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 114a-b – Blowing the shofar to announce Shabbat
On today’s daf (=page) the Gemara discusses the shofar blasts that were sounded on Friday afternoon to warn the populace that Shabbat was soon to arrive. Alternative situations are raised by Rabbi Zeira -
Rabbi Zeira said: When I was in Babylonia, I said with regard to that which was taught in a baraita: If Yom Kippur occurred on Shabbat eve, they would not sound the shofar as they did every Friday to herald the start of Shabbat; and if Yom Kippur occurred at the conclusion of
Shabbat, they would not recite havdalahto mark the end of the sanctity of Shabbat and the start of the sanctity of Yom Kippur, is a statement accepted by all.
When I went to Eretz Yisrael, I found Yehuda, son of Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi, who sat and said: This baraita is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, as it equates the sanctity of Yom Kippur with that of Shabbat. As, if you say that it is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael, then, since Rabbi Yishmael said that fats from Shabbat are offered on Yom Kippur, let them sound the shofar so that the priests will know that the fats from Shabbat are offered on Yom Kippur and they may begin offering them (Rav Hai Gaon). And I said to him: You cannot prove this from here, because priests are vigilant and can be trusted to know this on their own, and there is no need to sound the shofar.
There are two basic approaches to interpreting the question about blowing the shofar that was raised by Yehudah, son of Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi.
In the first approach, Rashi explains that the Gemara is not referring to shofar blasts between Shabbat and Yom Kippur, because the shofar was never sounded at the conclusion of Shabbat. The sounding of the shofar in this context is the one that marks the beginning of Shabbat when Yom Kippur is on Friday. Although there are several difficulties with this approach and the unfolding discussion does not seem to support it, this is the understanding adopted in the Jerusalem Talmud (see Tosafotand Rashba).
A second approach states that the Gemara is referring to a situation where Yom Kippur begins at the conclusion of Shabbat. According to these commentaries, the shofar would be sounded at that time, just as it was sounded every week at the conclusion of Shabbat, to divide between the sacred and the profane (Rambam).
Other commentaries explain that a special shofar blast was sounded on the eve of Yom Kippur, just like before Shabbat, and that is being discussed here.
Shabbat 115a-b – Dealing with fires on Shabbat
This chapter mainly deals with a single question: How is one to conduct oneself when a fire breaks out on Shabbat? The halakhahmaintains that it is prohibited to extinguish a fire on Shabbat, even in a situation of great financial loss. Therefore, the question arises: What is permissible to do in the case of a fire? Under what conditions is it permissible to rescue materials from a fire on Shabbat?
The decrees instituted by the Sages with reference to rescuing objects from a fire on Shabbat are the source of many of the questions pertaining to this matter. These decrees are based upon the concern that if one is permitted to evacuate his goods, he may, in his panic, perform the kind of extinguishing that is biblically prohibited, both because of his preoccupation with the act of evacuation and because people become panicked when their property is at stake. Therefore, the Sages permitted the rescue of domestic utensils and even foodstuffs in only limited quantities. Additionally, there is discussion of the numerous details related to permissible methods and stratagems that enable the rescue of more than the very minimum fixed by the law.
Another question related to rescuing materials from a fire is the problem of sacred writings and other holy objects. Because of their sanctity, the Sages permitted many procedures for rescuing them that may not be performed for other objects. According to many opinions, the Sages went to great extremes to grant permission in this matter, ruling leniently even when there are risks of violating rabbinic prohibitions, and sometimes even biblical prohibitions, because of their great concern for salvaging a wide variety of sacred materials.
The opening Mishnah teaches:
With regard to all sacred writings, one may rescue them from the fire on Shabbat, whether they are read in public, e.g., Torah or Prophets scrolls, or whether they are not read in public, e.g., Writings scrolls. This ruling applies even though they were written in any foreign language.
In the Jerusalem Talmud it is explained that the halakhah is in accordance with Rabbi Shimon’s opinion that, in general, extinguishing a fire is prohibited by rabbinic and not by Torah law. Therefore, it is permitted to douse a fire in order to rescue sacred books.
Shabbat 116a-b – Holy books in Babylonian temples
The discussion of whether holy books could be saved from a fire on Shabbat leads the Gemara to discuss the status of books found in Babylonian temples.
Yosef bar Ĥanin raised a dilemma before Rabbi Abbahu: With regard to these books of the house of Abidan, does one rescue them from the fire or does one not rescue them? There were sacred Jewish texts in that house, which were used in debates and discussions on matters of faith. Rabbi Abbahu did not give him a clear answer but said yes and no, and the matter was uncertain to him.
Rav would not go to the house of Abidan for conversation, and all the more so he would not go to the house of Nitzrefei, the Persian fire-temple. Shmuel, to the house of Nitzrefei he did not go, but to the house of Abidan he did go. The gentile scholars said to Rava: Why did you not come to the house of Abidan? He evaded their question with an excuse and said to them: There is a certain palm tree on the road, and that makes the path difficult for me. They said to him: We will uproot it. He said to them: Nevertheless, the resulting pit in its place will be difficult for me.
Mar bar Yosef said: I am one of them, we are friends, and I do not fear them. Still, one time he went and argued with them and they sought to endanger his life.
Rabbi Meir would call the Christian writing, the Evangelion, the wicked folio [aven gilyon]; Rabbi Yoĥanancalled it the sinful folio [avon gilyon].
According to the tradition of the ge’onim, the house of Abidan was a well-known courtyard in which there were books of knowledge from all the nations. Scholars and wise men from all nations gathered there to discuss wisdom. The house of Nitzrefei served a similar purpose. However, it was also a temple for idol worship. Therefore, it was appropriate for Shmuel to attend meetings and discussions in the house of Abidan, which he considered as a forum for philosophical debates, but he would never enter the house of Nitzrefei, which was devoted to idolatry. There were other Sages who thought that the debates were problematic and dangerous, and it was preferable to refrain from participation in those forums.
Shabbat 117a-b – Shabbat meals
There are many laws that are unique to Shabbat meals. On today’s daf (=page) the Gemara discusses the sources of some of those halakhot.
Rav Ĥisda said: A person should always rise early on Friday in order to prepare all of the expenditures for Shabbat, as it is written with regard to the collection of the manna: “And it shall be on the sixth day, and they will prepare that which they have brought” (Shemot16:5), indicating that the children of Israel would begin preparing the food for Shabbat immediately upon collecting the manna in the morning.
With the statement, “And it shall be,” the Torah indicates that the people should begin preparations, “they will prepare” (Shemot 16:5), immediately when the day begins. An alternative interpretation is that since they did not collect the manna at night, the Torah teaches that preparations began with its collection in the early hours of the morning (Ritva).
Apropos manna, the Gemara mentions other matters derived from it.
Rabbi Abba said: On Shabbat a person is obligated to break bread in his meal over two loaves of bread, as it is written: “And it happened on the sixth day, they collected double the bread, two omer for each one” (Shemot 16:22).
Rav Ashi said: I saw that Rav Kahana took two loaves in his hand and broke one, not both at once. He said in explanation that it is written: “They collected double the bread,” meaning that one collects and holds two loaves together, but need not break both. Rabbi Zeira would break off a piece that would suffice for his entire meal.
Ravina said to Rav Ashi: Doesn’t that appear like gluttony? Rav Ashi said to him: Since on every other day he does not do this and now he is doing so, it does not appear like gluttony.
Some commentaries explain that Rabbi Zeira would break all of the loaves that he prepared for the meal (Rashba).
Shabbat 118a-b – The reward for delighting in Shabbat
The Gemara relates -
Rabbi Yoĥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosei: With regard to anyone who delights in the Shabbat, God gives him a boundless portion, i.e., a very large reward, as it is stated: “If you keep your feet from violating Shabbat, from pursuing your affairs on My holy day, and you call Shabbat a delight, the Lord’s holy day honored, and you honor it by not going your own way, or attending to your own matters or speaking idle words. Then you shall delight in the Lord and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the world, and to feast on the inheritance of Jacob your father, as the mouth of God has spoken” (Yeshayahu58:13-14).
The reward for delighting in Shabbat is specifically the portion of Jacob.
Not that of Abraham, about whom it is written, “Rise, walk through the land through its length and its width because I have given it to you” (Bereshit13:17), i.e., only this land alone in its borders. And not that of Isaac, about whom it is written, “Dwell in this land and I will be with you and I will bless you because I will give all of these lands to you and your offspring” (Bereshit 16:3), meaning these lands and no others. Rather, that of Jacob, about whom it is written, “And your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and all of the families of the land will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Bereshit 28:14).
There are no boundaries for Jacob’s portion.
The reward of a boundless portion is one that is measure for measure. Since one delights in
Shabbat without limiting his expenditures, one is rewarded with a portion that is limitless (Beit Yosef). The Gemara citation of the verse from Yeshayahu speaks of one who delights in Shabbat as being rewarded with the portion of Jacob. Some commentaries explain that the portion of Abraham was shared with the descendants of Ishmael and Lot, and part of Isaac’s portion was given to Esau. However, the portion of Jacob was complete, not shared with others, and therefore boundless (Maharsha; Imrei Emet).
Shabbat 119a-b – Shabbat preparations
Preparing for Shabbat is an essential ingredient in showing delight in Shabbat. On today’s daf (=page) we learn that the Sages went to great lengths to play an active role in those preparations.
Rabbi Abba bought thirteen plain staters [astirei peshitei] worth half a zuz of meat from thirteen butchers in deference to Shabbat, so that he would have various types of fine meat.
And he would place the meats at the door hinge at the entrance to his house to hurry to bring another type of meat. And he said to the cooks, in order to rush them: Hurry and prepare it, hurry and prepare it.
The Gemara also relates: Rabbi Abbahu would sit on an ivory chair [takhteka] and fan the fire cooking the food for Shabbat, in order to play a role in preparations for Shabbat.
This anecdote teaches that even a wealthy person, like Rabbi Abbahu, should participate in the Shabbat preparations. Indeed, Rabbi Abbahu showed deference to the mitzvah by sitting on an expensive ivory chair.
Rav Anan would don a simple black garment for the Shabbat preparations, as the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: While wearing the garments in which he cooked a pot of food for his master, one should not dilute a cup of wine for his Master. One should wear a garment appropriate for the task at hand.
Apparently, Rav Anan disagrees with Rabbi Abbahu and maintains that one should wear simple, not special, clothing for the preparations of Shabbat, as per the statement of Rabbi Yishmael (Rabbi Elazar Moshe Horovitz).
Rav Safrawould roast the head of an animal to prepare it for Shabbat.
Rava salted a shibuta fish in deference to Shabbat.
Rav Huna kindled lamps in deference to Shabbat.
Rav Pappa spun the wicks for the Shabbat lamp.
Rav Ĥisda cut the beets in preparation for Shabbat.
Rabba and Rav Yosef cut wood.
Rabbi Zeira prepared thin sticks for kindling.
Rav Naĥman bar Yitzĥakwould load objects on his shoulder and enter, load objects on his shoulder and exit. He said: If Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi happened to visit me, would I not load objects on my shoulder before them? So too, it is fitting to do so in deference to Shabbat.
Shabbat 120a-b - Saving things from a burning house on Shabbat
Although an earlier Mishnah taught that an individual is permitted to save only three meals worth of food from his burning house, the Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) teaches that there are cases where more can be saved. According to the Mishnah:
One may rescue a basket full of loaves and the like from a fire on Shabbat, even if there is food for one hundred meals in it. And one may rescue a round cake of dried figs, even though it is very large, and one may rescue a barrel full of wine. And one may even say to others: Come and rescue for yourselves. And if the people who rescue with him were clever, they make a calculation with him after Shabbat in order to receive payment for the items that they rescued.
After some discussion, the Gemara concludes that this case is different because there is only a single vessel that is being rescued from the fire; under such circumstances there are no limitations on the amount that can be contained in the vessel.
Regarding the invitation to others to come and rescue other things from the burning house, the Jerusalem Talmud explains that since one is permitted to invite guests and feed them and clothe them on Shabbat, one may also invite others to come and rescue food and clothes for themselves as they are potential guests. Some commentaries teach that the others may rescue items in any manner that they choose. Since it is not their property, there is no concern lest they extinguish the fire in their agitation (Rabbi Yeshaya of Terani as cited in the Ran).
The Jerusalem Talmud suggests that the novel element in this statement is that if the rescuers return the objects to their owner on Shabbat and did not take ownership of them, they may receive direct payment after Shabbat and not merely take ownership of the ownerless property. This is the Rambam’s interpretation in his Commentary to the Mishnah, as well.
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.