Hidden Scrolls

Daf 69 (Shabbas 6a-6b)

Summary. The gemara discusses the four domains that are relevant to the Sabbath, as well as listing the areas where carrying is rabbinically prohibited. The rabbis dispute whether an area with only two walls is a private domain.

Rav found a scroll that was hidden that declared that if one transgressed “all the labors forbidden on Shabbes” in “one lapse of awareness,” one is only liable for a single offering. This is contrary to the common understanding. The gemara suggests that the text is misunderstood and pushes a different interpretation.

Comment

According to Rashi, the “hidden scroll” is a way of preserving a “novel opinion,” a scholar’s personal note lest he forget. At a time when it was forbidden to distribute written accounts of the oral law, it was nevertheless a common practice for some scholars to keep their own notes. The problem with such notes, which were solely for the personal use of the scholar, is that they were often somewhat cryptic. Here, the note that Rav discovered said, “The primary labors are forty minus one, and one is liable only once.” Although it would seem that the penalty for transgressing all the labors is but one offering, this is certainly not a correct understanding. The rabbis guess that the critical phrase “one is liable only once” actually is meant to communicate that for one of the labors, there is only the one liability of an offering; not the more serious penalty of stoning that would apply to the other labors in the case of a verifiable deliberate transgression. However, they do not know which labor is exempt from stoning.

Perhaps the awareness that they don’t know will justify their leniency in never stoning anyone who descrates the Shabbes. Perhaps it is in keeping with the playful nature I have been reading into this text that the rabbis would build such a fence around their own stringency!

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One Response to Hidden Scrolls

  1. elenizl says:

    I like this idea of Hidden Scrolls. It intrigues me …. perhaps I have Hidden Scrolls … scraps of paper with notes to remind me of various things not necessarily meant to be seen by others. But perhaps these notes might help so why hold them so close to the vest?

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