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 100a-b – Transferring to and from a boat
The Gemara on today’s daf (=page) discusses the laws of transferring objects on and off a boat on Shabbat.
It was stated that the Sages disagreed with regard to the manner in which one may draw seawater onto a boat on Shabbat. Rav Huna said: One extends a projection of any size from the side of the boat as a distinctive sign, and fills a receptacle with water from the sea. Rav Ĥisda and Rabba bar Rav Huna say: One creates an area, a frame of four by four handbreadths, and fills the water from inside it.
The Gemara explains that the source of this disagreement is whether we measure from the sea floor or from the water. According to Rav Huna, we measure from the sea floor. Since the sea itself is deeper than ten handbreadths, the boat is considered to be floating in the air, and the air is an “exempt domain,” so transfer is permitted. According to Rav Ĥisda and Rabba bar Rav Huna we measure from the water and the water in the sea has a legal status of solid land. Therefore, if one does not create an area of four by four, he will be carrying from the sea (a karmelit) to the private domain.
The early commentaries on the Talmud discussed this halakhahand expressed several opinions on the matter. According to the Rambam, there is no need for partitions. It is sufficient to extend a beam that is four by four handbreadths with a hole carved in it. Rashi requires that the beam must have small partitions. This opinion is shared by the ge’onimbased on the opinions of most of the amora’imin the Jerusalem Talmud. Some explain that this requires a beam that is four by four cubits with a hole in it that is four by four handbreadths (Rabbeinu Tam cited in the Rashba). Some commentaries even assert that the legal status of the area in the boat from which water is drawn to the boat is like that of a partition hanging from a balcony. The partitions surrounding that area must be ten handbreadths high (Me’iri).
Shabbat 101a-b – Transferring between two boats
The Mishnah on yesterday’s daf (=page) discusses transferring objects between two boats on Shabbat. The Mishnah taught: If boats are tied together, one may carry an object from one to the other on Shabbat.
On today’s daf the Gemara asks:
That is obvious, since these boats are like a single domain.
Rava said: This Mishnah was necessary only to permit carrying from one boat to another via a small boat that is between them.
Rav Safra said to him: You, who are as great in this generation as Moses, did you speak well? We learned in the Mishnah that one may carry only from one to the other, not via a small boat. Rather, Rav Safra said: The Mishnah was only necessary to obligate one to place an eiruv, a joining of courtyards, between the two boats. Since the boats belong to different people, they must be joined to form a single domain in order to permit carrying from one to the other, as it was taught in a baraita: With regard to boats tied to one another, one places an eiruv and carries from one to the other. If the ties between them were severed, the people on the boats are prohibited to carry from one to the other. If they were then retied, whether unwittingly, i.e., the one who retied them forgot that it was Shabbat, whether intentionally, whether due to circumstances beyond one’s control, whether mistakenly, the boats are restored to their original permitted status.
The expression “Moses, did you speak well” appears several times in the Talmud. Rashi sometimes explains it as a reference to a prominent leader of the generation or a Torah scholar. Other times, he explains it as an exclamation by which one takes an oath in the name of Moses. Some explain that here the phrase is not an expression of wonder, but rather an expression of support meaning that Rav Safra agreed with Rava’s basic halakhah. Yet he still commented that an analysis of the language of the Mishnah indicates otherwise (Me’iri).
Shabbat 102a-b – Building that is prohibited on Shabbat
The twelfth perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Shabbat, which begins on today’s daf (=page) discusses and clarifies several of the thirty-nine categories of labor prohibited on Shabbat. It concentrates on three categories of labor: Building, plowing, and writing. The categories of building and plowing were partially addressed in Chapter Seven. Our chapter mainly discusses two questions concerning these categories of labor.
First, what are some of the common subcategories [toladot] of these primary categories [avot], i.e., what are some specific activities included within the comprehensive definitions of the primary categories building and plowing? The definitions of these primary categories can be formulated in various ways, narrowly and precisely, or much more generally. They are comprised of many details, and the kinds of activities included within the parameters of each primary category must be clarified.
The second question in the chapter is how should the minimum measures that determine liability to bring this sin-offering, as defined by the Torah, be ascertained? With regard to the category of writing, there are additional problems: Is it necessary to specify the typical manner of writing, i.e., what form and what method constitute the creative act known as writing? Additionally, how do we determine the minimum act that can be considered writing? And, furthermore, does the definition of writing include any symbol or design, or is it limited to the reproduction of letters of the alphabet or other specific figures? And are all writing materials and methods of writing treated equally with reference to liability for performing this category of labor on Shabbat?
The opening Mishnah lists specific activities that all fall under the category of “building” on Shabbat and the Gemara searches for the corresponding activity that took place in the Tabernacle that serves as the source for the prohibition.
In the Jerusalem Talmud a different approach to this issue is taken. There, the Gemara attempts to find the source for the primary category of building in the Tabernacle, rather than define the measure that determines liability for building. This is based on the fact that all of the measures are learned through tradition. According to what is stated in the Jerusalem Talmud, the building activity in the Tabernacle was the establishment of the beams. The problem is that the construction was temporary, which means it is less than ideal as the source for the primary category of labor. It is possible that this is the reason that in the Babylonian Talmud the Tabernacle’s construction is not cited as the source for the primary category of building.
Shabbat 103a-b – Writing and marking
In the Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) we learn:
One who writes two letters on Shabbat, whether he did so with his right hand or his left , whether they were the same letter or two different letters, whether he did so using two different types of ink, in any language, he is liable. Rabbi Yosei said: One is deemed liable for writing two letters only due to marking, as they would write symbols on adjacent beams of the Tabernacle to know which beam was another beam’s counterpart.
In the Gemara a baraita is quoted that continues presenting Rabbi Yosei’s position, explaining that:
Therefore, one who made a single scratch on two boards, or two scratches on a single board, is liable.
In the Jerusalem Talmud there is an extended discussion of this topic where it is explained that these marks were made to indicate the designated place of each beam in the Tabernacle. Even though all the beams were of equal size, it was not appropriate to align them randomly. It is also explained there that according to Rabbi Yosei they would draw diagonal lines on the two beams, which were aligned when the beams were placed together. According to the Rambam, the halakhic difference between writing and marking is a technical one – Rabbi Yosei enumerates marking as an independent primary category of labor, and says that one who makes two marks is liable for violating a primary category of labor. Others explain that if the prohibition itself is marking, then one would be liable even when no actual letters are written (Me’iri).
As far as halakhah is concerned, basing himself on the Mishnah the Rambam rules that one who writes two letters on Shabbat is liable whether they are two different letters, or the same letter written twice intentionally, or two letters written in any language or script, or written in two different types of ink or paint (Sefer Zemanim, Hilkhot Shabbat 11:9–10). One who creates two marks, shapes or signs on Shabbat is liable for writing even if the characters are not letters (Hilkhot Shabbat 11:17).
Shabbat 104a-b – The significance of the Hebrew alphabet
In the course of discussing the prohibition against writing on Shabbat the Gemara quotes a lengthy interpretation of the letters of the alphabet as presented by children who visited the study hall.
Here are samples of the children’s teachings:
The Sages said to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: Young students came today to the study hall and said things the likes of which were not said even in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun. These children who only knew the Hebrew alphabet interpreted the letters homiletically.
Alef beit means learn [elaf] the wisdom [bina] of the Torah.
Gimmel dalet means give to the poor [gemol dalim].
Why is the leg of the gimmel extended toward the dalet? Because it is the manner of one who bestows loving-kindness to pursue the poor. And why is the leg of the dalet extended toward the gimmel? It is so that a poor person will make himself available to him who wants to give him charity. And why does the dalet face away from the gimmel? It is to teach that one should give charity discreetly so that the poor person will not be embarrassed by him.
The details of the shapes of the Hebrew letters gimmel and daletmentioned by the Gemara in its midrashim are clearly apparent in the script that is used for Torah scrolls, mezuzot,and tefillin[ketav stam].
The Gemara continues with other examples of the children’s interpretation, including:
Kuf: Holy [kadosh], referring to God.
Reish: A wicked person [rasha]. Why is the kuf facing away from the reish? This question was phrased euphemistically, as it is the reish that is facing away from the kuf. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: I am unable look at a wicked person, i.e., the wicked person does not want to look toward God. And why is the crown of the letter kuf turned toward the reish? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: If the wicked person repents his evil ways I will tie a crown for him like My own. And why is the leg of the kuf suspended and not connected to the roof of the letter? Because if the wicked person repents he can enter through this opening if he so desires.
Shabbat 105a-b - Weaving and related categories of labor
The thirteenth perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Shabbat that begins on today’s daf (=page) discusses two groups of primary categories of labor [avot melakhot]. One section of the chapter deals with the primary category of weaving and related categories of labor. All activities involved in the production of clothing from the spinning of the thread until the final utilization of the yarn; the arrangement of the loom; the weaving itself; and all other improvements made to the fabric, such as dyeing and cleansing it, can be combined by their very nature into one group of categories of labor. They are therefore treated in this chapter as if they were one unit.
The main topic of this chapter is not the description of the nature or parameters of these various labor categories. Rather, it is the establishment of minimal measures for which one is liable should he perform any of these types of labor on Shabbat.
The other section of this chapter deals with the category of trapping, specifically the definition of this category of labor and its parameters. The category of trapping is defined as the confinement of an animal within a space from which it cannot escape. First, however, it must be determined whether or not this prohibition applies to all animals, at which stage in the confinement process the trapping may be said to have been performed, and which methods of confinement may be considered typical modes of trapping for the various species of animals.
The discussion of weaving deals extensively with details of looms that were used in Talmudic times. Among the laws that appear in the first Mishnah is the ruling that:
One who makes two meshes, attaching them to either the nirin or the keiros, is liable.
The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of to the nirin? Abayye said: One ties two to the meshes, the thread of the warp, and ties one to the crosspiece, the thread that extends from the weaving rod.
The threads of the warp, the meshes, are tied to the loom, and the weaving of the fabric begins from those two meshes.
Shabbat 106a-b – Primary categories of labor not needed for their own sake
Generally speaking, a prohibited action on Shabbat is only forbidden if it is done for a constructive purpose.
We learned in the Mishnah: And anyone who performs labors destructively on Shabbat is exempt.
Rabbi Abbahu taught this baraita before Rabbi Yoĥanan: Anyone who performs labors destructively on Shabbat is exempt, except for one who inflicts a wound or kindles a fire.
Rabbi Yoĥanan said to him: Go teach that outside. This baraita is not fit for discussion in the study hall. The opinion that deems one liable for inflicting a wound or kindling a fire on Shabbat is not an accepted teaching and should be ignored. And if you want to say that it is a legitimate teaching, one who inflicts a wound would only be liable in a case where he needed the blood to give to his dog, and one who kindles a fire would only be liable in a case where he needs its ashes.
This brief passage is pivotal in the comprehensive discussion among the commentaries and legal authorities with regard to the lawof melakhah she-ainah tzrikha le-gufa – primary categories of labor not needed for their own sake, i.e., their purpose in the Tabernacle. For example, extinguishing a fire to conserve fuel, rather than to produce coals (the purpose for which "extinguishing" was performed in the Sanctuary) is considered melakhah that is not necessary for its own sake. According to other opinions, melakhah that is not necessary for its own sake means work performed for a "negative" purpose; in the previous case, for example, extinguishing a fire to avoid using the fuel, rather than to create something new (i.e., coals). There is a controversy among the tannaim as well as among later halakhic authorities as to whether melakhah that is not necessary for its own sake is prohibited by Torah law or only by rabbinic injunction.
The Me’irisummarizes the issue as follows:
If one performs a primary category of labor in its standard, constructive manner it is an act needed for its own sake. An example of this would be the primary category of winnowing.
Even though the main goal is to remove the chaff, it is still considered a primary category of labor needed for its own sake.
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.