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.
Shabbat 51a-b - Animals that carry on Shabbat
When the Torah commanded us to refrain from labor on Shabbat, it also commanded us to rest our animals. An animal may not perform labor on behalf of its owner on Shabbat (Shemot 20:9; 23:12). The fifth perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Shabbat, which begins on today's daf (=page) does not clarify the full extent of the mitzvah to rest one's animal; it deals extensively with preventing one's animal from performing just one prohibited labor, the labor of carrying out on Shabbat. The halakhot of carrying out are cited first primarily because one must be aware at the onset of Shabbat which vessels and equipment may be left on the animal on Shabbat and which items must be removed.
The central issue discussed in this chapter is: Which of the items that one customarily places on an animal - a saddle, reins, and chains - are considered a garment for the animal? If they serve the animal's needs, it is permitted to place them on the animal.
Which items are considered a burden, and it is prohibited to place them on the animal?
The assumption is that any item typically used for protection of the animal is considered to be serving the animal's needs, and leaving it on the animal is permitted. Therefore, it is necessary to ascertain the means of protection standard for each animal and whether or not excessive security measures constitute a burden.
The first Mishnah in the perek asks:
With what may an animal go out into the public domain on Shabbat and with what may it not go out? A camel may go out on Shabbat with an afsar, and a naka may go out with a ĥatam, and a luvdekim may go out with a perumbiya.
Several of the terms used in the Mishnah were not clear to the Sages, and the Gemara asks:
What is the meaning of naka with a ĥatam? Rabba bar bar Ĥana said: A white female camel with an iron nose ring. And what is the meaning of luvdekim with a perumbiya? Rav Huna said: A Libyan donkey with an iron halter.
The Gemara explains that an object designated to protect the animal or to prevent it from fleeing is not considered a burden, and these examples fall into those categories.
Shabbat 52a-b - Trying to learn from Red Heifers
As we learned on yesterday's daf (=page) the focus of the Gemara in the fifth perek (=chapter) is to determine what an animal can carry on Shabbat. Specifically, which of the items that one customarily places on an animal - a saddle, reins, and chains - are considered a "garment" for the animal? Generally speaking, if they serve the animal's needs, it is permitted to place them on the animal. But which items are considered a burden that would be prohibited to be placed on an animal?
On today's daf (=page), the Gemara attempts to clarify this question by turning to a different area of halakhah. A parah adumah - a Red Heifer - cannot be used for the purification ritual if it had been subjected to work, e.g. if a yoke had been attached to it. The Gemara teaches:
If its owner tied a red heifer with its reins that are attached to the bit, it remains fit for use in the purification ritual. And if it should enter your mind to say that a bit is considered a burden, why does a red heifer remain fit for use? The Torah explicitly stated: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, and upon which never came a yoke" (Bamidbar 19:2). A red heifer is disqualified by a burden.
Abayye said: There, the baraita is referring to the case of a red heifer whose owner is leading it from city to city. When the animal is removed from its habitat, it requires additional security. In that case, tying the heifer with its reins is conventional rather than excessive security. Therefore, the bit is not considered a burden. Rava said: A red heifer, whose monetary value is high, is different and therefore secured more carefully than other cows. Ravina said: The baraita is referring to a red heifer that is rebellious and headstrong. Therefore, it requires added security.
There are many halakhot that relate to the Red Heifer, as detailed in tractate Parah in the order of Teharot. Some of them deal with the precise definition of a yoke and the labors that disqualify a Red Heifer. All the explanations offered in this context are based on the assumption that all measures necessary for reasonable and essential security of a heifer, even if they would be considered a burden with regard to a different animal, are considered neither a burden nor a yoke.
Ultimately, the unique characteristics of the parah adumah do not allow us to derive the laws of Shabbat from it.
Shabbat 53a-b - Placing ornaments on animals on Shabbat
The Gemara on today's daf (=page) continues its discussions of the laws that regulate what can be placed on an animal on Shabbat. The Gemara teaches:
Rav Ĥiyya bar Ashi said that Rav said: One may hang a basket with fodder around the neck of an animal on Shabbat, and by means of an a fortiori inference, derive that one may place a saddlecloth on an animal's back on Shabbat. What is the a fortiori inference? Just as there, placing the basket of fodder so that the animal can eat without bending down, which is done for the animal's pleasure, is permitted; here, placing the saddlecloth, which is done to prevent the animal from suffering from the cold, all the more so should be permitted.
Some commentaries suggest that Rav permits hanging a basket of fodder around the neck of an animal on Shabbat, even though this seems to contradict the baraita that was taught previously. Rav holds that cruelty to animals is a Torah prohibition. The Sages would not have issued a decree that would lead to violation of a Torah prohibition. Therefore, he makes no distinction between causing the animal to suffer and withholding pleasure from the animal (Rabbi Elazar Moshe Horowitz).
Another discussion relates to ornamental objects placed on an animal. The Gemara teaches:
A horse may neither go out into the public domain on Shabbat with a fox's tail that is placed as a talisman to ward off the evil eye nor with a string of red wool that is hung between its eyes as an ornament.
Some suggest that a fox's tail and red wool were not ornamental but served as a talisman to ward off diseases or the evil eye (Me'iri). Some commentaries deduce from here that all animal ornaments have the legal status of a burden; therefore, the animal may not go out with them on Shabbat. Other authorities distinguish between ornaments like these, which are not universally placed on animals and are considered a burden, and a standard ornament such as a bell, which is not a burden and is permitted (Rashba).
Shabbat 54a-b - How to lead camels on Shabbat
The Gemara on today's daf (=page) continues its discussions of the laws that regulate what can be placed on an animal on Shabbat. The Mishnah teaches:
And one may not tie camels one to the other and pull the lead camel, thereby pulling the others after it.
The Gemara asks:
What is the reason for this? Rav Ashi said: Because he appears like one going to the market [ĥinga] to sell merchandise or to deliver a caravan of camels. In deference to Shabbat, one may not create that impression.
The majority opinion is that the word ĥinga in this context refers to a market. Elsewhere, Rashi interprets the term as a long journey. The connotation of a market is based on the custom to hold market days in conjunction with pagan holidays when large masses of people would gather. Therefore, it is called ĥinga and not ĥaga because ĥaga means festival, while ĥinga indicates the sorrow and pain associated with idolatry. In similar fashion, the Sages referred to pagan festivals as yom eidam, meaning a day of their misfortune (see also Rabbeinu Ĥananel who relates it to the name of a specific pagan festival). Some commentaries teach that the word ĥinga is derived from the word ĥuga, a circle or circuit, because one who goes to a market walks around (Me'iri).
Most commentaries explain that it is prohibited to tie several camels one behind the other, and pull them on Shabbat as though they were part of a caravan. If he holds the bits of several camels together, however, it is permitted. Some authorities disagree, ruling that leading more than one animal at a time is always prohibited. According to that understanding, when the Gemara speaks of placing the rope in his hands, it is referring to a rope that connects one bit to another (an opinion cited in the Tur).
Shabbat 55a-b - Sinners in the Bible
The Gemara on today's daf (=page) turns its attention to prominent sinners - and non-sinners - in the Bible. Regarding those who never sinned the Gemara teaches:
Four people died due to etyo shel nahash - Adam's sin with the serpent - in the wake of which death was decreed upon all of mankind, although they themselves were free of sin. And they are: Benjamin, son of Jacob; Amram, father of Moses; Yishai, father of David; and Kilab, son of David.
Some commentaries interpret the word etyo in this context as its pen [eto], meaning: This decree that people will die was written from the time of the serpent (see Bereishit Chapter 3; Arukh).
Having mentioned some of the significant ancestors of the Jewish people, the Gemara now addresses the sins of several other Biblical figures.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Naĥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Anyone who says that Reuben sinned with Bilhah is nothing other than mistaken.
Similar statements are recorded in the Gemara about King David, King Solomon, the sons of Eli and others about whom stories are told in the Bible that appear to portray them as having sinned.
In his Ein Ayah Rav Kook explains that Torah narratives are constructed with Divine wisdom, and their purpose is to impress upon the reader certain Heavenly lessons. In some cases, the most fundamental message of the narrative cannot be properly related through a straightforward presentation, and God employs metaphor so that the story's moral will be understood. As time passes, if the metaphor is no longer clear, the lesson may be misinterpreted as well; and it is, then, the responsibility of the Sages to utilize their expertise in the oral tradition and clarify matters. By synthesizing the simple meaning of the Bible text with the profound interpretive methodology of the Sages, they arrive at an understanding that once again reflects the true lesson of the Torah.
Shabbat 56a-b - Was King David a sinner?
As we learned on yesterday's daf (=page), the Gemara offers a list of prominent Biblical characters who appear to have sinned, and states categorically that it is a mistake to view them as sinners. One of the examples was King David. The Gemara on today's daf explains that King David was not a sinner because:
Although David sought to do evil and have relations with Bathsheba while she was still married to Uriah but did not do so.
As Rabbi Shmuel bar Naĥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Anyone who goes to a war waged by the royal house of David writes a conditional bill of divorce to his wife. That was done to prevent a situation in which the soldier's wife would be unable to remarry because the soldier did not return from battle and there were no witnesses to his fate. The conditional bill of divorce accorded her the status of a divorcee and freed her to remarry. As it is stated: "And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and to your brothers bring greetings and take their pledge [arubatam]" (I Shmuel 17:18). What is the meaning of arubatam? Rav Yosef taught: It refers to matters that are shared [hame'oravim] between him, the husband, and her, the wife, i.e., marriage.
The verse should be read: Take the bill of divorce that determines the status of the relationship between husband and wife. As, apparently, it was customary for men at war to send their wives a conditional divorce, since Uriah later died, Bathsheba retroactively assumed divorced status from the time that he set out to war. She was not forbidden to David.
The homiletic interpretations favorable to King David contradict the plain sense of the biblical text. Nevertheless, they may be understood in the following manner. A transgression can be judged by two sets of criteria: The first is strictly legal and the second factors in the transgressor's intent and desires. The Bible judges David's conduct according to his intentions. Since he ignored the severe prohibitions involved, he is deemed guilty. The Talmud, on the other hand, judges him according to the letter of the law. By this measure, his sin was not so severe. That is what the Gemara means in saying that King David sought to do evil but did not do so (Be'er HaGolah).
Shabbat 57a-b - How to define "carrying" on Shabbat
By Torah law, it is prohibited to carry a burden from domain to domain on Shabbat, and it is similarly prohibited to carry an object four cubits in the public domain. Clearly, one's clothing is not considered a burden in this sense, and one who wears clothing in the typical fashion is not considered to be carrying a burden on Shabbat.
This principle requires clarification and specification: What items fall under the rubric of clothing? Not every item that a person wears on his body is clothing per se, and not every garment is typically worn. In a certain sense an ornament is like clothing; however, what items fall under the rubric of ornament? Are there objective criteria that determine whether or not an item is an ornament, or perhaps that determination is totally dependent on the individual taste of the one who places the ornament on his person? Furthermore, there are different items that one might bear on his body, e.g., bandages, prosthetic limbs, and other medical equipment, including amulets, which are neither ornaments nor clothing. In order to determine whether or not one may go out with these items into the public domain, the question as to whether they are considered either an integral part of the person bearing them or his garments must be resolved.
With regard to these issues, the Sages were also concerned lest an ornament or some other valuable item fall from the person wearing it and lest a woman come to show her ornaments to another. In those cases, the person from whom an object fell or the woman wearing the ornament may come to carry the object in their hand in a manner not comparable to wearing clothing. This would violate the prohibition against carrying out on Shabbat. Clearly, this concern does not exist with regard to all people or all items.
The first Mishnah in the sixth perek (=chapter) lists items that a woman may or may not carry into, or wear in the public domain on Shabbat. This depends on whether the particular object is considered an ornament, which she may wear, or merely a burden for the woman, which she may not. Even if it is considered an ornament, there is still concern that she might remove it and carry it in her hand in the public domain, which is prohibited by Torah law.
The Mishnah teaches:
A woman may neither go out with strings of wool, nor with strings of flax, nor with strips of any other materials that a woman braids in the hair of her head.
Some explain that it is prohibited to go out with woolen strings on Shabbat because the strings are not braided into the hair but simply rest upon it. Therefore, one needs only to loosen them in order to remove them (Rosh).
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.