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 65a-b - When going out on Shabbat with money is permissible
The Mishnah on today's daf (=page) continues its discussion regarding accoutrements that we might fear could possibly be removed and carried on Shabbat. The Mishnah lists those things that we assume will not be removed, for which reason they can be worn. The Mishnah teaches:
A woman may go out with a sela coin that she ties on a tzinit - a wound - on her foot.
The tzinit mentioned in the Mishnah is either an inflamed swelling or callus on the sole of the foot. The coin that is stuck on the wound apparently prevented chafing. It is also conceivable that contact with the metal also healed the wound inasmuch as even today, various metal-based powders are used in the treatment of wounds. However, in the Jerusalem Talmud, tzinit is explained as gout, a very painful condition caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, afflicting the feet, primarily the toes.
The Gemara asks: What is different about a sela? Why specifically is a coin placed on the wound? If you say that any object that is hard is beneficial for her, make an earthenware shard for her instead. Rather, it is beneficial due to the rust on the coin. If so, make a small silver plate for her. Why specifically a coin? Rather it is beneficial due to the image engraved on the coin. If so, make her a pulsa - an unminted coin - and engrave an image on it. Abayye said: Learn from it that all these factors together are beneficial for her.
The Me'iri explains that the depressions on the coin from the engraved image leave room for the swollen flesh protruding from the wound. Therefore, it is not painful to wear a shoe.
A pulsa is a token or coin on which there is no imprimatur, or on which its image has rubbed off. In either case, it is not accepted as a coin.
Shabbat 66a-b - Healing on Shabbat
The Mishnah on today's daf (=page) discusses whether it is permitted to go out on Shabbat with an amulet or other folk remedy, permitting those that will not be removed by the person who is wearing them. This leads the Gemara to a broader discussion of medical procedures that were performed on Shabbat.
On the topic of the use of various forms of healing and medicinal practices and their permissibility on Shabbat, the Gemara cites additional statements related by Avin bar Hunain the name of Rav Ĥama bar Gurya on these topics.The Gemara teaches:
Avin bar Huna said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said: With regard to overturning an empty cup in which there had been hot water and placing it on one’s navel for healing purposes on Shabbat, he may well do so.
According to Rashi’s explanation, the Gemara is apparently discussing a treatment similar to cupping glasses, which was common practice until recent times. From a medical perspective, the treatment works by increasing the flow of blood to a certain area. In the Rambam’s opinion, it is speaking in this context of using cupping glasses to restore the intestines to their place by drawing the skin outwards.
The Gemara continues with other examples, including this one:
And Avin bar Huna said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said: It is permitted to strangle, i.e., tightly bandage the neck of one whose vertebra was dislocated in order to reset it, on Shabbat.
According to Rashi, this refers to the realignment of a displaced vertebra in the neck. A similar treatment is still in use today. However, the ge’onim explain that this strangulation involves applying pressure to the veins in the neck for medicinal purposes. In various cases, such as paroxysmal tachycardia, pressure is indeed applied to the veins in the neck and to the vagus nerve.
Shabbat 67a-b - The use of a talisman
The Mishnah on today's daf (=page) teaches:
One may go out on Shabbat with a locust egg, and with a fox tooth, and with a nail from the crucified, for the purpose of healing; this is the statement of Rabbi Meir. The Rabbis prohibit using these remedies even during the week, due to the prohibition of following the ways of the Amorite. These are superstitious beliefs and the customs of gentiles from which one must distance oneself.
Many of the customs and healing practices detailed in the seventh and eighth chapters of the Tosefta of this tractate, also known as the "Amorite chapters," are prohibited as ways of the Amorites, i.e., superstitious beliefs. Every superstitious belief, incantation, and divination falls under the rubric of several Torah prohibitions. The prohibition of divination and soothsaying comes from the verse: “There must not be found among you…a soothsayer, an enchanter, a witch” (Devarim 18:10), among others. In addition, there is the general prohibition: “And in their statutes do not walk” (Vayikra 18:3). Nevertheless, the statements of Abayye and Rava as well as those in the Tosefta are to be understood in the broadest possible manner. Any practice that was attempted and found to be an effective remedy, even if there is no clear scientific rationale for its effectiveness, may be utilized based on the empirical evidence.
Yet another example of "the ways of the Amorites" is brought by the Gemara:
One who says: I will drink and leave over, I will drink and leave over, so that his wine will increase; that statement contains an element of the ways of the Amorite.
There are variant readings of this statement. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental principle in these chapters in the Tosefta that any practice or incantation that is deemed auspicious, especially when it is stated after the fact, contains an element of the ways of the Amorites. However, any expression that contains an element of prayer or supplication is considered like any other prayer and is permitted.
Shabbat 68a-b - Defining the categories of prohibited labor on Shabbat
One who profanes Shabbat intentionally is subject to death by stoning, if he were forewarned by witnesses, or karet, if he were not, as stated in the Torah. One who desecrates Shabbat unwittingly is liable to bring a sin-offering.
In the halakhic midrash, the Sages derived through exegetical principles that the observance of Shabbat is different from other mitzvot. One who unwittingly performs several primary categories of prohibited labor on Shabbat can be liable to bring several sin-offerings.
According to the accepted halakhah, one who sinned unwittingly over the course of many Shabbatot is liable to bring a separate sin-offering for each and every Shabbat on which he performed a transgression because the profaning of each Shabbat constitutes a separate transgression. In the seventh chapter of Massekhet Shabbat, which begins on today's daf (=page), details of this principle are elaborated. The circumstances in which numerous unwitting transgressions are considered as one transgression and the circumstances in which each Shabbat desecrated is considered to be a separate transgression are determined.
Just as each Shabbat constitutes its own discrete unit, so too the various primary categories of prohibited labor constitute discrete units. Consequently, although all types of creative labor are prohibited by the verse: “You shall not do any manner of labor” (Shmot 20:9), each primary category of prohibited labor is considered a separate prohibition. For example, if one unwittingly performs several primary categories of prohibited labor during one specified time period, he is liable to bring a separate sin-offering for each primary category of prohibited labor violated. It is therefore imperative to ascertain the fundamental parameters of these primary categories of labor in order to ascertain which subcategories are attributed to each. Although other chapters in this tractate deal specifically with several of these categories of labor, the general discussion of this topic is found in this chapter.
Shabbat 69a-b - Losing track of Shabbat
What should someone do if they have lost track of Shabbat? At home with a calendar this is difficult to do, but what happens to someone who is in the desert and loses track of time? This is a question discussed on today's daf (=page).
Rav Huna said: One who was walking along the way or in the desert, and he does not know when Shabbat occurs, he counts six days from the day that he realized that he lost track of Shabbat and then observes one day as Shabbat. Ĥiyya bar Rav says: He first observes one day as Shabbat and then he counts six weekdays. The Gemara explains: With regard to what do they disagree? One Sage, Rav Huna, held: It is like the creation of the world, weekdays followed by Shabbat. And one Sage, Ĥiyya bar Rav, held: It is like Adam, the first man, who was created on the sixth day. He observed Shabbat followed by the six days of the week.
Under these circumstances, the person is aware that the day he has chosen to celebrate Shabbat is likely an ordinary weekday and that Shabbat may truly fall on a different day. For this reason Rava suggests that the person should limit his activities on all days. The Gemara records:
Rava said: The person who lost track of Shabbat and treats one day a week as Shabbat, each day he makes enough food to sustain himself, except for that day which he designated as Shabbat.
This position is ultimately rejected by the Gemara which reaches a different conclusion:
Rather, on each and every day he makes enough food to sustain himself for that day, including on that day that he designated as Shabbat. And if you ask: And how is that day which he designated as Shabbat distinguishable from the rest? It is distinguishable by means of the Kiddush and the havdala that he recites on that day.
In the Jerusalem Talmud, the dispute about celebrating Shabbat under these circumstances is attributed to Rav and Shmuel. In explanation of one of the opinions, an approach is cited according to which one counts six days and observes one, then counts five days and observes one, then four, then three, and then two until he is counting one day and observing one, at which point he again starts counting six and observing one. According to this approach, during every two rounds of counting days in that manner, the day he determined as Shabbat is really Shabbat.
Shabbat 70a-b - Deriving the rule that each prohibited labor is independent
According to the Mishnah (see above, daf, or page 68), one is liable to bring a sin-offering for each individual prohibited labor that he performs on Shabbat.
The Gemara asks:
From where do we derive the division of labors? What is the source of the halakhah that if one performs numerous prohibited labors on Shabbat in the course of one lapse of awareness, each prohibited labor is considered a separate offense with regard to punishment?
Shmuel said that the verse says: “And you shall observe the Shabbat, for it is holy to you; he who desecrates it shall surely die [mot yumat]” (Shmot 31:14). We learn from the double language, mot yumat, that the Torah amplified multiple deaths for a single desecration.
According to this reading, although several violations were committed in the course of a single lapse of awareness, each is considered a separate offense with regard to punishment.
This source is deemed problematic by the Gemara since that verse was written with regard to intentional transgression; the Gemara is seeking a source for multiple sacrifices brought for unwitting transgression.
The Gemara explains the method from which it was derived:
If it does not refer to the matter of intentional transgression, as the verse does not teach a halakhah applicable to intentional acts, as it was already written: “Six days you shall perform work, and on the seventh day it shall be holy to you, a Shabbat of rest to God; all who desecrate it shall die” (Shmot 35:2), refer it to the matter of unwitting transgression.
This form of reasoning - "if it does not refer to X refer it to the matter of Y" is one of the thirty-two hermeneutic principles of Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yosei. According to most commentaries, the conclusions drawn from them are as authoritative as they would be if they were explicitly written in the Torah. This principle is based on the superfluity of verses in the context in which they are written. At the same time, the verse is never applied to matters totally unrelated to the meaning of the verse.
Thus, the verse teaches that that which was written with regard to the death penalty for desecration of Shabbat in general applies to all halakhot of Shabbat, including cases of unwitting transgression.
Shabbat 71a-b - Half the legal measure
Many of the Torah's prohibitions involve a specific measure of activity that may not be performed or quantity of food that may not be consumed. According to Torah law no punishment is administered if less than that measure is performed or quantity consumed. The amora’im debated whether performing or consuming less than the required measure is prohibited by the Torah or is only prohibited by rabbinic decree in order to prevent a person from transgressing the prohibition itself. (In this context the term "half" is not to be taken literally, and implies any amount less than the forbidden measure or quantity.)
The Gemara on today's daf (=page) discusses this type of situation in the context of bringing a sin-offering after performing a forbidden action unintentionally. The Gemara quotes a Mishnah that teaches:
If one ate one piece of forbidden fat and then ate another piece of forbidden fat in one lapse of awareness, he is liable to bring only one sin-offering.
Rav Huna explains that the Mishnah teaches this rule, which seems fairly obvious, because we are dealing with a unique case, where the person committing the transgression had a "period of awareness" between eating two half olive-bulks. After eating the first half of an olive-bulk, he became aware that he had eaten food that was prohibited. Then he became unaware again and ate the second half of an olive-bulk. Although, with regard to sacrifices, awareness usually serves as a line of demarcation between unwitting transgressions performed prior to the period of awareness and unwitting transgressions performed thereafter, Rav Huna explains that the Mishnah is in accordance with the opinion of Rabban Gamliel who rules "There is no awareness for half a measure." Since one is not liable to bring a sacrifice for half a measure, the fact that one became aware between consumption of the two halves of an olive-bulk is of no significance and does not demarcate between the two half-measures with regard to liability to bring a sin-offering.
The essential question regarding half a measure, which is the subject of an amoraic dispute, is to what extent is half a measure a significant amount by Torah law? Do Torah prohibitions prohibit any amount of the item, and it is only liability that requires the definition of legal parameters? Or, does the prohibition itself apply only to the requisite measure, i.e., anything less than that measure is permitted by Torah law and prohibited only by rabbinic decree? The question of whether awareness of half a measure is significant is based on the same dispute.
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.