One of the most important halachik constructs in the laws of Eruvin and מחיצות (partitions) in general is the idea of a צורת הפתח, the “form of an entrance.”
Although an area needs to be closed on 4 sides to be treated like a רשות היחיד (private domain) as far as permitting carrying there-in is concerned, this does not mean that all 4 sides need to be completely closed.
We have already seen in the first Mishna that the open fourth side of a מבוי can be marked symbolically with either a pole or a beam, so long as it is less than ten אמות wide.
The Mishna also taught us that if it has a צורת הפתח , the form of an entrance, it is fine even if it is more than 10 אמות wide.
It has been made clear that the “pole or beam” solution only works for a מבוי, with its strict criteria, but not for חצירות (courtyards) or other enclosures, which require either פסים (boards of at least 4 handbreadths wide) on one or more corners, or a צורת הפתח, which works even if the open fourth side is even wider than 10 אמות.
We see on today’s daf that a צורת הפתח can work to close openings of more than 10 אמות width even on the other mainly closed sides of an enclosure, and according to some opinions, can even serve as complete partitions on all 4 sides!
It is clear from the above that this is an extremely powerful tool, and today I would like to highlight a few of the rules relating to it, that are discussed on this daf.
A צורת הפתח is defined on our daf as “קנה מכאן וקנה מכאן וקנה על גביהן”- A reed on each side and a reed on top of them.
It seems from the wording that even though this is a more complex structure than simply a pole or a beam, a strong entity such as a pole or beam is not needed for this, and a reed or other symbolic item is sufficient, though of course this needs to be further clarified- our daf contains some discussion regarding the required properties of the horizontal and vertical components as well.
Whereas a gap of less than 10 אמות in a mainly solid partition is defined by default as a valid פתח (entrance) and does not invalidate the partition, a gap of more than is considered by default to be a פרצה (break) that needs to be “redefined” as an entrance by a physical structure baring some resemblance to the posts and lintel of an official entrance-way. This is achieved by the צורת הפתח under discussion.
One important requirement relating to a צורת הפתח is Rav Chisda’s ruling that the vertical component that goes from one side to the other needs to be above the two vertical components , not connected to its sides. Although there is some give and take on our daf regarding how universally accepted this limitation is as well as its scope, the conclusion does seem to be that this restriction certainly applies on as far as Shabbos law is concerned for openings of more than 10 אמות wide.
Whether it needs to physically touch the two vertical “reeds” or can be suspended directly above them by other structures (such as telephone or electricity wires and poles) is a different issue and subject to debate later on the daf.
Rav Chisda’s rule makes constructing an Eruv using the צורת הפתח model rather challenging, as balancing a reed or string on top of two other reeds, or even solid posts, is far harder than tying it to both sides.
Despite this, constructing a צורת הפתח , either permanently for city Eruvin or temporarily at a holiday resort, is usually more practical than constructing actual partitions, and is the preferred method most of the time.
One important question is whether the disqualification of “מן הצד” refers only to when the horizontal component of the צורת הפתח is attached at a lower level than the top of the vertical poles, but if it is tied to the sides right at the top of the vertical components, it is still considered to be “at the top.”
Some justification for this distinction could be that so long as the horizontal component is tied to the top of the vertical ones, the structure still resembles a regular entrance in some way, and the observer cannot easily tell the difference.
Rashi explains the phrase “מן הצד” as follows:
“שמתח הזמורה מזה לזה באמצעיתו ולא על ראשיהן”- he stretched the horizontal component (in this case a branch) from one vertical component to another in the middle of the verticals and not at their heads.”
Although admittedly ambiguous, this seems to indicate that at least according to Rashi, the main concern of מן הצד is if the horizontal component is tied somewhere between the top and bottom of the verticals (in the middle), and not right at the top, leaving the door open for permitting it to be tied to the “top” of their sides.
However, this does not seem to be the way the Rashba interpreted Rashi’s words:
“ומן הצד היינו שלא מתח הזמורה למעלה בראש הקונדיסין אלא באמצע הקונדסין ועל גבן היינו על גבן ממש”
“From the side means that he never stretched the branch above at the head of the poles but rather in the middle of the poles, and “on top of them” means precisely “on top.”
The emphasis of “precisely on top” seems to be clearly excluding the option of tying it to the top of the sides and insisting on it being literally “on top.”
The phrase “ in the middle” would refer to tying it anywhere along the height of the vertical component, as opposed to literally placing it “on top.”
When one looks at other Rishonim on this topic, one sees various other explanations of what מן הצד means, that could cause both leniencies and stringencies regarding when a צורת הפתח works, but for our purposes, I will just add that the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 362/11) accepts Rashi’s basic understanding of מן הצד but does not discuss which understanding of Rashi is correct.
None other than the ט”ז himself, one of the most important commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch, understands Rashi in the more lenient way and allows the upper rope or string to be tied right at the top of the sides of the vertical reeds or poles. The Mishna Berura, however, notes that most Achronim disagree with him and accept the more stringent interpretation of Rashi, which we pointed out seems to be the way the Rashba understood him.
As such, while general practise is not to accept this leniency and to require the horizontal component to be literally on top or above the verticals, in difficult circumstances where this is not possible, the more lenient interpretation of Rashi accepted by the ט”ז might be acceptable, given that we are usually dealing with areas that are not considered a public domain on a biblical level.
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.