypt, I shall not place on you- Shmos 15/26 ), an apparent סגולה (charm) against illness.
Yet we cannot ignore the fact that this is the very example used by the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90a) which, if chanted to cure a wound, renders the chanter part of the unenviable group of people who have no share in the world to come!
Although the Gemara there, and elsewhere (see earlier post on the subject) limits the scope of these harsh words to one who spits in the process, it is clear from the parallel sugya (Shvuos 15b) that using words of Torah to cure people is still completely forbidden, even if it doesn’t always warrant such a harsh punishment.
Furthermore, the Rambam (Avodah Zara 11/12) appears to ignore the opinion in the Gemara that limits its scope to one who spits, and rules that chanting pessukim for healing purposes is not only completely forbidden under the prohibition of superstitious practices, but also a form of כפירה (denial of the Torah…) in that he turns words of the Torah, which are supposed to be medicine for the soul, into medicine for the body… (See Kesef Mishna who deals with this at length.)
Perhaps it is this kind of amulet or “blessing scroll) which is being referred to here, and that should be allowed to be burned, given that the writer showed almost heretical beliefs, as did the wearer?
In truth, on daf 116a, we are told similar things about a Sefer Torah written by a מין (heretic)
In a truly shocking statement, the Gemara tells us that a Sefer Torah written by a heretic is not be saved on Shabbos, and should be allowed to burn, together with its pessukim and divine names.
In fact, Rabbi Tarfon goes a step further and declares that should such a Torah come into his hands, he would physically burn it himself!
In discussing how it is possible to allow the name of Hashem to be destroyed, against the biblical prohibition of לא תעשון כן לשם אלוקיכם (do not do so [what you do to idolatry] to Hashem your G-d [Devarim 32/33 ], the Gemara replies that we learn this using a קל וחומר (fortiori) from the case of the סוטה (woman suspected of being unfaithful.
Just like the parchment with Hashem’s name on it is erased in order to make peace between man and wife (i.e. prove her innocence), so it can surely be erased due to the impact that the writers heresy has on the relationship between the Jewish people and our father in Heaven (by showing that we are faithful to him and reject a Torah written by one who is not,)
There is SO much to analysis here, so many nuances in the text, but one issue that needs to be stressed immediately is the need to define what a “heretic” is- it is clear from this sugya (and Rashi’s explanation of it) that this does not refer to anyone who practices idolatry, but only to someone who has experienced the truth of belief in Hashem and his Torah and intentionally rejected it- a very rare, if not non-existent phenomena in our times.
Yet even still, It is hard to imagine that a scroll that is physically identical to the Torah we all live by, and contains the same names of Hashem, can be allowed to burn, or even intentionally burnt, simply because of the heretical beliefs of the person who wrote them.
It seems, at least from here, that the notion of “accept the truth wherever it comes from,” which seems to be the simple meaning of the Mishnaic dictum איזהו חכם הלומד מכל אדם (Who is wise, one who learns from every man,” ]Avos 4/1] is rejected by Chazal, at least in this case.
Whatever happened to the idea that דברי תורה אינם מקבלים טומאה (words of Torah do not become impure?), the basis for the accepted view of Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira that a baal keri does not have to go to mikva before learning Torah or davening (Brachos 22a and Chullin 136b), but also used by the Rambam to permit even a Nidah to touch a Torah? (Tefillin ,Mezuzah,veSefer Torah 10/8)
This rules implies that a Torah cannot be impurified by virtue of an impure person touching it, so why should a person of impure views (heresy) invalidate a Torah simply by being the one to write it?
In addition, how do we explain the words and actions of Rabbi Meir, who continued to learn from his Rebbe, Elisha ben Abuya, now known as אחר ( someone else) , after he became a heretic, On the basis that he removes the dirty peel and eats the clean fruit on the inside. (Chagiga 15b)
How do we explain the way the Rambam so often quoted Aristotle in matters that he agreed with him on, using similar arguments, if the words of a heretic are to be burnt?
The late Chief Rabbi Dr Hertz of the British empire, in his famous Chumash which was arguably the most used English translation in the pre-Artscroll days, makes use of this dictum and even quotes friendly Christian bible scholars in his commentary when he feels what they say is appropriate, something he admittedly received much criticism for, particularly with the rise of the Artscroll generation, but also by senior Talmidei Chachamim.
In fact I recall this very debate as a teen growing up in Johannesburg, where the Hertz Chumash was the gold standard for English translations in the traditional Orthodox Shul’s of Johannesburg, and was used all the time by my father שליט”א at home and many other leading Rabbis in the community.
My high School Rebbe, Rav Eliezer Chrysler, שליט”א, is one of those Talmidei Chachamim who truly made a long-lasting impression on me in many great ways, even if we have not always agreed on ideological matters.
He is a man who displays one of the greatest examples of Ahavas Torah (love of Torah) I have ever seen, to the point that he used to give his daily Yomi class to a tiny group of dedicated people at a time when daf Yomi was not exactly well known in South Africa ( I was not one of those committed people, unfortunately.)
There were times when no-one showed up for the shiur, but he nevertheless continued as usual, literally giving the shiur into the tape recorder!
Rabbi Chrysler comes from the English Chareidi Gateshead school, as unsurprisingly, used to often discourage us from using the Hertz Chumash, due to his quoting the explanations of “heretics,” a view that I myself took on for at least a large part of my youth, and still certainly take into account, but which is arguable, given the very limited definition of a “heretic” referred to earlier on. (it could be that it was bothered more by the idea that the commentaries were of non-Jewish origin than necessarily written by heretics, based on the dictumחכמה בגויים תאמין תורה גויים אל תאמין [Eicha Rabbah 2/13])
Yet in another twist and turn in this fascinating discussion, when it comes to learning Torah from someone who is not a good role-model, Chazal take an even stronger stand and rule that “If your Rabbi appears to you to be similar to an angel, then learn from him, otherwise do not learn from him.” (Chagiga 15b)- This is indeed the difficulty the Gemara there raises with Rabbi Meir’s actions!

It is unlikely that this requirement for a Torah teacher to be a perfect role model in all ways can be taken literally, at least on a pragmatic level, and in case, people are not supposed to be angels as evidence by the famous rule of לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת (the Torah was not given to angels.)
In fact, in a seemingly contradictory statement, Chazal tell us that if you have seen a Talmid Chacham who has sinned at night ]Brachos 19a] (probably a reference to sins in the sexual realm, such as forbidden sexual acts, or wasting of seed ) , do not think badly about during the day, as he has probably done Teshuva.
This shows clearly that we do not expect Talmidei Chachamim to be sin free like angels, but rather to not only accept their teshuva, but to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have done Teshuva, rather than make them prove their angelic qualities. (It seems obvious that this does not apply to one who is a danger to others, or one who refuses to acknowledge his errors and has clearly NOT done teshuva.)
Yet at a bare minimum, the statement quoted earlier can be seen to giving a very message as to how students can and should demand the highest standards of example-setting from their teachers.
Perhaps, the answer lies in the type of flawed individual we are dealing with.
To sin is human, and even great people sin. They are to be held to account and liable to repent, but not rejected once they have done so.
However, when a person shows intrinsic negative character traits, it is a completely different matter.
One’s teacher might indeed be forgiven for sins, particular those that do not harm other people, but he certainly must be expected to show almost angelic character traits- after all, דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה (polite behavior comes before Torah.)
The classic heretic of our Gemara is completely rejected not because of his sins, or even his worship of idols, but because he shown the worst possible character traits possible- a lack of הכרת הטוב and rejection of what he knows to be true.
His sin is so severe because, to paraphrase the pessukim quoted by the Gemara, he has seen the truth of Hashem and his Torah, but deliberately thrown it behind the door, out of the way.
Such a person cannot be a Rebbe, nor can his Torah be saved, and his Torah is in fact so tainted that Rabbi Tarfon would have physically burnt it himself.
As the Neviim ,various statements of Chazal, and of course the Rambam among others have stressed so many times (think for example of the Midrash which describe the blood pouring out of the curtain when the enemy entered the Temple), holy items and practices are not magical charms- they only holy because they serve as a way of improving our relationship with Hashem- when they fail to do this, they are as good as burnt already.
In contrast, it can be argued that someone who has sinned by using words of Torah to heal, but who has good intent and certainly has not rejected Hashem and his Torah, should not be in the category of a heretic to the point that we would physically burn his amulets, and Rabbi Tarfon certainly did not make any suggestion that amulets should be burnt- their products do not have the necessary level of holiness to override the shabbos, but they if damaged, they certainly should still be treated with respect and buried.
One must of course, still take into account Rambam’s harsh words which indeed do seem to equate using Torah to heal with heresy- perhaps he would hold that abusing the truth of Torah which a person has experience for physical gain (particularly when money is made from them ) is also a sign of bad character traits which deserve the most severe of sanction.
Yet the truth is that as pointed out in earlier posts, the Rambam himself follows the Gemara in allowing amulets from proven experts to be worn on shabbos for at least for protection, probably for psychological reasons, and it is doubtful that he would condemn one who writes them to help someone, even on a psychological level, as a heretic.
As such, I tend towards preferring our earlier suggestion, that the reasons for allowing amulets to burn are completely different from the reasons for allowing the Torah of a bona fide heretic to burn, or even physically burning it.

I also suggest that we should differentiate between a person who sins like all people do, even perhaps with a degree of heresy, but afterwards repents or at least comes from a sincere place, and someone whose flawed character traits lead him to deny the Torah he believes in, for the sake of his own convenience.
Let us recall that according to Chazal, the Jewish people never worshipped idolatry because they believed in it, but rather in order to permit forbidden sexual relationships to themselves )Sanhedrin 63b)- although this is sometimes quoted as a relative positive, according to what we have said, it might actually be a negative- they experienced the truth of Torah , had absolutely no intellectually honest way of rejecting it, and knew that idolatry was meaningless, yet threw their beliefs behind the door in order to be able to live a lifestyle antithetical to Torah values.
Perhaps, this is why Rabbi Meir was able to still see the good in his Rebbe and learn the good things from him- Elisha ben Abuya was probably not the classic heretic of flawed character described here who knew the truth but conveniently and/or intentionally buried it.
He was more likely a very sensitive and great individual who lost his faith due to very traumatic experiences he encountered. His peels had become dirty, but he was clean and sweet on the inside!
This can be backed up by the case which is blamed for his heresy- the boy who climbed up to the roof on his father’s intructions to perform the Mitzva of שלוח הקן (sending away the mother-bird), which together with honoring parents is a specific mitzva for which long life is promised, and fell off the tree and died.
This might be somewhat comparable to the holocaust survivor who was simply unable to come to terms with the horrors he saw and how they could reflect the promises made by the Torah, particularly given the facts that the pious and religious Jews of Eastern Europe were amongst those most affected.
This heresy is incorrect and not to be encouraged, but it is also not to be condemned in the same way- it is a heresy that stems from a beautiful and sensitive character, and such people are still redeemable, still role models in other areas and worthy of learning from, and ultimately to be drawn close, not pushed away.

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 114 Shabbos clothes, The definition of a Talmid Chacham and Chillul Hashem

Our daf continues to discuss the Mitzva of having special clothes for Shabbos, based on the famous Pesukim (Yeshayahu 58), read as the Haftarah for Yom Kippur.

These Pessukim teach us that just like Hashem is not just interested in the technical aspects of the sacrifices, but is even more concerned about the concept behind them, the “spirit of the sacrifices” so to speak, so also when it comes to Shabbat, it is not only the technical specifications about whether something is considered a forbidden melacha that are important, but also the special sanctity of the day- the “spirit of shabbos, “ so to speak.

As such, we are required not only to refrain from biblical forbidden melacha on shabbos and their rabbinically related prohibitions, but also to refrain from things that are associated with the vibe of the weekday (עובדין דחול) and to engage in activities that are special for shabbos and that are in keeping with the sanctity of the day.

This is not an extra chumra (stringency), as many mistakenly believe, but a complete מצוה מדי סופרים (Mitzva of the prophets or later sages), that is binding on everyone, and that might also affect biblical law (possibly a גלוי מלתא as to what is included in the biblical requirement of תשבות, but that is for a different analysis!)

In addition to avoiding any business transactions or even business related talk, walking quickly in long steps or running (see previous daf), one of these requirements is that one’s shabbos clothes should not be the same as those worn during the week, and our daf brings a source in the Chumash itself that changing one’s clothes is a sign of respect from the Kohanim who needed to change their clothes between cleaning out the ashes and performing the actual offerings.

The logic given is that one should not use the same vessel he has used to mix a drink for his master to serve one’s master with.
Similarly, part of the mitzva of honoring shabbos referring to in Yeshayahu, must surely include putting on special clothes that befit the sanctity of the shabbos.

Often, I see people, children and teens in particular, who come to shul on shabbos wearing weekday clothes, such as jeans and t-shirts, and although it is clearly preferable that they come dressed that way rather than not come at all,I believe that parents and Rabbis should use common sense where appropriate to encourage those who are likely to listen to wear the appropriate formal and special attire for Shabbos.

I also often see people, once again children and teens in particular, changing out of their shabbos clothes after lunch on shabbos, and going to play sports in shorts, t-shirts, and the like.

This is a more complex issue, which involves the question of which, if any, sports are permitted or forbidden on shabbos, and whether they fit into the requirement to avoid weekday activities and focus on things appropriate for the day.

If, and only if, one is able to permit such activities as part of עונג שבת, subject to any halachik restrictions involved, are we able to deal with whether it is permitted to change into weekday clothes for such activities.

On the one hand, just like running might be permitted for youth because that is their עונג שבת (enjoyment of the day,) rather than a stressful weekday activity, perhaps wearing comfortable clothing suitable for such activities might also be.

On the other hand, it is possible that any activity that cannot be performed comfortably in shabbos clothes (other than resting or sleeping obviously) might be a weekday activity by definition!

In addition to clothes being a way of highlighting the honor of shabbos and the divine services, they are also a way of highlighting one’s honor for davening(prayer) , and the honor of the Torah , as represented by Talmidei Chachamim (Torah scholars.)

As such, Talmidei Chachamim traditionally wore special clothing, and were expected to be particularly careful not to have any dirt or stains on their clothes.

The later not only fails to show honor to the Torah they represent, but causes a terrible Chillul Hashem, and as a result, the Gemara uses the very harsh expression חייב מיתה (deserving of death) for one who does so.

This is based on the verse משניאי אהבו מוות (those who make people hate me, love death-Misheli 8/36)
As Rashi explains, when a Talmid Chacham appears dirty, it causes people to hate the Torah that he represents, and ultimately Hashem himself!

These words might seem harsh, but they certainly convey the sensitivity that a Torah society should show to cleanliness, and that a person who is looked up to by others, should highlight in himself.
This presumably applies not only to a stain, but also wearing torn or smelly clothing, or giving off bad body odor or breathe.

Although it is logical that all of us should show sensitivity to this essential value, it is clear from our sugya that the more of a Talmid Chacham one is, the more careful one needs to be.
At this point, this begs the question- how do we define a Talmid Chacham, at least as far as this rule is concerned?

Does this apply only to one of the Gedolei haDor (leading Torah sages), to anyone with a good general knowledge of all areas of Torah, or perhaps to someone with a high level of knowledge in one area of Torah, someone who serves as a community Rabbi or Torah teacher, or anyone who studies Torah daily or who is more knowledgeable than average?

On our daf, Rabbi Yochanan presents 3 definitions of a Talmid Chacham:

  1. A Talmid Chacham on the level that one would return lost property to him without him being requirement to produce simanim (identification signs), as long as he says that he recognizes it- Rabbi Yochanan identifies this as someone who is careful to turn over his shirt if he put it on the wrong way.
  2. A Talmid Chacham who is worthy of being appointed as a פרנס (leader) of the community- this is defined as someone who can be asked a halacha in any area of the Torah and is able to answer, even in less commonly studied areas like the “minor tractate” of Kallah.
  3. A Talmid Chacham whose labor the community is required to perform on his behalf (possibly meaning to support)- Anyone who puts asides his own concerns and focusses on the concerns of heaven.

It seems from the above definitions that the term “Talmid Chacham” is not only used to describe a person’s actual knowledge, but also his trustworthiness, reputation, and self-sacrifice for divine matters (see our earlier post on ירידת הדורות for an interesting parallel.)

When it comes to appointing someone as Rabbinic leader, the person is expected not only to have the correct character traits (which should go without saying, after all דרך ארך קדמה לתורה), but also have total knowledge of the entire corpus of Jewish law, to the point that he can answer any questions that come his way.

As the Gemara later says, in order to be a local community Rabbi, such knowledge in one מסכתא (tractate) is actually sufficient (presumably he will then have the skills to look up or refer questions in area outside his expertise) , and to be the Rosh Yeshiva (presumably of the entire country or nation), such knowledge of the entire Torah is required, as per Rabbi Yochanan’s definition.

However, there are other traits that make the title of Talmid Chacham appropriate for someone:

When it comes to trusting his honesty as a Talmid Chacham is supposed to be trusted, the fact that he has the reputation of an honest and generally well-learned figure is sufficient. (the later requirement being my own assumption, as it is unlikely than any honest person would be referred to as a Talmid Chacham without any minimum level of Torah wisdom/knowledge)

When it comes to giving him the support needed to carry on his holy work, his level of learning and reputation is less of a factor, and his motivation and self-sacrifice is what counts the most.
Seeing as the laws we have discussed regarding being clean and presentable are based on preventing Chillul Hashem and thus dependent very much on the person’s reputation, it seems logical that the appropriate definition for the purposes of this law would be anyone with the reputation of being a Torah personality, such that one would trust his honesty in monetary matters.

As such, it is possible that in today’s time, anyone who is a Ben Torah- someone whose life-center is the study and application of Torah regardless of what trade or profession he follows, might well be in the spotlight of the majority who unfortunately do not yet fit into this category.

In a world where the majority of Jews are not yet observant unfortunately, this argument could possibly be applied to ALL “frum” (religiously observant) people.

As such, anyone in this category needs to be particularly concerned about how he presents him/her self, and of course even more so, about how he/she behaves!

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.