Wanted Dead or Alive

Question #1: Getting Rid of those Bugs!

“May I trap or kill mosquitoes, bees, or wasps on Shabbos?”

Question #2: Hanging from the Lowest Tree

“I forgot to hang the flypaper before Shabbos. May I do it on Shabbos?”

Question #3: A Charming Shabbos

“May a snake charmer work on Shabbos?”

Answer: Catching or dispatching

We have all been in the following uncomfortable situation: Sometime during Shabbos, a mosquito appears in our vicinity seeking to earn its living. Although we realize that this creature requires its sustenance, we are not eager that we, our children or our guests should become mosquito fodder, even just as a minor donor. Are we permitted to trap or kill the mosquito?

Trapping living things, tzad, was an action necessary for acquiring some of the materials used to build the Mishkan, and is one of the 39 melachos, categories of prohibited activity on Shabbos (Mishnah Shabbos 73a and Rashi ad loc.). Killing living things also violates the melachos of Shabbos, a topic that we discussed last week. Here, we discuss many pertinent principles of Shabbos and some details of the melachah of tzad.

Shabbos nomenclature

When discussing what one may or may not do on Shabbos, the Mishnah and Gemara use three terms: (1) chayov, punishable, when a particular act constitutes melachah, meaning that it desecrates Shabbos by violating a Torah law; (2) patur, exempt, meaning it does not violate a Torah law, and (3) mutar, permitted, when an act may be performed on Shabbos. We will discuss the middle term, patur, which states that a particular forbidden act does not violate Torah law. This term usually indicates that the act is prohibited due to rabbinic sanction, but  sometimes the Sages permitted such acts. But first we will explain what makes performing a forbidden activity patur?

Meleches machsheves

The Gemara (Chagigah 10b; Bava Kama 26b; Kerisus 19b) teaches that the Torah prohibited only something that can be categorized as meleches machsheves, which can perhaps be translated as premeditated melachah. An obvious example of meleches machsheves would be trapping an animal to obtain its hide or meat. Similarly, someone who digs a hole to plant the base of a tree violates the meleches machsheves of choreish, plowing, and one who picks a fruit performs a meleches machsheves of kotzeir, harvesting.

Meleches machsheves is often explained by what it is not. Following that approach, I will provide three categories of labor that are exempt from being defined as desecrating Shabbos min haTorah, because they do not qualify as meleches machsheves, at least according to some opinions.

Mekalkeil

In general, an act constitutes meleches machsheves only when its direct result is beneficial. This means that an action that is inherently destructive does not violate Shabbos min haTorah, even when one needs the result. For example, digging a hole in the ground when one needs the earth but not the hole is defined as a destructive activity and prohibited only miderabbanan. The dug hole itself is a negative development, rendering the burrowing to be mekalkeil, not prohibited min haTorah, but only because of rabbinic injunction. However, digging a hole to plant or to create a posthole results in a positive benefit and is indeed prohibited min haTorah, since one wants the hole in the ground.

Bemino nitzad

Here is a second example of meleches machsheves that is particular to the melachah that we are discussing, tzad. The tanna’im (Shabbos 107b) dispute whether it is prohibited min haTorah to ensnare a creature that mankind does not typically use, such as a scorpion or a flea, which is called ein bemino nitzad, literally, a species that is not trapped. The halachic conclusion follows the lenient opinion, ruling that tzad applies only to a species that is bemino nitzad, commonly trapped, so that mankind can benefit from it. For example, a species that is eaten, from whose body a medicine is extracted, or whose hide is used as leather qualifies as bemino nitzad. The halachic authorities discuss whether trapping an animal for scientific research or so that one can have it as a pet makes the animal bemino nitzad (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 10:21; Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 50:4 at end).

However, a species that is caught only because it is an annoyance has the status of ein bemino nitzad.

Why is this true? The purpose of trapping is to harness a living creature so that mankind can use it. Thus, tzad is a type of acquisition (see Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 189:7; Biur Halachah, 316:2 s.v. Oh Choleh). However, trapping a creature that mankind does not generally use is not acquiring these creatures, but distancing them from potential victims. Therefore, most opinions conclude that trapping a species that is ein bemino nitzad does not violate the melachah of tzad, and is prohibited only because of rabbinic injunction. Thus, since flies are ein bemino nitzad, catching them would not violate a Torah prohibition. Hanging flypaper on Shabbos would still involve a rabbinic prohibition and it is similarly prohibited to set up a mousetrap on Shabbos (Magen Avraham 316:9; see Piskei Tosafos, Shabbos 17b #62).

By the way, many authorities consider mice to be bemino nitzad, since there are places in the world where their hide is used (Chayei Odom 30:7). There is also a dispute whether a non-kosher species harvested only as food is considered bemino nitzad (Ritva, Shabbos 106b; Nimla Tal, Meleches Tzad #37).

Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah

Many authorities rule that another category of activity — Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah, literally, an act not needed for its purpose — is not prohibited min haTorah because it is not considered meleches machsheves. In fact, there is a dispute among tanna’im whether a Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah is prohibited min haTorah or only miderabbanan. Whereas Rabbi Yehudah contends that Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah is prohibited min haTorah, according to Rabbi Shimon, these acts are prohibited only by virtue of rabbinic injunction.

What is a Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah? Among the rishonim, we find differing opinions as to exactly how to define this term, and there are many instances where a dispute in halachah results. Since this complicated question is a bit tangential to our topic, I am going to present only one approach. According to Tosafos (Shabbos 94a s.v. Rabbi Shimon) and the Rivash (Shu”t Harivash #394), Rabbi Shimon contends that the 39 melachos are prohibited min haTorah only when performed for a goal or purpose similar to the reason why this melachah was done when constructing the Mishkan. However, performing a melachah to accomplish a purpose other than that for which this melachah was performed in the Mishkan qualifies as a Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah. This means that it is prohibited only miderabbanan, according to Rabbi Shimon and those who rule like him.

Here is an example: Removing an item that has a bad odor from a reshus hayachid, an enclosed area, into a reshus harabim, an open area meant for public use, is a classic case of Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah. Although moving something from a reshus hayachid into a reshus harabim constitutes the melachah of carrying, moving the foul-smelling item from a house to a reshus harabim does not constitute a melachah min haTorah, according to Rabbi Shimon, because the purpose of the carrying when building the Mishkan was to relocate the item to a new place. However, when removing a foul-smelling item, there is no significance attached to the place to which the item is moved; one’s goal is only to distance it from its current location. The public area does not constitute the goal of one’s act; rather, it is merely a convenient place to deposit unwanted material. For this reason, Rabbi Shimon contends that this act was not prohibited by the Torah, but only by the Sages. On the other hand, Rabbi Yehudah considers Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah as conforming to the definition of meleches machsheves and prohibited min haTorah.

Although most rishonim conclude that the halachah follows Rabbi Shimon that Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah is prohibited only because of rabbinic injunction, the Rambam and others rule, according to Rabbi Yehudah, that Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah is prohibited min haTorah.

When exempt is permitted

There is a passage of Gemara that reflects both on our opening question and on a different aspect of the melachah of tzad. “Shemuel said: Whenever the Mishnah states that something is patur when performed on Shabbos, the activity is prohibited [because of a rabbinic injunction], with the exception of the following three instances, when patur means that the activity is permitted. The first case discusses catching a deer, the second is catching a snake and the third is lancing a boil” (Shabbos 3a; 107a, as explained by Tosafos, Shabbos 3a s.v. Bar). Shemuel proves from Mishnayos that, in these three instances, the acts are permitted (Shabbos 107a). The first two of these cases educate us to understand what constitutes the melachah of trapping. (The case of lancing a boil involves a different topic that we will leave for a different article.)

What are the first two cases presented by Shemuel? The first situation is when a deer entered a building, and someone sat in the doorway of the building, thereby preventing the deer’s escape. When that person sat down, he trapped the deer and therefore performed the melachah of tzad. This is true, even if he was not involved in coaxing the deer into the building. The Mishnah (Shabbos 106b) then states that if a second person sits alongside the first in a way that the deer’s escape is still blocked, even when the first person gets up, the second person has not desecrated Shabbos. This is because the second person did not trap the deer but merely guaranteed that a captured animal remains in captivity. Although the Mishnah says that the second person is patur, Shemuel explains that one may lechatchilah sit down alongside the first person, even if one’s intention is to keep the deer trapped when the first person gets up. This explains a different aspect of tzad — the melachah is making the animal available for human use, but once it is already trapped, there is no further violation in keeping it under human control.

The second case is based on two different mishnayos. One Mishnah (Shabbos 107a) permits catching a scorpion, so that it doesn’t bite, and another states that catching a snake to prevent it from biting does not violate Shabbos min haTorah, whereas catching it for medicinal uses does (Eduyos 2:5). Tosafos proves that both Mishnayos that permit tzad to protect someone are discussing creatures whose bite is painful, but not life-threatening, pikuach nefesh (Tosafos, Shabbos 3a s.v. Bar). Were the Mishnah discussing a creature whose bite is life-threatening, it would be obvious that one may kill it, because of the general rule that actions necessary to protect life supersede Shabbos and almost all other mitzvos.

Shemuel ruled that although catching non-dangerous creatures is ordinarily prohibited on Shabbos, since this involves only a rabbinic injunction the Sages permitted it under extenuating circumstances.

Why is the act of trapping non-dangerous creatures considered only a rabbinic injunction? We have already presented two possible reasons. The first is because of the principle of Melachah she’einah tzerichah legufah, since one has no interest in capturing a snake or a scorpion (Tosafos op. cit.). The second reason is that one is not catching these species to make them available for human use, which is an essential component of the melachah of tzad (Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 189:7; Biur Halachah, 316:2 s.v. Oh Choleh).

Mosquitoes versus snakes

Although we have discovered that one may catch snakes and scorpions that are not life-threatening, this does not tell us whether one may trap mosquitoes, bees or wasps. Although the sting or bite of these species is indeed painful, it is not usually as painful as a snake or scorpion bite. Thus, it might be that Chazal did not permit catching mosquitoes, bees or wasps.

We can presumably derive the answer from the following passage of Gemara:

“Someone who trapped a flea on Shabbos, Rabbi Eliezer rules him liable for desecrating Shabbos min haTorah, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua rules that his desecration of Shabbos was only of a rabbinic ordinance” (Shabbos 107b). The Gemara explains that this dispute is dependent on an issue that we discussed earlier. Does one desecrate Shabbos min haTorah if he traps a species that is not usually trapped? Rabbi Eliezer rules that he does, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua rules that he does not. Thus, it appears from this Gemara that although Shemuel proved that it is permitted to trap a scorpion, even of the non-deadly variety, one cannot trap a flea, which is considered only as causing discomfort.

Three types of varmints

We can, therefore, divide the different types of unpleasant biters and stingers into three categories:

1. Those that are potentially life-threatening to people. In this instance, if there is even the slightest possibility of danger, one may kill or catch them on Shabbos.

2. Those whose bite will be very painful, but there is no life-threatening danger. These may be trapped on Shabbos, provided that one’s intent is only to save people from harm (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 10:25). However, it is forbidden to trap if one intends to use the insect, reptile or arachnid. (Modern biology categorizes spiders and scorpions as arachnids, because they have eight legs, are carnivorous and are wingless. If we want to categorize insects and arachnids together, we should use the word arthropods, but that still excludes snakes and other reptiles. So, for most of this article, I have simply used the word creatures. My apologies to the scientists who are reading this.)

3. Those whose bite will be unpleasant, but not highly painful. In this instance, there is a dispute among the rishonim. Tosafos and the Rosh quote from an earlier baal Tosafos named Rav Poras that, if one sees that an insect may bite him, he is permitted to remove the insect. When the insect is not so close to him, he may brush the insect off, but he may not trap it.

Not all authorities accepted Rav Poras’ approach. The Mordechai (#402) quotes Rav Yehudah Gaon that he noticed that the “elder rabbis” did not trap fleas, even when they were on their skin. The Beis Yosef, however, contends that even Rav Yehudah Gaon accepts the ruling of Rav Poras, but that he himself practiced this as a personal chumrah, not as the required halachah that he would rule for others. There are other rishonim, however, who certainly disagree with Rav Poras and prohibit trapping mosquitoes, even when they are on your skin, since they are only a discomfort (Meiri, Shabbos 107b).

Consensus

The consensus of halachic authorities follows Rav Poras, although there is a dispute among them whether it is permitted to catch the insect only when it is actually biting (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 316:9; Bach) or whether one may remove the insects even when they are in close proximity (Taz 316:8; Magen Avraham 316:18; Elyah Rabbah). The Mishnah Berurah (316:37) concludes that when one can brush off the insect, he should not rely on the heter of trapping it, but he implies that one may trap the insect if brushing it off will not suffice.

Answers

At this point, let us take a fresh look at our original questions:

“May I trap mosquitoes, bees, or wasps on Shabbos?”

The answer is that if the insect is about to attack someone, one may trap it. One may also trap it if its sting or bite is very painful, and certainly if it is potentially dangerous.

May one hang flypaper on Shabbos? The answer is that one may not.

“May a snake charmer work on Shabbos?” If one is not intending to use the snake, it is permitted. This is all the more so if the snake is dangerous.

In conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos, to ensure that Shabbos is a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, which implies purpose and accomplishment. We certainly see this idea borne out by the ideas of meleches machsheves, which denote the purpose of the action, and have no correlation at all to the amount of energy expended. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation by our refraining from our own creative acts (Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Commentary to Shemos 20:11).

May I Take Lives?

Introduction

One of the 39 melachos on Shabbos is netilas neshamah, literally, taking a life. Although we may not want to consider this to be a constructive activity, we recognize that the animal world was placed under our control to use it responsibly and respectfully. This article will discuss some of the details of the halachos of Shabbos that are included in this melacha.

When listing the melachos, the Mishnah, refers to it as hashocheit, meaning he who slaughters. (Later in the article, I will discuss why the Mishnah refers to it in this manner, rather than the more technically accurate hanoteil neshama.) To quote the Mishnah, “One who traps a deer, one who slaughters it, one who skins it, one who salts the hide, one who tans the hide, one who scrapes off the hair, and one who cuts it to size” (Shabbos 73a). Performing any of these activities on Shabbos violates one of the 39 main categories of desecrating Shabbos, what we call an av melacha. As we will see shortly, there are also tolados melacha, subcategories of these 39, which also involve a Torah violation of Shabbos.

An obvious question is that the Mishnah lists “salting the hide” and “tanning the hide” as two different melachos, which is strange, since salting is one of the stages in tanning, and, therefore, does not comprise a separate av melacha. The Gemara notes that this is indeed true, and that “salting” should therefore be deleted from the Mishnah. Since this would result in the Mishnah listing only 38 melachos and not 39, the Gemara explains that a different melacha, called mesarteit, should be included. Mesarteit means “marking,” which, according to Rashi, refers to scoring or marking leather in order to know where to cut it (Shabbos 75b). According to the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 11:17), mesarteit is scoring paper or parchment in order to be able to write on it neatly. The Rambam explains that a toladah of this melacha would be to mark lumber prior to sawing it. Marking a precious stone in order to decide how to cut it is another application of mesarteit (Minchas Chinuch). An interesting contemporary example might be when a surgeon marks a patient’s skin where he intends to make his incision.

Purpose of shocheit

Returning to shocheit, this melacha was necessary to prepare materials for the construction of the Mishkan, such as the hides of the rams and the techashim, the unusual species that appeared on earth so that its hide could be used in the construction of the Mishkan and then became extinct (Shabbos 28b).

Chilazon catching

There is halachic discussion regarding whether the melacha of shocheit was necessary to create the dyes prepared from the chilazon, the fish from which the techeiles was made. Allow me to explain. The Gemara (Shabbos 75a) quotes a beraysa, a teaching dating to the era of the Mishnah, that there is a machlokes tanna’im regarding someone who catches a chilazon and squeezes out its liquid used for dyeing. Does he violate only the melacha of trapping or is he also liable for extracting the dye, which would violate the melacha of dosh, threshing. The Gemara then asks why this process does not also violate the melacha of netilas neshamah. The Gemara quotes two answers to this question:

Rabbi Yochanan explains that processing dyes from a live chilazon indeed violates netilas neshamah, but the beraysa omits this fact, because it is discussing a case where the chilazon is already dead.

Rava answers that the beraysa may indeed be discussing someone extracting dye from a live chilazon, yet he does not violate netilas neshamah because the dyer is trying to keep the chilazon alive while he extracts its dye, since it produces better color when it is alive (Shabbos 75a). Notwithstanding the fact that the extraction will kill the chilazon, since the dyer is trying to keep it alive, he does not violate a melacha for killing it, according to this opinion.

Bleeding

Causing a person or animal to bleed on Shabbos is a Torah violation of shocheit. Which of the 39 melachos does this violate? This is the subject of a major dispute among the rishonim, many of whom conclude that one violates the melacha of netilas neshamah. A question already raised by the rishonim is that if netilas neshamah is the taking of life, why does one violate it when all he did was cause a loss of blood?

The answer is that since the posuk states, ki hadam hu hanefesh, that blood is life, causing bleeding is considered, for the purposes of this melacha, the same as taking life (Tosafos, Kesubos 5b s.v. Dam and Shabbos 75a s.v. Ki).

Causing what we call a black-and-blue mark, which means that there is some form of bruising or superficial bleeding beneath the skin, also violates shocheit min haTorah (Shabbos 107b and Rashi).

As we have learned, the concept of meleches shocheit is taking the life of an animal. It refers to the instances in which it was necessary to take an animal’s life (netilas neshamah) in order to prepare materials for the construction of the Mishkan. However, this netilas neshamah did not require ritual slaughter. To quote the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 11:1): “One who slaughters is obligated for desecrating Shabbos, and not only one who slaughters, but anyone who takes the life of any living creature, be it a mammal, a bird, a fish or a creeping creature; whether he took its life through shechitah, nechirah, or by beating it.” I will explain shortly what the word nechirah means.

Drowning

Several later authorities conclude that drowning an animal on Shabbos similarly violates netilas neshamah min haTorah (Shu”t Chavos Yair #164; Nishmas Odom 31:3).

Fish out of water

Removing a fish from water violates netilas neshamah (Rashi, Shabbos 107b; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 11:1). To quote the Gemara, “Shmuel said, one who removes a fish from water is guilty of desecrating Shabbos once a coin-sized part of its skin has dried out” (Shabbos 107b). The Gemara then adds that this is true when the dried-out area is between its fins, since, once the fish has dried out this much, it will die, even should one return it to water.

One who catches a fish and hauls it out of the water violates both trapping, tzad, and taking its life. If it was caught from before Shabbos, but left in the water until Shabbos, one who removes it from the water is in violation only for killing it. Someone who trapped the fish on Shabbos and placed it into a bucket of water violated tzad, but not killing it.

Wrong name

At this point, I will discuss a question alluded to earlier. Although when we use the word shechitah, we ordinarily mean the halachically accepted method of preparing an animal for the Jewish table, the word can be used as a translation for any instance in which one would use the word slaughter in English. (See, for example, Yirmiyohu 52:10.) Why, then, does the Mishnah call the melachahashocheit,” rather than the broader and more accurate term hanoteil neshamah, “one who takes the life of an animal?”

The answer is that, in truth, the melacha is killing an animal and not necessarily shechting it. However, the Mishnah (Shabbos 73a) uses the term “hashocheit” because it chooses, for its own educational reasons, the example of a deer (“one who traps a deer, one who slaughters it, etc.”), and prefers expressing the name of the melacha in the context of processing it for kosher food.

Baking or cooking?

This is similar to another case in the same Mishnah, regarding the melacha that we usually call bishul, cooking, which the Mishnah calls “ofeh,” baking. The “cooking” performed in the construction of the Mishkan was the heating of dyes in vats, in which cloth was placed for dyeing. Nevertheless, the Mishnah calls the melacha ofeh, baking, since it fits the Mishnah’s pedagogic style better to refer to the baking of bread, notwithstanding that no baking was involved in the construction of the Mishkan (Shabbos 74b).

Nechirah

We quoted, above, the Rambam’s statement that someone who kills an animal by means of nechirah has violated the av melacha of netilas neshamah. What is nechirah?

In Modern Hebrew, the word nechirah means stabbing an animal to death, a common method of non-kosher slaughter. However, there is no evidence in traditional sources that this is what the word means. From the Mishnah (Bava Kama 7:5; Chullin 5:3; 6:2), we see that the word nechirah refers to a means of killing an animal, but it is unclear exactly which method is intended. Further complicating matters is that Rashi, in two different places, presents two contrary approaches. In Chullin (85b) he explains nechirah to mean choking an animal to death, whereas in Bava Kama (78b), he understands it differently, relating the word nechirah to the Hebrew word for nostril, nechir, which has the same root.

The Rambam could not have understood nocheir to mean choking, because he explains (Hilchos Shabbos 11:1) that choking an animal is a toladah of netilas neshamah, whereas he explains that nechirah is the av melacha itself. Since he wrote no other description, we cannot ascertain what he understood nechirah to mean. Thus, we are left with no definitive conclusion regarding what constitutes nechirah.

Av versus toladah

The statement of the Rambam that I just quoted raises a different question: Indeed, why is choking an animal only a toladah of netilas neshama and not the av melacha itself? Perhaps this is because choking withholds something vital from the animal (air) rather than directly killing it (Nimla Tal, Meleches Shocheit #32).

Dyeing or dying?

In this context, we cannot ignore a seemingly very strange passage of Gemara (Shabbos 75a-b, as explained by Tosafos). “Why is slaughtering on Shabbos a punishable offense for desecrating Shabbos? Rav said because of dyeing, and Shmuel said because of taking a life.” The Gemara then asked of Rav, is slaughtering only a violation of dyeing and not of taking a life? To this, the Gemara replies that Rav meant that slaughtering violates two prohibitions on Shabbos, one for taking a life and the other for dyeing. The Gemara then explains why Rav contends that the shocheit also violates dyeing: The butcher wants part of the hide of a freshly slaughtered animal to look bright red, because it attracts customers interested in purchasing fresh meat. This is an adequate reason to consider the slaughtering a melacha of dyeing.

Dies after Shabbos?

What is the halacha if someone removed a fish from water towards the very end of Shabbos, but the fish did not die until Shabbos was over? Has the person violated Shabbos min haTorah, since his action was performed on Shabbos, or has he not, since the fish did not die until motza’ei Shabbos? This subject is debated by several late authorities (see, for example, Rashash, Shabbos 73a; Minchas Chinuch 298:8; Tzafnas Paneiach, Hilchos Shabbos 9:1; Eglei Tal, Meleches Zorei’a 8:8).

Positive purpose

A general principle regarding the melachos of Shabbos is that they are prohibited min haTorah only when they provide a positive benefit, what we call a tikun (Mishnah Shabbos 105b). Performing a melacha activity whose direct result is negative is called mekalkeil and does not violate Shabbos min haTorah. For example, digging a hole on Shabbos only because one needs some earth with which to cover a spill is not a violation of the melacha min haTorah, but only miderabbanan. The reason is that the hole is itself not an advantage. One violates the melacha of choreish, plowing, only when one creates a furrow or something similar, such that the digging itself results in something beneficial.

A consequence of this principle is that violating netilas neshamah min haTorah requires that the result is positive – it creates or is a stage in the creation of meat, leather, dye or something similar. (Although there is a tanna, Rabbi Shimon, who rules that netilas neshamah is an exception to the general rule of mekalkeil [Shabbos 106a], the halacha does not follow his approach [Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 8:8, 12:1; Rashi, Chullin 40a s.v. Shalosh; Tosafos, Chullin 29b s.v. Kegon].)

Killing insects

The halacha that a melacha activity is prohibited min haTorah only when its results are positive affects the following common question: Is killing annoying insects on Shabbos prohibited min haTorah? If it is prohibited min haTorah, the only reason to permit eliminating these insects is when they pose a threat to life. However, if the prohibition is only miderabbanan, there may be other grounds upon which to permit this, under extenuating circumstances. Although we will leave details of this for a different time, we now realize that a Torah prohibition is involved only when someone intends to put the insect remains to good use.

I will now present a more detailed discussion about this idea, which requires an introduction germane to a different, seemingly unrelated topic.

Value added

It is prohibited min haTorah to have any benefit from something that was used to worship idols. The Gemara (Chullin 8a) rules that, notwithstanding this law, one is permitted to perform the act of shechitah with a knife that was designated for idol worship. How can this be permitted?

The Gemara assumes that an animal is worth more in the marketplace when alive than after shechitah. This was certainly true in the time of the Gemara, when a living animal could be used for hauling or other employment, something difficult to get it to do after shechitah. The Gemara explains that since an animal is worth more alive than dead, no value was added when the prohibited appliance changed the animal from employee to food. Thus, shechitah did not add any value, and the shechitah knife’s contribution is considered negative. In other words, this act is considered mekalkeil. And this is halachically true, even if you are a butcher with a long line of customers waiting to purchase fresh meat.

The Gemara then states that, although we have established that the avodah zarah knife may be used to shecht the animal, it is forbidden to use that knife to slice up the meat after shechitah has been completed. This is because, at this point, cutting up and slicing the meat add financial value.

The animal is sick

There is an old Yiddish proverb: When a poor man eats chicken, one of them is sick. This proverb can be used to explain the next passage of the Gemara that we have been studying: Rava explained that sometimes it is prohibited to shecht with this avodah zarah knife. When? In the case of a sick animal whose life is in danger, but it is not a tereifah, meaning that its illness does not affect its kashrus status. In this instance, slaughtering the animal, thus permitting its meat for Jewish consumption, increases the value of the animal, since a sick animal cannot work and may die without the benefit of shechitah, which would severely decrease its value. Thus, this shechitah adds financial value, and, as a result, may not be performed with an avodah zarah knife.

Honored guest

The next point in the Gemara is that although we have just established that one may not slice up meat with an avodah zarah knife, there is a situation in which this is permitted. When is this? If it is a nice cut of meat that would be suitable to serve to an honored guest, but one chooses to cut it up. Although this may make it more serviceable for your family, on an objective level it has decreased the value of the meat, since upper echelon people would no longer purchase it. Since the slicing in this instance reduces the commercial value of the meat, it is considered mekalkeil, and therefore permitted to be done with an avodah zarah knife.

Isn’t all shechitah mekalkeil?

On the basis of this Talmudic discussion, Tosafos (Shabbos 106a) asks: Should not every act of shechitah qualify as mekalkeil, whenever the animal is worth more as a work animal? If that is true, then most acts of shechitah will be exempt from desecrating Shabbos, something that the Gemara, in the above-quoted dispute between Rav and Shmuel, should have noted, but did not.

There are several answers to this question. Some assume that the two mitzvos, Shabbos and avodah zarah, follow different rules. Regarding avodah zarah, there must be a financial net gain for it to be considered that one “benefited” from the prohibition. Regarding the laws of Shabbos, a person’s subjective interest that this animal becomes meat is enough reason to render the melacha a tikun (Sefer Yerei’im).

Conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos in order to provide a day of rest. This is incorrect, he points out, because the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melacha, which implies work with purpose and accomplishment. On Shabbos, we refrain from altering the world with our own creative acts and instead emphasize Hashem’s role (Shemos 20:11). We thereby acknowledge the true Builder and Creator of the world and all that it contains.

The Basics of Techum Shabbos

Question #1: Camp sisters

“My sister’s family and ours are each spending Shavuos at nearby campsites. We were told that we could get together at a third spot between our two places for a Yom Tov barbecue. If we return on Yom Tov with the leftovers to our separate campsites, must we keep track of who brought which food?”

Question #2: Bungalow bar mitzvah

“A friend is making a bar mitzvah in a nearby bungalow colony. How far away can the colony still be within my techum Shabbos?”

Question #3: Eruv Techumin

“A lecturer will be speaking in the mountains not far from where I will be spending Shabbos. I was told that he will be just a bit beyond my techum Shabbos. Is there a way that I can go to hear him?”

Introduction:

In parshas Beshalach, the Torah recounts the story of the manna, also including the unbecoming episode where some people attempted to gather it on Shabbos. In the words of the Torah:

And Moshe said, “Eat it (the manna that remained from Friday) today, for today is Shabbos to Hashem. Today you will not find it (the manna) in the field. Six days you shall gather it, and the seventh day is Shabbos –there will be none.”

And it was on the seventh day. Some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find any.

And Hashem said to Moshe: “For how long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings? See, Hashem gave you the Shabbos. For this reason, He provides you with a two-day supply of bread on the sixth day. Each person should remain where he is — no man should leave his place on the seventh day” (Shemos 16:25-29).

Staying in place

Although someone might interpret the words, Each person should remain where he is — no man should leave his place on the seventh day, to mean that it is forbidden even to leave one’s home, this is not what the Torah intends. According to Rabbi Akiva (Shabbos 153b; Sotah 27b; Sanhedrin 66a), the Torah, here, is indeed prohibiting walking beyond your “place” on Shabbos, although this proscription only prohibits walking more than 2000 amos (approximately half to two-thirds of a mile*) beyond the “locale” where you are spending Shabbos. This border beyond which it is forbidden to walk is called techum Shabbos, quite literally, the Shabbos boundary. How do we determine where this boundary is, beyond which I may not walk on Shabbos?

Some basic factors determine the extent and boundaries of one’s techum Shabbos. One is whether you are spending Shabbos within a residential area or not. I am going to present several options which will help explain how to determine someone’s techum Shabbos.

Our first case is someone spending Shabbos in a typical city, town or village where the houses are reasonably close together, meaning that the distance between the houses is 70 2/3 amos (about 105-120 feet*) or less. In this instance, one’s techum Shabbos is established by measuring the 2000 amos from the end of the city, town or village. The “end” of the city is determined, not by its municipal borders, but by where the houses are no longer within 70 2/3 amos of one another.

When two towns or cities are near one another, halachah will usually treat the two towns as one, provided that the houses of the two towns are within 141 1/3 amos of one another (Mishnah, Eruvin 57a). This is twice the distance of the 70 2/3 amos mentioned above. The details of the rules when and whether one combines two cities for determining techum Shabbos will be left for another time.

Techum Shabbos in a bungalow colony

Until now, we have discussed the techum Shabbos of someone spending Shabbos in a city. How far is the techum Shabbos of someone spending Shabbos in a resort hotel, side-of-the-road motel, or bungalow colony?

Someone spending Shabbos in a bungalow colony will have a techum that is at least 2000 amos beyond the last house of the colony. If there are other houses or bungalows within 70 2/3 amos of the residences of your colony, those houses or bungalows are included within your “place.” Under certain circumstances (beyond the scope of this article), they can be included within your “place” even if the houses or bungalows are within 141 1/3 amos of one another.

If the house, hotel or motel in which one is spending Shabbos is outside a city and more than 70 2/3 amos from any other residential building, one measures the techum Shabbos from the external walls of the house.

Shabbos while hiking

Someone spending Shabbos in an open field is entitled to four amos (between 6 – 7.5 feet*) as his “place,” and the 2000 amos are measured from beyond these four amos. His “place” is determined by where he is located at sundown on Friday evening.

Proper placement

We have now established that the definition of one’s “place” for techum Shabbos purposes depends substantively on whether one’s residence for Shabbos is indoors and on whether there are other residences nearby. We will now learn that although techum Shabbos is a boundary of 2000 amos, one usually has a greater distance in which one may walk. This is because techum Shabbos is always measured as a rectangular or square area. We take the four points that are the easternmost, the southernmost, the westernmost and the northernmost points of your “place,” and then draw an imaginery straight line that begins at 2000 amos beyond each of these points. In other words, we will measure 2000 amos east of the easternmost point and draw an imaginery north-south line at that point. We will similarly measure 2000 amos north of the northernmost point and draw there an imaginery east-west line. We repeat this for the other two directions of the compass. The result is a rectangle (or perhaps a square) whose four closest points are each 2000 amos distant from your “place.” Obviously, this means that the techum Shabbos area is significantly larger than 2000 amos beyond one’s “place.” This establishes the techum within which one is permitted to travel on Shabbos. By the way, all the rules of the laws of techum apply on Yom Tov as well.

Property placement

One of the interesting and lesser-known details of the laws of techum Shabbos is that possessions are also bound by the laws of techum Shabbos. This means that my possessions cannot be transported on Shabbos beyond the area in which I myself can walk. This halachah is not usually germane to the laws of Shabbos, since, in any instance, it is forbidden to carry on Shabbos outside of an enclosed area. The halachah is therefore more germane on Yom Tov, when one is permitted to carry. For this reason, the discussion of these laws is in mesechta Beitzah, which deals with the laws of Yom Tov. This subject is one of the main topics of the fifth chapter of the mesechta.

Camp sisters

At this point, we can discuss our opening question: “My sister’s family and ours are each spending Shavuos at nearby campsites. We were told that we could get together at a third spot between our two places for a Yom Tov barbecue. If we return on Yom Tov with the leftovers to our separate campsites, must we keep track of who brought which food?”

These two families are spending Yom Tov in locations that have different techumin, yet they are close enough that there is some overlapping area located within both of their techumin. Each family may walk on Yom Tov to this overlapping area, carrying the items necessary for the barbecue. Everyone must be careful not to walk beyond the area of his own techum. In addition, since the items used for the barbecue were owned by one or the other of the families when Yom Tov started, each item may not be removed beyond its owner’s techum until Yom Tov is over. Thus, if one sister brought the hotdogs or the paper plates, the other sister may not take those items back with her, if she will be removing them to a place beyond her sister’s techum.

Min hatorah or miderabbanan?

The rules of techumin that I have so far presented are held universally. However, there is a major dispute whether these rules are min hatorah or miderabbanan. There are three basic opinions. The tanna Rabbi Akiva, mentioned above, rules that the Torah forbade walking on Shabbos more than 2000 amos from one’s place, as we previously defined it. The Sages who disagreed with Rabbi Akiva contend that the prohibition of traveling 2000 amos is only miderabbanan. (Whether Rabbi Akiva held that the rules of techumin on Yom Tov [as opposed to Shabbos] are prohibited min hatorah or only miderabbanan is a dispute among rishonim; see Rashi, Tosafos, and Turei Even, Chagigah 17b.) However, there is a further dispute whether the Sages contend that there is no prohibition of techumin min hatorah at all, and the prohibition is always only miderabbanan, or whether the basis for the prohibition is min hatorah. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Eruvin 3:4), traveling more than 12 mil, which is the equivalent of 24,000 amos (approximately 6 – 8.5 miles*), is prohibited min hatorah. This last position is quoted by the Rif (end of the first chapter of Eruvin). Several rishonim rule according to this Yerushalmi (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 27:1 and Sefer Hamitzvos, Lo Saaseh #321; Semag (Lo Saaseh 36); Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah #24). On the other hand, many rishonim (e.g., Baal Hamaor, Milchemes Hashem, and Rosh, all at the end of the first chapter of Eruvin; Ramban’s notes to Sefer Hamitzvos, Lo Saaseh #321; Tosafos, Chagigah 17b s.v. Dichsiv) contend that the Bavli disagrees with this Yerushalmi and holds that the concept of techum Shabbos is completely miderabbanan, and that the halachah follows the Bavli, as it usually does.

A nice-sized place

Six miles sounds like a distance considerably more than I would walk on a Shabbos. From where did the Yerushalmi get this measurement?

The basis for this distance is the encampment of the Benei Yisrael while in the Desert, which occupied an area that was 12 mil by 12 mil. Thus, when the Torah told each Israelite not to leave his “place,” it prohibited walking outside an area this size (Tosafos, Chagigah 17b s.v. Dichsiv). According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, no matter when and where one is spending Shabbos, one draws a square or rectangle 12 mil by 12 mil around one’s city, colony or campground and this area is considered your “place.” Beyond this area, the Torah prohibited you to walk, according to the Yerushalmi.

Although it is anyway prohibited to walk beyond one’s 2000 amos techum on Shabbos and Yom Tov because of the rabbinic ruling of techumin, there are some practical instances where the question of whether there is a Torah-mandated techum of 12 mil becomes germane. For example, the Gemara (Eruvin 43a) discusses whether the prohibition of techumin applies when one is more than ten tefachim above ground level, called yesh techumin lemaalah miyud or ein techumin lemaalah miyud. An example of this case, quoted by the poskim, is a situation in which someone wants to walk quite a distance on Shabbos atop narrow stands or poles that are all more than ten tefachim above ground. If one rules that there is no law of techumin above ten tefachim, ein techumin lemaalah miyud, then it is permitted to travel this way on Shabbos, no matter how far one goes. On the other hand, if there is a law of techumin above ten tefachim, it is prohibited to travel this way.

This question is raised by the Gemara, which does not reach a definite conclusion (Eruvin 43a). Both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema (Orach Chayim 404:1) rule that one may travel lemaalah miyud for a distance greater than 2000 amos,because one may be lenient in a doubt regarding the rabbinic prohibition of techum Shabbos. However, since traveling 12 mil is prohibited min hatorah according to those authorities who rule like the Yerushalmi, one should be stringent not to travel lemaalah miyud for a distance of 12 mil or farther.The Gra, however,rules that one may disregard the opinion of the Yerushalmi and the ruling of the Rambam, because the halachah follows the Bavli that there is no prohibition of techum at all min hatorah. Since the prohibition of techumin is always miderabbanan, one may be lenient to rule that ein techumin lamaaleh miyud. A contemporary application of these opinions is if someone was on an airplane when Shabbos began (for example, because of a life-threatening emergency), would he be permitted, upon landing, to leave the airport terminal before Shabbos ends.

How do we rule?

Regarding the dispute between Rabbi Akiva and the Sages whether the requirement of remaining within a techum of 2000 amos is min hatorah or miderabbanan, it is universally accepted that we follow the opinion of the Sages that techum Shabbos of 2000 amos is miderabbanan. A result of this ruling is that if someone needs to use comfort facilities and there are none available within his techum, he is permitted to leave his techum for this purpose, because of the rule that kovod haberiyos, human dignity, supersedes a rabbinic prohibition (Eruvin 41b, based on Berachos 19b).

Moving my techum Shabbos

“A lecturer will be speaking in the mountains not far from where I will be spending Shabbos. I was told that he will be just a bit beyond my techum Shabbos. Is there a way that I can go to hear him?”

The answer is that one certainly can, by creating an eruv techumin. This halachic entity allows me to move the “place” from where we measure my techum Shabbos. Ordinarily, my techum Shabbos is measured from where I am when Shabbos starts. However, when I make an eruv techumin, I move my “place” to the location of the eruv. If my eruv is placed such that both locations — where I am when Shabbos begins and where the speech will be delivered — are within its techum Shabbos, I may go hear the speaker.

But be careful. Creating an eruv techumin is not only a leniency, it also creates a stringency. Since I cannot be in two different “places,” when I use an eruv techumin, I have moved my techum Shabbos, not expanded it. Although I gain in the new direction, I lose the full techum I would have had in my actual location.

In this way, eruv techumin is different from the other two types of eruvin, eruv tavshillin made when Yom Tov falls on Friday, and eruv chatzeiros, which is made so that I can carry between two adjacent, enclosed properties that are owned by different people. The other two eruvin create leniencies but have no attached stringencies. For this reason, the other two eruvin can be made for someone who does not know that the eruv is being made, since it provides him with benefits and no liabilities. However, since an eruv techumin includes liabilities, one cannot make an eruv techumin for someone who does not want it or who does not know about it (Mishnah, Eruvin 81; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 414:1).

Only for a mitzvah

There is another major difference between eruv techumin and the other two types of eruvin. One may use an eruv techumin only if there is a mitzvah reason to walk where it would otherwise be outside one’s techum (Eruvin 31a, 82a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 415:1). For example, someone who wants to hear a shiur or attend a sheva berachos may use an eruv techumin to do so. On the other hand, one may make and use either an eruv tavshillin or an eruv chatzeiros even if there is no mitzvah reason to do so.

How do I make an eruv techumin?

To make an eruv techumin, one puts some food before Shabbos where you want your “place” for Shabbos to be. There must be enough food there so that each person who wants to use the eruv techumin could eat two meals. If one uses a condiment for an eruv, one needs to have enough so that each person who wants to use the eruv would have enough condiment for two meals. One recites a berocha asher kiddeshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al mitzvas eruv, and then makes a declaration that this is his eruv to permit him to walk in this direction.

Since this food will basically be left exposed to the elements and animals, many people use a bucket of saltwater, which qualifies as an eruv techumin. Note that saltwater does not qualify for the other two types of eruv, eruv chatzeiros and eruv tavshillin. Another popular option is to use a jar of peanut butter.

Because there are many complicated laws about eruvin that are beyond the scope of this article, I suggest that someone who needs an eruv techumin should consult with his rav or posek.

Who instituted eruv techumin?

The Gemara teaches that Shelomoh Hamelech instituted eruvin (Eruvin 21b). We find a dispute as to which type of eruv the Gemara is referring to. Rav Hai Gaon (Teshuvos Hageonim #44) explains that Shlomoh Hamelech instituted eruv techumin, whereas Rashi (Eruvin 21b) and the Rambam (Hilchos Eruvin 1:2) explain that he instituted eruv chatzeiros.

Conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. In this context, we can explain these mitzvos, created by Chazal to guarantee that the Jewish people remember the message of Shabbos.

* All measurements in this article are meant for illustration only. For exact figures, consult your rav or posek.

Twilight

Question #1: Why then?

“After sunset on a Friday evening, may I ask a non-Jewish person to turn on the lights?”

Question #2: Until when?

“May I toivel dishes, glasses and silverware during the same twilight period?”

Question #3: Challah

“May I separate challah during bein hashemashos?”

Introduction: Twilight laws

As we are all aware, the halachic day begins and ends at nightfall. But at what exact moment does one day march off into history and its successor arrive with its banner unfurled? Is it before sunset, at sunset, when the stars appear, or dependent on some other factor? And, if a day begins when the stars appear, which stars and how many? Does the amount of time after sunset vary according to longitude and/or season of the year? And does it, perhaps, vary according to the amount of humidity in the atmosphere?

There is much discussion in the Gemara and the poskim concerning many of these issues, some of which I have written about previously. This article will discuss the halachic rules that apply during the period of time called bein hashemashos, which is the term used to refer to the twilight interval when we are uncertain whether it is still day or already night. Of particular concern is what is the halacha of this time on Friday evening, when it is unclear whether or not Shabbos has already begun. Does bein hashemashos have the exact same halachic status as the time that is definitely Shabbos, or does its questionable status allow any lenience? The answer is that, under extenuating circumstances, some lenience is allowed. We will see that the definition of “extenuating” for these purposes is rather moderate.

The earliest sources

In several places, the Mishnah, the Gemara and the poskim explain that certain activities that are prohibited on Shabbos are permitted during bein hashemashos of Friday evening. We will begin our research with a Mishnah (Shabbos 34a) that many recite every Friday evening in shul, as the last passage in Bameh Madlikin. There, it teaches: If it is in doubt whether nightfall has already arrived, it is forbidden to separate maaser from produce, when we are certain that it was not yet separated. (Such untithed produce is referred to as tevel.) It is also prohibited to immerse vessels to make them tahor. (Unfortunately, since we are all tamei today, this question is not relevant, but we will soon discuss whether immersing vessels used for food that were previously owned by a non-Jew is permitted during bein hashemashos.) The Mishnah also prohibits kindling lights during bein hashemashos. However, it permits separating maaser from demai produce, about which it is uncertain whether this separation is required. It is permitted during bein hashemashos to make an eiruv chatzeiros, which allows carrying from one’s house to a neighbor’s house on Shabbos. The Mishnah also permits insulating food, hatmanah, using something that does not increase heat (such as clothing), notwithstanding that this is prohibited on Shabbos.

As we will see shortly, there is much discussion among rishonim and early poskim whether we rule according to the conclusions of this Mishnah, or whether we rule more leniently. But first, we need to understand each of the halachic issues that the Mishnah mentions. For example, what is wrong with separating maasros, even on Shabbos itself? Which melacha of Shabbos does this violate?

Maasering

The Mishnah (Beitzah 36b) prohibits separating maasros on Yom Tov, and certainly on Shabbos. The reason for this prohibition is that, since it makes the food edible halachically, it is viewed as a form of forbidden “repair work.”

Demai has an in-between status. What is demai? In the times of Chazal, observant but poorly educated Jews observed the mitzvos, although some of them would occasionally “cut corners,” violating details of halachos that involve major expense. These people, called amei ha’aretz, were lax predominantly regarding three areas of halacha –the laws of shemittah, the laws of tumah and taharah, and the laws of separating maasros. Although most amei ha’aretz indeed separated maasros faithfully, Chazal instituted that produce purchased from an am ha’aratz should have maaser separated from it, albeit without first reciting the brocha for taking maaser. This produce was called demai, and the institution of this takkanah was because it was difficult to ascertain which amei ha’aretz were separating maasros and which were not. Thus, we treat this produce as a type of safek tevel. For this reason, the brocha for separating maasros was omitted prior to separating maaser from demai because, indeed, most amei ha’aretz separated maasros. In addition, because most amei ha’aretz separated maasros, Chazal allowed other leniencies pertaining to its use; for example, they permitted serving demai produce to the poor or to soldiers in the army.

Because there is a great deal of reason to be lenient relative to demai, the Mishnah permitted separating maasros from it during bein hashemashos (Shabbos 34a). The reason this is permitted is because this separation may not actually be “fixing” anything – it is more than likely that the maasros were already separated.

Immersing utensils

During bein hashemashos, the Mishnah permitted immersing vessels and other items that had previously become tamei. This immersion is prohibited on Shabbos or Yom Tov, itself, as mentioned in Mesechta Beitzah (Mishnah 17b and Gemara ad loc.). There, the Gemara (Beitzah 18a) cites a four-way dispute why it is prohibited to immerse vessels to make them tahor on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The four reasons are:

1. Someone immersing vessels on Shabbos may inadvertently carry them through a public area. According to this opinion, immersing vessels on Yom Tov was prohibited as an extension of the prohibition of Shabbos.

2. Clothing and cloth that became tamei, and was then toiveled on Shabbos or Yom Tov, could cause someone to squeeze out the water. According to this opinion, immersing pots, plates, silverware and other items that do not absorb water was prohibited as an extension of the prohibition to immerse cloth and other squeezable items.

3. Knowing that someone has time to toivel vessels on Shabbos or Yom Tov, the owner might delay toiveling them until then. This procrastination might then result in foods or other vessels becoming tamei. Banning the immersions on Shabbos or Yom Tov would cause people to immerse the vessels at an earlier opportunity.

4. Immersing vessels to make them usable is considered “repairing” them on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

The rishonim disagree how we rule in this dispute: in other words, which of the four reasons is accepted (see Rif, Rosh, etc.). There are halachic ramifications of this dispute. Although immersing vessels to make them tahor is not a germane topic today, since we are all tamei anyway, the question is raised whether vessels acquired from a non-Jew, which require immersion in a mikveh prior to use, may be immersed on Shabbos and Yom Tov. When we look at the reasons mentioned by the Gemara why Chazal forbade immersing tamei vessels on Shabbos and Yom Tov, we can conclude that some of the reasons should definitely apply to the immersing of vessels for this latter reason, whereas others might not. The Rosh concludes that it is prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov to immerse vessels acquired from a non-Jew. (See, however, Shaagas Aryeh #56.) We will discuss shortly whether one can immerse them during bein hashemashos.

Kindling lights

During bein hashemashos, any Torah prohibition cannot be performed because of safek de’oraysa lechumrah, the rule that cases of doubt regarding Torah prohibitions are treated stringently. The Mishnah’s example of this is kindling lights, which is certainly forbidden during bein hashemashos.

Hatmanah — Insulating food

The Gemara explains that the Mishnah’s last ruling, insulating food, is permitted bein hashemashos because of a specific reason applicable only to its case. Since explaining the details of this rabbinic injunction, called hatmanah, would take us far afield, we will forgo that discussion in this article.


Rebbe and the Rabbanan

Up until this point, I have been explaining the Mishnah in Bameh Madlikin. However, elsewhere, the Gemara (Eruvin 32b) cites a dispute between Rebbe and the Rabbanan, in which Rebbe contends that all rabbinic prohibitions may be performed during the bein hashemashos period, whereas the Rabbanan prohibit this. The obvious reading of the Mishnah in Bameh Madlikin is that it follows the approach of the Rabbanan who prohibit performing most rabbinically prohibited acts during the bein hashemashos period, and, indeed, this is how Rashi explains that Mishnah. However, the Gemara (Eruvin 32b-34b) demonstrates that the Mishnah there in Eruvin follows the opinion of Rebbe. On its own, this is not a halachic concern, since there are instances in which different Mishnayos follow the opinions of different tana’im. The practical question that needs to be decided is whether we indeed rule according to the Rabbanan’s position as stated in the Mishnah in Bameh Madlikin, or whether we follow Rebbe’s more lenient ruling. The conclusion of the Gemara in Eruvin implies that the halacha follows the opinion of Rebbe, and not that of the Rabbanan.

Among the rishonim, we find variant halachic conclusions regarding this question (Rashi, Shabbos 34a s.v. safek; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 24:10 and Hilchos Eruvin 6:9; Tur Orach Chayim 342; Beis Yosef Orach Chayim 261 and 342). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 342) concludes according to the Rambam’s opinion, ruling that during bein hashemashos Chazal did not forbid anything that is prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction, provided that there is some mitzvah involved or that there were extenuating reasons why it was not performed on erev Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch mentions, specifically, that it is permitted during bein hashemashos to climb a tree on Rosh Hashanah to get a shofar in order to perform the mitzvah, although it is prohibited to climb a tree on Yom Tov itself even if, as a result, you will be unable to blow shofar. Returning to our first question (“After sunset on a Friday evening, may I ask a non-Jewish person to turn on the lights?”, the Shulchan Aruch also permits asking a non-Jew to kindle a light during bein hashemashos. The Mishnah Berurah 261:17 permits asking him, even if you already accepted Shabbos.

Similarly, the Magen Avraham (261:6) permits separating maasros during bein hashemashos, if you do not have enough food ready for Shabbos. (The Ketzos Hashulchan [75:5, 6 in Badei Hashulchan] explains that the situation is such that he does not have enough fruit or vegetables to have an enjoyable Shabbos meal.) It is very interesting that the Magen Avraham permits this, because the Mishnah at the end of Bameh Madlikin thatwe quoted above expressly prohibits separating maasros during bein hashemashos. Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham permits this separating of maasros, since we rule according to Rebbe, not like the Mishnah.

Toiveling during bein hashemashos

With this background, let us examine the second of our opening questions: is it permitted during the bein hashemashos period to toivel dishes, glasses and silverware purchased from a non-Jew? Assuming we conclude, like the Rosh does, that it is prohibited to toivel these items on Shabbos or Yom Tov, which is the common practice, someone who has no others to use on Shabbos or Yom Tov may toivel them during bein hashemashos (Magen Avraham 261:6).

Separating challah

There is much discussion among halachic authorities whether it is permitted to separate challah during bein hashemashos, if you realize that you forgot to do so before. As we will see shortly, the Magen Avraham (261:2) prohibits separating challah bein hashemashos, whereas other authorities qualify this. To explain their halachic conclusions, we need to provide some background to the laws of separating challah.

Although people are often surprised to discover this, challah is categorized under the mitzvos ha’teluyos ba’aretz, the agricultural mitzvos that apply min haTorah only in Eretz Yisroel. The requirement of separating challah from dough made in chutz la’aretz is a rabbinic requirement. However, when implementing this requirement, Chazal instructed that the mitzvah be performed in a different way from how it is observed in Eretz Yisroel. Dough made in Eretz Yisroel that has not yet had its challah portion separated has the halachic status of tevel and may not be eaten. Dough made in chutz la’aretz does not become tevel. There is a mitzvah to separate challah, but this mitzvah can be fulfilled even after most of the dough has been eaten.

Therefore, should one realize on Shabbos that challah was not separated from dough made in Eretz Yisroel, the bread cannot be eaten because it is tevel. However, if the dough was made in chutz la’aretz, the bread can be eaten on Shabbos, and the challah separated after Shabbos. To do this, you must make sure that you keep some of the bread until after Shabbos, and then separate challah from what was set aside.

Reverse the law

The result of this halacha is that dough produced in chutz la’aretz does not require that its challah is separated in order to permit eating it on Shabbos, whereas dough produced in Eretz Yisroel does. We therefore have an anomalous conclusion regarding whether the challah may be separated during bein hashemashos. Challah may not be separated from dough made in chutz la’aretz, because you can wait to separate the challah until after Shabbos. The later authorities explain that this is the intention of the ruling of the Magen Avraham (261:2). However, when the dough was prepared in Eretz Yisroel and challah was not taken, it will be forbidden to eat the bread on Shabbos. Therefore, when you realize that you forgot to separate challah, and you are relying on that bread for your Shabbos meals, you may separate the challah during bein hashemashos (Machatzis Hashekel 261:2; Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 261:2; Mishnah Berurah 261:4).

We can now address the third of our opening questions: “May I separate challah during bein hashemashos?” The answer is that if the dough was mixed in chutz la’aretz, I may not, but I may eat the baked bread during Shabbos, as long as I leave some of it for after Shabbos and then separate challah retroactively. On the other hand, if the dough was made in Eretz Yisroel, I may therefore not eat it without first separating challah, and I may separate the challah during bein hashemashos.

In conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. In this instance, we see that Chazal provided lenience to permit otherwise prohibited activities to be done during the bein hashemashos period.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos, in order for it to be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, activities or actions which bring purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is the day on which we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation, by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11).

Carrying on Shabbos

Question #1: A Private Area Owned Publicly?

Can a “private area” be under public ownership?

Question #2: Owning a Public Area

Is it possible to own a public area?

Foreword

The 39th of the melachos of Shabbos is usually called “carrying,” although the Hebrew term hamotzi (Shabbos 73a) translates as “removing,” moving something from an enclosed to a public area. In parshas Beshalach, the Torah states: Hashem gave you the Shabbos. For this reason, He provides you with two days’ supply of bread on the sixth day. Each person should remain where he is and not leave his place on the seventh day” (Shemos 16:29).

The sentence each person should remain where he is and not leave his place means not to leave home while carrying the tools needed to gather the mann (Tosafos, Eiruvin 17b). Thus, the Torah prohibits carrying from one’s house, or any other enclosed area (halachically called a reshus hayachid), to a reshus harabim, an area established for public use. Chazal further explain that moving an item from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim violates Torah law even if someone did not carry it but remained in the reshus hayachid and threw it or handed it to someone else, as long as the item was transferred from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim (Shabbos 2a, 96a-b).

Reshus harabim to reshus hayachid

We derive from other sources that it is prohibited min haTorah to transport an item in the other direction — from a reshus harabim to a reshus hayachid — and also to carry or transport it four amos (about seven feet) or more within a reshus harabim (Shabbos 96b; Tosafos, Shabbos 2a s.v. Pashat). Since the melacha includes more than “carrying” or “removing,” a more accurate English term for this melacha is probably “transporting” or “conveying.”

The purpose of this article is to provide introductory information identifying what qualifies as a reshus hayachid and a reshus harabim min haTorah, and the names and definitions of two other jurisdictions. There are far too many details in this melacha to cover in one article, and, therefore, providing practical halacha le’maaseh will need to wait for further articles on the subject.

Introduction

Germane to the min haTorah laws of carrying on Shabbos, every place in the universe falls under one of three Torah categories: reshus hayachid, an enclosed area; reshus harabim, an area meant for public thoroughfare or for public use; and makom petur, an area that does not meet the definitions of either a reshus hayachid or a reshus harabim. There is also a fourth area created by rabbinic injunction, called a carmelis, which we will discuss.

Reshus hayachid – these words literally mean a private domain. The term means an enclosed area and has nothing to do with who owns it. Min haTorah, a reshus hayachid does not need to be fully enclosed; it is sufficient if it is enclosed most of its way around by walls, or their equivalent, that are at least ten tefachim tall (approximately three feet). (There are disputes about details that we will leave for the time being.)

A reshus hayachid must be at least four tefachim (approximately fourteen inches) long by four tefachim wide. If the area is narrower than four tefachim, it is not a reshus hayachid, but a makom petur, which we will define shortly.

From the depths

The walls of a reshus hayachid need not necessarily go up – they can go down from ground level. In other words, a pit, a manhole, a sewer or a mine that is at least ten tefachim deep and four tefachim long and wide also qualifies as a reshus hayachid. Carrying from this “hole in the ground” into a reshus harabim, or from a reshus harabim into it, are violations of Torah law.

Sloping reshus hayachid

Some or all of the “walls” of a reshus hayachid can be created by the slope of a mound whose top is at least ten tefachim higher than the area around it, and the mound rises to this height within a walking distance of four amos or less, thus creating a significant angle of slope (Shabbos 100a; see Mishnah Berurah 345:5).

Above

Once an area is categorized as a reshus hayachid, the space above it also qualifies as a reshus hayachid, regardless of the height. This is referred to by Chazal as reshus hayachid olah ad larakia (Shabbos 7a, b; Eiruvin 32b, 34b), literally, “a private domain rises to the sky.” Thus, since throwing something from a reshus harabim to a reshus hayachid is a melacha de’oraysa, tossing an item on Shabbos from a reshus harabim that lands on top of a pole in a reshus hayachid violates a Torah prohibition of carrying. This is true even if the item lands at a point hundreds of feet above the ground.

The walls enclosing a reshus hayachid are part of the reshus hayachid. Therefore, atop the walls is also part of the reshus hayachid, as well as any drawers, shelves, cracks or crevices along its inside walls, regardless as to their dimensions or height (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:4). The Shulchan Aruch concludes that the entire crevice, even when it penetrates the entire wall to a reshus harabim area on the opposite side, is part of the reshus hayachid. However, in one instance some later authorities disagree with the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch. When the crevice is in the lowest ten tefachim of the reshus hayachid and it passes through the wall to the reshus harabim on the other side, the Elya Rabbah and the Gra conclude that the crevice has the halachic status of a reshus harabim, not a reshus hayachid.

Movable reshus hayachid

A reshus hayachid can be portable and can even be a storage item or vessel sitting in a reshus harabim. Thus, the standard American mailbox sitting on the street corner, which is larger than four tefachim by four tefachim and more than ten tefachim tall, is a reshus hayachid, notwithstanding its location in a public area. Garbage cans whose sides are at least ten tefachim tall and contain an area at least four tefachim by four tefachim qualify as a reshus hayachid, both inside and above it. If the garbage can is round, it must be large enough to contain a square area four tefachim on each side (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:6).

Thus, moving something lying on the street onto or into a mailbox, garbage can or dumpster may violate carrying on Shabbos min haTorah.

Similarly, the hood, trunk or roof of an automobile are reshuyos hayachid, since they are ten or more tefachim tall and at least four tefachim wide and long. Therefore, carrying an item from a reshus harabim and placing it atop a car or truck, or removing something from atop a car or truck and placing it in reshus harabim are violations of carrying min haTorah.

A publicly owned, private area?

At this point, we can address our opening question: Can a “private area” be under public ownership?

The answer is that it can. Germane to the rules of Shabbos, a “private area,” reshus hayachid, refers to it being enclosed, not to who owns it.

Reshus harabim

Reshus harabim, which literally means “a public domain,” refers to an area intended for public use. There are several requirements for an area to qualify as a reshus harabim, the most basic being that it must be at least sixteen amos (about twenty-eight feet) wide (Shabbos 99a), that it must be unroofed (Shabbos 5a) and that it is meant to be a public thoroughfare or for other public use, such as a marketplace (Shabbos 6a). It is not required that it be sixteen amos wide for its entire length — if there are places in which it narrows to a width of only 13 1/3 amos, it still qualifies as a reshus harabim (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:9).

A side street or alleyway that is less than 16 amos wide qualifies as a reshus harabim if it connects two reshus harabim areas (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:8). Similarly, an intra-city road leading from one city to another is a reshus harabim, even if it is less than 16 amos wide, when the cities it connects qualify as a reshuyos harabim.

Some authorities contend that a reshus harabim cannot be inside an enclosed area. However, the Be’er Heiteiv (345:7), quotingthe Rashba, andthe Baal Hama’or (Eiruvin 22a),quoting Rabbeinu Efrayim, disagree with this last opinion, contending that an area sixteen amos wide meant for public thoroughfare is a reshus harabim, even if it is enclosed by walls.

Below three tefachim

As opposed to a reshus hayachid, which includes all the area above it, a reshus harabim includes only the area near the ground. In other words, if the ground is not perfectly smooth, the three lowest tefachim of the small hills and indentations, both below and above street height, are part of the reshus harabim. An area that rises more than three tefachim above or is more than three tefachim below street height is no longer part of the reshus harabim. At times, as we will soon see, the area more than three tefachim above the reshus harabim is a makom petur.

600,000

The rishonim dispute whether an area that meets all the other requirements of a reshus harabim, but does not service 600,000 people on a regular basis, qualifies as a reshus harabim (Rashi, Eiruvin 6a and 59a; Tosafos, Eiruvin 6a s.v. Keitzad). For a reason I will explain shortly, those who require 600,000 people for the area to be a reshus harabim permit an eiruv in an area that does not have this many people even when it meets the other requirements of a reshus harabim. The established practice among Ashkenazim is to rely on this approach (Taz and Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 345), although not all authorities accept it (Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov #120 s.v. Hinei harishon and Biur Halacha 345:7 s.v. She’ein).

Whether Sefardim rely on this approach is disputed by later authorities (commentaries on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:7 and 303:18). The exact definition of what is meant that “600,000 use the area” is the subject of much literature and dispute. (Among numerous other authorities, see commentaries on the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim passages above; Shu”t Beis Efrayim, Orach Chayim #25, 26; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:139:5; Shu”t Mishnas Aharon, Orach Chayim #6.)

Within a reshus harabim

Carrying more than four amos in a reshus harabim is forbidden and usually violates a melacha min haTorah. Carrying an item from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim or from a reshus harabim to a reshus hayachid also usually violates a melacha min haTorah.

Usually an area enclosed by walls does not qualify as a reshus harabim (Eiruvin 22a). What is the halacha if an area is enclosed for most of its length, but there are large gaps in the enclosure? For example, walls or buildings enclose most of an area – however, in the middle of the area there are streets that cross through city blocks. Is this area that is mostly surrounded by buildings and other structures considered a reshus harabim because of its use, or has it lost this status because it is “enclosed”?

The Beis Efrayim and the Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 107:5) contend that this is considered an enclosed area min haTorah, notwithstanding the large breaches in its enclosure, whereas the Mishkenos Yaakov and Rav Aharon Kotler consider it to be a reshus harabim min haTorah. The lengthy correspondence on this question between the Beis Efrayim and the Mishkenos Yaakov also covers a host of other related issues (Shu”t Beis Efrayim, Orach Chayim # 25, 26; Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim, #120-122).

Owning a Public Area

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: Is it possible to own a public area? If the question is whether privately owned property can qualify as reshus harabim (i.e., it has the physical properties that define a reshus harabim for hilchos Shabbos), the answer is “yes.”

Makom petur

This is an area into, within and from which there is no prohibition of carrying on Shabbos at all. In other words, it is 100% permitted to transport an item from a reshus harabim to or from a makom petur on Shabbos, or to or from a reshus hayachid from a makom petur. But before getting excited that we can now circumvent the violation of carrying on Shabbos, we must note that it is forbidden to use a makom petur as a transit point to move something from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim, or vice versa. In other words, if an item started Shabbos in a reshus hayachid and was moved to a makom petur, it cannot then be moved to a reshus harabim. Similarly, an item that started Shabbos in a reshus harabim and moved to a makom petur cannot be moved afterward to a reshus hayachid.

A makom petur is an area less than four tefachim wide that is at least three tefachim high or is enclosed within “walls” that are this high. A telephone pole or a street sign qualify as a makom petur since they are more than three tefachim tall and less than four tefachim wide, as does a British or Israeli mailbox, which are significantly smaller than American mailboxes.

An area enclosed between parallel walls that are within four tefachim of one another is a makom petur, regardless of the length of the area. Similarly, a ditch or furrow narrower than four tefachim whose sides are three tefachim deep is a makom petur, even though it may be many miles long (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:19).

I noted above that it is permitted to transport an item on Shabbos from either a reshus harabim or a reshus hayachid to or from a makom petur. However, before attempting to do this, be aware that within a reshus hayachid, there is never a halacha of makom petur. Once an area qualifies as a reshus hayachid, everything inside and above it is also a reshus hayachid. More importantly, the rishonim dispute whether a makom petur exists within the area called a carmelis (which I will explain in the next paragraph). Those who hold that an area that would otherwise be a makom petur, but is inside a carmelis, has the status of a carmelis, will not permit moving an item from a reshus harabim or a reshus hayachid to or from it (Rema, Orach Chayim 345:19). Both the Rema and most acharonim rule according to the more stringent opinion, which severely limits the heter of a makom petur (Mishnah Berurah 345:87; however, see Biur Halacha 345:19 s.v. Veyeish).

Carmelis

Now that we have clarified the three areas that exist under Torah law, I need to explain a fourth area called a carmelis. A carmelis is a domain created by Chazal that has the stringencies of both a reshus hayachid and a reshus harabim. Thus, it is prohibited to carry to or from a carmelis to a reshus harabim (because a carmelis has the stringency of a reshus hayachid), to or from a carmelis to a reshus hayachid, or for a distance of four amos or more within a carmelis (because it has the stringency of a reshus harabim).

What areas qualify as a carmelis? Any surface area that does not meet the Torah’s definition of a reshus harabim, and yet is not enclosed, qualifies as a carmelis. This includes fields, forests and other uninhabited areas, bodies of water, beaches, hills, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:14). Another example: I mentioned above that any covered area is not a reshus harabim. Thus, the lower level of a bridge, such as the George Washington Bridge, and all tunnels are not reshuyos harabim, notwithstanding that they may be sixteen amos wide, made for public thoroughfare and have 600,000 people travel on them daily (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:7 and 14). Each of these areas qualifies as a carmelis, and carrying to, from and in them is prohibited, but only because of a rabbinic injunction. Most of these areas are a makom petur min haTorah, although some are a reshus hayachid min haTorah.

There are numerous practical halachic differences that result from the fact that the prohibition to carry in these areas is only miderabbanan. Because of space considerations, we will leave most of this discussion for future articles.

Eiruvability

Perhaps the most significant difference between a reshus harabim and a carmelis is that, in accepted practice, an eiruv permits carrying only in an area in which there is no violation to carry min haTorah (Eiruvin 6a-b). For this reason, before attempting to build an eiruv, a decision must be reached whether the area is halachically a carmelis, in which case it is possible to construct an eiruv, or a reshus harabim min haTorah, in which case it cannot.

Conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos so that it should be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah did not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melacha, which implies purpose and accomplishment. Thus, even transporting items accomplishes something, notwithstanding that the object moved is not physically changed in the process. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation by withdrawing from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11). By refraining from melacha for one day a week, we demonstrate Who created the world and authorized us to control it.

Kerias HaTorah

Since Parshas Pinchas includes all the maftir readings of the holidays, and also the reading of Rosh Chodesh…

Question #1: Twice on Shabbos!

“Why do we read the Torah twice every Shabbos?”

Question #2: Missed a posuk

“What is the halacha if we began an aliyah a posuk later than the previous aliyah had ended?”

Question #3: Skipped a posuk

“After davening on Shabbos morning, we realized that the baal keriah skipped a posuk during the last aliyah. What do we do now?”

Question #4: Torah or rabbinic?

“Can there be a takanas chachamim that originates in the Torah itself? Isn’t this a contradiction?”

Introduction: The Four R’s

The mitzvah of reading the Torah that we perform regularly during davening in shul incorporates at least four different takanos, two of which were established while the Jews were in the Desert, a third which was created in the days of Ezra, when the Jews returned to Eretz Yisroel to establish the second Beis Hamikdash, and the fourth, which may have the halachic status of “custom” and which has an uncertain history. Answering our opening questions adequately will require that we examine the basic structure of these takanos; we will then be in a position to understand better the issues involved. But first, an overview of the four takanos:

  1. Regular reading – The requirement to read the Torah three times a week.
  1. Festive reading – Reading on the festivals something that relates to the holiday.
  1. Mincha reading – The requirement to read the Torah at mincha every Shabbos.
  1. Complete reading – The practice of completing the Torah every year.

Reminder reading

According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, there is another type of kerias haTorah, whose purpose is to make announcements – such as the four parshiyos and maftir on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:101:2). Since almost all these applications concern the maftir reading and not the primary Torah reading, I will not discuss them in this article.

1. Regular reading

One of the earliest takanos made by Chazal was the requirement to read the Torah three times a week. The Gemara (Bava Kama 82a) teaches this in an unusual passage that combines both halacha and midrash. In explaining the posuk in parshasBeshalach, And they (the Jewish nation) traveled three days without finding water (Shemos 15:22), the Gemara expounds:

The dorshei reshumos, those who “interpret hidden passages” (Toras Chayim), explain that water can mean only ”Torah,” as we find in Scripture, Behold, whoever is thirsty go to the water (Yeshayahu 55:1). Once the Bnei Yisroel had traveled three days without studying Torah, they immediately weakened in their commitment to Hashem. The prophets among them established that they read the Torah on Shabbos, on Monday, and again on Thursday, so that they should not  go three days without studying Torah.

Every Monday and Thursday

Yiddish has a popular expression – yeden Montag und Donnerstag,every Monday and Thursday – which means something that occurs fairly frequently. This expression may originate from the takanah that the Torah is read on these weekdays. But there are other ways that could guarantee that the Jews not go three days without studying Torah. Chazal could have established reading the Torah on Tuesday and Thursday, or on Monday and Wednesday; or, they could have left it up to each community to decide what to do. Why establish that the reading be specifically on Mondays and Thursdays?

Based on a Midrash, Tosafos (Bava Kama 82 s.v. Kedei) explains that Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the second luchos on a Thursday and descended with them on a Monday. Since these luchos created a tremendous closeness between Hashem and the Jewish people, these days are called yemei ratzon (literally, days of favor). Therefore, the leaders of that generation felt it most appropriate to establish the mitzvos of reading the Torah on these days. For the same reason, these days are often observed as fasts.

Min HaTorah or not?

Because there is Bibical origin for this mitzvah, one authority, the Bach (Orach Chayim, Chapter 685), considers the requirement to read the Torah three times a week to be min haTorah. However, the consensus of halachic authorities is that this requirement has the status of an early, and perhaps the earliest of, takanos chachomim, obligations established by the Sages.

2. Festive reading

Thus far, we have explained the origin of reading the Torah three times a week. The reading that takes place on a Yom Tov, each of which is about the festival on which it is read, has a different reason. The Mishnah (Megillah 31a) cites a Torah source for this requirement, that we should read on the Yom Tov about its mitzvos and its theme.

The following Mishnah (ibid. 21a) embellishes some of the details of these two mitzvos, the takanah to read the Torah on Monday and Thurday, and the special festival reading on holidays:

“On Mondays, Thursdays and Mincha on Shabbos, three people read the Torah. You may not have either less or more people read… The first person to read and the last one both recite berochos. On Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed, four people read the Torah. You may not have either less or more people read… The first and the last person to read both recite berochos.”

Rashi explains that on Monday and Thursday we limit the reading to three aliyos to avoid inconveniencing people, since it is a workday.

The Gemara (Megillah 21b) explains the Mishnah’s statement that the first person to read and the last one both recite berochos to mean that the first person reading the Torah on any given day recites the berocha before the reading (Asher bochar banu…) and the last person recites the berocha after the reading (Asher nosan lonu…. Rashi, in his commentary to the Mishnah, explains this to mean that only the first person and the last person were required to recite berochos, but that the others who read the Torah may recite the berochos, if they want.

Later, Chazal instituted that each person who reads from the Torah recites a berocha, both before and after his own aliyah. This was instituted out of concern that individuals who left shul before the completion of the Torah reading will think that there is no berocha after the reading; similarly, if only the first person recites a berocha before reading, those people who arrive after the reading of the Torah has begun will think that there is no berocha prior to the reading.

It is interesting to note Chazal’s concern for people whose behavior is not optimal. It is forbidden to leave in the middle of kerias haTorah, and we certainly hope that people come to shul on time. Yet, Chazal made new takanos so that these people not err.

Returning to the Mishnah (Megillah 21a), it then explains: “This is the rule: any day on which there is musaf, yet it is not Yom Tov, four people read. On Yom Tov, five (people read the Torah), on Yom Kippur, six, and on Shabbos, seven. You may not have less people read, but you may have more”. We see that the more sanctity the day has, the more people read from the Torah. Musaf demonstrates that the day has some kedusha, and therefore, on Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed, four people read. Yom Tov, which has greater sanctity than Rosh Chodesh or Chol Hamoed, requires that five people read. Since Yom Kippur has greater sanctity than other yomim tovim, it requires that six people read the Torah, and Shabbos, with even greater sanctity, requires that seven people read the Torah. That is why when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, we call up seven people for the Yom Kippur reading in parshas Acharei Mos, whereas when it falls on a weekday, we call up only six, not including maftir.

According to Rashi, the statement that you may have more people read applies not only on Shabbos but on Yom Tov and Yom Kippur as well. This means that you may call up to the Torah more than five aliyos on Yom Tov and more than six on Yom Kippur. According to other rishonim (mentioned by the Ran), only on Shabbos may we add extra aliyos. In general, we follow the latter opinion and do not add extra aliyos on Yom Tov, with the exception of Simchas Torah, when most Ashkenazic communities follow Rashi’s opinion and add many aliyos (Rema, Orach Chayim 282:1).

In actuality, there is a dispute among tana’im whether Shabbos has greater sanctity than Yom Kippur, or vice versa. According to the tana who contends that Yom Kippur has greater sanctity, six people read the Torah on Shabbos and seven on Yom Kippur (Megillah 23a). The Turei Even explains that this tana considers Yom Kippur to be holier because of the extra prayer that we daven, tefillas neilah.

The Gemara mentions a dispute whether the maftir aliyah is considered one of the aliyos counted in the Mishnah or not, but this is a topic that we will leave for a future article.

Although the Mishnah does not mention how this is applied on fast days, Chanukah and Purim, since there is no musaf on any of these days, we conclude that only three people read.

Rosh Chodesh reading

The discussion of the festivals in parshas Emor does not make overt mention of Rosh Chodesh. Is there indeed a Torah requirement to read the Torah on Rosh Chodesh? This matter is disputed among acharonim, the Penei Moshe ruling that it includes Rosh Chodesh, and Rav Moshe Feinstein ruling that it does not (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:101:2; 2:8).

3. Mincha reading

The Mishnah (Megillah 21a) I quoted above also mentions that we read from the Torah at mincha on Shabbos. The Gemara (Bava Kama 82a) notes that this mitzvah is of later origin than the requirement to read the Torah on Monday, Thursday and Shabbos mornings. Reading the Torah at mincha on Shabbos was instituted by Ezra, at the beginning of the second Beis Hamikdash period. Its purpose was to accommodate the spiritual needs of those individuals whose business enterprises precluded them from making it to shul for kerias haTorah on Monday and Thursday (as explained by Shitah Mekubetzes). This reading provides these individuals with another opportunity to study Torah. A different approach is that this was instituted for people who spend their Shabbos afternoon in wasteful activity, and to provide them with an opportunity to be influenced by Torah to use their “free time” more wisely (Me’iri, Kiryas Sefer, 5:1). According to either interpretation, we see another situation in which Chazal created an obligation for everyone, because of concern for some individuals.

How much, how many?

The Gemara explains (Bava Kama 82a) that, although the original takanah when the Jews were in the Desert required reading the Torah three times a week, on Monday, Thursday and Shabbos, there was no requirement as to how much should be read. When Ezra instituted the additional reading at mincha on Shabbos, he also established several rules germane to that reading and to the reading on Monday and Thursday. He instituted that at least three people must be called to the Torah and that each reading must include at least ten pesukim. The Gemara explains that three people are called up to represent the Kohanim, Levi’im and Yisroelim, presumably to show that all three sub-groups within Klal Yisroel need to be involved in the fulfillment of this takanah.

With time, the custom developed that, on Shabbos mincha, Monday and Thursday, we read from the beginning of the next parsha (Me’iri, Kiryas Sefer, 5:1). Usually, we read what will be the kohein’s aliyah on the next Shabbos morning, but there are weeks when this is not followed precisely, either because the kohein’s aliyah is too short to accomodate three aliyos, or because his aliyah is longer than we want to read on Monday and Thursday.

4. Complete reading

The reading on Shabbos morning that was originally established when the Jews were in the Desert eventually included a custom that the entire Torah would be read in a cyclical pattern. Exactly when this was established is unclear; but it is very clear that, initially, there were at least two customs how often the entire Torah was completed in the weekly Shabbos readings. One custom completed the entire Torah as we do, every year, whereas the other approach completed it only every three years (Megillah 29b; Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 13:1). At some point in Jewish history, it became common practice to complete the reading of the Torah every year, and to finish this reading on Simchas Torah (Megillah 31a; Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 13:1). At that time, the division of the Torah into our current weekly parshios occurred, and the system of “double parshios” developed to accommodate the completion of the Torah whether it is a leap year or not.

After the practice to complete the entire Torah annually became universally accepted, the following became an issue: What is the halacha if you mistakenly skipped a posuk while reading the Torah — or the baal keriah misread something in a way that invalidates the reading — but it was not realized until later. Must you reread the Torah portion for the week?

Missed a posuk

At this point, we can return to one of our opening questions: “What is the halacha if we began an aliyah a posuk later than the previous aliyah had ended?

Based on Mesechta Sofrim (11:6) and Hagahos Maimoniyos, the Shulchan Aruch rules as follows:

On Monday, Thursday, Shabbos mincha or Yom Tov, the rule is as follows: Provided each person called to the Torah had an aliyah of at least three pesukim, and the reading of the Torah was at least ten pesukim, there is no need to repeat the reading. However, if this happened on Shabbos morning, even if we already returned the sefer Torah and davened musaf, we must take out the sefer Torah again and read the missed posuk and two more pesukim next to it, to make it into a proper aliyah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 137:3).

Thus, to answer this question, “What is the halacha if we began an aliyah a posuk later than the previous aliyah had ended,” we need the following information:

1. During which keriah did this happen?

2. Did the two aliyos, the ones before and after the skipped posuk, still have three pesukim?

3. Were at least ten pesukim read for the entire kerias haTorah?

Assuming that the answers to questions 2 and 3 were both Yes, and this happened to any keriah other than Shabbos morning, there is no need to do anything. If either of these rules was not observed, meaning that one of the people received an aliyah of less than three pesukim, or the entire reading was less than ten pesukim, then the sefer Torah should be taken out, one person should be called to the Torah, and he should read at least three pesukim (if rule 2 was broken) or four pesukim (if rule 3 was broken).

If this happened during a Shabbos morning keriah, and, as a result, one posuk from the week’s parsha was not read, then they should take out the sefer Torah and read the skipped posuk, together with two other pesukim next to it. There is no need to reread the entire aliyah.

Skipped a posuk

At this point, let us address a different one of our opening questions:

“After davening on Shabbos morning, we realized that the baal keriah skipped a posuk during the last aliyah. What do we do now?”

The brief answer to this question is that it is the subject of a dispute between early acharonim. The Keneses Hagedolah, by Rav Chayim Benveniste of Turkey, one of the most prominent poskim of the 17th century, rules that we do not take out a new sefer Torah to read the end of the parsha in this instance. He is disputed by the Maharif, Rav Yaakov Feraji Mahmah, who was the rov, av beis din and rosh yeshiva of Alexandria, Egypt, in the early eighteenth century. The Maharif’s contention is that once it is established practice where we stop reading the Torah each Shabbos, which the Levush (Orach Chayim 137:5) calls a takanas chachamim, we are required to complete that reading on Shabbos, even if we need to take out a sefer Torah a second time to fulfill it. The Keneses Hagedolah apparently holds that we are required to call up seven aliyos, but once the baal keriah completed the seventh aliyah and the sefer Torah was returned, we can fulfill the takanah of completing the entire Torah by beginning the next week’s parsha early; thereby making up for the missing pesukim.

Conclusion

In the introduction to Sefer HaChinuch, the author writes that the main mitzvah upon which all the other mitzvos rest is that of Talmud Torah. Through Torah learning, a person will know how to fulfill all of the other mitzvos. That is why Chazal instituted a public reading of a portion of the Torah every Shabbos twice and on Mondays and Thursdays. Knowing that the proper observance of all the mitzvos is contingent on Torah learning, our attention to kerias haTorah will be heightened. According the Torah reading the great respect it is due should increase our sensitivity to the observance of all the mitzvos.

Medicines on Shabbos

Question #1: Vitamin E oil

“May I rub Vitamin E oil on Shabbos into my skin to alleviate some discomfort?”

Question #2: Mixed before Shabbos

“May I mix a medicine into food before Shabbos and then take it on Shabbos?”

Introduction

In parshas Chukas, the Torah teaches that when the Bnei Yisroel complained against Hashem and Moshe for taking them through the desert without adequate provisions and for providing them with mann, a plague of poisonous snakes was unleashed among them and killed many Jews. When the Jews did teshuvah and asked Moshe to daven on their behalf, Hashem commanded him to make a snake out of copper and place it on top of a pole. Subsequently, anyone bitten by a poisonous snake would look at the copper snake and live.

The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 29a) comments: Does the copper snake determine life and death? No, it does not. When people looked in its direction, they were reminded of Hashem, prayed to Him and survived the bite.

Later in history, an image of a snake wrapped around the upper end of a pole became the international symbol of an apothecary or other medical facility. Obviously, this is the perfect week to discuss the halachos of using medicines on Shabbos, particularly since the work of the pharmacist is the basis for this halachic discussion.

Don’t take your medicine!

The Mishnah and Gemara allude to a prohibition that Chazal instituted not to take medicines on Shabbos. For example, the Mishnah (Shabbos 111a) records the following:

Someone whose teeth are causing him pain may not sip vinegar as a remedy, but is permitted to dip his food into vinegar in his usual method of eating; there is no concern if this accomplishes his purpose of using the vinegar as an analgesic.

From this Mishnah, we see that Chazal prohibited doing anything that is clearly performed to alleviate pain or discomfort. This prohibition is called “refuah” by the poskim.

The Gemara concludes that it is prohibited to sip vinegar only if he spits it out, but it is permitted to sip vinegar and swallow it, since people sometimes do this to arouse a greater appetite.

From a different passage of Gemara (Beitzah 22a), we see that this prohibition also exists on Yom Tov. This article will attempt to clarify the rabbinic prohibition of refuah on Shabbos. Explaining this topic adequately requires two introductory lists:

Hierarchy of prohibitions

To begin with, we need to understand that there are different levels of prohibition that are set aside for the needs of a person who is ill. First, I will list these, and then afterward, we will see what rules apply to permit these activities – in other words, how ill must a person be to permit them.

A. De’oraisa – A Jew performing an action that is usually prohibited on Shabbos min haTorah.

B. DerabbananA Jew performing a rabbinic prohibition.

C. Derabbanan with a shinuyA Jew performing a rabbinic prohibition in an unusual way.

D. Amirah lenachriAsking a non-Jew to do something that a Jew is not permitted to do.

E. RefuahAn action that is prohibited solely because it serves a medical purpose.

Hierarchy of conditions

According to most poskim, levels of “illness” or “wellness” are classified under five categories (cf. Eglei Tal, Meleches Tochein 17, 18 and notes who disagrees). I am listing these beginning from the category that is most severe medically, where the halacha is most lenient:

  1. Choli she’yeish bo sakanah

Any medical condition or situation that might be a threat to life, even if remote, is called a choli she’yeish bo sakanah. In this situation, we perform whatever is necessary to make the patient safe and properly treated. In other words, none of the categories of activities above is prohibited, and it is meritorious and required to perform whatever is necessary as quickly as possible to save the patient (pikuach nefesh).

What type of condition qualifies as choli she’yeish bo sakanah?

In general, an internal injury is assumed to be pikuach nefesh until determined otherwise (Avodah Zarah 28a, see Tur, Orach Chayim 328). Excess or unusual internal pain is similarly assumed to be pikuach nefesh until determined otherwise. The extensive details germane to these situations will not be dealt with in this article.

2. Sakanas eiver

This is a situation in which there is no threat to a person’s life, but he runs the risk of losing the use of part of his body irreversibly, if it is left untreated. Contemporary authorities rule that this category includes a patient in which the result may be a limp or permanent weakness in a limb (Chut Hashani, Volume 4, 89:27), and even if this result is only a possibility (Minchas Shelomoh, Volume 2:34:36).

The Shulchan Aruch quotes several opinions regarding what the halacha is germane to this situation. He concludes that although violating Torah law is permitted only when there is risk, albeit remote, to someone’s life, violating any rabbinic prohibitions is permitted in a situation of sakanas eiver (Orach Chayim 328:17). This includes asking a non-Jew to do anything for his needs (Ran, Shabbos 39b s.v. Umeiha). It goes without saying that the prohibition not to take medicines does not apply to this category. In other words, to treat this patient, all categories of prohibitions listed above, except for level A, are permitted.

To the best of my knowledge, the approach preferred by the Shulchan Aruch is accepted by all the subsequent authorities (Rema, Magen Avraham, Taz, Gra, Nishmas Adam 69:1, et al.).

3. Choleh kol gufo she’ein bo sakanah

This refers to a condition in which someone is ill in a way that affects his entire body, such as he is ill enough to go to bed (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 328:17). It also includes situations in which the discomfort is intense enough that he feels that his entire body is affected (Rema ad locum), he is running a fever that is higher than his usual body temperature (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 33:1) or if, without medical intervention, he will end up with a condition similar to one of those mentioned above (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 33:1). In addition, a child, an elderly person or someone whose general condition is weak may be in this category.

In this situation of choleh kol gufo, we find differing opinions among the rishonim regarding how lenient the halacha is. All authorities agree that a choleh kol gufo may ask a non-Jew to do something for him (level D), and it is prohibited for a Jew to perform on Shabbos or Yom Tov a melacha min haTorah for this patient (level A).

The Rosh was uncertain whether you can perform an issur derabbanan other than asking a non-Jew, and Rashi may have been stringent regarding this issue (levels B and C, see Eglai Tal, Meleches Tochein #36 and #38). On the other hand, the Rambam rules that any issur derabbanan is permitted. The Ramban splits the difference, permitting a Jew to do a melacha only with a shinuy, in other words, permitting level C and forbidding level B.

The Shulchan Aruch concludes, according to the Ramban, that an activity that is ordinarily prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction may be performed by a Jew in an indirect way (i.e., with a shinuy). Furthermore, a non-Jew can be asked to do anything for his needs (Ramban and Rashba, Shabbos 129a). In addition, the prohibition of performing a refuah activity does not exist for this person when no other melacha activity is involved. In other words, to treat this patient, all categories listed above, except for levels A and B, are permitted.

4. Meichush

The word meichush means an ache, and carries with it the inference that it is a relatively minor discomfort. The term also includes someone who is mildly ill, but does not pass the threshold of the previous category of choleh kol gufo. One of the terms used to describe this category is that the person is walking around like a healthy person – he does not appear to be ill, but he is suffering from some minor ailment. If it is clearly noticeable that he is in pain or that he is experiencing discomfort, he is not in the category of meichush, but in the previous category of choleh kol gufo.

A meichush does not permit performing any melacha activity, even one that is prohibited only because of a rabbinic decree. Furthermore, he may not attempt to alleviate the discomfort by use of any treatment being performed for that purpose. This is referred to as the prohibition against refuah, established by Chazal. In other words, to treat this patient, all categories listed above are prohibited.

5. Bari

This refers to someone who is perfectly healthy, but would like to do something that is usually considered a medicinal-type act to maintain or bolster his health. All authorities agree that a person may not perform a melacha activity for this purpose, whether the activity is forbidden min haTorah or miderabbanan. There is a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Magen Avraham whether the special prohibition of refuah, i.e., preparing or taking medicinal aids or doing healing acts, applies to someone who is not sick. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 328:37) rules that it does not; the prohibition to perform refuah applies only to someone who qualifies as being a bit ill. The Magen Avraham concludes that the prohibition of refuah applies, also, to someone who is completely well, but wants to do something that would usually be considered a medicinal type of activity.

In other words, a person who is healthy may certainly not do anything in categories A-D to enhance or bolster his health. Whether the prohibition of refuah, category E, applies is a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch, who is lenient, and the Magen Avraham, who rules strictly. As there does not appear to be a consensus among halachic authorities which approach to follow, I recommend that our readers consult with their rav or posek for halachic guidance.

Why are medicines prohibited on Shabbos?

The rest of this article will focus on explaining what I called above “Category E”: the rabbinic prohibition to do anything on Shabbos that is usually performed for medical reasons.

First we want to understand: Why did Chazal establish this prohibition?

The Gemara (Shabbos 53b) implies that the reason for the prohibition of refuah on Shabbos is because preparing medicines often involves crushing raw herbs, thus violating the melacha of grinding. This reason is mentioned by the primary early rishonim in several places (Rashi, Brachos 36b, Shabbos 108b, Beitzah 11b, Avodah Zarah 28a; Tosafos, Shabbos 64b, 93a, Eiruvin 102b; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 21:2; Rashba, Shabbos 129a; Rosh, Avodah Zarah 2:10). Other authorities provide an additional reason for the prohibition: at times, the application of a medicinal preparation involves a different melacha activity, that of memarei’ach, smearing and smoothing the salve onto the skin (Chayei Adam 69:1).

The discussion about this prohibition is scattered across many different places in the Gemara, and the conclusions are explained in Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chayim, Chapters 327 and 328.

At this point, we will return to the Mishnah I quoted above (Shabbos 111a): Someone whose teeth are causing him pain may not sip vinegar as a remedy, but he is permitted to dip his food into vinegar in his usual method of eating; there is no concern if this accomplishes his purpose of using the vinegar as an analgesic. Someone experiencing pain in the sides of his body may not smear wine or vinegar as a remedy, but he may apply oil as long as it is not rose oil.

Based on our previous discussion, we now know that this Mishnah is discussing someone who is uncomfortable because of a toothache or minor irritation on his side, but who does not qualify as a choleh kol gufo — in other words, what we called before someone suffering from a meichush (category 4). We also see another very important principle: An activity that would commonly be done for a non-medical reason may be done notwithstanding that the person intends to alleviate thereby pain or discomfort — a medical reason.

Rashi explains that people smear oil on their bodies for other than medical reasons, but not wine, vinegar or rose oil. Wine and vinegar were smeared only for medical reasons, and rose oil was not smeared for non-medical reasons, because it was too expensive to use for this purpose. Therefore, smearing wine, vinegar or rose oil is clearly for a medical reason, and is included under the rabbinic prohibition of refuah, but smearing other oils is not.

Incidentally, we see from this Mishnah that there is no prohibition of memarei’ach when rubbing oil into your skin on Shabbos. This is explained by halachic authorities to be permitted because oil is too thin to smooth out surfaces. Since this is not our topic for today’s article, we will not spend more time on it.

Individual circumstances

Whether something is done usually for medical purposes or not might be subjective. In certain societies, there are things that are considered a normal activity, whereas in others, the same activity would not be done except as a medical treatment. How do we determine what is a “normal activity?”

The answer to this question is found in the continuation of the Mishnah, which states: Princes may smear rose oil on their injuries, because they smear it on regular days, even without a medical purpose. Rabbi Shimon rules that all Jews are treated like princes, and that therefore they may all smear rose oil as a medical treatment.

Both the first tanna and Rabbi Shimon agree that an activity that is sometimes performed for non-medical reasons may be done to alleviate a discomfort. Therefore, princes, who might apply rose oil not as a medical treatment, may use it to alleviate discomfort, whereas, according the first tanna, common folk ,may not. Rabbi Shimon permits someone to do something that a different person would be doing for non-medical reasons, whereas the first tanna requires that he, himself, would do this activity on other occasions when not uncomfortable.

Notwithstanding Rabbi Shimon’s position, the majority of early authorities and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim) conclude according to the first tanna’s opinion: someone can do something to alleviate discomfort only if he, himself, might do the same for a non-medical purpose.

Vitamin E oil

Thus, we can now answer our opening question: “May I rub Vitamin E oil on Shabbos into my skin to alleviate some discomfort?”

The answer is that it will depend: If people do rub Vitamin E oil when there is no medical discomfort, this would be permitted. I believe that this is not standard practice, and therefore it would seem to me that this is prohibited on Shabbos, unless the person is a choleh kol gufo.

Local circumstances

We see from this part of the Mishnah that when an act is performed commonly for non-medical reasons, someone may do it on Shabbos to alleviate discomfort or for a different medical reason. The Gemara expands this by noting that Rav permitted people in his town to smear rose oil on Shabbos, because where he lived it was plentiful, inexpensive and was used commonly without medical need. We see that local circumstances can determine what is permitted typical use.

Does this concept apply only lekula or even lechumrah? Is an activity that is common for non-medical reasons, be performed in a geographic location where it is done only to alleviate discomfort? The answer is that this concept is true also lechumrah: the Rema (Orach Chayim 327:1) prohibits rubbing oil on the body on Shabbos if locally this is done only for medical reasons.

From this discussion, we see that a Shabbos prohibition existed even to use a medicinal process or aid whose preparation did not involve the melacha of grinding. We also see that an item that might be used by a healthy person is not included in the prohibition, and that determining whether a substance may be used or not can be dependent on local circumstances.

May I mix?

At this point, let us address the second of our opening questions: “May I mix a medicine into food before Shabbos and then take it on Shabbos?”

Based on an extensive analysis of one of the sugyos, Rav Moshe Feinstein permits mixing a medicine into food before Shabbos and eating the food on Shabbos, since people see him eating regular food. Rav Moshe demonstrates that the mixing of the food must be before Shabbos, not on Shabbos itself (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:86).

Conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. In this context, we can explain the vast halachic literature devoted to understanding this particular prohibition, created by Chazal to protect the Jewish people from major sins.

Early Maariv

Question #1: Earliest Maariv?

When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Question #2: Earliest Shabbos?

May I daven maariv earlier on Friday evening?

Question #3: Earliest Conflict?

What does “tartei desasri” mean?

Question #4: Early Meal?

If I make “early Shabbos,” when may I begin the Shabbos meal?

Background

We may have heard terms like “mincha gedolah,” “mincha ketanah,” “plag,” “Magen Avraham’s zman,” “Gra’s zman,” “tosefes Shabbos;” and “tartei desasri” and have an approximate idea of what they mean, yet not a perfect understanding.

Let’s explain some of the terms:

Mincha gedolah: This is the earliest time that it is permitted to daven mincha (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam), and is half an hour after halachic midday (ibid.). For virtually all the calculations that we will be making, “an hour” is what we call a sha’ah zemanis, which means that we divide the daytime into twelve parts, and each part is considered an hour. One of the major questions that we will be discussing is whether the “daytime” we are dividing is calculated from sunrise to sunset (which means that it averages out over the year to about sixty minutes) or whether it is calculated from halachic dawn until nightfall, in which case each hour is considerably longer.

Mincha ketanah: The preferred time to daven mincha is after mincha ketanah (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam). This is half an hour after the day is three-quarters over (ibid.). Expressing this in a more mathematical way, it is 9.5/12 or 19/24 of the day. Here the range among the various opinions is much wider than it is for mincha gedolah. The time on your home clock for mincha ketanah is much later when you end the day at nightfall than when you end it at sunset because your daytime hours and length of each hour are longer.

Plag, or, as it should properly be called, “plag hamincha,” is midway between mincha ketanah and the “end” of the day. The word plag literally means “splitting” or “half.” The mathematical way of expressing this is 10.75/12, or 43/48 of the way through the day, meaning that if you divide daytime into 48 quarter-hours, calculating backward from the end of the day by five of these quarter-hours is plag haminchah. The same dispute that I mentioned earlier, whether we calculate the end of the day from nightfall or from sunset, also makes a tremendous difference here regarding when is plag haminchah.

The main halachic factors determined by plag hamincha are when is the earliest time of day that one may daven maariv, and when is the earliest time of the day that someone may light the Shabbos lights and accept Shabbos.

Magen Avraham’s zman” and “Gra’s zman:” These terms are used most frequently in reference to the latest time by which Shema must be recited every morning, which is before a quarter of the day has passed. The difference between these two zmanim is that the Magen Avraham calculates the day from alos hashachar, sometimes called halachic dawn, until tzeis hakochavim (Magen Avraham 58:1), “when the stars come out,” whereas the Gra calculates it from sunrise to sunset (Orach Chayim 459:2; Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 261:10). Calculating the other three times of the day that I mentioned above — mincha gedolah, mincha ketanah, and plag hamincha — is also dependent on the same question: whether we calculate these zmanim by beginning the day at alos hashachar and ending it at tzeis hakochavim, or by beginning it at sunrise and ending it at sunset. (There are authorities who calculate some of these laws from alos hashachar to tzeis hakochavim and others from sunrise to sunset; see acharonim who explain above Magen Avraham; Achuzas Sadeh, page 62.)

The Gemara mentions that the cutoff-point between one day and the next, is at tzeis hakochavim, “when the stars come out” (Brachos 2a-b; Pesachim 2a; Megillah 20b). There are authorities who reach a different halachic conclusion, but we will discuss this some other time.

Tosefes Shabbos: the halachic requirement to begin observing Shabbos before the day has yet arrived and, also, to continue observing Shabbos for some time after the day is over on Saturday night. Even if we are able to calculate the exact moment that Shabbos begins and ends, we are required to add time, before it begins and after it ends.

Tartei desasri, literally, two that contradict, means two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow two opposing opinions. We will soon see how this applies to our discussion.

Opening questions

At this point, let us discuss our first opening question: When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Although several Mishnayos discuss the beginning and ending time of many mitzvos and prayers, they make no reference to the earliest time to daven maariv. Instead, the Mishnah (Brachos 26a) states that “the maariv prayer has no established time.” The same Mishnah records a dispute among tanna’im when is the latest time to daven mincha (Brachos 26a): An anonymous tanna, whom the Gemara calls the “Sages” (chachamim), permits davening mincha “until evening,” whereas Rabbi Yehudah ends the time for mincha at plag hamincha, notwithstanding that the day is not yet over.

The Gemara (Brachos 26b) then quotes a Tosefta (Brachos Chapter 3) in which these tanna’im explain their opinions. Rabbi Yehudah contends that the latest time for mincha is at plag hamincha because this is the latest time that the afternoon korban tamid may be offered in the Beis Hamikdash. The Sages disagree with Rabbi Yehudah, contending that the korban tamid may be offered until the end of the day and, therefore, the prayer of mincha may also be recited until then. Thus, all agree that the time for davening mincha is dependent on when the afternoon korban tamid may be offered.

In the Tosefta and Gemara, it states that maariv has no “set time” because the remains of the korbanos that were offered during the previous day are burnt on the mizbeiach all night long.

Earliest Maariv?

As mentioned, the Mishnah says nothing about when the time for maariv begins. However, the following Gemara implies that it begins when the time for mincha ends. The Gemara notes that Rav davened the maariv of Shabbos when it was still Friday afternoon; the Gemara derives from this practice that Rav accepted the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah. The Gemara then concludes that, since Rav Huna and other great rabbis did not daven maariv until it was night, they follow the opinion of the Sages. Thereby, the Gemara implies that the time for maariv begins whenever the time for mincha ends; since Rav davened maariv before nightfall, he must hold like Rabbi Yehudah that it is now too late to daven mincha. According to the Sages, that the latest time for mincha is “evening,” one cannot daven maariv earlier.

Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages?

The Gemara discusses whether the halacha accords with Rabbi Yehudah, that the demarcation between mincha and maariv is plag hamincha, or whether we rule like the Sages, that it is the end of the day. After rallying various opinions in either direction, the Gemara concludes that there is no clear-cut accepted practice, and, as a result, each individual can choose which approach he wants to follow. This leads us to the following question, which the rishonim address: Can one daven sometimes according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, and sometimes according to the Sages? Although there are many instances in halacha of tartei desasri, the one involving davening mincha and maariv is the most commonly referred to instance.

Tartei desasri

I explained above that this means following two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow opposing opinions. For example, the Gemara prohibits certain practices that would be following the opinion of Beis Hillel, in one aspect, and that of Beis Shammai, in another. This is prohibited because, taken together, someone is doing something not accepted by either academy (Eiruvin 7a).

At this point, our question is as follows: May someone follow the opinion of the Sages by davening mincha after plag, and also follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah and daven maariv before the day ends? Although the halacha does not definitively follow either Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages, davening mincha at a time that Rabbi Yehudah rules is too late, and maariv when the Sages consider it too early, is tartei desasri (Tosafos, Brachos 2a s.v. Mei’eimasai). Although I may follow either of the two opinions, tartei desasri implies that I cannot mix – since this results in following no opinion.

Most rishonim consider this a concern, the majority contending that someone should decide that he follows either Rabbi Yehudah, and never davens mincha after plag hamincha, or that he follows the Sages, and never davens maariv before the day ends.

Some rishonim rule that this is a problem only on the same day, i.e., one should not daven mincha after plag and maariv before the day ends on the same day, but there is no problem doing this on different days (see Mordechai, Brachos #89, cited by Magen Avraham). Although most rishonim do not hold this way, the prevalent custom is to follow this approach.

There is a minority opinion that there is no problem with davening mincha and maariv in a way that causes a tartei desasri, particularly when davening with a tzibur (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 235; Taz, Orach Chayim 235:2; Yad Efrayim, 267:1).

Fourteenth century conundrum

In the fourteenth century, it was apparently common among Ashkenazim that the summertime communal minchamaariv minyan was scheduled considerably before plag hamincha. This raises a major halachic concern, because no opinion cited by the Gemara allows davening maariv this early.

This issue was raised by perhaps the most prominent poseik of the era, the Terumas Hadeshen (1:1), who notes that the practice seems to defy the rules we would derive from the Gemara. Yet, he concludes that one should daven together with the community minyan. Although the Terumas Hadeshen does not fully explain his conclusion, he may opine that a community’s prayer schedule may be more flexible than that of an individual, as evidenced by a different passage of Gemara (Brachos 27b). We should note that the Gemara mentions this factor only regarding a situation in which an error occurred that caused the tzibur to daven too early.

Earliest Shabbos?

At this point, we will address the second of our opening questions: May I daven maariv earlier [than I usually do] on Friday night?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 267:2) permits davening maariv on Friday evening while it is still day, even according to the Sages. This appears to contradict the Gemara, cited above, that permitted davening maariv early on Friday night only according to Rabbi Yehudah.

I am aware of at least four approaches that can be used to justify this practice, three of which are mentioned by the Magen Avraham (267:1):

(1) The Baal Halachos Gedolos and other authorities understand that a later passage of Gemara permits early maariv on Friday night even according to the opinion of the Sages. The rationale for this is because tosefes Shabbos permits davening early, since accepting Shabbos prohibits davening the weekday mincha of Friday. Once the time of mincha ended (because he accepted Shabbos), the time for maariv automatically begins, even though night has not yet begun (Mordechai; Olas Shabbos 267:1; Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 27a s.v. Amar rav Chanina).

(2) As I mentioned above, Chazal instituted the nightly prayer of maariv, corresponding to placing leftover parts of the day’s korbanos on the mizbei’ach. On a weekday in the Beis Hamikdash, what was not consumed by the fires during the day was burnt at night. However, this was the procedure only on a weekday. No leftovers were burnt on Friday night, because it is Shabbos; instead, they were burnt Friday afternoon. Since maariv corresponds to the burning of these parts of the korbanos, it is permitted to daven maariv at the time that these were offered – on Friday before nightfall.

(3) The Magen Avraham suggests a different reason why someone may daven earlier on erev Shabbos — based on the opinion of the Mordechai that permits following the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah one day and that of the Sages on a different day. Thus, you may daven mincha before plag and maariv after plag on Friday, notwithstanding that the rest of the week you daven mincha much later in the day.

(4) According to the above-mentioned responsum of the Terumas Hadeshen, a tzibur may daven maariv early, immediately after davening mincha, even though we would otherwise consider it too early to daven maariv. This approach might be based on the idea that tefillas aravis reshus, that maariv is less obligatory than the other tefillos, and therefore one can be more flexible with its time.

There are several halachic differences (nafka mina) that result from these various answers. For example, according to the first two approaches, it is acceptable to daven mincha on Friday evening after plag and maariv immediately after, and it is not considered tartei desasri.

The Magen Avraham concludes that someone davening maariv early on Friday evening should daven mincha before plag. This is because he accepts the third approach, that of the Mordechai, as the main heter, notwithstanding that he quoted three reasons to be lenient.

Nevertheless, the accepted practice, in most places, is to be less concerned than is the Magen Avraham.

Earliest Shema?

When is the earliest time to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema at night?

Most rishonim assume that the earliest time to recite the Shema is at tzeis hakochavim. After all, most mitzvos that we observe at night are dependent on tzeis hakochavim.

However, when the Torah instructs us concerning the mitzvah of reading the Shema, it never says that the mitzvah is at night. The Torah teaches that we are to perform the mitzvah be’shachbecha, when we go to bed, or while we are in bed (see Rashi, Brachos 2a). This distinction produced much halachic literature at the time of the tanna’im, many of whom held that the time for reciting the evening Shema does not necessarily begin at tzeis hakochavim (Brachos 2b). Rabbeinu Tam concludes that one may fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema as early as plag hamincha. His reasoning why Shema is different appears to be that the Torah never states that Shema be recited at night, but when you go to bed, and there are those who go to bed early.

Early Meal?

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: If I make “early Shabbos,” must I be careful what time I begin eating the Shabbos meal?

The halacha prohibits beginning a meal once it is the time for reciting Shema, or even within a half hour of that time, without first reciting Shema. This means that if it is less than half an hour before the time that the day ends, one must wait until it is nightfall and recite Shema before beginning the meal.

However, there is no problem with beginning the meal more than half an hour before nightfall, continuing the meal into the night, and reciting Shema when the meal is over. Since it was permitted to start the meal, Chazal did not require interrupting the meal to say Shema.

Someone who starts Shabbos shortly after plag hamincha and begins the meal within a short time thereafter does not have any concern about this halacha, since he is beginning the meal well before half an hour before the time to recite Shema. The question concerns someone who starts Shabbos at a set time every week, and the meal sometimes starts within half an hour of the time to recite Shema. Is he permitted to begin his meal now, or must he wait until it is late enough for him to recite Shema before he begins his meal?

Indeed, the conclusion of many prominent authorities is that he should wait until he recites Shema (Magen Avraham 235:2).

However, although most rishonim do not accept Rabbeinu Tam’s approach that one can fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema after plag hamincha, there are those who do (Mordechai, Hagahos Maimani, Raavyah, all quoted by Terumas Hadeshen 1:1). The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 235, quoting Mordechai, Shabbos 224 and Ran) and others conclude that, although everyone who davens maariv before it is fully dark should recite the full Shema later and not rely on Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion, regarding the rabbinic prohibition to delay the meal until he recited Shema, one may rely on Rabbeinu Tam that he already fulfilled the mitzvah and may begin the meal already (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 267 and Yad Efrayim).

Conclusion — Why is maariv different?

As the Gemara teaches, Yaakov Avinu introduced maariv. If so, why does the Gemara discuss whether maariv is an obligatory prayer or not? Although we consider maariv to be obligatory, it sounds like someone considered it “second rate” relative to shacharis and mincha,which were established by Avraham and Yitzchak?

The Penei Yehoshua answers that Yaakov was not planning to daven maariv; he had intended to daven mincha, but Hashem caused the sun to set suddenly, giving Yaakov no choice but to daven after nightfall. Since this davening was performed not as Yaakov’s first choice, but because he had no other option, this allows us the option to be more flexible regarding the time of this prayer – a very helpful halachic consideration when Shabbos begins late (Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 26b s.v. Mihu).

Some of the Laws of Seudah Shelishis

Question #1: Min haTorah or not?

Is eating three meals on Shabbos a Torah requirement?

Question #2: Shaloshudis?

Why do most people slur the word and pronounce it as shaloshudis? Should it not be called seudah shelishis?

Question #3: Three and over

What is required to be eaten for the third meal on Shabbos?

Answer:

The mitzvah of celebrating Shabbos is mentioned by the prophet Yeshayahu (58:13), in his famous words, vekarasa laShabbos oneg, “And you shall call Shabbos a delight.” Although this observance is not mentioned in the written Torah, many authorities rule that it has a halachic status of being min haTorah. It may be included in the Torah’s words mikra’ei kodesh (Vayikra 23:2, see Ramban, as explained by Shaar Hatziyun 242:1). Alternatively, it was originally a halacha leMoshe miSinai, meaning part of the Torah Shebe’al Peh without allusion in the written Torah, until Yeshayahu stated this requirement (Chasam Sofer, Shabbos 118a). The Gemara (Yoma 71b) instructs that some halachic rulings had been halacha leMoshe miSinai until the nevi’im taught them. As the Ramban explains (Notes to Sefer Hamitzvos, Shoresh II), since a navi may not add to the Taryag mitzvos, if this requirement was introduced by Yeshayahu, it would have the status of a takkanas chachamim introduced by the great Torah scholar Yeshayahu, who also happened to be a prophet.

The Chasam Sofer (Shabbos 118a) appears to be of the opinion that no early authority held that the mitzvah is only miderabbanan.  After mentioning that some poskim understand the requirement to celebrate the Shabbos not to be min haTorah, the Mishnah Berurah (Shaar Hatziyun 242:1) notes that people should not treat this mitzvah lightly. He suggests that, perhaps, it should be treated even more strictly than a Torah requirement.

Three meals

As part of the observance of oneg Shabbos, Chazal required that we eat three meals every Shabbos. Although the Mishnah never mentions directly a requirement to eat three meals on Shabbos, a beraysa from the era of the Mishnah does report it (Shabbos 117b). This beraysa records a dispute between the tanna kamma, who rules that three meals are required, and Rabbi Chidka, who requires that we eat four meals every Shabbos. The Gemara provides an extensive discussion regarding this dispute.

The famous amora, Rabbi Yochanan, explains that both tanna’im derive their ruling from seemingly extra words in the same pasuk that states, regarding the mann, “And Moshe said, eat it today, for today is Shabbos for Hashem. Today you will not find it (the mann) in the field” (Shemos 16:25). Rabbi Yochanan notes that the word hayom, today, is written three times in the pasuk, and refers each time to Shabbos. This is the midrashic source for eating three meals on “the day” — Shabbos. In other words, eating extra meals on Shabbos is a way to remind us that Hashem provided for us in the Desert.

The tanna kamma understands the pasuk to be requiring that three meals are eaten in the course of Shabbos, whereas Rabbi Chidka derives that the three meals must be consumed during the daytime of Shabbos.

Three meals or four?

Having established that the tanna kamma requires three meals each Shabbos, and Rabbi Chidka requires four, the Gemara discusses whether proof can be rallied from various Mishnayos regarding whether it held like either of these opinions or, perhaps, held a potential third position. In this context, the Gemara cites a Mishnah (Peah 8:7) that reports that there were many levels of tzedakah collection in the days of Chazal, among them was one called tamchuy (literally, plate or platter) and another called kuppah (literally, box). The tamchuy, which was what we call a soup kitchen, supplied meals for anyone who arrived in a Jewish community. Any pauper, whether resident or itinerant, was entitled to eat at the tamchuy (Tosefta, Peah Chapter 4). However, only those who did not have enough money or food for two meals were eligible.

The kuppah was restricted to the local poor (Tosefta, Peah 4:8). Itwas intended for those who were relatively well off –enough to provide at least for their next fourteen meals. The Mishnah assumes that a poor person is satisfied with two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening (no free lunch), and that the kuppah is for those who do not anticipate being able to support themselves and their families with minimal food requirements for the coming week.

Someone with sufficient financial resources to expect that he will have fourteen meals was not permitted to join either the tamchuy or the kuppah. Someone who had two meals, but not fourteen, was permitted to collect from the kuppah, but not from the tamchuy.

The question raised by the Gemara was that the Mishnah does not seem to agree with either the tanna kamma or Rabbi Chidka. According to the tanna kamma, since the requirement for participation in the kuppah was the ability to provide for yourself and your family for the next week, why does the Mishnah state that the minimal requirement for the tanna kamma is someone who has fourteen meals. Since there is a requirement to eat three meals on Shabbos according to the tanna kamma, and four according to Rabbi Chidka, the kuppah limit should be higher – fifteen meals according to the tanna kamma, and sixteen meals according to Rabbi Chidka, allowing for the extra meals required on Shabbos. Upon this basis, the Gemara suggests that the Mishnah represents a third opinion, which requires only two meals on Shabbos.

After a bit of discussion, the Gemara concludes that, indeed, the Mishnah’s ruling is not universally held. However, the author of this Mishnah is Rabbi Akiva (Pesachim 112a, 113a), whose dispute is not with the tanna kamma or Rabbi Chidka regarding the requirement to eat extra meals on Shabbos, but in a different subject. Rabbi Akiva rules that, although there is a requirement to eat extra meals on Shabbos, the requirement does not extend to someone who will require tzedakah funds to provide the extra meals (Shabbos 118a). The rishonim dispute whether we rule according to Rabbi Akiva or not (see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:9, who rules unlike Rabbi Akiva).

The Shulchan Aruch rules according to Rabbi Akiva, although he qualifies the ruling somewhat: “Even a person who is in need of financial assistance should exhibit his desire to honor Shabbos by minimizing what he eats during the weekdays, in order to be able to have a respectable Shabbos meal. The ruling [of Rabbi Akiva] that you should make your Shabbos as a weekday and not utilize tzedakah funds applies only to someone who is truly needy” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 242:1).

Melaveh malkah

Although our article has been discussing exclusively the three meals of Shabbos, and not the motza’ei Shabbos meal of melaveh malkah, we would be remiss not to note the following discussion. In his commentary on this passage of Gemara, Rashi asks the following question: When the Gemara discusses whether the extra Shabbos meals are included in the qualifications for the kuppah, why does it not take into consideration the melaveh malkah meal that one should eat on motza’ei Shabbos (see Shabbos; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 300)? Rashi answers that tzedakah funds are not used to provide for melaveh malkah (Shabbos 118a s.v. achlei). I am aware of two other approaches to answer this question.

1. The Magen Avraham explains that if you ate seudah shelishis late, there is no requirement to eat bread for melaveh malkah, but you can fulfill the mitzvah by eating fruit (Orach Chayim 300). Since the Tosefta (Peah Chapter 4) mentions that a poor person provided from the communal funds is also provided with fruits and vegetables, he can leave over from these for his melaveh malkah.

2. The Ba’eir Heiteiv (Orach Chayim 300:1) quotes from the Ohr Zarua that if you extend seudah shelishis into night, you thereby fulfill the mitzvah of eating melaveh malkah.

According to both of these approaches, someone can fulfill the mitzvah of melaveh malkah without needing extra support from the tzedakah funds.

Bread or not?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 291:5) cites a four-way dispute among rishonim, whether the third meal of Shabbos must be a bread meal. He quotes the following opinions:

1. The third meal must be a bread meal (Mordechai, Shabbos #397, quoting Yerei’im and Maharam; Tosafos, Brachos 49b s.v. ei nami).

2. The third meal can be either mezonos or a bread meal (Tosafos, Sukkah 27a s.v. beminei; see also Tosafos, Yoma 79b s.v. minei).

3. The third meal can be meat or fish, and need not include bread (Mordechai, Shabbos #397, quoting Ra’avyah). Ra’avayah states that eating something that would be considered a delicacy fulfills the mitzvah of eating the third meal.

4. The third meal can be fruit (Ramban; Rashba; Ran all to Shabbos 118a).

It should be noted that all authorities agree that it is preferable to have a bread meal for seudah shelishis, and the other three approaches are to be followed only under extenuating circumstances (Bach; Mishnah Berurah).

Two other opinions

5. Among rishonim, we find yet a fifth, more lenient opinion, that of the Rashba, who contends that one can fulfill any of the three meals of Shabbos by eating fruit. It is possible that he is assuming, similar to the Ra’avyah quoted above, that it must be something unusual to demonstrate the kavod and oneg of Shabbos, and not just eating an apple. This position is not accepted by most authorities, who rule that only the third meal may have this lenience (Tosafos, Pesachim 101a s.v. te’imu; Tur Orach Chayim 274). Those who have difficulty eating grain products can explore with their rav or posek the possibility of relying upon the Rashba’s approach.

6. There is, possibly, yet a sixth opinion, quoted in the name of the Zohar (Parshas Emor), that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai fulfilled the mitzvah of seudah shelishis on Erev Pesach by learning Torah. It is unclear if this Zohar is meant to be understood literally as a halachic opinion, and, even if it is, is it meant to reflect something specifically related to Erev Pesach. Nevertheless, since I have seen it quoted in a halachic context, I share this with our readers.

At this point, we can address one of our opening questions: What is required to be eaten for the third meal on Shabbos?

According to the accepted conclusion of Shulchan Aruch, the third meal of Shabbos for both men and women should include bread. By the way, it should also have two whole loaves on the table, lechem mishneh. This latter halacha applies equally to women and men (Ran, Shabbos).

Under extenuating circumstances, to be discussed with an individual’s rav or posek, it may be permitted to eat mezonos, meat, fish or fruit instead of a full seudah and thereby fulfill the mitzvah of seudah shelishis, which, as we noted above, might be a requirement min haTorah. Someone who has medical issues that preclude his consuming bread at the third meal of Shabbos, or on Erev Pesach, when having three bread meals presents a challenge, can discuss with his rav or posek what to do.

Shaloshudis?

We can also address, at this point, another of our opening questions: Why do most people slur the word and pronounce it as shaloshudis? Should it not be called seudah shelishis?

Indeed, the correct pronunciation of this meal is seudah shelishis, or, in Sefardic and Israeli pronunciation, seudah shelishit. The history of its being called shaloshudis appears to be as follows:

Although having three meals on Shabbos, one on Friday night and two on Shabbos day, should not be a difficult mitzvah to fulfill, many viewed eating bread to fulfill the third meal as a burden. They stated quickly, “we need to fulfill shalosh seudos,” a tongue twister, which easily slurs into shaloshudis. (Similar slurrings occur when people wish one another “a guten yontif,” instead of a guten Yom Tov, or when reading the posuk in Hallel as “ki le’olam chazdo,”instead of ki le’olam chasdo, as the posuk states.)

Kiddush bimkom seudah

It should be noted that a dispute similar to the machlokes rishonim I cited above regarding what one is required to eat for seudah shelishis, exists regarding kiddush bimkom seudah. This means that when one recites kiddush on Friday night or Shabbos morning, one fulfills the mitzvah of kiddush only when he intends to eat a meal at the same time and place (Pesachim 101a; Shulchan Aruch¸Orach Chayim 273 and 289:1). (The details of the laws of kiddush bimkom seudah are quite extensive and will be dealt with at a different time.) The question is: What constitutes a meal?

There are four major opinions:

1. A bread meal (Maasei Rav #122;see also Biur Halacha 273:5 s.v. kosvu).

2. Mezonos (Rabbi Akiva Eiger commentary to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 273:

3. Wine or mezonos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 273:5; Magen Avraham 273:11).

4. Fruit (Shiltei Hagiborim, quoted by Magen Avraham 273:11; and accepted as definitive by Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, Shu’t Ein Yitzchak, Orach Chayim #12).

We should note that the Shulchan Aruch quotes only the third opinion. Following this approach, standard practice on Shabbos morning is to recite kiddush and then eat mezonos to accomplish kiddush bimkom seudah. There are individuals who may wish to be stringent and follow opinion #1, and make sure to eat hamotzi when they recite kiddush Shabbos morning. This is mentioned by his disciples as the Vilna Gaon’s personal practice, but is a personal stringency that may be followed only in a completely unobstrusive way and only after discussion with a gadol baTorah. I refer the reader to the insightful statement of Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav Mei’eliyahu, Volume III, page 294, regarding the status of observing personal chumros that are not halachically mandated.

The fourth, and very lenient, opinion is quoted by some major halachic authorities, but is not usually considered a halachic position on which one can rely. However, someone may receive a special dispensation from their rav or posek to rely upon this approach and eat only fruit and consider it to be kiddush bimkom seudah. This will certainly be understandable for someone suffering from celiac, a food allergy or other medical situation in which consumption of any grain product is counterindicated.

Women and three meals?

Are women obligated to eat three meals on Shabbos, when it is a time-bound mitzvah?

Although the Gemara teaches that women are exempt from time-bound, positive mitzvos, the early halachic authorities require women to eat three meals on Shabbos. Nevertheless, we find a critical dispute as to why this mitzvah is an exception to the rule. Rabbeinu Tam rules that women are obligated because of the principle, af hein hayu be’oso haneis¸ they were also the beneficiaries of the miracle that is the basis of this mitzvah observance, since they also received the mann, upon which the three meals of Shabbos are based. On the other hand, the Ramban and the Ran rule that there is a more basic reason why women should observe this mitzvah: the two different references to the observance of Shabbos in the two versions of the Aseres Hadibroszachor, remember,and shamor, observe –teach that in all mitzvos of Shabbos, men and women are equally obligated. In other words, we have a general principle that the laws of Shabbos are exceptions to the rule that women are not obligated in time-bound mitzvos. (There are practical halachic differences that result from this dispute. Those who would like to research them can look, for example, at Shu’t Rabbi Akiva Eiger #1.)

Conclusion

In reference to the pasuk from Yeshayahu, vekarasa laShabbos oneg, likdosh Hashem mechubad, “And you shall call Shabbos a delight, that day which is holy to Hashem should be honored”, the Ramban (Shemos 20:8) explains that observing Shabbos is not simply a day of rest, and it is certainly not intended to be a day of recreation. It is meant to be a day of holiness, where we draw our attention away from temporal and temporary involvement, ideas and values and, instead, provide pleasure for our bodies, lives and souls in the service of Hashem. This includes emphasizing Torah study, and spending time with Torah scholars, to hear what Hashem wants from us in our daily lives. As I explained at the onset of this article, celebrating Shabbos according to the Torah’s dictates is part of the Torah’s instruction for the proper observance of this Holy day.

Women and Reading Megillah

Question #1: Ba’alas Korei

May a woman be the ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah?

Question #2: Kiddush and Arba Kosos

The elderly Mr. Klein is fully alert, but, unfortunately, he has difficulty enunciating. May Mrs. Klein recite kiddush and the other brachos of the seder for him?

Foreword

Although there is a general rule exempting women from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama, (time-bound requirements involving positive action), such as tefillin, sukkah and tzitzis, there are numerous exceptions to this rule. For example, women are required to observe mitzvos related to Shabbos and Pesach and to hear Megillas Esther on Purim, all topics that we will discuss.

Part of the miracle

In three places, the Gemara quotes an early amora, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who ruled that women are obligated to fulfill the mitzvos of megillah, ner Chanukah and the four kosos of seder night. Although these are all time-bound mitzvos aseih, women are obligated to observe these specific mitzvos because of a different rule, af hein hayu be’oso haneis, “they were also included in the miracle.” This rule means that, when Chazal created the mitzvos of kindling Chanukah lights, reading megillah on Purim or consuming the four cups on the first night of Pesach, they included women in the obligation, notwithstanding that they are usually exempt from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama.

The rishonim dispute what the term af hein hayu be’oso haneis means. Is this emphasizing that they were saved by the miracle, or does it mean that they were involved in bringing about the miracle?

Rashi and the Rashbam (Pesachim 108b) explain that af hein hayu be’oso haneis means that women were involved in causing the miracle (think of Esther declaring that the Jews fast and do teshuvah, approaching Achashveirosh and setting Haman up for his execution). On the other hand, Tosafos (Megillah 4a s. v. She’af; Pesachim 108b s. v. Hayu) contends that it means that women, also, were saved by the miracle of survival, either physical or spiritual, that we celebrate in each of these observances.

Mitzvos min haTorah?

Note that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi applied his principle to three mitzvos, each of which is a requirement only miderabbanan. Is this coincidental, or is the principle of af hein hayu be’oso haneis a principle that Chazal created that does not apply min haTorah? This issue is disputed by two Ba’alei Tosafos. The first opinion cited by Tosafos contends that af hein hayu be’oso haneis is a rabbinic principle and will not create a Torah requirement (Tosafos, Megillah 4a s. v. She’af; Mordechai, Megillah #780). The disputant, Rabbeinu Yosef of Eretz Yisrael, rules that af hein hayu be’oso haneis applies even to mitzvos that are min haTorah.

Shomei’a ke’oneh

Prior to answering our opening questions, we need to understand a halachic principle called shomei’a ke’oneh, which translates, literally, as “hearing is like responding.” This principle means that when I hear someone recite a prayer, the megillah, kiddush or havdalah, it is considered as if I, myself, recited it.

I will explain this principle with an example that we utilize regularly: Except for heads of household, most of us fulfill the mitzvos of kiddush and havdalah by hearing someone else recite them. But the mitzvah is to recite kiddush and havdalah, not merely to hear them. So, how do we fulfill these mitzvos when we are only hearing them? The answer is that, because of shomei’a ke’oneh, it is deemed that we recited kiddush and havdalah ourselves.

Three conditions

For shomei’a ke’oneh to work, three conditions must be met:

(1) The individual performing the mitzvah must have in mind to be motzi the other people, meaning that he knows that he is acting on behalf of those listening.

(2) The individual performing the mitzvah must be required to observe this mitzvah. In other words, if a child (under bar or bas mitzvah) recites kiddush or havdalah on behalf of an adult, the adult does not fulfill the mitzvah, since the child is not obligated in this mitzvah min haTorah (see Brachos 20b).

(3) The listeners must have in mind that they are discharging their obligation to perform the mitzvah by hearing this recital.

Parshas Zachor

It is for this last reason that, immediately prior to Parshas Zachor, the gabbai announces that everyone should have in mind with the reading of the ba’al keri’ah to fulfill the mitzvah of remembering Amaleik’s dastardly deeds. Only the ba’al keri’ah actually reads the appropriate Torah portion. The rest of us discharge our obligation to observe this mitzvah by hearing the ba’al keri’ah, which, because of shomei’a ke’oneh, is considered as if we read it ourselves. In addition to Parshas Zachor, brachos, reading the Torah and the megillah, kiddush and havdalah, there are numerous other applications of shomei’a ke’oneh.

Not now!

We should note that, although the person being motzi others must be obligated by the Torah to fulfill the mitzvah, this does not require him to fulfill the mitzvah with this reading, by which he is being motzi others. He may recite kiddush or havdalah for someone else, even if he, himself, has already fulfilled the mitzvah, or if he intends to fulfill the mitzvah later with a different recital of kiddush or havdalah. That is why a ba’al keri’ah can read megillah many different times to be motzi other people, even though he has already fulfilled the mitzvah. This is also the reason why kiddush and havdalah are recited in shul, notwithstanding that the person reciting them plans to recite them again at home.

Ba’alas korei

At this point, I can present the halachic background behind our opening question: May a woman be the ba’alas korei or ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah?

Whether a woman may assume the role of ba’alas keri’ah is the subject of a fascinating dispute among rishonim, as we will soon see.

The Mishnah (Megillah 19b) states: Everyone is qualified to read the megillah except for a minor and someone who is not halachically responsible for his actions. The Gemara (Arachin 2b) asks: what is being added by emphasizing that “everyone” is qualified to read the megillah? The Gemara replies that women, who are usually not obligated in time-bound mitzvos, are obligated to read the megillah, to the extent that they may read the megillah to be motzi others. Rashi explains, explicitly, that this means that a woman may read the megillah to be motzi a man in his obligation. Thus, according to Rashi, a woman may be the ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah.

However, the Ba’al Halachos Gedolos (usually abbreviated as Bahag, the author of a halachic work from the era of the geonim) notes that the Tosefta, a halachic work dating back to the era of the Mishnah, disagrees. The salient part of the Tosefta (Megillah 2:4), as we have its text, reads: “All are obligated in the reading of the megillah… . Women… are exempt and cannot be motzi the public (rabbim) from their responsibility.”

Is there any way to resolve this contradiction between the Mishnah, as understood by the Gemara, and the Tosefta?

The Bahag presents an approach to explain the Mishnah and the Tosefta such that there is no conflict between the two positions. When the Mishnah implies, and the Gemara states explicitly, that a woman can be motziah (the feminine of motzi; plural motzios) someone else, it means that she can be motziah a woman, but not a man.

Why should this be true? The Bahag explains that there are two levels of mitzvah regarding the megillah:

(1) To read the megillah.

(2) To hear the megillah.

Ordinarily, a man fulfills both requirements when he hears the megillah from another man, since the person reading the megillah, who has both obligations, reads it for the purpose that the listeners fulfill all their megillah-related obligations. However, since a woman’s obligation is only to hear the megillah, but not to read it, it is not within her ability to be motzi someone who is obligated to read the megillah (Rosh, Megillah 1:4; note that Shu”t Avnei Neizer [Orach Chayim #511:4-5] and the Brisker Rav [Al Hashas, Inyanim #15] explain the Bahag’s approach slightly differently).

With this approach, the Bahag explains that the Mishnah refers to a woman reading the megillah for other women, which she can do, and the Tosefta refers to a woman reading the megillah for men, which is why it states that a woman cannot be motziah the public, which includes men.

The Tosefta according to Rashi

According to Rashi, either the text of this Tosefta is in error (as is not uncommon in our texts of the Tosefta) or it disagrees with the Mishnah as understood by the Gemara, in which case we rule according to the Mishnah and Gemara (both of these approaches are mentioned, in different places, by the Bach, Orach Chayim 689). We should point out that the texts that we have received of the Tosefta are notoriously unreliable, since copyists often made errors and, as a result, texts that were studied less frequently are often inaccurate. As an example, the rishonim who quote this Tosefta cite it with at least three significantly different texts.

Also, if, indeed, there is a dispute between the tanna who authored the Mishnah and the one who authored the Tosefta, the halacha follows the author of the Mishnah. Thus, either approach used to explain Rashi’s position is highly satisfactory.

Other rishonim?

Several authorities infer from the Rambam that he agreed with Rashi’s halachic conclusion (Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Megillah 1:2; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 689). The Beis Yosef and the Darkei Moshe quote other rishonim on both sides of fence: The Or Zarua rules like Rashi, whereas the Ra’avyah and the Mordechai (Megillah #779) rule like the Bahag. The Shulchan Aruch’s conclusion is unclear (Orach Chayim 689:2), whereas the Rema rules like the Bahag.

According to the Bahag’s opinion, some authorities contend that a woman hearing megillah when no male is fulfilling the mitzvah should not recite the brocha al mikra megillah, since she is not required to read the megillah, but to hear it. The Rema records that she should recite lishmo’a megillah, but others prefer that she should recite lishmo’a mikra megillah (Mishnah Berurah 689:8).

Getting a third opinion

Are there any other opinions? We actually find a few other opinions among rishonim, who present alternative ways of resolving the contradiction between the Mishnah and the Tosefta, with halachic results unlike either Rashi or the Bahag. Rabbi Moshe of Coucy (France), a ba’al Tosafos who wrote a halachic work based on the 613 mitzvos, usually called Sefer Hamitzvos Hagadol (abbreviated as Semag), agrees with the Bahag that a woman cannot be motziah a man, but disagrees with the reason why. In his opinion, just as Chazal ruled that a woman cannot fulfill the mitzvah of keri’as haTorah, because it is not kavod hatzibur for her to read for the community (Megillah 23a), she may also not read to be motzi a man in megillah (towards the beginning of Hilchos Megillah in the Semag). Tosafos (Sukkah 38a s. v. Be’emes at end) may agree with this opinion of the Semag.

With this approach, the Semag answers the contradiction between the Mishnah and the Gemara, on one hand, and the Tosefta, on the other, in a way similar to that of the Bahag. The Mishnah and Gemara teach that a woman may read the megillah for someone else; the Tosefta is ruling that she may not be the ba’alas keri’ah for a community.

There is yet a fourth approach to the issue, that of the Ba’al Ha’itur (Hilchos Megillah, page 110, column 1), but the details of his opinion are somewhat unclear (see Ran [Megillah 19b, 6b in the Rif’s pages]; Tur and Bach, Orach Chayim 689).

Three is a crowd

There is yet another opinion, contending that the Tosefta means that a woman should not read the megillah for more than one other woman (Korban Nesanel, Megillah 1:4:60, in explanation of Tosafos, Sukkah 38a s. v. Be’emes). According to this position, the Tosefta meant this when it said that a woman she should not read for the “public” (“rabbim” in the words of the Tosefta). The Mishnah Berurah quotes this approach as authoritative halacha (Shaar Hatziyun, 689:15). This opinion actually ends up with a stricter ruling, since, according to both Rashi and the Bahag, a woman may read megillah to be motziah other women, regardless as to how many there are, whereas this opinion allows her to be motziah only one other woman, not any more.

Kiddush

Does this principle of the Bahag apply to kiddush just as it applies to the reading of the megillah? Let us explore the halachic data on the subject.

The Gemara (Brachos 20b) states, unequivocally, that women are obligated in the mitzvah of reciting kiddush. Does this mean that a woman may recite kiddush to be motzi a man? Or, is this dependent on the dispute between Rashi and the Bahag?

Several early acharonim understand that the same dispute that exists between Rashi and the Bahag regarding women reading the megillah for men applies to women reciting kiddush for men (Maharshal and Bach, in their commentaries to Tur Orach Chayim 271). They conclude that a woman may recite kiddush for other women, but may not recite kiddush to be motzi a man in kiddush.

However, the Taz, who was the son-in-law of the Bach, disputes his father-in-law’s conclusion, contending that the Bahag’s opinion is limited to reading the Megillah, and does not apply to reciting kiddush. Since the Gemara concludes that women are obligated in kiddush min haTorah, it appears that they can be motzi men in kiddush. (This approach appears to be implied by the Gemara, Brachos 20b).

Kiddush according to the Semag

We noted above the opinion of the Semag that women cannot be motzios men in reading the megillah, just as they cannot be called up to read the Torah. This position should apply only to a woman reading the megillah, but not to reciting kiddush, which is usually not performed publicly, but recited at home.

Arba Kosos

At this point, let us explore one of our opening questions: The elderly Mr. Klein is fully alert, but, unfortunately, he has difficulty enunciating. May Mrs. Klein recite kiddush and the other brachos of the seder for him?

Chazal required that men and women have four kosos at the seder. It is difficult to imagine that someone can be motzi someone else in this requirement – drinking the four cups of wine it a mitzvah degufei, a mitzvah that is performed with one’s body, similar to matzoh, lulav and tefillin, which preclude one person performing the mitzvah for another. However, someone can recite the brachos that pertain to these kosos for someone else.

The Gemara states that each of the four kosos is associated with a different mitzvah of the seder, and, in fact, each of these mitzvos includes at least one brocha. We hold the kos while we recite these brachos.

1. The first kos is kiddush.

2. Over the second kos, we recite the brocha of Asher Ge’alanu, which completes the mitzvah of magid.

3. The third kos is used for birkas hamazon.

4. The fourth kos is the brocha upon the completion of Hallel.

Women are obligated in all the laws of the seder, which includes reciting the brachos associated with its four kosos. Does it say whether they can be motzios a man in these brachos? Would the Bahag’s opinion that they should not be motziah a man in megillah apply to these brachos? I did not find anyone who discusses this issue.

How do we pasken?

Having explained the understanding and ramifications of all these issues, let us present the halachic conclusions:

Most late authorities conclude that, regarding the reading of the megillah, we should follow the approach of the Bahag that women should not read megillah for men, and, also, we should follow the approach of the Semag that women should not read in public for a group of women. If no man is available who can read the megillah for her, a woman may read the megillah for herself, and she may also read the megillah for another woman.

Regarding the halachos of women being motzios men in kiddush, the later authorities do not accept the approach of the Maharshal and the Bach that the same ruling applies to kiddush. Instead, they contend that when there is a valid reason for a woman to make kiddush for her family, she should do so and be motziah the male members (Magen Avraham, 271:2 and later acharonim). Regarding the bracha of Asher Ge’alanu at the seder, my halachic conclusion is that Mrs. Klein may recite these brachos and be motziah Mr. Klein with them.

Conclusion

Why are women exempt from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama? Most people, and certainly several commentaries, assume that this is because a woman’s family responsibilities should not be subject to other mitzvos that may conflict with them. However, not everyone agrees with this idea. Some note that there already is a halachic principle of oseik bemitzvah patur min hamitzvah, someone occupied with fulfilling one mitzvah is exempt from performing a different mitzvah, until the first mitzvah is completed. Thus, it would seem superfluous for the Torah to have established yet another rule, to exempt women from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama, because of the exact same rationale.

Other authorities contend that Hashem, Who created all of our neshamos, knows which mitzvos our particular soul needs in order to thrive, and each individual’s neshamah needs different mitzvos. Following this idea, it is obvious that kohanim need certain mitzvos, but are excluded from others; men require certain mitzvos and cannot fulfill others, and so, also, with women. Each person’s neshamah has its own Divinely created formula for what it needs.

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