Eiruvin 77a-b – Does a thin wall exist for the purpose of eiruv?
According to the Mishnah (76b) one case where two courtyards cannot join together to make a single eiruv is when there is a wall between them that is ten tefahim (handbreadths) high and four tefahim thick. In such a case, the wall itself is a separate reshut ha-yahid, a private domain (see Massekhet Shabbat), so if there is fruit at the top of the wall, people can go to the top of the wall, eat it – and carry there, as well. The fruit, however, cannot be carried down into the houses in the courtyards.
What if the wall is less than four tefahim thick?
Rav said: In this case, the air of two domains controls it. Since the wall is not broad enough to be regarded a domain of its own, the top of the wall is seen as belonging to both courtyards and is then prohibited to both of them. Accordingly, one may not move anything on top of the wall, even as much as a hair’s breadth.
And Rabbi Yohanan said: These residents of one courtyard may raise food from their courtyard to the top of the wall and eat it there, and they may lower the food from the wall to the courtyard; and those residents of the other courtyard may raise food from their courtyard and eat it there, and they may lower the food from the wall to the courtyard. This is because the wall is considered nonexistent, and its domain is viewed as part of the two courtyards.
Rabbi Yohanan’s reference to an exempt domain (makom petur) is a well-known halakhah, and the Gemara reacts with surprise to the suggestion that Rav does not accept it. In explanation, the Gemara distinguishes between rabbinic domains and Biblical domains. With regard to Biblical domains like public and private areas, Rav fully accepts the rule of makom petur. With regard to rabbinic domains, like a courtyard, which Biblically is considered private, and only rabbinically needs to arrange an eiruv, Rav argues that “the Sages reinforced their statements even more than those of the Torah.”
It sounds odd to suggest that the Sages were stricter with rabbinic ordinances than with Biblical prohibitions. Tosafot explain that this does not mean that they are taken more seriously. Rather, recognizing that the public is apt to be more careful about Biblical commands than rabbinic ones, they were more inclined to establish measures to protect the integrity of regulations established by the Rabbis. At the same time the Sages limited this rule and did not apply it in situations that are uncommon or in areas of halakhah like monetary matters.
Eiruvin 78a-b – Using a ladder to connect two courtyards for an eiruv
The Mishnah (76b) taught that a solid ten-tefah (handbreadth) high wall dividing two courtyards will negate the possibility that the two hatzeirot (courtyards) will be able to join and make a single eiruv. Nevertheless, the Gemara (77b) teaches that if solid ladders are placed on either side of the wall, allowing free access between the courtyards, then the hatzeirot can be considered as one.
On our daf (page), the Gemara discusses how long a ladder is needed in order for the courtyards to be considered connected. Several opinions are brought by the Gemara, each of which offers a different ruling on how high the ladder needs to be to permit the courtyards on either side of a ten-tefah high wall to share an eiruv.
Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: If a wall is ten handbreadths high, it requires a ladder fourteen handbreadths high, so that one can place the ladder at a diagonal against the wall. The ladder then functions as a passageway and thereby renders the use of the wall permitted. Rav Yosef said: Even a ladder with a height of thirteen handbreadths and a bit is enough, as it is sufficient if the ladder reaches within one handbreadth of the top of the wall.
Abaye said: Even a ladder that is only eleven handbreadths and a bit suffices, as the ladder will still reach a height of over seven handbreadths, i.e., within three handbreadths of the top of the wall.
Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, said: Even if the ladder is only seven handbreadths and a bit it is sufficient, as he can stand the ladder upright against the wall. Since it will reach within three handbreadths of the top of the wall, the principle of lavud applies. Therefore, even a ladder placed in this manner is considered a valid passageway between the two courtyards.
The simplest way to explain these opinions is according to Tosafot, who argue that the ladder must allow easy access from one courtyard to the next. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the ladder is placed at a 45-degree angle, so that the distance on the ground from the wall to the beginning of the steps is the same as the height of the wall that the ladder reaches. The ladder is, in effect, the hypotenuse of a right triangle. This makes particular sense if the “ladder” being discussed looks more like steps than like the ladders with rungs that we are familiar with today.
Here is how these opinions would appear according to Tosafot:
- A ladder that is 14 tefahim high will reach to the top edge of the ten-tefah wall – which is the requirement according to Rav Yehuda quoting Shmuel.
- A ladder that is 13 tefahim high reaches above nine tefahim, fulfilling the requirement according to Rav Yosef, who allows the ladder to reach within one tefah of the top.
- A ladder of 11 tefahim reaches above seven tefahim on the wall, which works according to Abaye, who rules that within three tefahim of the top suffices by virtue of the rule of lavud – that a gap of less than three tefahim is considered closed.
- Rav Huna also makes use of lavud, but he believes that even a ladder placed directly against the wall will suffice.
Eiruvin 79a-b – Making an eiruv on someone else’s behalf
We have already learned that a mavoy (alleyway) is the area into which a number of courtyards open, which allows access to the reshut ha-rabim – the public domain. Carrying in a mavoy will be permitted on Shabbat if a symbolic board (a lehi or a korah) is placed at the entrance to the reshut ha-rabim, and if all of the residents have shared ownership of food, which figuratively joins them together.
If someone wants to ensure that he will be able to carry in a mavoy without entering into negotiations with his neighbors, the Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that he can take a barrel of food that belongs to him and announce "this is [for the eiruv] for all the residents of the alleyway." This arrangement works by virtue of the rule zakhin l'adam shelo befanav – that even without someone's knowledge, another person can engage in activities that benefit him. The Mishnah teaches that another person needs to play the role of the agent who is acting on behalf of those people who are not aware that the transaction is being done for them. This agent can even be the adult children of the person who is making the eiruv, or his wife or his Jewish slaves.
These rules are not unique to eiruv. In fact all of the normal rules of zakhin – of acting on behalf of someone else as their agent – need to be followed, the most basic of which is that one person cannot do it on his own; he needs another person to play the role of the "purchaser."
An interesting disagreement turns up regarding who can act as the agent. Although the Gemara permits someone's adult children or his wife to play that role, some commentaries argue that if family members are supported by the head of the household, according to the halakhah all of their income automatically belongs to the father. In that case, perhaps they should be viewed as agents of the father and cannot represent the other side in what is, in essence, a financial matter.
Eiruvin 80a-b - Making an eiruv on someone else’s behalf - II
The Gemara tells a story about Rabbi Oshaya's daughter-in-law who went to the public baths (which were situated outside the 2,000 amah (cubit) boundary around the city) on Friday afternoon. She apparently lost track of time, and had not left as Shabbat was approaching. When Rabbi Oshaya's wife realized what was happening, she quickly arranged an eiruv tehumim on her behalf – whose boundaries reached to the bath house – so that she would be allowed to return home even after Shabbat began.
When this story got around, it caused some disagreement. Rabbi Hiyya said that it was forbidden. Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yosei responded "You Babylonian! Why are you so stringent regarding the laws of eiruvin? Don't you know that we look to be as lenient as possible with regard to these halakhot?"
And a dilemma was raised before the Sages: Did the mother-in-law establish the eiruv for her daughter-in-law with the mother-in-law’s food, and Rabbi Hiyya prohibited it because she did not confer possession to her, i.e., she merely prepared the eiruv but did not confer possession of the food, and an eiruv of this kind is not effective? Or perhaps she established the eiruv for her with the daughter-in-law’s own food, but the eiruv was invalid because it was prepared without her knowledge?
One of the amoraim was charged with presenting this question on his next trip to Israel to Rav Ya'akov bar Idi who lived near Sulama d'Tzur (the Ladder of Tyre), even though it meant that he would need to detour in order to ask the question. When he did so, Rav Ya'akov bar Idi explained that the problem was that Rabbi Oshaya's wife had not transferred ownership properly to her daughter-in-law through an agent as is necessary.
map shows the two paths that could be taken from
Eiruvin 81a-b – Who can be one’s agent in an eiruv?
In the Mishnah on our daf (=page), Rabbi Eliezer teaches that you can give money to the grocer or baker who live with you in the same courtyard and ask them to include you in the communal eiruv. The hakhamim argue, since the general principle in halakhah is that one cannot transfer property by simply paying money; a symbolic act of taking ownership, such as lifting the object up is essential.
The Gemara asks why Rabbi Eliezer does not seem concerned that the money will not accomplish its expressed purpose, which is purchasing a share in the eiruv. After a number of suggestions are raised, the Gemara concludes that Rabbi Eliezer puts this case into the same category with a number of other cases where purchase by means of money is permitted by the Sages.
In truth, on a Biblical level, money is an acceptable means of purchase; it is only a Rabbinic decree that a symbolic act is essential. The Sages were concerned lest a person would purchase an amount of grain from the seller, and when he came to collect it the seller would claim that a fire had destroyed the particular grain that had been sold to him. By forcing the parties to include a symbolic act of purchase in the sale, it would be clear to all involved what had been sold. The effect of this ruling is that under normal circumstances, even if money has changed hands, still either the buyer or the seller can back out of the agreement (although it is considered improper to do so). On the other hand, if the purchaser has performed a symbolic act of purchase – even if no money has changed hands – the object now belongs to him fully. Of course, he now has to pay the seller the money that he owes him.
Rabbi Eliezer believed that in this case – as is true in four other specific cases in the Gemara – an exception would be made in order to make it easier to create an eiruv.
The halakhah, however, follows the hakhamim, and money cannot be used to participate in an eiruv, if it is given to the local grocer or baker.
And the Rabbis concede with regard to all other people, apart from grocers and bakers, that if one gave them money for the food of an eiruv, his money confers possession upon him, as one may establish an eiruv for a person only with his knowledge and at his bidding. With regard to a grocer or baker, the person giving the money does not intend to appoint the grocer or the baker as his agent and the money itself does not effect an acquisition, and consequently, he did not accomplish anything. With regard to anyone else, however, there is no doubt that he must have intended to appoint him his agent, and his act is effective.
Eiruvin 82a-b – When can gamblers be trusted?
In the Mishnah (81b) Rabbi Yehuda uses the term ba-meh devarim amurim – "in what case is this statement said" – to limit the applicability of a given rule to just one case. In an attempt to clarify the discussion in the Mishnah, the Gemara brings Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi who teaches that whenever Rabbi Yehuda uses that expression in the Mishnah, he is not arguing with the previous statement, rather he is explaining it.
The Gemara then quotes a number of Mishnayot where this expression is used in order to examine Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement.
One example is a Mishnah that appears in Massekhet Sanhedrin (24b) that lists people who will not be accepted as witnesses in a Jewish court, because they are involved in monetary shenanigans that are forbidden by the Sages. These people include dice players, money lenders who take interest, people who gamble on pigeon races, and those who market produce from the Sabbatical year. Rabbi Yehuda says: ba-meh devarim amurim – "in what case is this statement said " – when this is their livelihood. If a person has another occupation and participates in these activities only occasionally, then he still could be trusted as a witness in court.
Unlike modern courtrooms where witnesses are asked to swear prior to their testimony in order to ensure that they will tell the truth, a Jewish courtroom believes that every witness who is called to testify will tell the truth. Nevertheless, there are several types of people, enumerated in the Mishnayot of Massekhet Sanhedrin, who cannot testify. Close relatives, for example, cannot testify, no matter how upstanding and honest we know them to be. There are also people whose behavior does not allow the court to accept them. Among them are people who have committed sins that put them in the Biblical category of a rasha – an evil person – who cannot be trusted. While the people discussed in this Mishnah have not done anything that the Torah forbids, nevertheless, their participation in activities that show them to be susceptible to the influence of monetary gain makes us fear that they could be bribed or similarly influenced to change their testimony.
Eiruvin 83a-b – Measuring food for an eiruv
We have already established that the amount of food that is needed in order to establish an eiruv tehumim that would allow a person to walk beyond 2,000 cubits from his home is mazon shtei se'udot – two meals' worth. In the course of trying to establish an objective definition of that amount, the Mishnah (82b) quotes a number of different opinions. Rabbi Shimon rules that it is two-thirds of a loaf of bread, when there are three such loaves to a kav (a measure of capacity, one sixth of a se’ah). As an aside, Rabbi Shimon records other measurement rules that are based on such a loaf, specifically rules of ritual purity – tumah v'taharah.
The Gemara on our daf (page) quotes a baraita that teaches other rules regarding the amount of food that is necessary in other such cases, and explains that these rules do not appear in our Mishnah because the quantities are not in precise proportion to one another, which would lead to confusion.
At least part of the confusion stems from the fact that three different systems of measurement were used in the Gemara, all of which are discussed here. These three systems stem from three different historical periods. The "Midbarit" (wilderness) measurement is the one that we are familiar with from its use in the Bible, and it is the basis for establishing all weights and measures in halakhah. The "Yerushalmit" (Jerusalem) measurement was used during the Second Temple period, and the "Tzipporit" measurement was established after the destruction of the Second Temple, when the center of Jewish life moved to Tzippori.
It is important to note that the most basic unit of measure – the betzah (egg) – did not change. All of the changes mentioned are in other units of measurement. This is because the betzah is more or less a natural unit, and because of its objective quality, it is not dependant on communal or societal agreement. Therefore the only units that changed were the ones that were based on general agreement – the log, kav and se'ah.
diagram shows the
relationship between the three measures, the Biblical Midbarit,