Subterfuges and Loopholes

Daf 180-186 (Shabbat 117a-123b)

Summary

Daf 180 (Shabbat 117a-117b)

The gemara wonders where it is permissible to carry scrolls once they have been rescued.

Mishnah. Here are rules for rescuing other material from a fire on Shabbes (e.g., food): “One may save enough food for three meals . . .”

Gemara. The gemara questions why only three meals may be saved. Rava says, “If you permit him to save more, he may come to extinguish the fire.” The gemara questions whether one may resort to a subterfuge to avoid an additional loss.”

Daf 181 (Shabbat 118a-118b)

The gemara inquires how to assess whether a poor person qualifies for charity, and what constitutes charity (i.e., the minimum food and shelter that one must provide for another). It goes on to catalog the rewards available to those who observe the Sabbath. Several sayings of R’Yose are presented.

Daf 182 (Shabbat 119a-119b)

The gemara recounts the different ways the Sages made Shabbes special. “Caesar once said to R’Yehoshua ben Chananya, ‘Why is it that the food cooked for the Sabbath has such a penetrating aroma?’ Reb Yehoshua answered him, ‘We have this one spice, it is called Sabbath, which we throw into the Sabbath food, and its aroma is very penetrating.'” However, Caesar cannot taste it– only those who observe Shabbes can taste it.

The gemara testifies to the importance of saying “Amen.” Several explanations for why Jerusalem was destroyed are put forth.

Daf 183 (Shabbat 120a-120b)

Mishnah. Here is a list of additional items that may be rescued from a fire on Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara sees contradictions between this mishnah and the previous one and attempts to resolve them.

Mishnah. Here are the limits of what may be done to contain a fire on Shabbes.

Gemara. There is a dispute regarding acts that may lead indirectly to extinguishing a fire. R’Yose compares this to the situation of one who has the name of God written on his skin: such a one is prohibited from rubbing it or standing in filth but may immerse in a mikvah where it will dissolve (“causing something forbidden to happen” but not through his direct actions).

Daf 184 (Shabbat 121a-121b)

Mishnah. We may not ask a gentile to extinguish a fire on Shabbes  but neither must one tell him not to do it “because his resting is not [our] responsibility.” We may not allow a Jewish minor to extinguish the fire because his resting is our responsibility.

Gemara. Can one allow himself to be overheard by a gentile saying “Anyone who extinguishes the fire will not lose”?

Mishnah. Here are rules for inverting a bowl on Shabbes (e.g., to prevent a flame from igniting a beam).

Gemara. The rabbis debate whether one is permitted to invert a bowl over a child’s feces, and when it is permitted to kill a lethal creature on Shabbes.

Daf 185 (Shabbat 122a-122b)

Mishnah. Here are rules regarding whether one can benefit from a forbidden act performed by a gentile on Shabbes. (For example, “If a gentile lit a lamp for himself, a Jew may use its light; but if the gentile lit the lamp for a Jew, one may not use it.”)

Gemara. The gemara suggests that the lenient ruling in the mishnah only applies if the gentile does not know the Jew.

Perek 17. Mishnah. Here are rules regarding moving utensils that have doors, as well as other utensils that may be moved only for a specific purpose.

Gemara. The gemara wonders if the door of a utensil may be detached or re-attached on Shabbes. Then, it disputes whether “something that is ordinarily used for work . . . may . . . be taken . . .  for the sake of use in a permissible capacity.”

Daf 186 (Shabbat 123a-123b)

Is “repairing a human being . . . similar to repairing a utensil”?

Mishnah. Here is a rule for the use of a cane for “turning olives.”

Gemara. The gemara notes that a knot in the cane may collect oil and therefore make the cane susceptible to contamination.

Mishnah. R’Yose says that only two utensils may never be moved on Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara lists other utensils that may never be moved, siting a baraisa that bemoaned the slippery slope of “permitting.”

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2 Responses to Subterfuges and Loopholes

  1. elenizl says:

    I continue to wonder why we cannot extinguish a fire on Shabbat. Surely it is a ‘pikuach nefesh’ – a saving of a life. It seems cruel and unnecessary to be expected to watch as one’s home goes up in flames. Why do you think the rabbis assert this?

    • neillitt says:

      I don’t know how this sugya is operationalized in the 21st century, but in Talmudic times, I imagine that one was usually faced with the hard choice of attempting to extinguish or attempting to salvage, neither of which was likely to be more than marginally successful in the absence of a ready supply of water and flame-retardant building materials. Even so, the example is extreme (which is not unusual– the Talmud gravitates to extreme examples) and the prohibition is not absolute. Various subterfuges and loopholes are indicated that minimize the loss. For example, although we may not ask a gentile to extinguish a fire on Shabbes neither must one tell him not to do it “because his resting is not [our] responsibility.” Moreover, one can allow himself to be overheard by a gentile saying “Anyone who extinguishes the fire will not lose.” And, of course, one is permitted to rescue food and one’s library, at least those volumes that the rabbis judge to be worth saving. All things considered, much may be salvaged in this manner that might otherwise perish from the damage accrued by dousing it with water. More timeless, I think, are the philosophical implications of the extended discussion of how to determine if a book is worth saving.

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