Wednesday, November 28, 2012

David: “I have sinned to God”

The last pages of the fifth perek of Shabbat contain a series of interpretations by Rabbi Shemuel bar Nahamani in the name of Rabbi Yonatan. Each of them explain why an apparent sin recorded in the Bible wasn’t technically a sin.

On Shabbat 51a, he comes to the defense of David:

אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן: כל האומר דוד חטא - אינו אלא טועה, שנאמר +שמואל א' יח+ ויהי דוד לכל דרכיו משכיל וה' עמו וגו', אפשר חטא בא לידו ושכינה עמו? אלא מה אני מקיים +שמואל ב' יב+ מדוע בזית את דבר ה' לעשות הרע - שביקש לעשות ולא עשה.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Letting your animals rest

The fifth and sixth chapters of Shabbat discuss what items may be carried in public on the body of a person or animal, as clothing or as jewelry, and are thus excluded from the prohibition of hotsa'ah.

If you were to ask me how these laws should be organized, I would say that the Mishnah should start by discussing what items may be worn by people, followed by what items may be worn by an animal. But the fifth perek deals with animals, and the sixth perek deals with people. Why is that?

The Yalkut Bi'urim in the Mesivta offers a few answers from the aharonim. I suggest that the Mishnah begins with the more interesting, “haviva leih” topic.

The prohibition of hotsa'ah for animals is unique in its sources and in its application.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In and out and in and out... Continued

After the first four chapters of Massekhet Shabbat dealt with Friday evening, from getting haircuts to keeping food warm, we now have seven straight chapters primarily about hotsa'ah, transferring stuff between private and public domains. I've wondered before why hotsa'ah has such a prominent place in the Talmud.

Chapter 5 discusses hotsa'ah done by an animal. The prohibition of causing an animal to carry has its own aseh, in addition to being included in the lo ta'aseh of rest on Shabbat. I plan to write a post on that, God willing.

But for now, one more source on the nature of hotsa'ah.

Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch discusses the uniqueness of hotsa'ah in his commentary to Exodus 35:1, the beginning of Parashat Vayyakhel.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The 39 melakhot and the Mishkan

On Shabbat 49b, we are told that three early amora'im, Rabbi Yonatan ben Akhinai, Rabbi Yonatan ben Elazar, and Rabbi Hanina bar Hama, were sitting discussing a very particular case of muktzeh that came up in the mishnah. Then, in classic Talmudic fashion, we are told as an aside that those amora'im also discussed the most fundamental question of our massekhet:

הדור יתבי וקמיבעיא להו: הא דתנן אבות מלאכות ארבעים חסר אחת כנגד מי?

אמר להו רבי חנינא בר חמא: כנגד עבודות המשכן.

אמר להו רבי יונתן ברבי אלעזר כך אמר רבי שמעון ברבי יוסי בן לקוניא: כנגד מלאכה מלאכתו ומלאכת שבתורה - ארבעים חסר אחת.

Why are there thirty-nine categories of forbidden work on Shabbat? What do they represent?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Insulating food Friday evening

The fourth perek of Shabbat (47b–51b) discusses hatmanah, insulating hot food on Shabbat. Materials that add their own heat may not be used. Why not?

Rava establishes on Shabbat 34a–b that there are two rabbinic decrees against hatmanah. One decree applies to insulating materials that add heat, which may not even be used from Friday going into Shabbat. The other decree applies to materials that insulate without adding heat, which may be used on Friday but not once Shabbat starts. The fourth perek then defines which materials add heat and which don't.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making a keli unusable on Shabbat

The mishnah on Shabbat 42b states:

אין נותנין כלי תחת הנר לקבל בו את השמן, ואם נתנוה מבעוד יום - מותר. ואין ניאותין ממנו, לפי שאינו מן המוכן.

One may not place a keli under a lamp, on Shabbat, in order to catch the oil that may drip.

Rav Hisda says the principle also applies to a placing a keli under a hen to catch a newly hatched egg:

אמר רב חסדא: אף על פי שאמרו אין נותנין כלי תחת תרנגולת לקבל ביצתה - אבל כופה עליה כלי שלא תשבר.

Rav Yosef explains Rav Hisda on 43a:

רב יוסף אמר: היינו טעמא דרב חסדא - משום דקא מבטל כלי מהיכנו.

By causing a new egg, which is muktsah, to rest on the keli, you are mevattel keli me-heikhano, “nullifying the readiness of the keli.”

Abaye raises a number of cases against Rav Yosef that also involve bittul keli me-heikhano at first glance, including supporting a broken beam in the ceiling with a bench, placing a keli under a leaking roof, and using an overturned basket as a step for baby chicks to enter and exit their coop.

What is this prohibition of bittul keli me-heikhano?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

“A keli sheni cannot cook”

Disclaimer: nothing in this post should be taken as practical. As Rav Eliezer Melamed explains,

התשובה הכללית, שבכלי ראשון הדבר אסור ובכלי שני מעיקר הדין מותר, אולם בפועל רק בכלי שלישי מותר.

In general, even though putting food in a keli sheni is permitted in principle, in practice we often allow only a keli shelishi. This post discusses the principle, not the practice.

Why is a keli sheni different from a keli rishon? Isn't possible to have a keli sheni that is just as hot as a keli rishon and cooks food just as easily?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Making aliyah from Babylonia

Shabbat 41a mentions Rabbi Zeira's disagreement with Rav Yehudah about making aliyah:

רבי זירא הוה קא משתמיט מדרב יהודה, דבעי למיסק לארעא דישראל. דאמר רב יהודה: כל העולה מבבל לארץ ישראל עובר בעשה, שנאמר +ירמיהו כז+ בבלה יובאו ושמה יהיו. אמר: איזיל ואשמע מיניה מילתא, ואיתי ואיסק.

Rav Yehudah believed that “anyone who goes up from Babylonia to Israel transgresses a positive commandment.” But Rabbi Zeira disagreed and made up his mind to make aliyah, and so for some time he avoided Rabbi Yehudah.

This opinion of Rav Yehudah is quoted on Ketubbot 111a, along with a second statement:

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל: כשם שאסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לבבל, כך אסור לצאת מבבל לשאר ארצות.

Rav Yehudah says in Shemuel’s name that, just as you may not leave Israel for Babylonia, you may not leave Babylonia for other countries.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Leaving a pot right on the coals

The third perek of Shabbat starts by discussing a pot left on the stove as Shabbat begins (Shabbat 36b):

משנה. כירה שהסיקוה בקש ובגבבא - נותנים עליה תבשיל. בגפת ובעצים - לא יתן עד שיגרוף, או עד שיתן את האפר. בית שמאי אומרים, חמין אבל לא תבשיל ובית הלל אומרים, חמין ותבשיל. בית שמאי אומרים, נוטלין אבל לא מחזירין ובית הלל אומרים, אף מחזירין.

You may not “place” a pot on a stove fueled by peat/marc/pomace (Soncino/ArtScroll/Steinsaltz) or wood, unless you sweep away the coals (gerifah) or cover them with ash (ketimah). Rashi explains the reason as the general rabbinic prohibition against insulating, hatmanah, with something that adds heat. Rabbeinu Hananel and others disagree, and say that the shehiyyah in this mishnah is a unique decree distinct from hatmanah. To this latter opinion, hatmanah applies to a pot resting directly on top of the coals, whereas shehiyyah applies to a pot with legs so it stands above the coals.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The safek of bein ha-shemashot

Shabbat 34–35 discusses the laws of bein ha-shemashot, the period of twilight between sunset and full darkness. This time has a status of safek, uncertainty, when it comes to laws that depend on the time being day or night. There was no way I was going to skip a sugya on uncertainty.

A berayta on 34b states:

תנו רבנן: בין השמשות ספק מן היום ומן הלילה, ספק כולו מן היום, ספק כולו מן הלילה - מטילין אותו לחומר שני ימים.

Bein ha-shemashot is a three-sided safek: it might be fully day, it might be fully night, and it might be some combination of the two. In any question of halakhah we treat it stringently, as either one, or the other, or both of the days that it bridges.

There are two main shittot on understanding the side of the safek that bein ha-shemashot could be both days. Rabbeinu Tam understands the safek to be that any moment between sunset and nightfall could be the dividing line for when the previous day ends and the new day begins. The Ritva (as understood by some aharonim based on a comment on Yoma 47b) understands the safek to be that the entire period of bein ha-shemashot might be ruled as both days intertwined, just as an adroginus might be ruled both male and female.

In this post I discuss Rashi's shittah on how this safek works. It's a shittah whose meaning is, well...uncertain.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Adjusting a timer on Shabbat

If you're looking for the laws of a timer on Shabbat, click right on through to the article by Rabbi Michael Broyde. This post discusses a related hava amina that caught my interest while learning today's daf.

The Mishnah on Shabbat 29b quotes a dispute about setting up a vessel to drip oil into your lamp:

לֹא יִקֹּב אָדָם שְׁפוֹפֶרֶת שֶׁל בֵּיצָה וִימַלְאֶנָּה שֶׁמֶן וְיִתְּנֶנָּה עַל פִּי הַנֵּר בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁתְּהֵא מְנַטֶפֶת, אֲפִלּוּ הִיא שֶׁל חֶרֶס. וְרַבִּי יְהוּדָה מַתִּיר. אֲבָל אִם חִבְּרָהּ הַיּוֹצֵר מִתְּחִלָּה, מֻתָּר, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא כֶלִי אֶחָד.

The explanation of most commentators is that you may come to take the oil from the vessel, and thus violate the prohibition of extinguishing, mekhabbeh. Rashi here:

שתהא מנטפת — ויתקיים הנר, שתהא השמן מטפטף כל שעה לתוך הנר, וטעמא משום גזרה, שמא יסתפק הימנו, וכיון שהקצהו לנר - חייב משום מכבה, ואפילו אותה שפופרת של חרס דמאיסא ליה גזרינן.