Hazak, Hazak, V’nitkhazek!

I now realize that I put an unnecessary and artificial constraint upon myself when I ruled out the possibility of posting the fruits of current study until I caught up in transcribing my notes from previous dapim. Moving forward I will not let the stringency of comprehensiveness interfere with the mitzvah of interacting with you in text study.

This obstacle that I created for myself is similar to the challenge that the Rabbis wrestle with in Tractate Eruvin, from which the last daf is today’s daf yomi reading. The rules regulating eruvs are mostly rabbinically derived from a scriptural allusion to the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. A major recurrent concern is the possibility that these rabbinic prohibitions will delay or prevent the performance of a mitzvah of Biblical origins.

Imagine that the rule that all notes must be posted in sequence is a rabbinic decree and the commandment to engage communally in text study is a scriptural decree. This is not so hard to imagine. Likewise, when studying the collage of texts that are pasted together in any Talmudic tractate, it is not hard to imagine that the rabbis discarded the idol of systematic transcription many, many generations ago. So, with great relief at finding the key to unlock the handcuffs I placed on myself, I turn now to the text, not where this account left off, but as I read today . . .

Daf 324 (Eruvin 105a-105b)

Are Kohanim permitted to remove impurities from the Temple on Shabbes? (Answer: Up to a point– a point that is intuited but not defined. For example, on 104, the gemara pondered the question of whether it is better to remove a contaminating bug immediately or to leave it in its place, covered, to minimize the risk of contaminating a larger area.)

Rav Kahane taught that even a “blemished” kohen can enter the Temple to effect repairs (but not to perform the rituals). The tractate ends with an explication of R’Shimon’s teaching that, on Shabbes, one may only tie a broken harp string with a bow, lest he forget he has tied a knot and thus ties it “permanently.”

Thus, a tractate that has wrestled with the challenges of performing rabbinically forbidden acts as a means toward the necessary end of fulfilling a Biblical obligation comes full circle to reveal that even leniencies (e.g., permission to tie the string of an instrument on Shabbes) must be observed with some stringency, weighing short-term advantage against long-term risks.

Although the risks are inadvertent, to these rabbis they are very real: the risks of performing an ostensibly holy act with the advantage of a compromised principle is that its benefit falls outside of the realm of holiness. Such an inadvertent sin by a pious person will be followed by a blessing uttered by the one who acted and benefited. If there is a God, would the Holy One be pleased or angry to have the Holy name invoked in associated with an unholy act, even if it is performed with a holy intention and a holy goal in mind?

This entry was posted in Daf Yomi, Hevruta study, Talmud and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hazak, Hazak, V’nitkhazek!

  1. elenizl says:

    Your distinction between biblical and rabbinic obligations is clear and suggests to me the question about whether “ends” justify “means”. If the ‘end’ is to serve HaShem does it matter how we get there. When posed this way it seems the “ends” are the “means” in which case there is no distinction…..and therefore no distinction between biblical and rabbinic obligations.

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