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 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.