Daf 131-146 (Shabbas 68a-83b)
My previous comment began with a reflection on rabbinic prohibitions that are more stringent than the Torah’s restrictions. In the subsequent dapim, there are several examples of rabbinic prohibitions that are interpreted more leniently. Unlike the former restrictions, which were enforced strictly to avoid creating a situation that might be misinterpreted by a spectator, these are more loosely enforced out of a recognition that to do otherwise would threaten the health of a person.
There is no apparent deliberate juxtaposition of one class of prohibitions against the other. The Talmud is not an explicitly linear presentation of a system. Philosophical questions, folklore, rules of hygiene, and theological principles are expounded, questioned, resolved, and/or discarded in a parade of free associations. This is the “sea of Talmud.”
In the midst of seeming digressions into the magical properties of bodily fluids and the presentation of extreme (and absurd) cases, grave questions are subject to playful resolution. Herein are two that are especially noteworthy:
- An extended meditation on inadvertent transgressions and the range of activities that might be classified as a single “lapse of awareness.”
- A frank acknowledgement of the physical limits of human beings.
In the later dapim, successive mishnayot begin with the formula “From where do we know . . .?” Here we are permitted into the rabbinic garage to peer under the hood and see firsthand the practice of rabbinic mechanics as the rabbis transform an internal-combustion Torah into a hybrid.
Parts are concealed, whether deliberately by the redactors, or perhaps subsequently censored. For example, the discussion of whether an idol contaminates one who carries it references in passing the case of idols that are smaller than an olive. The commentary refers to Zevuv, an idol of the Philstines. Zevuv is the Hebrew word for fly (the insect), which is subsequently referenced in Judges as Baal Bris— “idol of the covenant.” The gemara says, “Upon thinking of it, he would take it from his purse . . . and kiss it.” The phrase idol of the covenant is explained this way and that– some say the idol was not in the likeness of a fly but made to resemble a miniature penis; some say that the covenant was a “covenant of love.” But perhaps the reference is to the covenant and to one who came to be an idol to a cult that eventually eclipsed Judaism in global acceptance– a Church (whose founder’s birth is celebrated today) that had the power to burn our texts when the text dared to be more explicit.
Daf 131 (Shabbas 68a-68b)
Gemara. The gemara seeks to understand why the mishnah calls the rule regarding offerings a major rule. It compares this rule to other rules that are called major. Then it begins to parse the mishnah itself.
Who is “one who forgets the essence of the Sabbath”? According to Rav and Shmuel, it is “a child who was captured and raised among gentiles, or a convert who converted and lives among gentiles.” (ArtScroll: “It is the style of the Mishnah to teach a law in the case of its greatest novelty and to allow the reader to conclude from that ruling that the law certainly holds true in more obvious situations.”) The gemara concedes that one who forgot the essence in fact includes “one who once recognized the essence of the Sabbath and eventually forgot it.” R’Yochanan and R’Shimon reject the suggestion that Rav and Shmuel’s case is also included; they say that in that case there is no liability. The rabbis dispute whether or not one raised in ignorance has any liability. An inadvertent violation requires knowledge of the law. Ignorance of the law exempts. The inadvertence refers to confusion as to the day of the week, not the nature of the law.
Daf 132 (Shabbas 69a-69b)
The gemara notes that the offerings differ depending on whether a transgression is deliberate or inadvertent and looks for more examples of inadvertence. Is one who knows he is committing a violation but unaware of the penalty an “inadveretent sinner”? Some argue he must be unaware of both the sin he is committing and the penalty. Some argue he must be unaware of both the sin he is committing and that it is the Sabbath. Some argue he must be unaware that he is committing a sin even though he is aware it is Shabbes. Some argue he must be aware he is committing a transgression but unaware of the penalty. The gemara seeks to determine if swearing falsely is the only prohibition that carries the same penalty whether done deliberately or inadvertently.
Rav Huna raises the situation of a person in the desert who does not know what day it is: “he counts six days from the day he realizes his unawareness and then observes one day.” Chiya bar Rav says he observes first and then counts six days.
Daf 133 (Shabbas 70a-70b)
The gemara continues to explore the dimensions of inadvertence. Shmuel and R’Nassan argue over whether kindling is one of the deeds forbidden on Shabbes that requires the death penalty.
Daf 134 (Shabbas 71a-71b)
From “inadvertence,” the focus shifts to “lack of awareness” for successive acts, some of which may include inadvertence regarding Shabbes and some of which may include inadvertence regarding the action. According to Rashi, “Only awareness of a punishable transgression separates two violations into two lapses of awareness.” If two sins are committed in the same lapse of awareness but only one is realized when atonement is offered, Reish Lakish would hold the sinner liable to offer a second atonement when the second sin is “discovered.” R’Yochanan disputes this, arguing that the first atonement affords “total” forgiveness.
Daf 135 (Shabbas 72a-72b)
“If one cohabits inadvertently five times with a betrothed slave woman, he is liable to only one asham even if the violations were committed during different lapses of awareness.” Meiri: “If he did so with five different women he would certainly be liable to a separate asham for each infraction under all circumstances.” This is by no means generally accepted.
The next case compares the liability for lifting something one believed was detached from the ground versus cutting something that one believed was detached; in each case, it was in fact attached to the ground. [The gemara does not compare the status of attachment to the ground and the “attachment” of the betrothed.]
Daf 136 (Shabbas 73a-73b)
The gemara examines prohibited acts performed unintentionally, including those where the act might have been permitted under different circumstances– e.g., attempting to throw an object a permitted distance but overshooting the target.
Mishnah. Here is a general summary of the kinds of labor prohibited on Shabbes— eleven related to baking bread, thirteen related to clothing, seven related to preparing animal skins, two related to writing, and six related to construction.
Gemara. The gemara wonders why the mishnah needed to specify the number of prohibited labors and then questions each in turn, as well as questioning the order in which they are presented and how they are grouped. Perhaps only one atonement is required for inadvertent violations within the same category? Perhaps two atonements are required for a single act that produces more than one desired outcome?
Daf 137 (Shabbas 74a-74b)
Why wasn’t pounding included as one of the forbidden activities related to baking bread? Answer: “A poor person eats his bread without first pounding the wheat.” The gemara seeks to understand why certain activities are included and others are not (assuming throughout the discussion that the total number of activities must total exactly thirty-nine).
Daf 138 (Shabbas 75a-75b)
In a discussion of the thirteen deeds related to clothing, Rav Zutra bar Tovinah mentions two unrelated rulings he learned from Rav: “One who learns one thing from a heretic is liable to death” and one should not learn Torah from one who is knowledgeable in astronomy but does not apply this knowledge to calculate the seasons.
Mishnah. A rule for storing and carrying: the quantity determines liability.
Gemara. The gemara asks, “What is an example of something not fit to store?” Rav Pappa suggests the answer is menstrual blood. Mar Ukva replies, “But menstrual blood is sometimes stored for a cat to eat.” Rav Pappa replies, “Since a person becomes weak if his blood is fed to a cat, menstrual blood is not stored for that purpose.”
Daf 139 (Shabbas 76a-76b)
Mishnah. The rules for carrying out animal feed on Shabbes.
Gemara. The rabbis disagree on the question of whether eating out of necessity constitutes eating.
Mishnah. “One who carries out foodstuffs the equivalent of a dried fig is liable.” Stems, pits, and shells do not count except in the case of lentils.
Gemara. The gemara disputes the mishnah.
Perek 8. Mishnah. The rules for carrying out liquids.
Gemara. The vague definitions of measurement cited in the mishnah are refined.
Daf 140 (Shabbas 77a-77b)
The mishnah says one is liable for carrying enough wine to mix a cup. The gemara suggests the mishnah is referring to a “nice” cup, which it defines as the cup used when reciting the blessing after meals. There is a dispute whether one part of wine is mixed with two or three parts of water.
The measurements for other liquids, including milk and honey, are questioned. Some are left undecided.The discussion digresses to identify several seemingly useless creations that have medicinal properties. This leads to a series of explanations of several natural phenomena. (For example, “What is the reason that goats always walk at the front of the flock and the sheep follow after them? R’Yehuda replied . . . This order follows the order established by the creation of the world, where first there was dark, and only afterwards was there light. Similarly, the generally dark goats walk before the light-colored sheep.”
Daf 141 (Shabbas 78a-78b)
When liquids have both a common and an uncommon use, what is the metric for determining the maximum amount it is permissible to carry out on Shabbes?
Mishnah. The maximum amounts of rope, reed grass, paper and other materials that it is permissible to carry out on Shabbes.
Gemara. The gemara disputes the mishnah and introduces new rules from a baraisa that set limits for other substances, most importantly, a loan document.
Daf 142 (Shabbas 79a-79b)
Other parchment may not be taken out on Shabbes if it is large enough to write “the smallest passage of tefillin” or a text of the mezuzah. The rabbis dispute which is the proper parchment for tefillin and mezuzot.
Daf 143 (Shabbas 80a-80b)
One cannot take out two letters worth of ink whether dried, in a quill, or in an inkwell, but can one take out one letter’s worth from each of two sources?
Other liquids are catalogued along with the maximum quantity that may be carried out. We learn that lime is used on young girls to mask premature growth of hair and that it makes the skin radiant. Rav Bibi applied lime to every limb of his daughter, but only one limb at a time, since it raises the body temperature. A gentile neighbor of Rav Bibi observed this and covered all his daughters limbs at once and she died. The gentile cried that Rav Bibi had murdered his daughter. Rav Nachman heard of this and declared, “Rav Bibi, who drinks beer in his household, his daughter requires smearing with lime; but we, who do not drink beer in our households, our daughters do not require smearing with lime.”
Mishnah. More minimum measures.
Gemara. The gemara discusses the proper way to create plaster using lime.
Daf 144 (Shabbas 81a-81b)
Mishnah. Minimum amounts to be liable for carrying bone and glass on Shabbes.
Gemara. Zonin asks, “My teachers! Stones which are used for wiping one’s self after use of the bathroom, what is their measurement?” (Answer: a handful.) The answer is disputed. Rafram bar Pappa observes, “Just as there is a dispute here . . . so too is there a similar dispute concerning the minimum size of an estrog.” A baraisa lists ten practices that cause hemorrhoids. There is more flexibility regarding carrying stones than most other objects because “it is impossible to predict where one will relieve himself.” Pottery shards are forbidden for wiping because it leaves one susceptible to witchcraft.
Daf 145 (Shabbas 82a-82b)
Rav Huna’s son complains to his father that whenever he goes to study with Rav Chisda all he is taught is related to the proper manner of defecation. Rav Huna replies to his son, “He is dealing with issues that impact the very lives of people, and you say he speaks of mundane matters!? If he discusses matters of such importance, certainly you should go to him and study!”
The gemara discusses the consequences of putting off relieving oneself. For example, a baraisa is cited: “One who needed to relieve himself and ate without doing so is analogous to an oven that was heated over its old ashes; and this is the beginning of perspirational odor.”
Mishnah. The rule for carrying earthenware on Shabbes.
Gemara. Is R’Yose or R’Meir permitting the larger shard?
Perek 9. Mishnah. “From where do we know that an idol will contaminate one who carries it . . . ?”
Gemara. The gemara seeks to understand the limits of the mishnah.
Daf 146 (Shabbas 83a-83b)
Does carrying some parts of a dismantled idol contaminate the one who carries it? “In a case where a layman is able to reassemble the idol, you need not inquire. For in this case it is as if the idol is intact.” Does carrying an idol that is smaller than an olive contaminate the one who carries it?
Mishnah. “From where do we know that a ship is not susceptible to contamination . . . ?”
Gemara. Is a ship like the sea itself?