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 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.