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.
This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris, the Lewy Family Foundation, and Marilyn and Edward Kaplan
The last chapter of Masechet Beitzah, perek mashilin, begins on today’s daf. This concluding chapter focuses mainly on two topics:
- Actions that are not true creative activities that would be forbidden on Yom Tov, but are, nevertheless, issues that involve a lack of sensitivity to the holiness of the day,
- Questions regarding techumin (boundaries) – that is travel outside the city boundaries, which is ordinarily limited to a 2000 cubit perimeter around the city.
The first Mishna describes a situation that was commonplace in the time of the Talmud, although it is unusual today. In those days, it was customary practice for a person to put fruits on his roof to dry. Such fruits were considered to be muktzah – that is to say, they were set aside as fruit that was not to be eaten now, as it was being processed to be saved for future use.
Obviously, if rains came and those fruits were on the roof, they would be ruined. In such a circumstance, the Mishnah permits the fruits to be tossed down the chimney on Yom Tov. In his commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam explains that the loss of money brings the Rabbis to permit what would ordinarily be considered a “weekday activity” but only in this specific way, where the chimney goes directly to the ground floor and throwing the fruit down does not involve excessive labor.
To understand the situation described in the Mishnah, it is important to recognize what a contemporary Roman house looked like. Such houses, which apparently were built in Israel, had an internal courtyard that included a chimney where fires were built below in an oven or fireplace. The roof had flat areas where fruits were commonly laid out to dry. It would have been fairly easy to toss the fruits down into the house by way of that chimney.
The Mishna on today’s daf lists a series of different types of activities, all of which are forbidden by the Sages on Yom Tov as well as on Shabbat. The categories are:
- Shevut – A Rabbinic ordinance, like climbing a tree or riding an animal
- Reshut – Something that is not always a mitzvah, although it is certainly a good deed, like getting married or trying a court case
- Mitzvah – Actually fulfilling a commandment, like putting aside tithes or consecrating an object to the Temple
All of these activities are forbidden by Rabbinic ordinance lest they lead to forbidden activities or because they appear very similar to weekday activities.
The commentaries discuss why there is a need to create divisions between different types of Rabbinic prohibitions, given that the bottom line is that they are all forbidden on both Shabbat and Yom Tov. One approach is taken by Rabbeinu Tam who argues that there are real differences between the cases, and that the Mishnah is only discussing cases where the activity is not truly obligatory. If, however, a mitzvah will really be fulfilled by this action, then the Sages would permit the mitzvah to be done on Yom Tov. Some suggest that even according to Rashi we will distinguish between the different categories in a case where the act is performed bein ha-shemashot – in the moment when it is still questionable whether the holiday has begun or not. At that moment we will be lenient and allow those activities that are mitzvot to be done.
The Chatam Sofer argues that the Mishnah must be understood to be saying that these activities are forbidden if they are shevut or reshut from the perspective of the person doing them. If, however, they are being done as a mitzvah, the rule of the Mishnah may not apply.
Is one permitted to respond to synagogue appeals on Shabbat and Yom Tov?
In the Mishna on yesterday’s daf we learned that performing a mitzvah like putting aside tithes or consecrating an object to the Temple would be forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov. On today’s daf, the Gemara explains that the reason the Sages did not permit people to donate to the Temple on Shabbat and Yom Tov is because such contributions appear very similar to business transactions. One of the practical questions that this raises is how can synagogues make appeals – even for good causes – and accept pledges on Shabbat or on Yom Tov?
Rav Nissin Gaon distinguishes between the case of donations to the Temple and the case of pledging money to charity or other causes. When donating to the Temple, the Talmud has a unique rule that a simple statement of a pledge to the Temple is already an act of transfer of ownership, as opposed to virtually all other cases, where a statement is merely an indication of intent that must be followed up with a formal act of transfer. Thus, someone who responds to an appeal with a pledge is not transferring the money on Yom Tov (which would be forbidden), but simply making a statement that he intends to give money to charity after the holiday (which is permitted).
This approach helps solve a problem that many of the commentaries raise regarding our Mishnah. The general principle followed by the Sages is ein gozrin gezeirah le-gezeirah – that we do not create a Rabbinic ordinance to protect against the desecration of another Rabbinic ordinance. Since business transactions are prohibited because we are afraid that it may encourage people to write – an act forbidden on Shabbat or Yom Tov – how can we prevent people from donating to the Temple because of the similarity to business transactions?
Following the logic of Rav Nissin Gaon, the Re”ah explains that the case of donating to the Temple is not merely forbidden because of a Rabbinic decree that it appears to be similar to a business transaction. Rather, simply announcing that something is consecrated to the Temple is, itself, a business transaction, since transfer of ownership takes place immediately.
The Mishnah (37a) teaches that just as a person cannot walk more than 2000 cubits outside of the city limits (called techum Shabbat) on Shabbat and Yom Tov, his or her possessions are limited, as well. In Masechet Eruvin we learned that by means of an eruv techumim – by placing a meal at the edge of the city limits – a person can establish his Shabbat in that place, thus shifting the area that he is allowed to travel to 2000 cubits around that space. Thus, if a person were to lend something to his friend on Yom Tov, it can only be taken as far as its owner is allowed to walk, even if the borrower has made an eruv that permits him to travel further than that. One example presented by the Mishnah is a woman who lends water and salt to her friend to bake bread on Yom Tov. The final product will be limited to the extent that it can only be taken to places that both the borrower and the lender themselves could go.
The Gemara on our daf describes a discussion among the amoraim about this rule. Three Israeli Amoraim were discussing this matter (either Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Chanina bar Papi and Rabbi Zeira or else Rabbi Abahu, Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi and Rabbi Yitzhak Napaha) and queried why this should be true; shouldn’t the water and salt be considered batel – negligible – in the context of the final baked product!? Rabbi Abba, who had just come to Israel from Babylon, responded by arguing that if someone’s measure of wheat fell into another person’s larger pile, would we permit him to treat it as though it became negligible in the larger pile? In response to this comment, the Israeli amorism laughed. The Gemara continues with a discussion of whether they were correct in rejecting Rabbi Abba’s comparison or not.
This interaction is particularly interesting because the Gemara begins the story with a description of the prayer recited by Rabbi Abba upon embarking on his trip to Israel, in which he expressed his hope that his thoughts and ideas would be accepted by the scholars of Israel. The Chatam Sofer explains that the sages who lived in Israel recognized their own knowledge of Torah, and often looked down on the Torah that was studied and taught in Babylon, which brought a visiting scholar to be concerned lest his ideas would not be taken seriously.
As we learned on yesterday’s daf, people’s possessions cannot be taken beyond 2000 cubits of the city limits (called techum Shabbat) on Shabbat and Yom Tov, just as the person himself is limited by the techum (boundary). Thus, if a woman lends water and salt to her friend to bake bread on Yom Tov, the final product will be limited in that it can only be taken as far as the borrower and the lender could go themselves. In the Mishna (37a) Rabbi Yehuda argues that this rule does not apply to water, since it becomes part of the baked product and is no longer considered as having independent significance. Therefore we will not restrict its movement by the limits of the original owner; the borrower who baked the bread can take it wherever she is allowed to go.
The Gemara on our daf asks why Rabbi Yehuda differentiates between water, which loses its independent significance when baked into bread, and salt which apparently retains its status. Furthermore, a baraita is introduced in which Rabbi Yehuda clearly states that both water and salt become batel – negligible – when baked or cooked and are now part of food.
To explain the different statements of Rabbi Yehuda, the Gemara explains that there are different types of salt – melach Sedomit and melach istrokanit. Melach sedomit is thick and retains its shape, so it can be seen even when baked or cooked. Melach istrokanit is softer and combines with the food to the extent that it can no longer be identified. Thus melach Sedomit retains its independent status, while melach istrokanit is considered batel in the food.
Although many define melach Sedomit as sea salt, the Geonim identified it as salt that is mined on Mount Sodom itself, and not salt that is taken from the Dead Sea. Such stone salt does not dissolve easily and is readily seen even in cooked products. Melach istrokanit (which was most likely given that name because of the place where it was produced) was made by means of channeling sea water into canals and extracting the salt by means of evaporation. In the time of the Mishnah melah istrokanit was much softer and dissolved more readily that the stone salt.
As we have discussed on the previous dapim, both a person and his possessions are limited by the rules of techumim (boundaries) on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Therefore, a person cannot walk more than 2000 cubits outside of his city on Shabbat or Yom Tov. By creating an eruv techumim – a meal placed on the perimeter of the 2000 cubit limit – he can extend the area that he is permitted to walk 2000 cubits in that direction (although what he has actually done is shifted the circle in which he is permitted to travel so that its center is no longer in the city, but at one edge of the city limits).
The Mishnah on our daf teaches that a person who has guests come and visit on Yom Tov from the next city (i.e. they created an eruv techumim that allowed them to travel to him; he did not create such an eruv so neither he nor his possession can go to their city), cannot give them food to take back home with them, since the food belongs to him and is therefore limited to areas that he is allowed to go to.
In analyzing this rule, the Gemara relates a story about Rav Hana bar Chanilai, who visited a nearby city – and prepared a proper eruv techumim – prior to the onset of Yom Tov. He received a present of meat before the holiday that he placed in the room where he was staying. When he awoke on the morning of Yom Tov, he was unsure as to whether he could take the meat back to his city, and he turned to Rav Huna with his question. Rav Huna told him that he could take it home if he was the one who placed the food in his room, but if it had been placed there by the hosts then it remained in their possession and it could not be taken.
From this story, the Gemara wants to try to prove a number of issues regarding the rules of techum and eruv on Yom Tov. Its conclusion, however, is that Rav Huna’s ruling did not involve rules of techum and eruv and was unique to Rav Hana bar Chanilai who was such a scholar that he regularly focused on his Torah study and paid little attention to mundane goings on around him. Rav Huna ruled that if he had placed the meat in the room himself, he probably had paid attention to it, so it was fine, but if his hosts had put it there, he did not pay sufficient attention to it, and it could not be used.
Rashi explains that the concern here was for basar she-nitalem min ha-ayin – meat that was not under constant watch. This rule stems from a concern lest the meat be switched with non-kosher meat so the Sages ruled that when such a switch can occur, meat needs to be under constant supervision or else have a symbol attached to it so that it can be recognized as kosher meat. The Me’iri suggests that had he placed the meat in his room he could be certain that it was in the place and position that he had put it, which would have solved the problem. In any case, the Gemara concludes that no rules about techum and eruv can be derived from this story, which was concerned with an entirely different matter.
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.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.