Shabbos 94 שבות דשבות על ידי ישראל – a double derabonen by a Yisroel

Shabbos 94 שבות דשבות על ידי ישראל – a double derabonen by a Yisroel

One of the most powerful leniencies on Shabbos, is the rule of a שבות דשבות, an action which is only rabbinically prohibited for 2 different reasons.

The most common application of this applies to work done by a non-Jew on Shabbos for a Jew.

In general, it is forbidden to ask a non-Jew to perform a forbidden task for a Jew on Shabbos. According to most opinions, this is a rabbinical prohibition, which I hope to discuss in a later post.

However, one is permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform something that is only rabbinically prohibited, for example to move something that is Muktza, or perform a forbidden melacha in an unusual way, so long as there is a great need for this, to prevent suffering, or for the sake of a Mitzva. (This too, is not straight-forward, and I hope to devote a future post to it.)

Although subject to debate in the Rishonim, this is the generally accepted halacha, and is because this is only rabbinically forbidden, for 2 different reasons:

  • אמירה לעכום (asking a non-Jew to perform forbidden work) is only rabbinically forbidden
  • The actual act being requested, is also only rabbinically forbidden.
    The generally accepted source for this, is a sugya in Eruvin 67 , which allows one to ask a non-Jew to bring hot water for a bris milah through a shared courtyard where an eruv has not been made. (See Rif and Ran Shabbos 56 for a long analysis and debate on this.)

The question is, however, whether this is limited to a rabbinical prohibition performed by a non-Jew, or whether a Jew would also be allowed in case of great need, to perform an action that is a שבות דשבות, for example moving Muktza in an unusual way, or two people turning on a light in an unusual way.

In order to answer this question, one would either need to prove that whatever Chazal’s reason for this leniency is equally applicable to a שבות דשבות performed by a Jew, or find a specific case in the Gemara where a שבות דשבות by a Jew is permitted.

On the other hand, should we find a case where a שבות דשבות by a Jew is not permitted, even for the sake of a Mitzva, great need, or suffering, one would be forced to either prove that this is an exception or a non-authoritative view, or conclude that שבות דשבות is not permitted for a Jew.

I have been trying for many years to find a concrete example of what might be an example of שבות דשבות by a Jew that is permitted, within the Gemara.

Today’s daf got me extremely excited, at least for a minute!

We are told that there was a corpse in the town of Darukra, that Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak permitted to be moved to a Carmelis (an open area that is not closed enough to be a private domain and not busy enough to be a public domain.)

This action seems to be a clear example of what we are looking for, a שבות דשבות done by a Jew!

  • It is mentioned just after we have analyzed the view of Rabbi Shimon that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה (A Melacha where the usual result is not needed- another post to look forward to!) is only rabbinically forbidden. As the corpse is not needed, but merely needs to be removed, this would be one reason that this is only rabbinically forbidden.
  • It was taken to a כרמלית, which is also only Rabbinically prohibited!
    It seems that we have our case!

The trick, however, comes in how we learn the continuation of the sugya!
Rabbi Yochanan, brother of Mar son of Ravina, challenges Rav Nachman bar Yitchak on his leniency.

He says that even if one holds like Rabbi Simon that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה is only rabbinically prohibited (פטור אבל אסור), that does not make it permitted!

It seems clear that the challenger does not see a difference between one שבות or a שבות דשבות if it is done by a Jew, or the question would not be relevant- it would be true that even Rabbi Shimon agrees that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה is at least rabbinically forbidden, but Rav Nachman bar Yitchak only permitted it to be moved to a כרמלית, which is also only דרבנן, and thus permitted as a שבות דשבות.

At this stage, one might still argue that Rav Nachman bar Yitchak himself does differentiate and permits a שבות דשבות even by a Jew.

However, if that were the case, one would expect him to reply accordingly.

Instead, he replies that even his challenger would permit this case, and even if he held like Rabbi Yehuda that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is biblically forbidden (i.e. Only one שבות is involved.)

This is because of the rule that כבוד הבריות (human dignity) over-rides any rabbinical prohibition, and seeing as this was only to a כרמלית , which is only rabbinically prohibited, it was permitted.

It seems from his reply that the reason he permitted this was NOT because of a general rule that שבות דשבות is permitted for any mitzva, or great need, but because of the התיר of כבוד הבריות that applies to any שבות, even if it isn’t a שבות דשבות.

Before I give up and acknowledge that this sugya is thus not a proof that שבות דשבות על ידי ישראל is permitted, but rather could be a proof that it is not, I make one final argument:

Perhaps, Rav Nachman’s reply is not meant to deny the permissibility of שבות דשבות על-ידי ישראל , which likely is his initial motivation for his decision.

Maybe, he is merely bringing the less controversial התיר of כבוד הבריות to answer his challenger and to show that even his challenger, and even Rabbi Yehuda himself, would also have no reason to oppose his reason!
Much more to discuss, but that’s it for tonight….

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 87 Personal autonomy versus blind obedience 

There is a general tendency to see Torah as a top down system , where instructions are given from the top , and followed blindly from the bottom.

Hashem instructs prophets, who in turn instructs people, and today, the place of the prophet is taken in part by the Chachamim.

In truth, it is somewhat more complex than that, and there is actually a system of multiple power centers, with a king ( or Nasi), Sanhedrin( supreme Court and legislature ) ,and prophets and Torah sages, each working separately and in tandem .

Notwithstanding the above, the system still seems very vertical, and little room or tolerance is given for individual dissent . 

In contrast, going against the word of the King (מורד במלכות) , the Sanhedrin ( in its most severe form , זקן ממרא ),  the Navi (עובר על דברי נביא ), or sages (העובר  על דברי חכמים) are all severe transgressions which could sometimes even be capital.

Even the wisest of all men , Shlomo haMelech , was heavily criticized for deciding that Torah warnings and prohibitions against having too many wives, horses, or too much silver and gold did not apply to him, and his subsequent sinful actions that and landed up causing a split in his kingdom . (See Sanhedrin 21b) 

The Torah stresses so many times how Moshe, Aaron, and Betzalel   fulfilled every introduction of Hashem precisely as he commanded .(See for example Shmos 39)

Yet, on today’s daf, we see  what appears to be a completely different approach.

The Gemara tells us how there are 3 decisions that Moshe Rabbeinu made on his own that Hashem agreed to, at a later stage .

These were 

1. Adding a day of seperation before the giving of the Torah, effectively making the date the actual giving took place 1 day later on 7 Sivan.

2. Separating from his wife for the long term now that he had achieved a higher level of prophecy ( a discussion in its own right , maybe for another post )

3. Breaking the tablets.

All  these 3 were rather serious decisions, with extreme ramifications .

The first, bypassed the day Hashem had set aside for the giving of the Torah, delaying it by a full day, the second caused great distress to his wife,  possibly bypassed the מצוה רבה of פרו ורבו ( the great mitzva of being fruitful and multiplying ) , and led to the later debacle with Miriam and Aharon, and the third, literally destroyed the Torah that has just been given , the ultimate holy of holies. 

We see a similar concept , though perhaps not quite as extreme, regarding Ruth and Shmuel.

The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) quotes the passuk תן לחכם ויחכם עוד (give to the wise man that he should become wiser )  (Mishlei 9/9)   and applied it too great people who used their own discretion to modify instructions given to them by their superiors.

Shmuel was told by his mentor , the prophet Elie, that when he heard the voice he had been hearing again, he should reply to the voice addressing him as Hashem  ( Elie knew that it was Hashem who had revealed himself to Shmuel and given him his first experience of prophesy.)

Concerned that it might be someone else calling, Shmuel replied without referring to the voice as that of Hashem.

Ruth was told by Naomi to prepare herself and make herself beautiful before going to the tent of Boaz.  

Yet, she changed the order , and first went to the tent , preparing herself there, in order that passers-by would not think that she was a prostitute. 

Although elsewhere, Shmuel is seriously criticized for even ruling on a halacha in front of his Rebbe (Brachos 31b ), here this is viewed as using the discretion given to him by Hashem to be even wiser , and be flexible with his Rebbe, the Navi’s instructions , apparently a compliment.

The same, though perhaps less risky , applies to Ruth’s second guessing of Naomi .

The cases on our daf, might be more easy to explain , given the special level of prophecy that Moshe head, but also appear even more severe , seeing as he seemingly  risked going against the will of Hashem himself, and in such serious ways!

When is such license permitted and even encouraged, and when is it forbidden , and sometimes severely punished ?

Stay tuned for part 2, when we reach Daf 113, Hashem willing.