Eruvin 56 Looking after one’s health

In loving memory of our dear Rosh-Yeshiva of Yeshiva-college, South Africa, Moreinu haRav Avraham Tanzer of blessed memory, and as we daven for a Refuah Shleima for ALL those ill with COVID-19 and other diseases

At the bottom of the previous daf, Rav Huna rules that a Talmid Chacham is prohibited from living in a city where vegetables are not available.

Rashi explains that this is because in places where vegetables are easily available, they are generally a cheap form of healthy food, which enables him to sustain himself easily and have more time to learn  – (“טוב למאכל ונלקח בזול ויכול לעסוק בתורה”)

In our world of global trade, such a thing might seem hard for the Westerner to imagine, and we indeed daven that global supply of produce will continue uninterrupted despite the current pandemic, but in days prior to modern transport, storage  and technology, this was simply not to be taken for granted- If a certain  perishable species did not grow locally, it was usually simply not available .

Given that both Eretz Yisrael and Bavel were generally arid regions, making the availability of vegetables a requirement for one’s place of abode was no simple thing ,even in the “fertile crescent” region which can hardly be called lush by temperate and tropical standards.

 Even if we could regard Rav Huna’s statement as non-authoritative halachically but more as a form of advice coded in the strong language of halacha, it certainly is a very strong statement about the importance of a healthy diet.

Although Rashi seems to understand that vegetables are not the ONLY healthy foods, and that the reason for Rav Huna’s ruling is that they are a cheap form of healthy food which will allow the scholar to maximize his learning time without having to work too hard to be able to afford it, the basic assumption that eating healthy food is an obligation remains.

The Gemara questions this ruling, not because of any doubt regarding the importance of having access to healthy food, but because of Tannaic statements that say that vegetables can actually be harmful.

It upholds Rav Huna’s ruling by distinguishing between different types of vegetables, different parts of vegetables, and different seasons (see similar discussions in Brachos  44b ), and whereas the correct approach of a Ben-Torah to specific health advice of Chazal requires its own post, the basic idea that Chazal required us to eat healthily is not open to debate.

The Rambam (Deos 4 ) codifies this idea, going a step further and claiming that the main source of illness is an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, a claim which  has stood the test of time and is largely borne-out by modern medical studies that list poor diet, lack of exercise, and other unhealthy lifestyles (such as smoking)  as primary risk factors in most most serious diseases.

Those who attended Yeshiva College in Johannesburg can never forget the words of the school anthem “Rosh-Yeshiva we are for you, both in sports and back at school.”

Rav Tanzer זצ”ל  always drummed it into us that we were always his representatives wherever we were and needed to try our best to make a Kiddush Hashem on the sports field as much as in the classroom.

He viewed sports and exercise as an essential part of life in order to maintain physical, emotional, and social health, and strengthen us so we could better carry out our spiritual duties, something that cannot be taken for granted amongst all Teachers of Torah.

As Chazal say (Kesubos 30a)-  “הכל בידי שמים חוץ מצינין ופחים”- “everything is in the hands of heaven, except for colds and fever”- Rashi explains that these can sometimes come upon a person through negligence, presumably by not looking after one’s health properly.

Particularly during this time of lockdown and pandemic, it goes without saying that we all need to make an extra effort to look after our health, both by eating healthily and exercising as well as possible under the circumstances, and avoiding contracting or spreading the disease chalila.

With the right effort on our side, we can than daven with all our strength that Hashem keeps us all healthy, heals the ill, and brings a ישועה very soon!

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 55 The extended techum and Table Mountain continued, and self-sacrifice for Torah

Today’s daf has a solid mix of aggadic material and a return to the technical rules regarding how to work out the extended shabbos domain of a city.

I wish to start with the halachik side of the daf, כדרכינו בקודש, even though some of  the aggadic material precedes it, and hope to return to the Agadot thereafter.

For the sake of clarity, the אגדה includes all content in the Talmud that does not involve the halachik (legal) process, including מדרשי אגדה  that comment on the narrative portions of the Tanach or complement them and ethical and other advice- see מבוא התלמוד attributed by many to Rabbeinu Shmuel haNagid, one of the first of the Rishonim  and published at the back of מסכת ברכות  for his exact definition, though note that his view on the source and authority of agada is subject to much debate amongst the Geonim, Rishonim and later authorities (my in-depth Hebrew article on this subject is currently work in progress.)

We have already learnt that the general rule is that the techum (shabbos domain) of a city in which one is permitted to walk on Shabbos  stretches to a maximum of 2000 amos (between about 800-1000 m) from the last house in the city’s halachik borders (recall that 2 houses separated by 141 amos or more of empty space might be considered halachically to be in 2 different “cities.”

We have also seen recently that this applies in theory, but that in practise, the distance one may walk from the last house of the city might be significantly more, for 2 reasons:

  1. The limits of the city proper might stretch significantly beyond the last house, such as when the shape of the city is irregular (non-rectangular or grid-like) in which case some open space might be included in these limits themselves.
  • The techum of the city, while theoretically stretching 2000 amos from the end of the city-proper, is effectively measured by placing a rectangular block at the corners of the city and not a circle, meaning that while the shortest this techum will extend is 2000 amos, at the diagonals, it will extend significantly more (by pythagorus.)

The first rule is not applied universally, and one needs to be familiar with all the different shapes discussed in the sugya and which other shapes would be treated like these shapes, before jumping into using this potentially very useful tool.

For example, while a circular city has a square circumscribed around it, including the empty-space outside the circle but inside the square in the city proper itself, and a trapezium seems to be  viewed as if it is was the smallest rectangle that it could fit inside, a rectangular city is left as is, and  a parallelogram could be more complex.

There is also some discussion as to whether the square needs to be on the North-East-South-West axis of the world or can face any direction.

One of the more fascinating shapes describes is the עיר העשויה כקשת – a city in the form of a bow (or rainbow.)

The Beraisa  initially taught us that we draw a fictitious line from the one extreme of the bow to the other (this line is known as the יתר and represents the string which would be pulled back by the arrow before the arrow is released ) and view all the empty space between this line and the houses of the city as part of the city-proper, measuring the techum from this line.

However, Rav Huna rules that this only applies if the length of this line is no more than 4000 amos, allowing someone whose shabbos base or house is in the middle of this line (the spot where the arrow would be placed)  to walk to the city within his own 2000 amos (see Rabbeinu Chananel for his full explanation.)

However, if the length of this line is more than 4000 amos, the empty space is not included in the city limits, and the techum is measured from each individual house.

According to Rabbah bar Rav Huna, the space between the bow and the middle of the line also needs to be less than 2000 amos in order to include the empty space in the city proper, but according to his son, Rava, this is not necessary, and Abaya supports  his lenient view, seeing as anyone in the city could reach the middle of the  line by walking first to the end of the city.

Tosfos suggests that  according to Rava son of Rabbah bar Rav Huna, if the distance between the bow and the line itself is less than 2000 amos, the 4000 amos  restriction on the length of the line might not apply due to the same reasoning of Abaya- the midpoint of the line could be accessed through the 2000 amos or less route to the bow itself- this too is subject to debate amongst the Rishonim.

Tosfos further assumes that the 4000 amos limitation on  a bow-shaped city does not apply to the case discussed earlier where a house or row of houses  protrudes outside the grid of the city. In such a case, even if it is more than 4000 amos to the fictitious parallel row of houses we draw on the opposite end, the empty space is included in the city proper. 

Although he attempts to explain the reasons for this distinction, he admits that the Ri (one of the two most senior Baalei haTosfos) holds that this limitation applies to that case as well. Once again, this topic has generated much discussion and debate amongst the Rishonim and can also affect L shaped cities.

Though there is so much more to learn and understand regarding the above and other related issues (those whose appetite has been whet might enjoy the extensive treatment of this issue in the Rashba, Ritva, Meiri and other Rishonim) ,it is now clear that including the empty natural space between the extremes of an irregularly shaped city is far more complex than it might have originally seemed.

We are not even close to theoretically allowing climbing table mountain on shabbos or Yom-Tov  even without the other multiple halachik challenges one would face (though as per accompanying images from google Earth, it seems that the “Lions Head” Mountain might fall completely within the techum of Cape Town City, and at least on Yom-Tov where carrying is less of an issue, with the guidance of the local Rabbis and eruv experts, the gorgeous trail up and down MIGHT indeed be permissible.

In the beginning of the daf, various explanations are given of the passuk “לא בשמיים היא ולא מעבר לים היא  ” – (it is not in heaven nor is it on the other side of the sea.)

I would like to focus for a minute on the explanation of רב אבדמי בר חמא בר דוסא  who derives by implication that although the Torah is indeed reachable for us, even if it were not, we would be liable to reach to the sky and cross the sea in order to get it.

There are times indeed when Torah goals seem unobtainable to us, and although we should be encouraged by the fact that in essence, they are vey much obtainable, we need to push ourselves and be prepared for self-sacrifice in order to achieve these goals despite how unobtainable they seem.

The Rosh Yeshiva זצ”ל , Rabbi Tanzer, was a prime example of someone for whom no goal was too far away when it came to his life’s mission of spreading Torah.

Starting with the literally huge distance diagonally over the Atlantic that he set out on together with his young wife, leaving behind their friends and extended families in an era of very limited communication for what was at first envisioned as a 2 year stint in Africa, he moved onto the virtually impossible goal of turning what was then a virtual spiritual wasteland into a vibrant Torah center.

This was not a job he fulfilled from the ivory tower of an office, or even a classroom, but one that took him literally from door to door begging parents to enroll their children in his fledgling Torah day-school.

Almost 6 decades later, the Yeshiva College campus has served  as the largest center of the Johannesburg Jewish Community and educated generations of students who span the Jewish world, from Rabbis and Torah teachers to businessmen and professionals, as well as some combinations of both.

Returning briefly to the more technical parts of daf, the rather superficial summary we have done above and the fastest reading of the daf reveals how an understanding of mathematics is essential to being able to make the complex calculations needed for taking full advantage of the shabbos techum- One also clearly needs some conception of how much a factor raw mathematics was in Chazal’s reasoning, something that only a good knowledge of both Chazal’s methodology and mathematics would allow.

Though those who knew him know that Rabbi Tanzer was first and fore-most a Rosh-Yeshiva who was most at home in the Beis-Midrash and who got the most joy out of those students who went on to become serious Torah Scholars, he always pushed his students to excel in their general education as well, creating a generation of students with the knowledge required not only for their chosen careers, but also for understanding many areas of Torah that are beyond the reach of those who lack this knowledge.

The Gaon of Vilna, broadly considered the greatest Torah figure in many centuries, was famous for stating that it is impossible to fully understand the Torah without understand all the forms of general (I prefer not to use the term secular) wisdom (see “haGaon” by D.E. Eliach for citation) , something he himself accomplished, and though neither he nor our Rosh Yeshiva would encourage one to give more priority to general studies than to Torah, chalila, I personally have found great benefit from the general education I received under Moreinu haRav Tanzer and his team, not just in my business, but most importantly in so many areas of my Torah Study.

Although reaching the wisdom of the Vilna Gaon is certainly like reaching for the sky, and building en empire of Torah like the Rosh Yeshiva did is certainly also above most of us, we can learn from him to be prepared to try our absolute best, and if we do so, the results will speak for themselves, with Hashem’s help!

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 52 and 53  The enlarged techum, nature walks on Shabbos, and Agada

Queenstown/New-Zealand: techum options?

In loving memory of our dear Rosh-Yeshiva of Yeshiva-college, South Africa, Moreinu haRav Avraham Tanzer of blessed memory, who passed-away peacefully Tuesday night in Johannesburg.

It has been my great privilege to work in the international travel space, with the opportunity to show people so many of the wonders of Hashem’s creation around the world.

One of the highlights of spending a Shabbos in such places is the opportunity to enjoy spectacular shabbos walks amongst gorgeous scenery.

Of course, while going for a pleasurable walk on shabbos is a great way of fulfilling the mitzva of oneg shabbos, and might thus even be considered a mitzva as far as certain laws are considered (making an eruv techumim for example,) one has to be aware of the halachik issues involved, amongst them the prohibition against carrying on shabbos outside a closed area and the prohibition of leaving one’s shabbos domain/techum.

One who camps out in nature is very limited by the later and will usually only be allowed to walk within a 2000 amos range of his tent, even if he is not carrying anything.

In fenced resorts, so long as the entire area is מוקף לדירה  (fenced for the sake of human habitation,) one might be able to measure the techum from the fence of the resort.

Moreover, in resort towns and cities, one might be able to measure the techum from the last house of the city, baring in mind that legal city limits and halachik city limits are not the same thing, and that a gap of more than  140 amos between houses or property walls might be considered a break between two halachically separate cities.

This can mean that in spread-out suburbs or resort towns, one might not even be able to walk from one side of the town to the other, and would be limited to 2000 amos from the building or fenced-in property one is staying in, placing a rather substantial limitation on one’s walking options on Shabbos.

The Mishna at the bottom of Eruvin 52 has some consolation, however, which can be very significant:

Although the space between houses that is permitted for them to be considered part of the same town is rather small, the idea of the עבור העיר – extended halachik limits of the city (as in a שנה מעוברת  [leap or extended year] or אשה מעוברת  [pregnant woman], or according to a different version debated on Eruvin 53, אבר (limb) or extra components of the city) means that substantial amounts of empty space might indeed be included in the halachik city limits.

For example, if a house of the city protrudes on its one side (the north-east corner as per Rashi’s example)  forming an irregular shape, we draw a fictitious protrusion opposite it (on the south-east corner) , and then “square” the city with a perpendicular line from the original protrusion to the fictitious one, including the empty space in-between within the city proper.

We will also  see  (Eruvin 57b) that this also applies to other irregularly shaped towns that do not form a typical square or rectangle style grid, and by using this method, large areas of open natural space can often be included in the limits of the city proper, before we even start measuring the 2000 amos techum around it, which we have already seen is also squared in a way that makes it effectively significantly bigger (Eruvin 49b.)

Chazal determined (Eruvin 57b)  that the techum of shabbos needs to be measured physically with a rope 50 amos long, a point which Rashi uses on our daf (Eruvin 52b at the bottom) to explain the view that there is a 15 amah safety net for someone who mistakenly left the techum, a topic I would love to analyze further in the context of halachik safety-nets in general.

As such,  whether one may rely on satellite images such as those available on google earth to measure this techum, or even on a car’s distance metre, is for a different discussion, one I hope to go into when we get there, Hashem willing.

The process of measuring the techum was taken very seriously in Chazal’s time, and markers were placed on the roads to show where the techum ends, as Rashi on our daf also points out.

Given that sufficiently measuring the techum for a once-off trip might not be feasible, and does not even seem to be common -practise in fixed  Jewish communities, possibly because of the common use of Eruvin, the practical use of these very powerful tools might be limited by pragmatism, but one who knows these laws sufficiently should be able to at least pre-measure the route of any planned  nature-walks as well as map-out the shape and geography of the town before shabbos, in order to ensure than everyone can enjoy these gorgeous walks in a halachically correct manner.

In my first post on this masechta, I recalled how despite my fondness for it, there was some concern raised as to how I would be able to keep up with contemporary relevant posts given its technical nature.

I noted then that besides for the great opportunity to focus on some of the most important rules of Eruvin, Shabbos, and halachik psak in general, there are also plenty other topics in the masechta, and even a fair amount of aggadic material, even if less so than  in the first two masechtos in the shas.

In fact, my affection for Eruvin started during my time as a Rebbe in Yeshiva-College, under the late Rosh-Yeshiva Rabbi Tanzer זצ”ל  and יבל”א  his son Rav Dov Tanzer שליט”א, himself a revered Torah giant of note who mentored me not only in chinuch but in the intricacies of constructing eruvin in the many resorts we used for school Shabbatonim and seminars I ran.

I also pointed out that sometimes Chazal used some of the most technical of discussions to teach us some of the most relevant general principles of halacha and Torah life, and that as we focus on the equally essential minute details of each subject, we need to constantly keep our eyes open for these messages.

Today’s daf is one of those, and while it starts with the extremely technical methods used to calculate the extended borders of a city, it moves onto a wealth of aggadic (non-halachik) material.

There is much discussion from Chazal to the Rishonim and beyond as to the status and role of this kind of aggadic material, which the Rambam teaches us contains the secrets of the Torah (Pirush haMishnayos/intro to חלק), but without detracting chalila from their sanctity and importance, Rashi  (Shabbos 30b ) explains that Agadot are a genre used to draw close the hearts of people and get them interested in the material about to be taught.

Chazal were fully aware that as human beings, we love stories and allegories, and that before, after, and sometimes in the midst of our delving deep into complex halachik intricacies, some of their great non-halachik teachings and traditions should be brought delivered in this format.

Going further, the Amora Rabbah was always particular to start every learning session with a   מילתא דבידוחתא, literally a matter of a joke )Shabbos 30b.)

Given that even the everyday chatter of Torah scholars requires study )A.Z. 19b) , there is little doubt that even these jokes contained wisdom, and are certainly different to the extremely frowned upon ליצנתא  (cynical or mocking humor) which Chazal (Derech Eretz 5/5) warned us against.

Our beloved Rosh-Yeshiva, Rabbi Tanzer of blessed memory, as with everyone in his life and career, followed in Chazal’s path, and always started his words of Torah with a joke or story, which in his wisdom he linked and made relevant to the material he was about to teach.

A master of human-nature almost impossible to find, we can never replace him, but we can certainly do our best to follow in his ways, if only our everyday chatter could come close to the level of his.

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 50 Tannaic versus Amoraic authority and “רב תנא הוא ופליג”

In the Mishna on 49b, we are told that  a person who is on a journey home on erev Shabbos and realizes that it is starting to get dark and he is still not within 2000 amos of his home or city (but is within 4000 amos) , may designate a place that he knows along the way as his shabbos base, thus allowing himself to walk a further 2000 amos from that designated space and reach his home on Shabbos.

The Mishna stresses though that simply declaring his shabbos base to be under a particular tree does not do the trick- he needs to specify where under the tree, such as at its base, otherwise “he has not done anything.”

Rav and Shmuel dispute what the Mishna means by “has not done anything.”

Rav is of the view that he has disqualified his current position from being his shabbos base by showing that he does not intend it to serve this purpose, but has also not successfully declared a new shabbos base, and he is thus confined to his 4 amos for the duration of shabbos (as explained by Rashi, but see Rambam Eruvin 7/5 who appears to rule like Rav but understand that his current position remains his shabbos base.)

Shmuel, in contrast, holds that so long as the entire area under the tree is within 2000 amos of where he is, he may walk to the area under the tree and 2000 amos from it.  However, seeing as he did not specify which area under the tree is to be his shabbos base, this area has the law of a חמר גמל  (donkey and camel man- see earlier post on Eruvin 35) and he may only walk within 2000 amos of the furthest part of it from where he wishes to go.

Most of our daf is dedicated to discussing this issue, and on 50b, the Gemara brings a Beraisa in support of Shmuel and in refutation of Rav, yet the Gemara answers that bringing a Beraisa against Rav is not sufficient to prove him wrong, seeing as “רב תנא הוא ופליג” -Rav is  a “Tana” and argues (with other Tannaim.)

It is taken as axiomatic throughout the shas that the Tannaim (sages of the Mishnaic period) are more authoritative than the Amoraim (sages of the Talmudic period) and that an Amora may never disagree with a Tana unless he has another Tana to back him up- The main job of the sages of the Gemara is to interpret, reconcile, and adjudicate between the Tannaim but not to disagree with them.

Yet on our daf, in addition to various other places in the shas, we are told that the leading Babylonian Amora of the first generation of Amoraim, Rav, is an exception, and is considered a Tana who may and does argue with Tanaim.

In another place where this exception is made (Kesubos 8,) Rav and Rabbi Yochanan are both quoted separately as stating that a groom can be counted in a minyan but a mourner can not (what precisely this is referring to is discussed there.)

The Gemara brings a Beraisa to refute Rav which says that both grooms and mourners may be included in the minyan but responds that רב תנא הוא ופליג- Rav is a Tana and argues with the Beraisa.

It brings the same Beraisa to refute Rabbi Yochanan and answers that the Beraisa is talking about ברכת המזון  (grace after meals) in which the mourner may be included towards the required 10 for זמון בשם  and Rabbi Yochanan is talking about the שורה  (the line for comforting the mourners) in which the mourners may not be counted.

There appears to be some logic in this distinction, given that the purpose of the minyan for ברכת המזון  is to allow Hashem’s name to be mentioned in the zimun, and a mourner is equally obligated in being part of this than anyone else.  However, the purpose of the minyan for the שורה  is to comfort the mourners, and the mourners are not part of the mitzva of comforting themselves.

Yet despite this seemingly obvious distinction, Tosfos points out that the Gemara saw this as a “forced” distinction and preferred to use Rav’s status as a Tana to answer the difficulty on him.

In contrast, seeing as Rabbi Yochanan does not have the status of a Tana (the Rabbi Yochanan quoted in a Beraisa [Nazir ] is a different person, a Tana by that name, possibly Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri,) the Gemara had no choice but to resort to this distinction.

Given the apparent superiority of Rav over Rabbi  Yochanan to the point that Rav had the status of a Tana and was thus able to argue with Tanaim, and Rabbi Yochanan did not, it seems rather inconsistent that the rule of thumb throughout the Talmud is that we follow Rabbi Yochanan in cases where he argues with Rav.

To solve this apparent inconsistency, it is necessary to examine various possibilities as to why a Tana is more authoritative than an Amora.

1.       One  possibility is that the Tanaim were closer chronologically to the giving of the Torah, and thus their מסורת  is considered purer and more uncorrupted.

2.       Another option is that the Tanaim were objectively greater in learning than the Amoraim.

3.       A third possibility is that the Amoraim simply had  different roles to that of the Tannaim because  once Rebbe sealed the Mishna, its words become like the authoritative ruling of the great court which could no longer be over-ruled. As such, their only role and sphere of authority was now in interpreting, reconciling, and adjudicating disputes in the Mishna.

Whereas possibilities 1 and 3 above are less likely to allow for individual exceptions, the second reason might leave the door open for an unusually great Amora whose learning was equal or greater to that of some Tannaim  to be able to argue with at least some of them.

According to this reason, it could simply be that Rav’s greatness in learning was such that it was recognized throughout the Talmudic world as being on par with the Tanaim, something that other Amoraim lacked.

However, we would then need to explain why Rabbi Yochanan is considered more authoritative than Rav, despite Rav being on par learning-wise with Tannaim and his apparent failure to be considered as such.

According to the first option, it is certainly possible that the generation that formed the transition between the Tannaim and Amoraim (see Meiri/introduction to Avos who clearly defines this transition, and  includes Rav in this list but not Rabbi Yochanan) were close enough to the מסורות  of the Tannaim  that their מסורות  was sometimes treated as almost or equally as pure.  We would still need to explain why Rabbi Yochanan, though living in the same period, was not included in this transition generation but still was considered more authoritative than Rav when it came to disputes between the two of them.

According to the third reason, it is very possible that when Rebbe and his  court sealed the Mishna as authoritative over all future generations, they excluded certain specific Amoraim who were particularly close to them in terms of the chain of transmission from this limitation, and even conferred them with the type of neo-Tannaic semicha (ordination) needed in order to be exempt from this ruling.

An example of Rebbe’s close relationship and partial ordination of Rav before he went to Bavel can be found in Sanhedrin 5a-5b  where Rabbi Chiya arranged for רשות  (permission to rule) to be given by Rebbe to Rabbah bar bar Chana and to Rav. It is apparent from that sugya that Rav was actually the greater of the two in learning!

It is important to note that this was not actual סמיכה  as in the ordination passed down from Moshe, which might or might not have been held by Rav and/or Rabbi Yochanan, but נטילת רשות להורות  (permission to rule) and to be exempt from liability for errors made- this on its own does not serve as proof of Rav’s exclusion from submission to the Tannaim, but simply as an illustration of his extra closeness to Rebbe.

As Rabbi Yochanan remained in Eretz-Yisroel and might also not have had this same connection to Rebbe, it is possible that he simply never received this special status from Rebbe, and was thus bound by Rebbe’s decree that the words of the Tanaim would be henceforth binding on the Amoraim.

This distinction between Rav and Rabbi Yochanan seems to be mentioned by the Ritva (quoted in Shita Mekubetzes, Kesubos 8a) in order to answer our original question- He explains that we follow Rabbi Yochanan over Rav in a local dispute between the two of them due to Rabbi Yochanan’s greater wisdom but that unlike Rav, Rabbi Yochanan never had the “luck” to be ordained as a Tana in the way that Rav had been.

From the fact that the sugya in Kesubos chose to use Rav’s superior status to refute the proof against him from the beraisa rather than give the answer it gave to uphold Rabbi Yochanan against the same beraisa, it seems that this status is strong enough that it is preferential at least to a “forced” answer, and we indeed see various places in the Rishonim (see Tosfos/Menachos 5a for example)  where they say that instead of giving whatever answer is given to reconcile Rav’s words with a seemingly contradictory beraisa, the Gemara could indeed have chosen to use his superior status as a Tana to answer the question.

Yet in contrast, from the fact that the Gemara regularly poises difficulties on Rav’s statements from various Tannaic sources, it is clear that finding a “non-forced” way of reconciling such difficulties is preferable to resorting to his Tannaic status, which is evidently significantly weaker than that of regular Tannaim.

we see further that some Rishonim in our sugya rule like Shmuel against Rav (see for example Tosfos Eruvin 49b and Piskei Rid Eruvin 50b), even though the halocho almost always follows Rav in a dispute with Shmuel, specifically because the beraisa supports him, implying that this status is not absolute, and that although he may indeed argue with a Tana, other Tannaim are more authoritative than him and the halocho follows them against him, at least when Shmuel rules against him (see though Rif and Rosh who base their ruling like Shmuel on other factors as well.)

It is also clear that his status as a Tana is limited to his ability to argue with Tannaim, but does not limit other Amoraim’s ability to argue with him, or in the case of Rabbi Yochanan in particular, to be considered more authoritative than him when involved in a direct dispute with him.

As such, it seems that the third possibility we raised fits best with Rav’s exceptional status, and that the superiority of Tannaim over Amoraim is not based on either their chronological precedence or their innate superiority in learning, but rather on the authority given by Rebbe’s Beis Din to them over Amoraim, something he likely excluded transition figures such as  Rav from.

While his court excluded Rav from the requirement to submit completely to Tannaim, he did not include him in the list of Tannaim that Amoraim are required to submit.

As a curveball, there is a fourth approach which I would like to entertain.

Perhaps, there was never a specific court ruling or decision that Amoraim may not argue with Tannaim, but it was simply an unwritten agreement that developed amongst the Amoraim of the transition period, for some of the above-suggested or other reasons, which later became established practise.

Amongst the Amoraim of this transition period, some were more accepting of this approach than others, and while Rabbi Yochanan went along with it, Rav did not, as least as far as he himself was concerned.

We can recall that Rav was generally fiercely independent in his approach to halachik decision making and did not accept the many rules of psak that delegated more authority to certain Tannaim over others (see recent  post on Eruvin 47), rules which Rabbi Yochanan did accept and have generally  been accepted to this day.

As usual, there is much more to bring, much more to analyze, and the Rambam’s view on all of this  requires its own unique treatment-hopefully we shall have the opportunity to revisit this again when the topic next occurs.

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 46 and 47 Rules of psak: הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב, דעת יחיד בשעת הדחק, ספק דאורייתא לחומרא ,ספק דרבנן לקולא

This daf is heavily concentrated with some of the most important principles of psak halacha that it is even harder than usual to do it justice.

We shall suffice with a brief explanation of some of them and some notes based on an initial analysis of how they are applied on this daf, hoping to build on what we have already done and continue to do based on their application in other sugyas.

The Mishna on Eruvin 45b recorded a dispute between Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri and the Chachamim whether a person can acquire his shabbos techum during twilight of erev shabbos if he is asleep.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri rules that he can, whereas chachamim hold that seeing as he was not awake at the time, he did not acquire his 2000 amos from the place where he was, and is limited to the 4 amos in which he was.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is quote by Rav Yaakov bar Idi as ruling in accordance with Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri’s lenient opinion.

Rabbi Zeira asked Rav Yaakov ben Idi whether he heard this from Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi as a specific ruling relating to this case, or deduced it based on a general rule of his, which the Gemara identifies as “הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב” -the law follows the lenient opinion regarding Eruvin.

Rav Yaakov bar Idi replied that he heard it as a specific ruling, and the Gemara explains that this specific ruling was needed in addition to the rule to teach us that this rule applies even when the lenient opinion is a דעת יחיד (single opinion) against the majority opinion, such as in the case of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri versus the Chachamim.

It is not clear at this point whether this leniency is meant to apply only to this case, or whether this case now serves as a precedent for all the laws of Eruvin, or perhaps even all rabbinical disputes

If the former is correct, we need to explain why this dispute in different to all other disputes regarding Eruvin. If the middle option is correct, we need to explain why the laws of Eruvin are treated more leniently than other rabbinical laws, where we are only lenient when there are as many lenient views than stringent ones.

If the latter is correct, we need to explain why we are so lenient with all rabbinical disputes to the point of pushing aside the general rule of אחרי רבים להטות – following the majority, and defend this statement against any other statements of Chazal that imply the opposite.

We also need to investigate whether Rabbi Yehoshua’s rule of הלכה כדברי המקיל בערוב is merely an application of the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא (as in the third option above), with the assumption that an unresolved dispute has the status of a doubt, and whose lenient applications are thus shared with all unresolved rabbinical disputes, or whether it is an independent rule that has its own unique leniencies not shared with other rabbinical disputes (as in the middle option above.)

We have touched on a similar question in an earlier post (Eruvin 35-36) where we discussed ספק עירוב לקולא – the rule that in matters of doubt regarding the validity of an eruv, we are lenient, and there is appeared that the Gemara understood this as simply an extension of the general rule of ספק דרבנן לקולא.

Assuming that a ספיקא דדינא ( a doubt as to which authority the halacha follows) is an extension of the concept of ספק דרבנן, this would imply that a dispute regarding Eruvin should also simply be an extension of the rule of leniency in the case of a dispute regarding any rabbinical law.

However, from a question asked by Rava on the Gemara’s understanding of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s statement, it seems that he understands that disputes regarding Eruvin have their own unique leniences.

Rava asks why there was even a הוא אמינא (initial thought) that we would not follow a lenient single opinion against a stringent majority opinion when it comes to Eruvin?!

He points out that this should be obvious, seeing Eruvin is a rabbinical requirement, and in rabbinical disputes, we always follow the lenient opinion, even if it is an individual against the majority!

Various proofs are brought to dispute this assumption of Rava, and this issue is far from resolved at this point, but from his question, it certainly seems that he understood that his colleagues saw Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s lenient view regarding Eruvin to be unique to Eruvin.

Though Rava’s assumption seems to be rejected, the Gemara clearly seems to understand than in another unique area of rabbinical law, namely the laws of mourning, the rule of הלכה כדברי המקיל באבל applies even when the lenient opinion is a single authority versus the majority!

More than that, Tosfos seems to understand that this rule that we follow the lenient opinion in the laws of mourning applies even on the first day of mourning which is דאורייתא (biblical) in nature, suggesting that this might be the case regarding biblical laws of Eruvin too (such as the larger techum of 4 parsah (about 16 km) which some view as deorayso, or when enclosing a real public domain), certainly a huge חדוש (novelty!)

Given that the usually undisputed rule regarding biblical laws is ספק דאורייתא לחומרא – in disputes we follow the stringent opinion, this is nothing short of remarkable, and we cannot escape the need to distinguish between the laws of mourning and possibly also Eruvin, from other rabbinical, and even biblical laws.

There is a fairly well- known dispute amongst the Rishonim regarding the status of the rule of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא .

The Rambam (see Issurei Biah 18/17, for example) opines that this rule is itself only rabbinical in nature, and that on a biblical level, one is not required to be stringent in the case of a doubt- the Torah by default forbids things that we know are forbidden and not things whose forbidden status is subject to doubt.

In contrast, when it comes to the status of rabbinical laws, he is of the view that all rabbinical laws start out with biblical status by default, based on the commandment of לא תסור (do not go against their words…see for example intro to M.T)

Although the various leniencies Chazal applied to their own laws can still be explained based on the fact that the Torah gave them the power to both make and define their own laws, in the case of a doubt, this is not necessary, given that the Rambam considers all doubts to only be subject to rabbinical law, and the Rabbis chose to be stringent with biblical doubts and lenient with their own.

This means that theoretically, in cases of doubt, Chazal have the authority to apply any leniencies they choose, even if the doubt is biblical in nature- they simply chose to be stringent most of the time.

In the case of mourning laws and possibly Eruvin, it is thus quite legal for Chazal to choose to be lenient even in cases of biblical level doubt, and perhaps out of sensitivity to a mourner already in such a sad state, and a person stuck outside his techum on shabbos, they chose to be lenient.

Whether this can be extended to following a single lenient opinion against the majority in a biblical matter is less straight-forward, as it is possible that even the Rambam admits that when there is clear majority on the side of stringency in a biblical dispute, it is a biblical requirement to follow the majority, based on אחרי רבים להטות .

It could be possible, however, that the Rambam holds that אחרי רבים להטות only applies when the dispute has come to the great Sanhedrin, but that a dispute that has not come before the great Sanhedrin had no such law, and remains a bona fide ספק , over which Chazal have total control.

However, some other Rishonim )see for example Rashba, Kiddushin 73a regarding Mamzer) are of the view that the requirement to follow the stringent opinion in case of doubt is a biblical requirement, and according to them, it seems impossible for Chazal to be able to push this rule aside in biblical aspects of Eruvin and the laws of mourning.

The mere fact that Tosfos suggests that the laws follows the lenient opinion even in biblical disputes when it comes to mourning and Eruvin, as well as the proofs he brings for it, seem to offer support for the Rambam’s view!

When it comes to most of the laws of Eruvin and mourning which are clearly rabbinical, Chazal clearly have total authority over their own laws, and if for the reasons suggested above, or other reasons, they chose to treat Eruvin and mourning even more leniently than their other laws and follow even a single lenient opinion against the majority, the were certainly within their mandate.

For further analysis, particularly regarding whether we follow this leniency even against the majority, the Ramban’s long treatment on the daf is essential reading.

We have seen above that although regarding the laws of mourning, and possibly also Eruvin, we may follow a single lenient opinion against a stringent majority, this is not necessarily the case in other rabbinic laws.

Whereas we are usually lenient in cases of doubts and disputes regarding rabbinic laws, where the stringent opinion is the majority, the majority might still prevail.

Yet there is a time where it seems to be permitted to follow a lenient single opinion against a majority stringent opinion, under certain circumstances, and that is the case of שעת הדחק – an emergency.

There is a debate (Niddah 2a) between Rabbi Eliezer and Chachamim regarding whether a woman who has not had a period in 3 months and then has a period may assume that until that moment, she was still pure- this would affect the purity status of whatever she was in contact with before.

According to Rabbi Eliezer, everything she was in contact with until now is treated as pure, whereas the Chachamim rule that anything susceptible to becoming impure from contact with a Niddah that she was in contact with over the 24 hours prior to her period is considered impure.

This is a rabbinical rule due a concern that she was already a niddah earlier, even though on a biblical level, we would be lenient.

Rebbe commented that he once mistakenly thought that the law is like Rabbi Eliezer and declared the items in question to be pure.

When he later discovered that the law was like the Chachamim, he did not rule them to be impure, saying that כדאי הוא רבי אליעזר לסמוך עליו בשעת הדחק – in an emergency, one may rely on Rabbi Eliezer.

The Gemara understands this to mean that unlike Rava’s suggestion, we normally follow the stringent majority against a lenient single opinion even in rabbinical disputes, and only in a שעת הדחק, the minority view may be followed.

It follows from this that even according to Rava’s antagonists, a דעת יחיד may be followed in an urgent situation, at least in a rabbinical matter.

What is not clear yet is the scope of this rule:

  1. Does it apply even to a biblical level dispute? According to Rambam’s above quoted view, it is certainly possible, but according to the stringent views that hold a biblical doubt is subject to biblical level stringency, it seems less likely that שעת הדחק would override that rule.
  2. Does it apply to any dispute, even one already resolved, or only to an unresolved dispute- The Gemara seems to take it for granted that this is limited this to an unresolved dispute (possibly similar to that between Rabbi Yehuda and Chachamim regarding the times for Mincha and Maariv- Brachos,) and that in a dispute that has already been resolved, שעת הדחק would not be a factor. It is still unclear, however, what the Gemara means by a resolved dispute- is this only one that has been resolved by Sanhedrin, do even the Amoraim count, or even post Talmud Geonim and Rishonim?
  3. What is the definition of שעת הדחק as far as this leniency is concerned- Tosfos seems to identify two different levels of שעת הדחק !

The above questions can have immense ramifications in many areas of contemporary halacha, and as we move through the daf cycle, we hope to collect more evidence to help us answer them!

Later on Eruvin 46 and moving onto 47, we move to a different set of rules of psak halacha.

Here we deal with the weight given to various Tannaim against one another when a dispute is given.

Various rules of thumb are given, amongst them:

  1. The halacha follows Rabbi Akiva against a single colleague of his
  2. The halacha follows Rabbi Yossi even against a majority
  3. The halacha follows Rebbe against a single colleague of his

Various other now well-known such rules are also stated, after which רב משרשיה claims that none of these rules actually apply, meaning that each case is in fact to be treated on its own merits- bases this on various ruling of Rav which seem to negate these rules.

After various examples brought to back this claim up, it becomes clear that even those who accept these rules must accept that there are some exceptions. היכא דאיתמר איתמר – in a place where a definitive ruling was made against the general rule, that ruling overrides the general rule. Only in a place where no definitive ruling has been made, do we apply these rules of thumb.

Incredibly, Rav does not except the existence of these rules at all, and even in undecided cases, leaves it up to the individual current authority to rule according to which argument makes most sense to him.

As Rabbi Yochanan does except these rules, the irony is that by the rule of thumb that we follow Rabbi Yochanan against Rav, it should follow that these rules are indeed authoritative, and Rashi on the daf says so explicitly, but what is to force those who choose to follow Rav to accept a ruling based on a rule they do not accept in the first place? Seems Kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg, but in truth has a lot to do with the power of מעשה בית-דין which still applied to an extent in the time of Rabbi Yochanan!

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 44 and 45 Returning from emergency travel on shabbos

A very common issue faced by emergency workers is what to do after taking someone to the hospital.

Everyone agrees that whenever there is a chance of danger to life, one may desecrate shabbos in whatever way  necessary to try and save that life.

As such, it is obvious that taking a person whose life might be in danger to the hospital is not only permitted, but obligatory.

On the other hand, once the immediate danger has passed and the person has been taken to hospital, those who took him there could land up being stuck at the hospital for the rest of shabbos, unable to drive home, or even to walk home if the hospital is not within the techum of his house, assuming walking home is even safe.

Those who do this for a living or as a labor of love on a regular basis could thus land up being almost every shabbos in a hospital reception area.

Whereas halacha is halacha, and במקום שיש חלול ה אין חולקין כבוד לרב  (in the place of Chillul Hashem, such as when a Torah prohibition is about to be broken, we do not consider a person’s honor or dignity, no matter how great he is- Brachos  19b  ,) it would obviously be very useful to find a halachik way for him to return home.

There is also the very real concern that if a halachik way to return home is not found, people will be more hesitant in cases of doubt to take people to hospital, itself causing more danger to life.

At the bottom of Eruvin 44a, the Mishna tells that anyone who leaves the techum under permitted circumstances  and while on his journey, is told that he is no longer needed,  is allowed to walk within a 2000 amah radius from where he is at the end of his mission.

This is despite the usual rule that one who has left his techum, even by force, has to stay within his 4 amos.

At the end of the Mishna, we are told that anyone who left in order to “save” may return to his original place- this seems to mean that he may travel home even more than 2000 amos.

In order to reconcile this apparent contradiction, the Gemara on 45a attempts to distinguish between leaving for regular permitted reasons, and “to save,” the later being treated even more leniently.

Though neither the Mishna nor the Gemara has yet defined what either “with permission” or “to save” means, it seems likely that “with permission” means for certain approved mitzvos, whereas “to save” means for purposes of saving lives.

Yet as examples of leaving ברשות  (with permission,) Rashi on the Mishna  lists leaving in order to testify about the new moon, saving from invading troops or from a flooding river, and a midwife coming to assist with a birth.

Whereas the first example is not a matter of life and death, and the second might be referring to saving property which is also not a matter of life and death, the third example certainly seems like it could be .

Rashi on the Gemara, however, while explaining the possible distinction, seems to consider the birth not to be a life and death matter but saving one’s property from invaders to have the potential to become one (or at least a danger of injury) , should he fail to return home and be chased by them.

As such, the permission to return home would not be because he left for permitted purposes or even life and death purposes, but because his current situation is one of life and death.

However we explain the distinction, the Gemara rejects the distinction, seeing as there is an explicit Mishna (Rosh haShana 2/5 )  that includes one who left the techum to save from troops in the list of people who may only travel 2000 amos from the place where their mission ends.

It thus concludes that there is no blanket permission even for one who left “to save” to travel more than 2000 amos to return home, and 2 different opinions are brought as to what exactly the permission is, both based on current danger and not the fact that he left due to danger.

Based on this sugya, it seems that someone who travelled outside the techum on a life-saving mission, would be permitted to walk no more than 2000 amos back..

It seems that this is despite the concern that without permission to return home, people would be reluctant to return.

If even travelling more than 2000 amos, a rabbinical prohibition, was not permitted after such a mission, it seems to go without saying based on this sugya alone, that transgressing a biblical prohibition in order to return home would not be permitted.

It is, of course, still possible, that the phrase להציל in this sugya is referring to saving property, and that one who left in order to save lives might be treated more leniently.

If this was the fact, though, the Gemara’s suggestion that “to save” should be different to other permitted reasons seems to make little sense- after all, why should saving property be more important that testifying about the new moon, something the entire calendar is dependant on, and that even breaking shabbos on a biblical level is sometimes permitted for (see Mishna  Rosh haShana   )

However, this is not the only word on the subject.

There is a debate in the  Mishna (Beitza 11b) between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel regarding whether it is permitted to open and close  shutters on Yom Tov .  Beis Shamai rule that both are forbidden whereas Beis Hillel rule that both are permitted.

Ullah explains that the Mishna is referring to the shutters of shops(assuming one is selling for yom-tov needs in a permitted way.)

He also understands that this is an example of 3 things that are permitted סופן משום תחילתן (the end because of the beginning.)

He understands  that Beis Hillel permit opening them in order to supply the Yom-Tov pilgrims, which is considered a bona fide Yom-Tov food need, and  close the windows afterwards  because if one is not permitted to close it, he might refrain from opening it.

As such, we view closing it as a permitted need of Yom-Tov too!

The other examples that Ullah brings are:

1.        putting out the skin of a freshly slaughtered animal for people to step on, thus helping to preserve it. Even though this would normally be forbidden on Yom-Tov, if we do not permit it, the owner of the animal might refrain from slaughtering it for Yom-Tov, and thus this is also considered a need of Yom-Tov

2.       A Kohain who has a bandage on his hand  and needs to remove it in order to perform the Avoda (Temple service,) may also put it back, as if we do not permit him to do so, he might refuse to remove it and the Avoda will not be done. This is thus also considered “part” of the Avoda and permitted.

What we seem to learn from these cases is that when an otherwise forbidden action is permitted for a certain essential  purpose, “undoing” that action might also be permitted if failure to permit doing so will result in the essential purpose not being fulfilled- Essentially, the “undoing” action is viewed as a need of that essential purpose as well.

It is not clear from the sugya whether these 3 (and another 2 that some in the sugya add) are meant to be the only such examples, or examples of a general rule- how such lists are generally viewed is beyond the scope of this post.

While based on the way we interpreted our sugya back in Eruvin, it is understandable why returning from a permitted journey outside the techum is not included in this list, given that there seemed to be no such blanket permission to do so, we need to understand why.

Making things more complex, Tosfos on our daf, as well as the Rashba (on the sugya in Beitza) asks why Ullah did not include this in his list, seeing as it seems clear that this is the reason for the Mishna’s leniency here, and answers that it is because in the case of the Eruv, it is so clear from the Mishna that the reason for leniency is סופן  משום תחילתן that there us no need for Ullah to mention it.

How these Rishonim  understands the conclusion of our sugya which seems to have rejected a blanket permission to return home, requires further analysis.

What is clear is that they indeed view the permission in our Mishna to return to one’s place as permission to return home, and even if they would admit that it is limited to 2000 amos, they certainly hold that the reason for the leniency is סופן משום תחילתן . It also seems that they hold that Ullah’s list is not exhaustive and that he only mentions things that we might have thought were not permitted or were permitted for other reasons.

In fact, The Ritva indeed quotes the Ramban who takes issue with this Rashba based on the conclusion of our Gemara!

Once we have established the scope of this principle and whether it applies to one who left the techum or not, we also need to examine each example given and establish whether the principle only applies to rabbinical transgressions or even  to biblical ones.

At that point, we might be closer to being able to work out whether someone who has left his home for a permitted purpose like saving a life on shabbos should be permitted to return home, and whether he may transgress only rabbinical or even biblical transgressions to do so.

As usual, much more to analyze and discuss, but hopefully this is a good start.

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 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 32 Halachic compromises for the greater good

Eruvin 32 Halachic compromises for the greater good

One of the greatest challenges facing Rabbis, educators, and religious outreach groups in our times is treading the line between the tolerant and open approach needed to bring and keep people close to Torah, and avoiding or limiting halachik compromises at the same time.

For example, many traditional shuls are based on the idea that the service inside is run on Orthodox lines but many people drive to shul on shabbos- Is a Rabbi permitted or supposed to encourage people to come to shul knowing full well that they will drive?

One of the greatest tools in the “kiruv” toolkit is sharing the incredible shabbos meal experience with those less observant, hereby drawing them closer themselves (in addition to the mitzva of הכנסת אורחים  [hospitality] , אהבת שלום בין אדם לחבירו , and so much more.)

Is it right to invite non-observant guests for shabbos meals for the above reasons, even if one knows that they will drive?

Sometimes, the Rabbi, educator, or kiruv worker is faced himself with the “need” to make halachik compromises of his own for the greater spiritual good of others- this is very common when it comes to being present in places where the standards of modesty are not in keeping with those of a place where he is normally permitted or encouraged to be present, or in interfaith or multi-denominational environments.

In come congregations, compromises might need to be made regarding the height or even presence of a partition between men and women, in order to encourage people to come.

Often, spiritual duties might require one to move one’s family to a small community with limited religious infrastructure, in order to bring spiritual life to that community.

There are many who take the approach that one’s own spirituality and halachik obligations always come first, and that compromising on those for the sake of someone else’s spirituality is not acceptable.

They might also take a stringent approach regarding encouraging others to do something in the long-term interests of their spiritual development, if it involves their desecrating shabbos or other commandments in order to do so, even if they are not shabbos observant in any case.

Others take a more “long-term” approach, stretching or even violating certain laws for the greater good of their own or other’s long-term spiritual survival, or to prevent them or others from an even worse prohibition.

Neither approach is straight-forward, and the correct Torah approach to this can probably be found in a spectrum between these two extremes, depending very much on the circumstances, and of course, how certain primary sources are to be interpreted- A great understanding of the relevant sources, and a lot of יראת שמים  (fear of heaven) are required to be able to make such decisions.

A discussion on our daf forms one of the most important Talmudic sources on the subject.

The case discussed is where a חבר (learned person) tells an עם הארץ   (ignorant person ) to fill up a basket of produce for himself from his farm.

The question is whether it may be assumed that the person first separated the required tithes, thus making it unnecessary to separate them before eating, or not.

Rebbe and his father, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, disagree on this.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel is of the view that we should not assume that tithes have been separated.

That is because there is a rabbinical decree against separating tithes in one place for produce in another, and we should thus not suspect the חבר  of having done so.

Rebbe counters that seeing as the עם הארץ  eating untithed produce is a far more stringent, biblical prohibition, we should assume that the חבר  compromised on the rabbinical requirement and separated tithes from a  distance after he gave permission to the עם הארץ  to collect the produce.

The Gemara seems to understand that according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, it is forbidden to transgress a less severe prohibition in order to prevent someone else from transgressing a more serious prohibition.

In contrast, Rebbe seems to hold that it is permitted to transgress a less severe prohibition in order to prevent someone else from transgressing a more serious one.

Rebbe was so confident in his ruling, that he said that his view seemed more logical than his father’s. Although it seems obvious that he felt that way (otherwise he would not have disagreed with him,) it is possible that Rebbe was making this statement using his authority as sealer of the Mishna, indicating that his approach is the final word.

To what extent this is a general rule, as opposed to a more limited concession, requires serious analysis.

As Tosfos points out, it is clear that this cannot be the case under all circumstances.

We know this from a famous case (Shabbos 4a) where the Gemara discussed someone who unknowingly placed unbaked bread in the oven on shabbos.

One suggestion briefly entertained there was that someone else could be permitted to remove it before it becomes baked to the point that the first person will have desecrated shabbos.

It seems  that we were not dealing with loaves of bread baked in baking pans, but a pita-style bread that was placed directly on the oven floor or rack.

As a result, removing the bread from the oven (רדית הפת) was considered a skilled activity rabbinically forbidden on shabbos.

The Gemara unequivocally rejected that suggestion, taking for granted that אין אומרים לאדם חטא כדי שיזכה חברו – we do not tell someone to sin in order that his friend should get merit.

In both cases, we are discussing transgressing a rabbinical prohibition in order to save someone else from transgressing a biblical one, yet in our case, Rebbe disagrees with his father and permits it, while in the case in Shabbos, there is no dissent and it is clearly forbidden.

In truth, there are many other places where halachik compromises seem to be permitted for greater objectives,  among them:

1.       Even though freeing a Canaanite slave was forbidden, it was permitted  (or more narrowly interpreted) under certain circumstances to allow him to fulfill the great mitzva of פרו ורבו (Gittin 41b)  or to allow him to make a minyan (Brachos 47b.)

2.       Greeting one’s neighbor with Hashem’s name was permitted (Brachos 54a) based on the verse עת לעשות לה’ הפרו תורותיך   (it is a time to act for Hashem, go against his Torah (Tehillim 119/126).)  The value of making Hashem’s name a vessel of peace seems to have overridden the concern of saying his name in vain or alternatively, redefined it as not being in vain.

3.       The sons of Shaul was put to death for their role in the starvation of the Givonim, in order to avoid a Chillul Hashem( Yevamos 79a- (“מוטב שיעקר אות אחת מן התורה ואל יתחלל שם שמים בפרהסיא”

4.       One of the sources (albeit rejected as the primary source) for permitting the desecration of Shabbos to save a life  (Yoma 85b)  is in order to allow him to keep many more shabbosim in the future (חלל עליו שבת אחת כדי שישמור שבתות הרבה ) – it is possible that this applies not only to preventing physical danger to life, but also preventing  a life-time of non-observance of shabbos, a discussion that comes up in various halachik discussions on the subject.

In our two cases, the Baalei Tosfos offer two ways of reconciliation:

1.       The fundamental difference between the two cases is that in our case, the חבר  is the one who initially put the other person in danger of sinning- as such, he is permitted to transgress a lesser prohibition in order to fix up what he did.  According to this approach, there is no general permission to transgress a lighter prohibition to save someone else from a more serious one, except in a case where one is guilty of causing him to perform that more severe prohibition.

2.       Based on various other sugyas, Tosfos takes issue with the former explanation, and takes a different approach. Here, the general rule is that one is permitted to transgress a lighter prohibition to prevent someone else transgressing a more serious one, except in a case where that person was negligent in the first place, like in the case where he put something into the oven at a time that even he knew was very close to shabbos.

These two approaches obviously have huge ramifications for our discussion in general, and whichever approach is accepted, it will be important to define clear criteria for what is considered a light or severe transgression. This could be based on various factors, among them

1.       Whether it is biblical or rabbinical

2.       The severity of the punishment

3.       Whether it harms someone else or not

4.       How many people are affected

5.       Whether each prohibition is relatively short- term or long-term

6.       How many prohibitions are entailed

There is so much more to discuss, but hopefully this serves a reasonable introduction to what is a very complex and important issue.

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 26-27    Talmudic logic, rules, and אין לומדין מן הכללות

One of the axioms drilled into every Ben-Torah from a young age is that every word in the Torah is precise- nothing is superfluous.

This same principle is applied to the words of Chazal, particularly to the words of the Mishna, which forms the basis of the תורה שבעל פה.

One of the main functions of the Gemara is to highlight the precision of the Mishnayos and make sure that apparent contradictions between mishnayos are either resolved. or attributed to different Tannaim (see for example Rashi/Bava Metzia 33a), but simply saying that the Mishna was not accurate is not usually an option.

Logical thought and deduction are one of the main methods used to interpret both the written and oral Torah, to the point that Talmud study is often thought to be one of the greatest examples of the study and application of logic.

Yet on our daf, we have a principle which seems to drive a wedge into all of this!

The opening Mishna of the new perek introduces us to the laws of עירוב חצירות , the second essential stage of making an Eruv, once valid partitions are in place.

Even though the partitions have allowed the houses and shared courtyard (or the courtyards and shared alley in the case of שתופי מבואות ) to be considered a רשות היחיד  on a Torah level, Chazal forbade transferring things from one person’s house to another’s, or to the shared courtyard or vice versa, without a symbolic action that shows that they all consider the entire area to be “like” one domain shared by everyone.

The symbolic action required is that the members of each house make available some  food which is placed in one of the houses, hence defining the entire area as “shared” in a certain way.

People attribute great importance to the place where their food is, and putting shared food in one of the houses thus has the effect of making this “shared area” into a shared place of dwelling, symbolic of the entire courtyard’s  quasi-shared nature.

Our Mishna tells us that anything can be used for this Eruv, except for water and salt.

Rashi explains that this is  because water and salt are not foods that contain sustenance (nourishment) and  thus do not contribute the required significance to the shared place.

Our natural thought would be that as usual, the Mishna’s words are very precise, and if the Mishna says that one can using anything for an Eruv other than water or salt, this must indeed be the case, and all foodstuffs other than water and salt are acceptable (The fact that ערוב חצירות  has its own rules and might require bread specifically leads many Rishonim to question Rashi’s view that the Mishna is talking about this kind of Eruv, but this is a different discussion.)

What, however, would be the case with other foodstuffs that seem to share the same limitations of water and salt?

Do we say that the Mishna’s list of exceptions is exhaustive, and that anything else is permitted, despite their apparent conceptual similarity, or do we say that the Mishna is simply giving us examples of what is to be excluded from the rule, but that other things to which the same logical arguments seems to apply might also be included?

What, for example, would be the case with certain other flavorings that have no nutritional value but are also used to enhance the flavor of other food?

Our Gemara opens with a bombshell dropped by Rabbi Yochanan: אין לומדין מן הכללות ואפילו במקום שנאמר בהם חוץ- We do not learn from “rules” even where a list of exceptions is given.

Rabbi Yochanan seems to be making the incredible claim that when Chazal state a rule without mentioning any exceptions, there could still be exceptions to that rule.

Not only that, even when Chazal list some exceptions, that list is still not necessarily exhaustive!

As such, it is possible that there are other things that may not used for an Eruv, and that water and salt were just examples.

The Rambam (Pirush haMishnayos on our mishna) states explicitly that the word “בכל”  is to be viewed as a גוזמא  (exaggeration!)  [even if it was interpreted more literally, it could clearly not mean absolutely everything, but only everything that in some way has the properties of food- a cellphone would not do the trick!]

Besides for seeming to fly in the face of our childhood education regarding the precision of every word in the Torah and Chazal, this bizarre sounding statement casts questions on the very need for such rules- after all, if rules are meant to be broken, what is the point of having them?

Our Gemara points out that this statement of Rabbi Yochanan was not made initially in reference to our Mishna, but was first said  (Kiddushin 34b) in relation to another Mishna (Kiddushin 29a), which states inter alia  that woman are exempt from all positive commandments caused by time, and obligated in all positive commandments not caused by time.

The Gemara there questions this rule, based on the fact that we know of various time-caused mitzvos, such as matza, and הקהל (the gathering at the end of the shemita year,) that woman are obligated to keep, and various mitzvos not caused by time, such as learning Torah and having children, which are not obligatory for them.

In that context, Rabbi Yochanan states his principle that one does not rely entirely on rules, and that there could be exceptions not mentioned by the Mishna.

He then uses our Mishna as a proof for the second part of his statement, that this applies even where Chazal have listed specific exceptions, which could make us think that their list of exceptions is exhaustive.

Having seen examples of this principle’s application both where no exceptions were listed by Chazal and where some exceptions are listed, let us now try and examine whether  this principle does indeed contradict those basic axioms of every word in the Torah and Chazal being measured, as well as what the role of these kind of rules are, if they cannot be relied on and we still need to consider that there might be other exceptions.

Perhaps we can answer this question buy reconsidering what the role of the rules and exceptions that Chazal choose to reveal to us indeed is.

Should their role be to spoon-feed us with precise rules and lists that are to be blindly followed without examining possibly contradictory texts or logical principles, then indeed, it is hard to explain what purpose remains once Rabbi Yochanan’s principle has effectively rendered this role null and void.

However, if the purpose of Chazal’s categorizations is to create logical groupings which we are then expected to apply to other conceptually similar cases, and also test against other authoritative texts and traditions, then the lists of exceptions has indeed performed its task well- Chazal were indeed precise with their words, the precision just does not lie in the exhaustive nature of their lists but rather in the message they are giving us from their precise choose of rules and exceptions.

The scope of Rabbi Yochanan’s principle can and must be researched further, and various Rishonim do indeed place certain limitations on it.

 It does seem to make clear that one of the major methodologies required for the study of תורה שבעל פה at least, is applying one’s own intellect and Torah database to examining the scope of all or many of the principles that Chazal teach us, and not just applying them robotically- Torah logic has its own G-d given system, based on  intelligent application by Torah scholars (and only Torah scholars) and not just the kind of Boolean logic used to program computers!

Much more to discuss on this, and other examples to bring and analyze, but that is it 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.

Eruvin 24-25    The infamous קרפף, and Eruvin in resorts

We have seen that even though on a biblical level, an area surrounded by halachically acceptable partitions is considered a רשות היחיד , and one is  liable for transferring an object from it to a רשות הרבים, various concerns made Chazal impose other criteria in order to be able to carry with such an area.

In an area greater than a בית סאתיים , the area of the courtyard of the mishkan, which was 5000 square amos, inferior partitions made of only vertical or horizontal components, are not always sufficient.

In order to carry from one adjoining רשות היחיד  to another, an עירוב חצירות  is required, a requirement that forms the main subject of the next chapter.

We also see on our daf that an area that has not been מוקף לדירה (enclosed for the sake of habitation) might also not be considered a רשות היחיד .

Examples of this are enclosures used for growing vegetables. As the purpose of the enclosure is to protect the vegetables and not to mark an area for human habitation, the area has not been מוקף לדירה  and it is not treated with the leniencies of a רשות היחיד .

In addition, if such an area is contained within an area that has been enclosed for habitation and not fenced off, it can also nullify the partitions making it forbidden to carry within the entire area.

This restriction can have a major impact on large holiday resorts, particularly those in nature reserves, whose fences enclose a large area that usually includes many such areas that are not only not  enclosed for habitation but are also not even fit for habitation- these could  include natural bush and/or jungle, large ponds or lakes, and even areas inhabited by wild animals.

Not every such גינה  or קרפף  is subject to this stringency, however.

The Mishna on daf 23a told us that so long as a קרפף is less than our now famous בית סאתיים  measurement (5000 square amos,) one is permitted to carry within it.

Although there is some debate in the Mishna as to what criteria are needed even for such an area to be permitted, the Amoraim on daf 23b rule leniently like Rabbi Akiva that this permission is not dependant on any conditions.

On our daf 24a, Rav Nachman teaches us that a קרפף larger than this which was originally not closed for purposes of habitation may be validated for such purposes with a relatively simple fix:

One makes a gap in the boundaries of more than 10 טפחים, thus invalidating them, and recloses it with the correct purpose in mind.

While this could be a solution in resorts that agree to such an act, it might only work if there are no areas larger than a בית סאתיים  that remain physically unfit for habitation- this requires further discussion but could be a lingering constraint in the way of using the properties boundary fences as valid Eruv partitions.

Another issue commonly encountered is the issue of bodies of water on the properties, such as large ponds or lakes, larger than a בית סאתיים  which are unfit for human habitation, and might even contain crocodiles, hippos, or other dangerous animals.

Our Gemara makes it clear that although a body of fresh water which is fit for drinking  does not invalidate an area that has been enclosed for habitation (as Rashi points out, there is no greater habitation-related need than water!), this does not apply if the water is not fit for its normal use, which Rashi identifies as drinking.

As such bodies of water most often do not contain water that is fit for drinking, even in the absence of dangerous animals that make it their home, they might be problematic, depending on what the halachik definition of “fit for drinking” is and how the particular body of water fits that definition.

Another interesting question is whether there are any solutions for a  קרפף  that is slightly over the 5000 square amos threshhold.

On Daf 25a, the Gemara discusses whether one can reduce its area by partitioning part of it with trees and says that this is not sufficient .

It does allow one to build a platform large and high enough to be its own רשות היחיד  inside that area, thus taking it below the threshold.

Lots more to say and discuss about קרפפים  but it almost Shabbos, so Shabbat Shalom for now!

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.