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## Masechet Eiruvin - 14a-20b

The Coming Week's Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Eiruvin 14a-b – Dimensions of the Kiyor

The Mishnah (13b) discusses different possibilities regarding the shape of the Korah (cross beam) that is used to symbolically close the open end of a Mavoy (alleyway). In discussing a round Korah, the Mishnah teaches a mathematical rule that the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter is 3:1. The Gemara (14a) shows the source for this principle to be the passages in Sefer Melakhim I (7:23) which describe the various utensils in Solomon's Temple, including the Yam shel Shlomo – the reservoir of water in the Temple that was used by the priests to wash their hands and feet. This reservoir is described as being ten amot (cubits) across, with a circumference of 30.

According to the simple reading of the passages describing the Yam shel Shlomo, it was a huge half-globe about five meters in diameter. The globe sat on twelve legs, three on each side, that were shaped like cattle. (Keep in mind that, unlike most of the utensils in the Temple, which have very exact specifications, the Kiyor (=laver or washing station) is not described in the Torah. Therefore it was redesigned to accommodate the needs of the Temple priests at various times. During the Mishkan period it had only two faucets; during the Second Temple a donation from one of the Kohanim allowed it to be designed with 12.)

Already in the medieval period there was recognition that the ratio of circumference to diameter in a circle was larger than 3:1, as is noted by the Tosafot on our page. The popular explanation is that the difference is so small that it was ignored by the Sages. Maimonides, in his commentary to the Mishnah, argues that p is an irrational (and perhaps even a transcendental) number which cannot be expressed using normal numerals. Since it is impossible to state p in a definitive way, the Sages chose to use a simple estimate that closely matches the true relationship – 3:1.

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Eiruvin 15a-b – Using an animal as a bill of divorce

The Mishnah that begins at the bottom of daf, or page, 15a teaches:
One may construct side posts from anything, even a living creature, provided that it was properly attached to the entrance of the alleyway, and Rabbi Meir prohibits using a living creature as a side post.  The mishna continues with a similar dispute: Even a living creature imparts ritual impurity if it is used as the covering of a graveBut Rabbi Meir deems it pure.  Likewise, one may write women’s bills of divorce on anything, even a living creature.  But Rabbi Yosei HaGelili invalidates a bill of divorce written on a living creature.
The Mishnah states that a Lehi (side post) can be made of anything – even a live animal. As an aside, the Mishnah continues by discussing the status of an animal that is used as a grave marker, or when a man chooses to divorce his wife by writing the get (the divorce document) on a live animal, which works according to the Hakhamim, but does not according to Rabbi Yosei HaGelili.

The Gemara explains that the disagreement between the Hakhamim and Rabbi Yosei HaGelili stems from different ways of understanding the passage in the Torah (Devarim 24:1) that teaches the laws of divorce. According to the Torah, a man who wants to divorce his wife must write a Sefer Keritut (a book of separation) in order to send her out of his house. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili understands that the divorce document must have some of the qualities of a book, including that it cannot be a live animal.  The Hakhamim interpret the passage to mean that the divorce must offer total separation. This teaches that if conditions are set down that make the permanence of the divorce questionable, then we do not have a Sefer Keritut, and the divorce is invalid.

This is only true if the conditions of the divorce are such that, even after separation, the wife is still obligated to her husband in some way. If, however, the condition is long-term (e.g. that the divorce is contingent on the woman never again stepping foot in her father’s house) but can be kept, according to many opinions the divorce is valid, but the woman must be careful to fulfill the condition, lest the divorce become invalid retroactively. According to the ruling of the Shulhan Arukh (Even Ha-Ezer 143:20-21) such a condition should not be made because of the potential danger, should the woman remarry and fail in fulfillment of the condition.

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Eiruvin 16a-b – Building a wall of ropes

The Mishnah (16b) introduces the concept of Lavud, an idea that can be useful not only in making an Eiruv, but in building a Sukkah, as well (see Sukkah 16b). Lavud means “solid” and it expresses the legal fiction which views separate parts as being united, if the gap between them is less than three tefahim (handbreadths).

According to the Mishnah, if three ropes are strung across – with three tefahim between the ground and the bottom one and three tefahim between each rope – and the ropes themselves add up to a width of a tefah, then we view the ropes as a ten-tefah high wall for the purpose of the Eiruv (or a Sukkah). The same rule applies to posts that are placed at a distance of three tefahim or less from one-another.

In the Mishnah, there is a difference of opinion over where this rule applies.
When the Sages issued this ruling, they spoke exclusively of a caravan; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda, who maintains that a partition of this kind, which consists of only horizontal or vertical elements, is permitted exclusively in exigent circumstances.  Otherwise, full-fledged partitions are required.  However, the Rabbis say: They spoke of a caravan in the mishna only because they spoke in the present, citing the most typical case.  Those traveling in caravans were typically unable to erect full-fledged partitions, so they would surround their camps with ropes or boards.  However, the halakha in the mishna applies in all cases.

According to Rabbi Yehudah, this type of wall will work only for a Shayarah, a caravan of travelers – which was the case discussed in the previous Mishnah (15b) – but not for an individual. The Hakhamim believe that the wall is valid under all circumstances, and that the Mishnah mentioned the case of the Shayarah “because they spoke in the present [tense],” i.e. that they related it to the most common case, but it is not meant to exclude other cases.

While it is common for us to find an argument among the amoraim in the Gemara about whether a case in the Mishnah is meant to be limited to a specific situation, it is less common to find such a discussion among the tannaim, who were closer to the source of the ruling. Nevertheless, in our case both Rabbi Yehudah and the Hakhamim had the tradition from an early Mishnah that the law was taught in the context of travelers – a Shayarah. Their disagreement is whether the Mishnah meant that case specifically, or merely presented it as a practical example from which no conclusion should be reached.

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Eiruvin 17a-b – Leniencies in a military camp

The last Mishnah in the first chapter of Massekhet Eiruvin discusses some of the leniencies that are applied in a military camp. Aside from being exempt from some of the laws of Eiruvin, soldiers are also permitted to collect wood without worrying that it might belong to someone and they are not obligated to wash their hands before eating bread.

The Gemara wants to know what is new about permission to collect wood, as there was a long-standing tradition from the time of Joshua that soldiers could do so. The Gemara gives a number of answers, the first of which posits that Joshua only permitted the collection of Hizmei and Higei – thorn-bushes that no one really cares about. The Mishnah permitted other wood to be collected, as well.

The scientific name for Hizmei is Alhagi maurorum Medik. It is a thorny plant with smooth, non-serrated leaves. Ordinarily it grows to a height of 30 centimeters (1 foot), although it occasionally grows as high as one meter (3 feet).

Higei can be identified with Ononis antiquorum L. of the Papolinaceae family. It, too, is a thorny plant that grows to about 75 centimeters (2.5 feet), which is found growing wild in fields and valleys.

Regarding hand-washing before meals, Abaye points out that the leniency applies only to washing before eating, but regarding Mayim Aharonim – washing after eating – there is no room to be lenient, and all are obligated. Rav Hiyya bar Ashi explains that it is dangerous to refrain from washing after the meal, as the salt – Melah Sedomit – could blind you if there is any left on your fingers.

It appears that the reference is to Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2), which can be found in large quantities in the Dead Sea. Both magnesium and chlorine can mix easily with the salt that is produced in Sodom near the Dead Sea. Since these are poisonous substances, someone who rubs his eyes with an unwashed finger could easily develop an infection.

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Eiruvin 18a-b – Duos in public and in the Torah

The second chapter of Massekhet Eiruvin opens with a discussion of the unique case of a water hole in the public thoroughfare that is surrounded by four right-angled walls in each corner – referred to by the Mishnah as Deyomadin in order to allow access to the water for travelers and their cattle.

The Gemara then searches for the etymology of the word Deyomadin:
The Gemara asks: What are deyomadin?  Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar said: Two [deyo] posts [amudin], which are put together to create a single corner piece.
Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar suggests that it is from the Greek word duo, and that the word is duo-amudim – double standing walls.

This leads the Gemara to offer a list of expressions that are based on the concept of duo. For example, Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar suggests, based on the passage in Tehillim 139:5Ahor Va-kedem Tzartani (“you have formed me behind and before”) – that God’s original creation of man was deyo-partzuf – double faced. This fits in with one of the explanations of the creation of man (in Bereshit 2:23), on which there is a disagreement between Rav and Shmuel.
One said: It means a female face, from which God created Eve; and one said: Adam was created with a tail [zanav], which God removed from him and from which He created Eve.
The passage in Bereshit indicates that Eve was created from Adam’s tzelah. Although the word tzelah is usually translated as “rib,” the amoraim argue as to whether it means “face,” in agreement with Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar's explanation, or if it means zanav.

The Arukh explains that the word zanav in this context, as well as in many other places in the Talmud, means something that is extraneous and does not fit properly – something that looks unusual in appearance or size. According to the Rashba the zanav is something secondary, as the importance of the tail in comparison with the head.

According to the opinion that Eve was created from the zanav, we need to understand the passage in Tehillim which seems to say that man was created “behind and before.” Rav Ami interprets the idea of “behind” in the passage as being at the end of the act of creation, and “before” means that he was first for punishment (the Flood).

The Ritva explains that Rav Ami understands that the root of the word tzartani in the passage in Tehillim is not yatzar – “creation,” rather it is tzarah – “catastrophe.” Thus, the passage means “after creation, but before the disaster.”

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Eiruvin 19a-b – More from Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar

When a particular Sage is quoted by the Gemara, it is not unusual for the Gemara to bring other statements made by that Sage in halakhah or in aggadah. Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar, whose explanation of the word deyomadin opened the second chapter of Massekhet Eiruvin(see 18a-b), has a series of teachings brought by the Gemara in the realm of aggadah, ranging from interpretations of the Creation story to Divine reward and punishment.

Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar points to the contrast between criminals condemned by a flesh-and-blood king to those who are found guilty based on Divine law. The criminal who transgressed human law needs to be muzzled, lest he curse the king who is putting him to death.  With regard to the individual who is found to be deserving of death based on Torah law, the passage in Tehillim 65:2 says Lekha dumiyah tehilah – “for You silence is praise.” That is understood by the Gemara to mean that the condemned man remains silent – and even praises God for the fairness of His judgment.

One clear reason for the contrast between the convicted men is the recognition that there is no punishment that can be inflicted by flesh-and-blood kings beyond death. God’s justice, on the other hand, is eternal and exists even after death.

The continuation of the passage in Tehillim is U’lekha yeshulam neder – “and to You shall the vow be performed.” Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar interprets this to mean that the death sentence is similar to bringing a sacrifice. The Maharsha explains this by pointing out that a korban – a sacrifice – is, on some level, a replacement for sacrificing oneself. In this case, the condemned man who accepts the judgment is truly sacrificing himself, so the act is similar to a korban.

Another teaching presented in the name of Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar is that there are three entrances to Gehenna: one in the wilderness, one in the sea and one in Jerusalem.

The Nahalat Yaakov (authored by Rav Yaakov Mi-Lisa)explains this metaphorically, as different behaviors that lead to Gehenna. The “entrance to Gehenna” that is in the wilderness is makhloket – arguments – represented by the rebellion of Korah in the desert. The sea represents the reluctance to reprimand sinners, as with the story of Jonah. Jerusalem represents the sin of haughtiness and a general deterioration of good qualities.

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Eiruvin 20a-b – Leniencies for Festival pilgrims

As mentioned above, the Mishnah (17b) discusses the unique case of a water hole in the public thoroughfare that can be surrounded by four right-angled walls in each corner - referred to by the Mishnah as Deyomadin  - in order to allow access to the water for travelers and their cattle.

Rabbi Yitzhak bar Ada argues that this leniency - the ability to carry within
that rectangular space - is not permitted for all, but is the exclusive benefit of the Olei Regalim – the Jews who are traveling to Jerusalem for Pesach, Shavuot or Sukkot - to fulfill the commandment of visiting the Temple on these holidays.

The Jerusalem Talmud brings a dispute among the amoraim on this question. One opinion agrees with Rabbi Yitzhak bar Ada that these walls can only be used as an eiruv by olei regalim. A second opinion argues that the special leniency was approved by the Sages with the olei regalim in mind, but once it was adopted, the ruling works for all, and anyone can use the water in these wells. The third opinion argues that the ruling was made with the olei regalim in mind, but during the times of year when people are oleh regel, anyone – even those not coming to Jerusalem - can benefit from them.

What is clear is that according to all, this method of fencing off the area of the well or water-hole with four deyomadin is related to the needs of olei regalim.  In other words, the walls are so poorly designated that it was only the desire to assist people involved in this mitzvah that led the Sages to permit their use.  Since the olei regalim invariably brought with them animals for sacrifices in the Temple, there was a desperate need to make water as readily accessible as possible.  During the times of year that the masses are commanded to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem, the only available water is in wells or cisterns that collected rain water.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz's groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit www.steinsaltz.org or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.