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