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.