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.
Eiruvin 7a-b – Deciding arguments by Divine Voice
After quoting the baraita which suggests that a person can choose to follow either the position of Beit Shammai or of Beit Hillel (6b), the Gemara is disturbed by the fact that the selfsame baraita opens by stating that in arguments between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, the opinion of Beit Hillel prevails. Several possible answers are suggested by the Gemara:
The “Bat Kol” (Divine Voice) mentioned here refers to a Gemara later on in Eiruvin (13b) that describes how Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai argued for three years, at which time a Bat Kol came out and declared that while both opinions are true, the halakhah follows Beit Hillel (Elu v’Elu divrei Elokim hayyim, v’halakhah K’Beit Hillel.)
The Ritva and Rabbi Nissim Gaon explain this difficult statement by referring to a Midrash that appears in the Jerusalem Talmud. According to the Midrash, when the Torah was given to Moshe on Mount Sinai, he was also given 49 ways to declare something pure and 49 ways to declare it impure, indicating that within the Torah itself there are levels of meaning that allow for the possibility of contradictory conclusions, leaving it to the leaders of the generations to choose the appropriate ruling for their time. According to this explanation, each position has its place in the Torah as it was given, so “both opinions are true.”
The second suggestion made by the Gemara – that the baraita is presenting the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua who does not believe that one should pay attention to a Bat Kol – is a reference to the story told in Massekhet Bava Metzia (59b), where all of the Sages disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer regarding the ritual purity of an oven that could be taken apart. Rabbi Eliezer brought a series of miraculous proofs to his position, culminating with a Bat Kol that declared the halakhah to be like Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Yehoshua’s response was “Lo ba-Shamayim hee” (a reference to Devarim 30:12) – halakhah is not decided by heaven, rather by human courts.
Eiruvin 8a-b – An alleyway like a centipede
The Gemara raises the question of how to deal with a long alleyway that opens to the public domain, but with a series of small alleyways branching off of it on both of its sides, all of which also open to the public domain. To describe such an alleyway, the Gemara refers to it as a “Mavoy He-Asui Ke-Nadal” (an alleyway that is shaped like a centipede). Before we study the Gemara’s discussion, let us spend a moment touching on the Nadal, the creature upon which it is based.
The Nadal is identified as a Scolopendra, one of the multi-legged creatures of the Chilopoda family. All of these creatures have a long body made up of sections, and each section has a pair of legs on either side. The number of pairs differs from one centipede to another. The centipede Scolopendra possesses twenty-one pairs of legs and has a pair of poisonous claws near its head, used to deliver venom into its prey. While painful, their sting is not ordinarily dangerous to human beings. When the Torah (Vayikra 11:42) refers to “Marbei Ragla’im” (many legged creatures), it most likely is referring to these creatures.
There is a difference of opinion among the Rishonim as to how the model Nadal defines the Gemara’s case. According to Rashi, it seems that all of the smaller exits to the public domain are on one side of the Mavoy. Tosafot bring the opinion of Rabbenu Tam, which states that they are on both sides of the Mavoy, but they do not match up. Most Rishonim, however, understand the case to be where the smaller openings are exactly opposite one-another.
The Gemara teaches:
Abaye said: An opening in the form of a doorway is made for the large alleyway, and all the small alleyways are permitted by means of a side post or a cross beam.
Rava said to him: According to whom do you state this halakha? Apparently according to the opinion of Shmuel, who said that the halakha of a crooked L-shaped alleyway is like that of an alleyway that is closed at one side. For in this case of an alleyway that is shaped like a centipede, when each of the smaller alleyways connects to the larger alleyway, it forms a crooked L-shaped alleyway. However, if the halakha is indeed in accordance with the opinion of Shmuel, why is the form of a doorway needed for it? According to Shmuel, an alleyway of this kind only requires a side post or a cross beam at each end in order to permit carrying within it. And furthermore, with regard to the crooked, L-shaped alleyway in Neharde’a, which was Shmuel’s place of residence, didn’t they take into consideration the position of Rav? This indicates that the halakha in practice follows Rav as opposed to Shmuel.
Abaye’s suggestion is that a full doorframe should be built to “close off” the main entrance of the Mavoy, and the smaller openings will suffice with the Lehi (side post) or Korah (cross beam) usually used to permit carrying in the Mavoy.
Rava responds to Abayye by arguing that each of the smaller openings should be considered a Mavoy Akum, as each one goes from the public domain on one side to the large Mavoy, which itself leads to the public domain. If you follow Shmuel’s opinion that that Mavoy Akum is considered “closed,” then there should be no need for a doorframe; a Lehi or Korah should suffice. However, we learned above (6b) that in Shmuel’s hometown of Neharde’a, they followed Rav’s ruling that the Mavoy Akum is considered “open.” Rava concludes that we must follow Rav, and therefore all of the smaller openings on one side need to be “closed” with a doorframe, and the other openings can then be symbolically closed by use of the Lehi or Korah as in any standard Mavoy.
Eiruvin 9a-b – Getting one’s status from one’s neighbors
In this essay we will examine a number of expressions used by the Sages of the Gemara.
Rabbi Zakkai quotes a baraita in the presence of Rabbi Yohanan which rules that the area at the entrance to the Mavoy (alleyway) - under the cross beam or between the side posts (see 5a-b) - would be considered a karmelit (i.e. a place in which carrying would be Rabbinically forbidden).
Rabbi Yohanan reacts strongly to this baraita, saying “Pok T'nai L’vara” – go and teach that baraita outside! In other words, Rabbi Yohanan does not accept the baraita as it was presented to him; he believes that carrying would be permitted. This expression indicates that Rabbi Yohanan did not merely disagree with the ruling; he felt that it was incorrect to such an extent that it should not be taught and discussed in the Beit Midrash(study hall). On occasion, we find in the Gemara that an amorachooses to privately pursue an avenue of study outside the Beit Midrash that is not accepted as part of the discourse inside the Beit Midrash. On a practical level, that is what is being suggested here, aside from the clear statement that we do not consider this opinion when deciding the halakhah.
The Gemara then brings a difference of opinion between Rava and Abaye.
Abaye said: Rabbi Yohanan’s statement is reasonable with regard to the area beneath the cross beam, as only the area beneath the cross beam should be considered a private domain, but between the side posts, carrying is indeed prohibited, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Zakkai. And Rava said: The entire statement of Rabbi Zakkai is to be rejected, as Rabbi Yohanan asserted, and even in the area between the side posts carrying is permitted.
Abaye argues that only part of the baraita was rejected, and while under the cross beam (korah) one would be permitted to carry, it would be forbidden to carry between the side posts (lehi). Rava believes that the entire baraita was rejected and that, in both cases, Rabbi Yohanan permits carrying.
In an attempt to explain his position, Abaye brings a number of statements which seem to indicate that the ruling with regard to “between the lehis” would forbid one to carry (i.e. they have the halakhic status of a karmelit). Rava responds to each case by explaining that the ruling was only true because the Mavoy opened into a karmelit, and the area abutting the karmelit gets the status from its neighbor. In a case where the Mavoy opens to a Reshut ha-Rabim (public domain), however, then the area between the lehis would retain the status of a Mavoy.
In response to Rava's explanation, the Gemara responds “Yatziva be-Ar'a, v'Giyora bishmei shemaya!?” (literally – A permanent resident is down on the ground, while a stranger is raised up to the highest heavens?). The expression means that things seem to be the opposite of the way they are presented. In our case, it seems odd that we would be more stringent in the matter of a Rabbinic decree (the karmelit) than in the matter of a Biblical law (the Reshut ha-Rabim). Similarly, it seems unreasonable that the stranger (the Ger) should be considered to be on a higher level than the citizen.
This expression is a translation (with a slight variation) of a passage from the tokhaha (the chapter of rebuke) that appears in Sefer Devarim (28:44). The passage reads
“the stranger among you will rise above you higher and higher, and you will fall lower and lower.” The idea here is that we are shocked and surprised to find a situation that is the opposite of what we expect.
Rava’s response is “Matza min et mino v’nei’or” – similar subjects find each other and are awakened. Since the Mavoy is a Rabbinic decree, when it comes into contact with a karmelit it can take on the characteristics of a karmelit. When it comes into contact with a Reshut ha-Rabim, however, it cannot take on the characteristics of a full public domain, so it remains a Mavoy in which it is permissible to carry.
Eiruvin 10a-b – When a side post can only be seen from outside
The Gemara introduces a case where the Lehi (side post) – the object that is placed at the entrance to a Mavoy (alleyway) as a reminder that carrying can only be done within the walls of the Mavoy and not in the public domain (see 5a-b) – appears to be an extension of the wall of the Mavoy, so that it is only apparent from the outside that it is a Lehi. The amora, Rabba bar Rav Huna, argues that it should be considered a valid Lehi, but, basing itself on a baraitathat appears to contradict that position, the conclusion of the Gemara seems to be that such a Lehi is not valid.
Rav Yosef, who was a student of Rav Huna, comments that he had never heard the position taken by Rabba bar Rav Huna that such a Lehi should be valid. It should be noted that during an illness, Rav Yosef had forgotten much of his learning (see Nedarim 41a), so his student, Abaye, reminded him that he had, in fact, quoted Rav Huna as ruling that if the inner wall of the Mavoy extended beyond the Mavoy less that four amot (cubits), then it is considered a valid Lehi. Furthermore, Rav Yosef himself had concluded from that statement that a Lehi is valid if it can be seen from the outside of the Mavoy, even if it cannot be seen from inside the Mavoy.
Following this exchange, the Gemara concludes that such a Lehi is considered valid, contradicting the earlier supposition of the Gemara. To explain the change of ruling, the Gemara says that they prefer to rely on the baraita that was quoted earlier (9b) in the name of Rabbi Hiyya.
The Jerusalem Talmud explains that the baraita upon which the first ruling was based could not be found recorded in the authoritative collections of baraitot, and therefore could not be relied upon. The baraitot quoted in the study halls of Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Oshiya, on the other hand, were known to be reliable.
Eiruvin 11a-b – The basis for the exception of the Amaltera
The first Mishnah in Massekhet Eiruvin taught that a Mavoy (alleyway) whose walls are taller than 20 amot (cubits) or more than ten amot apart cannot be permitted by use of the ordinary heker (reminder) of a Lehi (side post) or a Korah (cross beam) (see 2a-b).
At the same time, the Mishnah taught that a tzurat ha-petah – a symbolic doorframe – will suffice to close the open end of a Mavoy even if it is wider than ten amot.We also learned a baraita (3a) which ruled that an Amaltera – a decoration above the entranceway – will allow a korah to work even above 20 amot.
Now the Gemara asks whether these two methods can be switched. Will a symbolic doorframe permit carrying in the Mavoy even if it is higher than 20 amot? Will an Amaltera allow carrying in a Mavoy even if the opening is wider than ten amot?
A close reading of the Mishnah convinces the Gemara that each of these special conditions will only work in the specific case where it is suggested by the Mishnah. Nevertheless, the Gemara's thought that we could, perhaps, apply them deserves some explanation.
With regard to the Amaltera, Rabbi Yaakov Kahane, in his Gaon Yaakov, posits that the Gemara's suggestion is based on its quandary about the basis for the exception of the Amaltera in the case of walls higher than 20 amot. Two possibilities are:
According to the first explanation, while people will notice something out-of-the-ordinary that is higher than usual, if the opening is very wide, it will be less noticeable and will not accomplish its purpose. If, on the other hand, the issue is that the opening becomes significant as a door by dint of the important decoration, the Amaltera should succeed in accomplishing that.
According to the Gemara's conclusion, it appears that the first explanation of the Amaltera appears to be the correct one.
Eiruvin 12a-b – Defining an alleyway and a courtyard
On this page, the Gemara offers some basic definitions of Mavoy (alleyway) and Hatzer (courtyard). Rav Nahman rules that the Mavoy discussed by the Mishnah, where one can carry if a Lehi (side post) or Korah (cross beam) is placed properly (see 2a-b), is one whose length is greater than its width and has houses opening into it. If the area is square, however, then it is a Hatzer, for which a Lehi or Korah will not suffice.
The Gemara then queries – how much longer does the length of the Mavoy need to be? Shmuel wants to suggest that it must be twice as long as its width, but Rav quotes “Havivi” as saying that it can be longer by even a small amount.
Rav and Shmuel were first generation amoraim, immediately following the generation of Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi, the redactor of the Mishnah. Rav, in particular, was seen as bridging the period between the tannaim and amoraim in that the Talmud often responds to a question on him with the retort “Rav Tanna hu, u’palig” – Rav has the status of a tanna, and therefore has the ability to disagree with other opinions in the Mishnah – a privilege not allowed to other amoraim (see Eiruvin 50b).
Orphaned as a child in Babylonia, Abba Arikha traveled to Israel where he was raised by his celebrated uncle, Rabbi Hiyya, whose collection of baraitotwas considered authoritative. The nickname “Rav” was given to him due to his preeminence in the Babylonian community, where he played the role of Rosh Yeshiva in Sura following the death of his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi.
When quoting “Havivi,” as he does in our Gemara, Rav is referring to his uncle, Rabbi Hiyya. The etymology of the term “Havivi” to mean “uncle” is interesting. The word “haviv” means “beloved,” similar to the term “dod” which has two meanings. “Dod” refers to the beloved one throughout Shir Ha-Shirim; more popularly it refers to the brother of one’s father or mother. Haviv developed a similar dual meaning, and here Rav uses it to refer to his uncle. The parallel between these words becomes clear when we find that the Targum Eretz Yisrael (the Aramaic translation of the Torah) translates the words “dod” and “doda” as “havivei” and “havivtei.”
Eiruvin13a-b – The fame of Rabbi Meir
A number of rulings of the tanna, Rabbi Meir, are quoted by the Gemara, which leads Rabbi Aha bar Hanina to report that it was well-known that Rabbi Meir's intellect towered over the rest of his generation.
Why then didn’t the Sages establish the halakha in accordance with his opinion? It is because his colleagues were unable to ascertain the profundity of his opinion. He was so brilliant that he could present a cogent argument for any position, even if it was not consistent with the prevalent halakha…The Sages were unable to distinguish between the statements that were halakha and those that were not.
Rabbi Meir lived in the generation prior to the codification of the Mishnah. We know little about his family, but tradition has it that he was from a family of converts whose origins were with the family of the Roman Caesar. As a young man he was recognized as a prodigy, and he studied with the two leading sages of his generation, Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva. He was also the only student who continued to study with Elisha ben Avuyah after he left the path of tradition.
It appears that his life’s work was an oral compilation of the laws that were to become the foundation of Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi’s Mishnah. This is the source for the oft-repeated maxim in the Gemara “Stam Mishnah – Rabbi Meir” – that a statement which appears in the Mishnah without attribution is certainly from the teachings of Rabbi Meir. His participation in an attempt to have Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel replaced as the head of the Sanhedrin led to his exclusion from the study hall for a time. His teachings were not quoted in his name; rather they were cited as Aherim Omrim – “others say.”
His personal life was replete with tragedy. His two sons both died during his lifetime, and his wife, Beruriah, also died under painful circumstances. He was forced into exile, where, prior to his death, he insisted not only that his body be returned to the Land of Israel for permanent burial, but also that he be buried temporarily near the sea whose waters reached to Israel.
The fame that was Rabbi Meir’s during his lifetime stemmed not only from his impressive intellect, but also from his outstanding character, his pursuit of peace and his modesty. He was also known as something of a miracle worker, and for generations the charity boxes with his name, “Rabbi Meir ba'al ha-Nes” (“the miracle worker”), were a major source of material sustenance for the early settlers of the Land of Israel in modern times.
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.