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 72a-b - Unintended consequences on Shabbat
The Gemara teaches:
One who intended to lift a plant detached from the ground on Shabbat and mistakenly severed a plant still attached to the ground, which under other circumstances constitutes performance of the prohibited labor of reaping, is exempt from bringing a sin-offering for his mistaken act, since he did not intend to perform an act of cutting [be-shogeg]. One who performs an action unawares [mitasek], i.e., he had no intention to perform the act at all, incurs no liability whatsoever. One who intended to cut a detached plant and unwittingly severed a plant still attached to the ground, Rava said: He too is exempt. Abayye said that he is liable because he intended to perform a standard act of cutting. Since he intended to perform that act, and he carried out his intent, the Torah characterizes it as unwitting and not as unawares.
Rava explains that the source of his ruling stems from a baraita that teaches that
…a stricture with regard to other mitzvotthat is greater than the stricture with regard to Shabbat is that, with regard to other mitzvot, one who performs an act unwittingly without intent is liable to bring a sin-offering, which is not the case with regard to Shabbat.
Apparently, the phrase unwittingly without intent refers to the case above disputed by Abayye and Rava. Therefore, this is proof for Rava’s opinion that, with regard to Shabbat, one who acts unawares, i.e., whose action resulted from involvement in another matter and who had no intention to perform an action that is prohibited [mitasek], is not considered to have performed an unwitting act.
The fundamental difference between unwitting [be-shogeg] and unawares [mitasek] is that one who acts unwittingly intends to perform the action in the manner that he performs it. However, due to forgetfulness or some other reason, he was not conscious of the fact that it is prohibited. Acting unawares refers to circumstances where one has no intent to perform the action at all. Everyone agrees that one who acts unawares is exempt with regard to the halakhotof Shabbat, since the Torah prohibited only planned, thoughtful labor. An action performed without intent to perform that action is excluded from that category. On the other hand, with regard to prohibited foods and forbidden relations, even one who acts unawares is liable because, ultimately, he derives a forbidden pleasure. As far as other transgressions, where one does not enjoy physical pleasure, the extent of the liability of one who acts unawares is unclear.
Shabbat 73a-b - The 39 primary categories of labor prohibited on Shabbat
The Mishnah on today's daf (=page) enumerates the 39 primary categories of labor that are prohibited on Shabbat. These categories of labor are grouped according to their function, the first of which is the production of food (beginning with planting and harvesting through baking), the next preparation of clothing (beginning with shearing wool through sewing) and so forth.
The Gemara explains that the source for these specific categories of labor is derived from important activities that were performed in the mishkan - the Tabernacle - since the passage in the Torah that prohibits labor on Shabbat is juxtaposed with the building of the mishkan (see Shemot Chapters 31 and 35).
According to the explanation in Rashi and Tosafot, when the Sages speak of the labors performed in the Tabernacle as the source of Shabbat laws, they are referring only to those labors involved in the construction of the Tabernacle. Therefore, they explain that the labors of plowing and sowing were necessary to grow herbs for producing dyes required in the Tabernacle. However, according to Rabbeinu Ĥananel and Rav Hai Gaon, the relevant actions performed in the Tabernacle include those performed in preparing the sacrifices required in the dedication of the Tabernacle, e.g., plowing and sowing to grow wheat and barley for meal-offerings (Eglei Tal).
The primary categories of labor enumerated in the Mishnah are a list of actions categorized according to certain criteria, as will be explained; however, the names of the labors do not express their essential nature. Consequently, it was necessary to add a list of subcategories that clarify the full range of actions prohibited under the rubric of each labor. In the Jerusalem Talmud, it is related that Rabbi Yoĥanan and Reish Lakish studied this chapter for three and a half years and found thirty-nine subcategories for each primary category of labor listed in the Mishnah.
Shabbat 74a-b - Counting up sin-offerings
As we learned on yesterday's daf (=page) there are 39 primary categories of labor that are prohibited on Shabbat. Each one of these types of work is forbidden in its own right, and will require a separate sin-offering if performed unwittingly.
On today's daf (=page) the amora'im discuss the fact that producing a single object may involve several of the prohibited labors and would require multiple sin-offerings.
Rava said: One who unwittingly crafted an earthenware barrel on Shabbat is liable to bring seven sin-offerings. One who crafts an oven is liable for eight sin-offerings, since in addition to those seven labors, he spreads another layer of mortar to finish the job, performing the prohibited labor of smoothing.
In one of the commentaries, the seven sin-offerings are counted as follows:
Removing piles of dirt and thereby leveling the ground, which is a subcategory of (1)
Powdering the dirt, which is a subcategory of (2) grinding;
Removing the pebbles, which is a subcategory of (3) selecting;
(4) kneading the dirt;
(5) cutting it into its shape;
and completing the finished product, which the Mishnah calls (7) striking a blow with a hammer (Rav Hai Gaon).
Others suggest a different tally:
(1) Crumbling the dirt;
(2) selecting the pebbles;
(3) sifting with a sieve;
mixing the dirt with water, which is a subcategory of (4) kneading;
(5) smoothing the vessel;
(6) kindling the fire; and
(7) hardening a vessel, which is a subcategory of cooking (Me’iri).
With regard to an oven, according to Rav Hai Gaon, the eighth labor is smoothing, and according to the Me’iri, it is striking a blow with a hammer.
Abayye said: One who unwittingly crafts a receptacle from reeds on Shabbat is liable to bring eleven sin-offerings. And if he sews the mouth of the receptacle, he is liable to bring thirteen sin-offerings.
Some count the eleven sin-offerings as follows:
peeling the reeds, which is (6) threshing;
(8) stretching the warp;
(9) constructing two meshes;
and (11) striking a blow with a hammer (Rav Hai Gaon).
Others claim that peeling the reeds renders one liable for striking a blow with a hammer (ge’onim).
In a case where he sewed the mouth of the receptacle, Rav Hai Gaon argues that one is liable for (12) spinning and (13) sewing.
Shabbat 75a-b - Trapping the mysterious hilazon
The Mishnah (daf, or page 73) listed 39 primary categories of prohibited labor on Shabbat. On yesterday's daf we learned that an individual can be liable for performing more than one of these prohibitions in the course of a single activity.
According to the Mishnah, among those liable for performing primary categories of labor is one who traps a deer or any other living creature. The liability in this category is discussed on today's daf:
The Sages taught in a Tosefta: One who traps a ĥilazon and breaks its shell to remove its blood for the dye is liable to bring only one sin-offering. He is not liable for breaking the shell. Rabbi Yehudah says: He is liable to bring two, for performing the prohibited labors of trapping and for threshing, as Rabbi Yehudah would say: The breaking of a ĥilazon is included in the primary category of threshing, as its objective is to extract the matter that he desires from the shell that he does not. The Rabbis said to him: Breaking the shell is not included in the primary category of threshing. Rava said: What is the rationale for the opinion of the Rabbis? They hold: Threshing applies only to produce that grows from the ground. One who extracts other materials from their covering is exempt. The Gemara asks: Even if extracting blood is not considered threshing, let him be liable for taking a life as well. Rabbi Yoĥanan said: This is referring to a case where he broke its shell after it was dead.
There are numerous opinions with regard to the identity of the ĥilazon, from which the sky blue dye is extracted. There is also a dispute as to how to associate the statements in the Talmud and the midrash with a particular species. Most scholars identify the ĥilazon with the Murex trunculusspecies found on the coast of northern Israel. There is a gland in the ĥilazon that produces a secretion, which is not the blood of the ĥilazon. With the addition of several other ingredients, this secretion can be processed into a dye. Both the quality and quantity of the substance are enhanced by keeping the ĥilazon alive as long as possible. To obtain the liquid, it is necessary to first break the shell of the ĥilazon and then squeeze the secretion from its body.
Shabbat 76a-b - Determining minimum measures that are considered "carrying" on Shabbat
In Chapter Seven, the fundamental principles used to define the minimum measures that determine liability for carrying out various substances were established. One who carries out any item "fit to store" into a prohibited domain on Shabbat is liable to bring a sin-offering for that action. An item considered "fit to store" is one that people generally store and one whose measure is large enough to make it worthwhile to store for future use. Any measure less than that is considered insignificant, and there is no Torah prohibition against carrying it out. This principle determines the minimum measures that determine liability for carrying out on Shabbat; however, it does not specify the measures with regard to each and every substance.
In the eighth chapter, which begins on today's daf (=page) the Sages specified that which is considered a significant measure with regard to a wide range of substances. The challenge here is not merely to establish minimum measures for the various substances, but it extends to more fundamental issues. For example, with regard to substances that have several uses, and a different measure is typically utilized for each of its uses, the question arises whether one universal measure determines liability for carrying out this substance, or whether the measure that determines liability varies in accordance with the purpose for which the substance is being carried out.
Moreover, even if one universal measure determines liability for carrying out a particular substance in all cases, is that measure determined by the substance’s most common and significant use or by the largest or smallest of the measures?
In addition, the measure that determines liability for substances that have no independent utility but serve a purpose when combined with other substances is discussed. Is the measure of that substance alone deemed significant because that is the measure typically mixed with another substance, or would one be liable only for carrying out the entire mixture?
The explication of these general issues and their details is the focus of this chapter.
Shabbat 77a-b - When smaller creatures strike fear in larger ones
In a segue from the main discussion in the Gemara, a baraita is presented that teaches:
There are five dreads,i.e., dread that the weak cast over the mighty:The dread of the mafgia, a small creature, over the lion;the dread of the mosquito over the elephant; the dread of the gecko over the scorpion; the dread of the swallow over the eagle; the dread of the kilbit, a small fish, over a whale.
The difficulty in understanding this teaching stems from the uncertain identification of most of the creatures mentioned. It is clear that the dread of the mosquito over the elephant refers to the many small mosquitoes that sting the elephant’s trunk and the other soft areas of its body. The dread of the swallow over the eagle comes from the known fact that many small birds can successfully chase away a large bird of prey when they are numerically superior and in particular when they are protecting their young. The identity of the semamit mentioned here has not been firmly established. A long-standing tradition associates the semamit with the spider, and there are indeed species of spiders that prey on scorpions. Nowadays, the name semamit is used for a type of lizard, which might be capable of overpowering a scorpion. The dread of the kilbit over the livyatan is doubly difficult because of the uncertainty in identifying both terms. Many believe that the livyatan is a giant ocean-dwelling mammal from the
Cetacea family. However, there are several smaller fish, such as sharks, that are capable of killing it, and especially its young. Some authorities believe that the livyatan referred to here is the crocodile, and the kilbit is a kind of mosquito that stings it. There is also an opinion that the mafgia, the scourge of the lion, is a tiny mosquito.
Regarding the dread of the mafgia over the lion, this may be a reference to a creature in the Far East from the Mustelidae family known as the zorilla, or striped polecat, which emits a powerful stench. Other animals are wary of any contact with it. It is not uncommon for an entire pack of lions to wait while this creature partakes of prey brought by the lions.
According to the Maharsha, this discussion teaches a moral lesson that even those who take pride in their advantages must be aware that those smaller can be sources of significant harm or benefit.
Shabbat 78a-b - Paying (and avoiding) taxes
The Mishnah on today's daf (=page) teaches:
The measure that determines liability for carrying out paper is equivalent to that which is used to write a tax receipt. And one who carries out a tax receipt itself on Shabbat is liable.
In ancient times, a significant portion of state revenue came from tariffs, which were typically levied at borders, crossings, bridges, and major thoroughfares. For many years, central authorities leased the right to collect state taxes to individuals. These tax collectors often raised taxes beyond the official rate of taxation or levied taxes on items that were actually exempt from taxes to increase their own revenues. There were even self-appointed tax collectors whose authority ranged from semiofficial to non-existent. Due to the irregularities with regard to taxes, some people made private arrangements with the collectors. Through fixed payments or due to good personal relations, they received exemptions from taxes. A tax receipt was a kind of certificate stating that a tax collector had exempted a merchant or traveler from paying a tax. Since these exemptions were distributed on a personal basis, they were occasionally used to demonstrate to a different tax collector that the bearer was trusted by the tax authorities, in the hope of gaining consideration with regard to his taxes.
Thus, we find the following in the Gemara:
The Sages taught in a Tosefta: One who carries out a tax receipt on Shabbat before he has shown it to the tax collector, and he still needs it, is liable for carrying out on Shabbat. Once he has shown it to the tax collector he is exempt, as it has no significance. Rabbi Yehudah says: Even once he has shown it to the tax collector he is liable because there will be a time when he needs it.
Three different suggestions are raised by amora'im in response to the Gemara's question: What is the difference between the opinions of the Sages and Rav Yehudah?
Abayye said: There is a practical difference between their opinions with regard to tax runners.
Occasionally, the tax collectors send inspectors after those who already passed the tax audit in order to verify that they indeed paid. In that case, even though one already showed it to the original tax collector, he will be required to produce it again.
Rava said: There is a practical difference between their opinions with regard to a senior tax collector and a junior tax collector.
Sometimes, when the first tax collector that one encounters is a minor official, he will need to keep the receipt with him and produce it if he encounters a more senior official.
Rav Ashi said: There is a difference between them even in a case where there is just one tax collector. Nevertheless, it is to his advantage to keep it in his possession because he needs it to show it to a second tax collector whom he may encounter in the future, as he says to him: Look, I am a man trusted by the tax collector.
According to this opinion, the document in his possession proves that he is on good terms with the tax authorities.
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.