Eiruvin 63a-b – Showing respect for a teacher in his presence
On the previous daf (page), the Gemara set down a rule that we always follow the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov. This rule leads to a discussion that focuses on whether a student is permitted to make a decision that follows Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov without deferring to his teacher. Generally speaking, a student was not permitted to issue rulings on issues of halakhah in the presence – or place – of his teacher, a tradition that stemmed from a concern for the teacher’s honor. Some argue that ruling in the place of one’s teacher is tantamount to a rebellion again the king – mored be-malkhut – which would mean that even were the student to receive permission, it would be forbidden for him to rule.
An example of a tradition that exemplifies this concern is that the shohet, the ritual slaughterer, would give his knife to the Rabbi of the community to check, even if he himself was a learned and knowledgeable person. The Gemara tells of a group of Rabbis in Rav Aha bar Ya’akov’s city who, while preparing a calf for slaughter, argued among themselves whether it was necessary to show the knife to Rav Aha bar Ya’akov.
Rav Abba bar Tahalifa said to them: Should we not be concerned with the respect of the Elder, Rav Aha bar Ya’akov, and present the knife to him for inspection, as this is his town? Rabbi Elazar from Hagronya said to them: That is unnecessary, since Rava said as follows: A Torah scholar may examine a knife for himself. Rabbi Elazar from Hagronya then inspected the knife, but he was later punished at the hand of Heaven for disregarding the honor of the senior rabbi.
The Gemara expresses surprise: What was Rabbi Elazar from Hagronya’s mistake? Didn’t Rava say: A Torah scholar may examine a slaughtering knife for himself? The Gemara answers: It was different there, as they had already begun to discuss the issue of the honor of Rav Aha bar Ya’akov. Had the name of Rav Aha bar Ya’akov never arisen, they would have been permitted to examine the knife themselves. Once his name had been mentioned, however, they should have approached him with the knife. Their failure to do so is considered a display of disrespect.
And if you wish, say instead: Rav Aha bar Ya’akov is different, as he was illustrious in age and wisdom, and thus deserved more honor than a regular Sage.
Rav Aha bar Yaakov was a second generation Babylonian amora who lived long enough to interact with Abaye and Rava, who were fourth century amoraim. He was well known for his piety and for miracles that took place on his behalf. His students included Rav Papa and his nephew Rav Aha the son of Rav Ika.
Eiruvin 64a-b – Passing judgment on halakhic rulings
With regard to the question of how to establish an eiruv for a courtyard where a non-Jew lives (one who is not interested in cooperating by leasing his part of the courtyard to the Jewish residents), Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel suggests that, if necessary, a legal fiction can be created. One of the Jews can ask his permission to use the courtyard for some other purpose – storage, for example – and then can act as an agent for the non-Jew to establish the eiruv.
The Gemara quotes another unrelated statement of Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel, which says that someone who drinks a revi'it of wine should not rule on issues of halakhah, until he has recovered from its intoxicating effects.
Upon hearing this, Rav Nahman commented that it was a poor halakhic statement. Rav Nahman claimed that his personal experience was that until he drank a revi'it of wine he was not able to think clearly.
Upon hearing Rav Nahman’s reactions to the statements of Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel, Rava pointed out the homiletic teaching based on the passage in Mishlei (29:3) – “He who loves wisdom gladdens his father, but he who keeps company with prostitutes (zonot) wastes his fortune” – that someone who says “this teaching is pleasant [zo na’a], but this is not pleasant,” will lose the fortune of Torah. Rav Nahman accepts Rava’s rebuke and commits to refrain from passing such judgment on the future.
Rashi in Mishlei explains the homiletic teaching as being based on the fact that this is the only time in Tanakh that the word “Zonot” is written with full vowels. Thus the interpretation is to break the word in half – zo na’ot – “this is pleasant.” Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what appears attractive to one person is seen otherwise by another, with regard to halakhot it is inappropriate to say that one statement is beautiful and another is not. The Meiri explains that even as choices need to be made in order to establish the halakhah, it is inappropriate to state that one position is unpleasant; rather we accept one and reject the other based on objective criteria.
Eiruvin 65a-b – Jewish law’s views on drinking
As a side point to an earlier discussion (64a) Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that a judge should not rule on cases if he has drunk a revi'it (one quarter if a log) of wine. This statement leads to a lengthy discussion in the Gemara of the ramifications in Jewish law of drinking, and distinctions made between drinking moderately and reaching "the drunkenness of Lot" (see Bereshit 19:30-36).
Rabbi Hanina said: They taught that an intoxicated person is responsible for all his actions only in a case where he did not reach the state of intoxication of Lot; however, if he reached the state of intoxication of Lot, so that he is altogether unaware of his actions, he is exempt from all liability.
According to Rabbi Hanina, someone who reaches that level of inebriation will not be held responsible for his actions, as he is not merely impaired in his decision-making capabilities, rather he is unable to function as a thinking person. Someone who has not reached that level is still held responsible for his actions, although the halakhah will free him from his obligation in prayer – which demands a high level of concentration and reverence.
Throughout the Talmud, the Gemara points to drinking wine as an activity that can lead to damage, sin, etc. The Ein Ya'akov, written by Rav Ya'akov ibn Habib, explains that this brings to the fore a basic question: If it is so dangerous, why was wine created? This quandary helps explain the closing discussion of the Gemara, which sings the praises of drinking wine responsibly. Included are a number of such statements – some of them based on biblical passages:
Rabbi Hanina – Whoever becomes more open and comfortable with others after having a drink of wine, is walking in God's footsteps
Rabbi Hiyya – anyone who drinks, but does not get drunk, has the wisdom of seventy sages.
Rabbi Hanina bar Papa – You are not blessed unless wine flows in your house like water.
The Gemara concludes with Rabbi Ilai's maxim:
A man's character can be recognized by his behavior regarding three things –
B'koso - his drinking, does he drink responsibly?
B'kiso - his spending, when he has money, does he apportion it correctly?
B'ka'aso - his anger, can he control himself, even when angry?
Eiruvin 66a-b – Renting from a non-Jew on Shabbat
The Gemara (65b) tells a number of stories that illustrate the rule about renting a non-Jew's rights to the courtyard in order to allow for the creation of an eiruv. In one story, a number of amoraim were staying at an inn, and did not have an opportunity to rent the non-Jew's space prior to Shabbat, simply because he was not around at that time. When he arrived, Shabbat had already begun. A discussion ensued as to whether renting from the non-Jew was similar to establishing an eiruv, which needs to be done before Shabbat begins, or, perhaps, it is more similar to the rule of being mevatel reshut - turning over one's rights in the courtyard to the others in order to allow them to carry - which can be done even on Shabbat.
Rabbi Hanina bar Yosef said: Let us rent, while Rabbi Asi said: Let us not rent. Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba said to them: Let us rely now on the words of the Elder, Rabbi Hanina bar Yosef, and rent. Later they came and asked Rabbi Yohanan about the matter, and he said to them: You acted well when you rented.
A similar story appears in the Jerusalem Talmud, where it is recorded that in response to Rabbi Yohanan's comment "it is a good thing that you arranged to rent it" Resh Lakish said "it is not a good thing." The ensuing discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud revolves around whether this is a disagreement about the halakhah. One opinion is that Rabbi Yohanan feels that such a transaction can be done on Shabbat, permitting the eiruv, while Resh Lakish rules that it cannot be done on Shabbat and any such arrangement must be concluded prior to Shabbat. The other opinion understands that Resh Lakish did not fully understand what had taken place, and he thought that they had not concluded a rental agreement at all. His statement was "it is not a good thing that you carried." In any case, the accepted halakhah (see Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 383) allows for such an arrangement to be made with a non-Jew even on Shabbat in order to facilitate carrying.
Eiruvin 67a-b – Making use of a non-Jew on Shabbat
The Gemara tells a story about a brit milah (circumcision) that was taking place on Shabbat, where the hot water that had been prepared – and were essential to doing the brit properly – spilled. Rabba ordered that more water be brought from the house into the courtyard, but his student, Abaye, argued that a proper eiruv had not been made. Faced with that issue, Rabba suggested that a non-Jew be asked to bring the water.
Asking a non-Jew to perform a forbidden act on Shabbat – Amirah la-Akum - is, itself, Rabbinically forbidden. The Rosh explains that Rabba suggested making use of the non-Jew only in this case of a circumcision. Since a brit milah has the unique status of pushing aside Shabbat (see Massekhet Shabbat), it is logical that we would permit an act forbidden by the Sages, as well.
Abaye said: I wanted to raise an objection against the Master, Rabba, but Rav Yosef would not let me do so, as Rav Yosef said that Rav Kahana said: When we were in Rav Yehuda’s house, he would say to us when we were presented with a halakhic difficulty: With regard to a Torah law, we first raise objections and then we perform an act, i.e., if someone has an objection to a proposed action, we must first clarify the matter and only then may we proceed. However, with regard to rabbinic laws, we first perform an act and then we raise objections.
After the water had been brought and the circumcision performed, Abaye was asked to present his question. He asked why completing the ritual to purify someone who had become tameh (ritually impure) - which is forbidden on Shabbat by the Sages - cannot be performed even if it is necessary to perform a mitzvah (e.g. to sacrifice and eat the Passover sacrifice), yet in our case, asking a non-Jew to bring water for the brit is permitted?
Abaye's question is particularly powerful because missing the opportunity to participate in the Passover sacrifice was punishable by karet (being cut off from the community), which is also the punishment for neglecting the commandment of circumcision. If anything, we would have anticipated that there is more reason to try and accommodate the person who wants to bring the sacrifice on Passover, since he has to do it on one particular day – the 14th of Nissan – while a child who is not circumcised on the eighth day can have the brit later on, as well.
The Gemara's response to Abaye's question is that we distinguish between an "active" Rabbinic prohibition and a "passive" one. In our case, Amirah la-Akum is passive, so we are more comfortable pushing it aside when necessary.
Eiruvin 68a-b – Active and passive prohibitions
As we learned in yesterday's daf (=page), Abaye was surprised to find that his teacher, Rabba, permitted a non-Jew to be asked to bring hot water to facilitate a brit milah (=circumcision) on Shabbat in a place where there was no eiruv.
Abaye asked why completing the ritual to purify someone who had become tameh (ritually impure) - which is forbidden on Shabbat by the Sages - cannot be performed even if it is necessary to perform a mitzvah (e.g. to sacrifice and eat the Passover sacrifice), yet in our case, asking a non-Jew to bring water for the brit is permitted?
The Gemara's response to Abaye's question is that we distinguish between an "active" Rabbinic prohibition and a "passive" one. How to understand this distinction depends on different girsa'ot – variant readings – in the Gemara.
The standard text of the Gemara argues that the case of the brit is passive because Rabba did not ask the non-Jew to heat the water, only to bring the water. According to this reading, our case is passive because the activity that was done was just moving something from one place to another, rather than being a creative activity.
Rabbinic decree of Amira la-Akum (asking a non-Jew to perform a forbidden act on Shabbat) and other Rabbinic ordinances, which involve direct activity, not merely speech, which is not considered an active behavior.has a different text of the Gemara, which does not have the explanation that focused on whether the non-Jew needed to heat the water up. According to this version, the difference is between the
The Ra'avad argues that this case is unique because it involves two Rabbinic ordinances – a shvut d'shvut. First of all, there is no action, only a request made by speaking. Secondly, the activity performed by the non-Jew – transferring water from the house to the courtyard - is, itself, not forbidden by the Torah, but only by the Rabbis. In this case, where it is necessary in order to perform the brit milah, the Rabbis never would have applied their restrictions.
Eiruvin 69a-b – Desecrating Shabbat in public
In the Mishnah at the beginning of the perek, or chapter (61b), we learned that a non-Jew cannot participate in an eiruv unless he actually leases his rights to the courtyard to the Jews who are there. This is in contrast to a Jew who can turn over his rights to the other residents – even on Shabbat, if it had not been taken care of prior to Shabbat. Rabban Gamliel introduces the case of a Tzeduki, who seems to have the status of a non-Jew with regard to this halakhah.
The Gemara on our daf (=page) distinguishes between a person who is not Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) privately and one who desecrates Shabbat publicly. The public Shabbat desecrator will be considered a non-Jew with regard to this law, and the residents of the courtyard will have to rent his share of the hatzer (=courtyard) in order to create an eiruv for carrying on Shabbat.
The Gemara now relates that a certain person went out with a coral ring into the public domain, and it is prohibited to do so on Shabbat. When he saw Rabbi Yehuda Nesia approaching, he quickly covered it. Although he was desecrating the Shabbat, he did not want the Sage to see it. Rabbi Yehuda Nesia said: A person such as this, who is careful not to desecrate Shabbat in public, may renounce his rights in his courtyard according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda.
There are different girsa'ot – variant readings - in the Gemara as to whether the person in the story did this just one time or if he did this on a regular basis. What is clear, however, is that someone who is embarrassed about being seen by a religious leader desecrating Shabbat will not be placed in the category of "Mehalel Shabbat b'farhesya" (public desecrator of the Shabbat).
On a biographical note, Rabbi Yehudah Nesi'ah was Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi's grandson – the son of Rabban Gamliel. He was a first generation amora, who was contemporary with Rabbi Yohanan and Resh Lakish. He had the responsibility as Nasi for many years, and was the last of the Nesi'im who was a great Torah scholar and also headed the Sanhedrin at the same time.