Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Are tehumin de-orayta?

The third through fifth chapters of Massekhet Eruvin discuss the laws of eruvei tehumin, "merging of boundaries." On Shabbat you may not leave your tehum, or boundary, defined by your location at the onset of Shabbat or by a designated eruv. You get your full domain, such as your city, plus two thousand amot beyond your domain.

Is the prohibition of leaving your tehum biblical or rabbinic?

The Mishnah in Sotah on 27b presents a mahloket tanna'im:

בו ביום דרש ר' עקיבא: +במדבר לה+ ומדותם מחוץ לעיר את פאת קדמה אלפים באמה וגו', ומקרא אחר אמר: +במדבר לה+ מקיר העיר וחוצה אלף אמה סביב, אי אפשר לומר אלף אמה שכבר נאמר אלפים אמה, ואי אפשר לומר אלפים אמה שכבר נאמר אלף אמה, הא כיצד? אלף אמה מגרש, ואלפים אמה תחום השבת; ר' אליעזר בנו של ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר: אלף אמה מגרש, ואלפים אמה שדות וכרמים.

Rabbi Akiva gives Numbers 35:5 as a biblical source for a tehum Shabbat of two thousand amot. It happens to be a pasuk dear to ba'alei keri'ah for its karnei parah. Thanks to this mishnah, the concept of biblical tehumin is referred to throughout the Bavli as tehumin aliba de-Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Yosei ha-Galili reads the verse differently, and the Gemara on 30b explains the dispute as based on whether tehumin are de-orayta or de-rabbanan.

There other tanna'im quoted in the Bavli who say that tehumin are de-orayta, such as Rabbi Hiyya on Eruvin 17b and Rabbi Meir on Eruvin 35b.

How widespread is this view in the Gemara? We have a mahloket rishonim.