Discussion on the Daf - Eiruvin
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 12:16 pm
Eruvin 48

We have been talking about the 4 Amos measurement since the beginning Shabbos

The source (and limit) of this ubiquitous measurement is explored on today’s daf.

According to the mishnah we’ve been discussing for several days now, a person who falls asleep on the side of the road on Friday afternoon may only walk on Shabbat four cubits from where they slept. Because they slept through sunset and did not officially declare that spot to be their place of residence, they are not permitted to move about in the normal 2,000 cubit range allowed on Shabbat. When they wake up, they are stuck in their four-cubit encampment.

Perhaps because of the severity of being stuck on the side of the road in a four-by-four cubit box, the Gemara inquires after the source of this measurement: Do we have to be this strict? Is it written somewhere in the Torah?

The Talmud teaches:

The verse “Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29), means one must restrict his movement to an area equal to his place. And how much is the area of his place? A person’s body typically measures three cubits, and an additional cubit is needed in order to allow him to spread out his hands and feet, this is the statement of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehuda says: A person’s body measures three cubits, and an additional cubit is needed in order to allow him to pick up an object from under his feet and place it under his head, meaning, to give him room to maneuver.

In looking for the source of the four-cubit rule, the Talmud turns to a verse in Exodus, in which the Israelites are told they don’t need to go out to gather manna on Shabbat because they will receive a double portion of it on Friday. Generally, this verse is read to mean that the Israelites should just stay home on Shabbat. But a literal reading could be that you have to stay exactly within the space your body occupies for all of Shabbat. From this reading, the Gemara concludes that the area a person’s body occupies -- which permits them to stretch out and get comfortable for sleep -- is four cubits.

The Gemara asks: Are all people the same height and need the same amount of personal space? Does one size fit all?

The details of this case stirs a significant question about the standardization of the cubit itself. In Hebrew, an ammah is literally a forearm. The standard measure of a cubit is the length of an average man’s arm, measured from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. But just as everyone has a different height, everyone’s ammah is different. And if you are confined to your personal space for all of Shabbat, how you measure four cubits matters a great deal.

The Talmud continues:

If he said to you that we provide him four cubits measured according to the standard cubit used for consecrated property, the standardized cubit, what will be with regard to Og, king of the Bashan, who is much larger than this?

If we go by a single objective standard of a cubit, then Og -- the biblical giant who is a source of recurring fascination for the rabbis -- would be pretty cramped. An extreme example, perhaps, but the point is clear: Bodies are very different, and a standard measure of four cubits would clearly cause problems for some people.

In the vast majority of cases, the four-cubit measure is a theoretical concept symbolizing personal space, not an accurate measure of the space needed to accommodate an actual body. Usually, having one standard measure of a cubit for all people isn’t a problem. In our case, this isn’t so -- the measurement marks the actual space a person takes up when lying on the ground. Still, the rabbis prefer the standardized measure, even if that means some have more or less space to stretch out. Only in a few exceptional cases does the cubit revert to the subjective and individual measure of personal space.
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 1:04 pm
Eruvin 49

what if the actual neighbors are a little standoffish? Can you build an eruv if the neighbors don’t buy into the group mentality?

Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: With regard to one who is particular about his eruv, his eruv is not a valid eruv. After all, what is its name? Joining [eruv] is its name.

Rabbi Ḥanina said: Even in that case, his eruv is a valid eruv, however, that person is called one of the men of Vardina. The men of Vardina were renowned misers, meaning that he is considered to be stingy like them.

The case described involves a person who is particular about the loaf of bread they contributed -- in other words, they are anxious to get back their own food from the collection bowl. Shmuel believes that maintaining individual ownership over one’s contribution invalidates the eruv because the joining of several homes and a courtyard into a single domain is accomplished by the symbolic relinquishing of individual ownership over the food and the yard. Later on the daf, the Gemara makes this point more explicit when it suggests that the collecting of food in one person’s home effectively joins all the various households into one commune for the duration of Shabbat.

But Rabbi Hanina disagrees. It may be miserly to take back your personal loaf from the bowl, but the ritual act of eruv is symbolic. As long as you go through the motions of adding to the joint basket, the eruv is kosher.

We might think of these two positions with a modern analogy. Shmuel pictures the eruv as a potluck, where everyone contributes and no one checks whether you bought expensive cheese or cheap crackers. If you come to a potluck with one sandwich and eat it by yourself, you’re missing out on a core part of the experience.

Rabbi Hanina thinks of the eruv like a school pizza party, where each parent pays for exactly what their child eats. The parents might not be friends, but a partnership exists nonetheless. To Rabbi Hanina, that kind of partnership suffices for an eruv.

Today, we still fulfill this food collection requirement when constructing an eruv, if minimalistically. In addition to the string or fence that marks the outer boundaries of the domain covered by the eruv, one synagogue holds a quantity of food -- often, a box of matzah -- that represents the food contributions of all the communities included in the eruv. No one is likely to enjoy that box of matzah, certainly not at a celebratory citywide picnic, but it is a symbolic gesture of partnership. While this box of matzah fulfills just the minimum form of partnership, we may also aspire to use the eruv as a means of building camaraderie between communities and the diverse people who rely on it.
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 10:50 pm
Eruvin 50

On today’s daf, the rabbis debate another situation in which a traveler finds herself away from home as Shabbat begins. The basics of the case are related in the mishnah
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 10:52 pm
Eruvin 50

According to the mishnah, by noting a specific location where you plan to rest on Shabbat, you acquire a temporary home there and thereby also earn the right to travel 2,000 cubits from that point. This is significant to this particular traveler, because it may enable them to get all the way to their home 4,000 cubits away.

This leniency for travelers comes with a big caveat. Rav explains the first part of the mishnah to say that if you don’t specify a precise part of the tree as the resting spot, you are restricted by default to a four-by-four cubit area along the road. The imprecision of the designation failed to establish the new location as your residence, and because your intent was clearly not to reside at your current location, that is not your Shabbat residence either. An imprecise designation is like no designation at all.

Shmuel is more lenient, saying that if you don’t specify which part of the tree you intended, your residence begins from the point of the tree that is the farthest from home. In the case of a very large tree whose canopy stretches quite a bit from its base, you will get your 2,000 cubit right of travel from the point farthest from home. That might get you tantalizingly close, but not close enough to actually finish your journey.

The standard of specificity demanded by the rabbis may seem a bit extreme. But these rules also highlight the radical power of words to change reality. The difference between a traveler stuck by the side of the road and a person resting comfortably for the night in a temporary Shabbat home depends entirely on the choice of words.

This leniency for travelers is also dramatic when we compare it to the other laws of eruv. The rabbis spent page after page in the early part of Tractate Eruvin detailing the complex laws of beams, strings, money, and food in establishing an eruv. But in the case of a traveler, words alone have the power to change a random spot on the map into a little piece of civilization and earn enough mileage to turn the last leg of a journey into a permissible Shabbat stroll.

The daf goes on to explore both the limits and the power of words to change an object’s status, such as sanctifying an animal as a sacrifice or declaring food set aside for a tithe. These corollaries suggest that language is at the root of sanctity. Just as words can change stranded into home, they can turn an object from secular to holy. Language is a powerful tool, to be used very carefully and precisely.
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 10:59 pm
Eruvin 51

In his classic poem “Trees,” Joyce Kilmer describes: “A tree that looks at God all day / And lifts her leafy arms to pray.” Kilmer might have appreciated the discussion on today’s daf, which continues an earlier conversation about the permissibility of establishing a specific tree (or other pinpoint location) as one’s residence for the sake of demarcating an eruv.

The mishnah on Eruvin 49 that discusses this possibility notes two situations -- one in which a person is traveling and can’t get home before Shabbat and one in which a person is impoverished and has no permanent home. In the latter case, the mishnah declares that the poor person may establish an eruv “with his feet” -- that is, merely by standing in a specific location, and not as is typically done, by placing food there.

On today’s daf, we come to a lovely story describing how this might play out in actuality.
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Post Mon, Oct 05 2020, 11:03 pm
Eruvin 51

The presumably homeless paupers of these two villages in the Galilee learned that food was available from benefactors in an adjacent town. But there was a problem – it was too far away. The solution? On Friday they would walk 2,000 cubits to the edge of the Shabbat boundary, establish a new eruv there with their feet, and then go back to where they started. This had the effect of extending the distance they could walk on Shabbat to 4,000 cubits, enabling them to walk to the Memels and the Guryons and benefit from their generosity.

The Gemara’s attention to the realities of poverty is notable here. Being able to call anyplace home – even a tree trunk – meant that the poor could feel confident that they were observing Shabbat while getting needed sustenance.

This sensitivity is reminiscent of a passage we encountered earlier in Tractate Eruvin, which discussed the permissibility of overstepping the Shabbat limit in order to relieve oneself in privacy. In that case, Rabba told us that human dignity is so important that it can even supersede a negative commandment. Treating the poor with dignity surely includes taking into consideration not only their bodily needs, but their spiritual need to observe Shabbat. By making sure that paupers could avoid feeling “less than” even as they were begging, the Gemara raises an important issue for consideration: How do we ensure that our communities are accessible to those without means?

One way is to meet the basic needs of our impoverished brothers and sisters in a respectful manner. While only God can make a tree, feeding the poor is up to us — and we should fulfill this mitzvah in a way that allows the recipient to feel as dignified and included as possible.
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Post Wed, Oct 07 2020, 7:55 pm
Eruvin 52

On today’s daf, we see that some rabbis believe that the 2,000 cubit limit is more or less, but not exactly, the limit. In a mishnah on today’s page, we learn:

One who intentionally went out beyond his Shabbat limit, even if only one cubit, may not reenter. Rabbi Eliezer says: If a person went out two cubits they may reenter; however, if they went out three cubits they may not reenter.

The anonymous position in this mishnah holds tight to the rule -- one can travel 2,000 cubits and that’s it. If you go even a cubit too far, you cannot return. Rabbi Eliezer presents a more lenient position, permitting one to exceed the prescribed limit by two cubits, but no more.

Later on the page, we encounter a second mishnah that records a similar disagreement:

If it grew dark while one was traveling outside the Shabbat limit of the town where they were heading, even if it was only one cubit outside the limit, one may not enter the town. Rabbi Shimon says: Even if one was 15 cubits beyond the limit one may enter the town, because the surveyors do not precisely demarcate the measures, due to those who err.

Here we are dealing with a case of someone who is approaching a town as Shabbat is beginning. Once again, the anonymous position supports a strict boundary -- if they are more than 2,000 cubits from the town as Shabbat starts, they can’t enter. Rabbi Shimon rules more leniently and grants people an additional 15 cubits.

In the first mishnah, Rabbi Eliezer’s rationale for being flexible is left open to speculation. But Rabbi Shimon’s leniency is supported with a reason: We give people an extra 15 cubits because the 2,000 cubit boundary marker isn’t accurate. Those who place the markers indicating the Shabbat boundary site them at a distance of less than 2,000 cubits because they know people will make a mistake.

How so? Some opinions say it is the travelers that err by crossing the boundary. To account for this, markers are placed short of the ultimate boundary. Others say it is the surveyors who, constrained by the local terrain, place boundary markers where it is geographically convenient and not exactly on the 2,000 cubit line.

Either way, the permissive opinions are not adopted. Later authorities rule according to the stricter positions. In their mind, the limit is the limit.

While this makes sense, so do the positions of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Shimon. Why not make room for someone who is just outside the line to enter the town? Isn’t it better to forgive a small transgression of a cubit or two than to prevent a person from joining a community on Shabbat? And if what Rabbi Shimon says is true, the boundary markers have been set up to keep people from transgressing, so it's possible that someone who strays a couple cubits beyond hasn’t actually done anything wrong.

We’ll see more about how the boundaries of a town were established in the next chapter of Tractate Eruvin, which begins tomorrow.
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Post Wed, Oct 07 2020, 8:12 pm
Eruvin 53

Quick: What’s the square footage of your home? If you live in a Manhattan apartment, your place probably feels much smaller than the square footage the real estate broker told you. That’s because landlords are allowed to include the area of tiny spaces like closets, or measure the dimensions of a room from outside the walls. The liveable space of an apartment listed as 500 square feet might only be 360.

All this is to say that measuring the boundaries of a given space can be tricky business, and on today’s daf, we encounter this very issue.

We’ve spent a good deal of time in this tractate discussing the laws that restrict a person from walking more than 2,000 cubits from their Shabbat residence. However, the sages created several leniencies to extend the actual distance one may travel, including defining the entire city where one is spending Shabbat as the Shabbat residence, so that we actually measure the 2,000 cubits only from the city limits. But what constitutes the city limits?

The mishnah on today’s page teaches that the borders of a city must always be drawn as a straight line and always in the shape of a rectangle. That means that if there’s a house or a turret that protrudes from the edge of a city, we push the entire face of the border out to include it. In this way, the sages greatly increase the area of the city -- much like a Manhattan landlord might try to do for her apartment.

This is fascinating in and of itself, but even more so is the beginning of the Gemara, in which a dispute raises questions about the fundamental nature of boundaries:
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Post Wed, Oct 07 2020, 9:12 pm

Last edited by naturalmom5 on Thu, Oct 08 2020, 3:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post Wed, Oct 07 2020, 9:13 pm
Eruvin 54

Embodied Judaism. The phrase itself conjures an image of hippie-ish Jews at a retreat center shaping themselves into yoga-like shapes of Hebrew letters. Indeed, a quick Google search for those words brought up links for a six-week yoga journey through the Hebrew month of Elul, programs that draw on the Feldenkrais method to illuminate classical Jewish texts, training workshops for teachers to integrate Jewish wisdom into their classes, and more.

Embodied Judaism is often thought of as a contemporary innovation, influenced perhaps by Eastern spiritual practices. But in fact, there are plenty of ways in which our ancient texts express a deep understanding of the connection between Judaism and our bodies.

On today’s daf, we encounter several statements about the embodied experience of Torah study, including descriptions of the healing effect of Torah on the body and exhortations to engage the entire body in the learning process. If this seems pretty far afield from the topic of Eruvin, you’re not wrong. We arrive at this discussion in a typically circuitous talmudic way.
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Post Mon, Oct 12 2020, 11:33 pm
Eruvin 55

Today’s daf offers three perspectives on the appropriate attitude to take when learning Torah.

The first interpretation emphasizes the labor and work that go into learning Torah.

Avdimi bar Ḥama bar Dosa said: What is the meaning of that which is written: It is not in heaven…nor is it beyond the sea (Deuteronomy 30:12–13)? “It is not in heaven” indicates that if it were in heaven, you would have to ascend after it, and if it were beyond the sea, you would have to cross after it, as one must expend whatever effort is necessary in order to study Torah.

This perspective notes just how hard learning Torah can be, with its complex ideas, deep nuances and ancient resonances.

The second perspective emphasizes the humility necessary to truly engage in the act of learning.

Rava said: “It is not in heaven” means that Torah is not to be found in someone who raises his mind over it, like the heavens, I.e., he thinks his mind is above the Torah and he does not need a teacher; nor is it to be found in someone who expands his mind over it, like the sea, I.e., he thinks he knows everything there is to know about the topic he has learned.

Rava insists that only those who are open to learning, who ask questions without assuming that they know all the answers, can truly achieve Torah knowledge.

The third perspective emphasizes both the humility and the time necessary to truly learn Torah well.

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “It is not in heaven” means that Torah is not to be found in the haughty, those who raise their self-image as though they were in heaven. “Nor is it beyond the sea” means that it is not to be found among merchants or traders who are constantly traveling and do not have the time to study Torah properly.

Rabbi Yohanan insists that learning Torah takes consistency and commitment. It’s a slow process of learning and growing that requires the ability and the willingness to put in the time.

Each of these perspectives is based on an interpretation of two verses in Deuteronomy: It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
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Post Thu, Oct 15 2020, 8:20 pm
Eruvin 56

Today’s daf contains a fascinating discussion of physical health, including teachings about the health effects of various foods and even various spaces. Teachings like these are scattered throughout the Talmud. The rabbis are committed to public health and they sought to understand the complex factors that can support or hurt the health of communities and individuals. While sometimes their conclusions don’t map onto modern scientific understanding, their discussion of the health effects of physical spaces aligns in fascinating ways with current research.

Rav Yehuda states that the physical environment can lead to significantly lowered life expectancy. The Gemara then qualifies that statement by suggesting that the physical environment can lead not to a shorter life span, but to increased physical stressors and premature aging. And contemporary public health experts have in fact shown this to be true, that our physical environments can affect both our quality and quantity of life. Issues like access to clean water, how our waste is disposed of, whether our communities have sidewalks, the degree of environmental stress that we have in our lives -- all these affect our quality, and quantity, of life.

The rabbis on today’s daf didn't have the tools of modern public health researchers. But they did have the wisdom to recognize that physical spaces affect our bodies. And they could see how those effects led to outcomes like premature aging and even death.

On a base level, it’s always interesting to see when ancient rabbinic ideas align with modern thinking. But there are two additional aspects of this teaching that are worth noting.

First, the rabbis don’t assume that people can just leave their communities. They don’t blame people for staying in stressful environments. Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua is not criticized for not leaving his hometown. Indeed he appears in the Talmud as a rabbi and a sage.

Second, the rabbinic discussion on today’s daf is part of a larger discourse committed to preserving human life. As we’ve already seen, one can violate Sabbath law to preserve human life and to enhance it. It’s worth pondering what the rabbis might have said about our modern responsibility to shape our environments – wherever possible – to be as conducive to public health as possible.
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Post Wed, Nov 04 2020, 11:07 pm
I miss this thread. Is anyone still keeping up with the Daf?
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Post Wed, Nov 04 2020, 11:41 pm
Yes, still here!
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Post Fri, Nov 20 2020, 7:44 am
Hi everyone! I've been overwhelmed with family and work responsibilities and haven't managed to keep up with the discussion here. (I see there's divrei Torah from naturalmom5 for me to read and maybe more from others too :-))

But I just wanted to pop in and say mazel tov and kol hakavod to you all (whether or not you are mesayem on Sunday) and to share that baruch Hashem I just finished listening to the shiur on the last daf! (I went ahead 2 days because a friend and I are making a small siyum tonight and I wanted to finish beforehand.) עירובין was fascinating!

BeH I will start learning משניות פסחים on Shabbat! On Monday I will start a new thread for פסחים, for any discussion, questions, and insights we manage to share.

הדרן עלך מסכת עירובין והדרך עלן
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Post Sun, Nov 22 2020, 4:21 pm
Mazel Tov to everyone finishing Eruvin today!!!

Glad all is well with you Aylat and looking forward to the new thread (if for no better reason than to see which color I get lol). Hope more people will find time to contribute. I always love to read everyone’s thoughts, even when I don’t have time to comment myself.
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Post Tue, Nov 24 2020, 8:46 am
BeH if I have time I'd like to come back and share some ideas that my friend said at the siyum.

In the meantime, Pesachim
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