Eruvin 105 Intellectual honesty opposed to a philosophy of leniencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

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

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

The second part of his cryptic statement thus reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

הדרן עליך מסכת עירובין והדרון עליך

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The issue raised in point 3 requires much analysis:

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

 This and the related rules of

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

AND

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

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

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

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

They also argue that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eruvin 97-98 and 103 שבות במקדש וכתבי קודש

Eruvin 97-98 and 103  שבות במקדש וכתבי קודש

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

For example, one may

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rav Yosef claims that this would not be permitted!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eruvin 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 82   Nature walks on Shabbos and אין מערבין אלא לדבר מצוה

This is one of those daf where there are so many different topics to choose from, (including some we have started dealing with already in previous posts,)  that having to choose one for the purposes of this post is particularly frustrating.

From gambling and אסמכתא  , to the role of קטן, disputes, ברירה  revisited, דעת בערוב, the food used for the eruv, Talmudic measurements, and more, this is no “one-sugya” daf.

Yet I decided to focus on the ruling of Rav Yosef that an eruv techumim may only be made for the sake of a mitzva.

He derives this from the Mishna on this daf which discussed how a person can make an eruv techumim on behalf of other people in his town.

He places the barrel containing the eruv in the chosen place and states that the eruv is  for all inhabitants of his city that want to go to a mourner’s house or בית המשתה  (place of drinking, sometimes used to refer to wedding feast.)

Noting that both examples given are for the purposes of mitzvos (comforting mourners and making the bride and groom happy,) Rav Yosef deduced that it is only for the purposes of a mitzva that an eruv can be made.

This deduction could be questioned for a few reasons:

i.                     Perhaps the Mishna is only mentioning the most common reasons someone would walk that far on shabbos ( אורחא דמילתא ) but does not intend to exclude דבר הרשות  (voluntary or non-mitzva related purposes.)

ii.                   Perhaps the permission to make the eruv on behalf on everyone in the city is limited to דבר מצוה  (matters of a mitzva) but making an eruv for one’s own purposes is allowed even לדבר הרשות?

iii.                 Perhaps this limitation only applies to when one uses food for one’s eruv, but if one is מערב ברגל (makes the eruv by being at the site of eruv just before shabbos,) it may be done even for דבר הרשות.

Whereas the Gemara acknowledges the first point and admits that Rav Papa’s deduction is indeed a חדוש, it does not question his ruling, and he appears to have the final word on the matter.

The second two points are not mentioned at all in the Gemara. While I have not seen any of the Rishonim mentioning the second point, there is indeed a strongly represented view amongst them that makes the distinction raised in the third case (see  among others Rabbenu Yonatan on the Rif, Meiri)

While it seems from this daf that the matter is settled, there are various other sources that show that it is far from simple.

For example, back on Eruvin 31, we saw a debate between Rabbi Yehuda and Chachamim regarding whether one may place the eruv food on a grave- this could be  because one is not allowed to benefit from a grave and the eruv might be considered  benefit seeing as it allows one to walk further than one could without it.

During the שקלא ותריא  (flow of the sugya,) Rava suggested that the debate is dependent on whether one is allowed to make an eruv techumim for something other than a mitzva.

If one is only allowed to do so for a mitzva, then seeing as מצוות לאו להנאות נתנו (mitzvos were not given to derive benefit from,) the eruv is not considered a benefit, and it is fine. This could be the view of Rabbi Yehuda who allows placing the eruv on a grave.

In contrast, Rava explains that the Chachamim hold that one may make an eruv techumin even for דבר רשות, and that the eruv is thus considered a forbidden benefit from the grave.

It could then follow that seeing as Rava was later than Rav Yosef  (הלכה כבתראי אבל צ”ע אם נאמר כלל  זה אפילו בתלמיד נגד רבו ) , and according to him, the chachomim allowed making an eruv for a non-mitzva purpose, this could indeed be the halacha.

Further support for this could be derived from the  Mishna (Pesachim  49a. )  It rules that if someone forgot to burn his chametz on erev pesach and was on his way to make an eruv techumim for a דבר רשות  (voluntary matter,) he needs to go back and burn the chometz, and  simply doing בטול  (nullification) in his heart is not sufficient. This seems to clearly indicate that it is permitted to make an eruv techumim for a דבר רשות.

Although none other than the Or Zarua (brought by  הגאות אשרי עירובין פרק 8 אות 1)  rules leniently and permits this, he appears to be virtually alone.  Virtually all other Rishonim understand that seeing as the Gemara went out of its way to explain the dispute earlier in Eruvin even according to Rav Yosef in a way that all Tannaim agree with him, and that the final word on our daf went to Rav Yosef with no mention of any dispute, the halacha is indeed like Rav Yosef (see for example Rif, Rosh, Rambam Eruvin 6/17, Meiri)

 The above-quoted  Mishna in Pesachim will thus need to be dealt with separately, and hopefully we shall have opportunity to do so when we get there!

Several important questions remain, are discussed in the Rishonim and Poskim, but time does not allow us to go into them in this post. Among them:

1.       What is considered a mitzva regarding this rule? Does even a rabbinical mitzva count, or something that involves a קיום  (implementation) of a  mitzva if done but is not obligatory, or a mitzva that can be fulfilled in a different way?

2.        Is the above definition unique to eruv techumim, or applicable to anything that is permitted for the sake of a mitzva (for example nullifying certain types of vows or a שבות דשבות  on shabbos?)

3.       If one made an eruv techumim for a forbidden purpose, does it work בדיעבד?

4.       If one made an eruv techumim for a mitzva, may it be used for a non-mitzva related purpose as well?

5.       What about community needs and other urgent needs? Do they also have the law of a דבר מצוה  as far as this rule is concerned?

One common practical ramification of this discussion relates to taking pleasurable nature-walks outside the techum on Shabbos .

 Is the “oneg shabbos” involved in the walk enough to be considered a mitzva purpose, or could we argue that “oneg shabbos” is only a rabbinical mitzva or/and could be fulfilled in so many different ways that it does not qualify?

If such a walk does qualify, is it also considered enough of a mitzva to allow one to ask a non-Jew to perform any rabbinically forbidden task to make it possible, safe or more enjoyable (such as carrying water through a כרמלית,) under the rule of שבות דשבות לדבר מצוה?

Although most Rishonim do not seem to list this as an example of a דבר מצוה, in a response on the topic, the תרומת הדשן (responsa number 77) seems to permit it, and this is indeed the ruling of the Rema (O.C. 416/1.)

As far as the later question is concerned, given the huge amount of disagreement regarding the heter for a שבות דשבות  altogether (see posts on the subject on Eruvin 66-68,) it might be a  little more complex, but if people are already going on such a walk in hot weather and water is a necessity, there certainly seems to be room for leniency in allowing a non-Jew to bring water along or meet one along the route, so long as all other halachik requirements are fulfilled, and it is done in consultation with an expert in the laws of shabbos.

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

Eruvin 33 and 34 שבות בין השמשות and Eruv Techumim

Eruvin 33 and 34 שבות בין השמשות and Eruv Techumim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list of forbidden things:

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

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

The list of permitted things:

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

The above 3 are all rabbinical requirements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps, however, this assumption is not fully necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbos 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.