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Notes from Limmud 2007

Four Gemaras to Live By: (ii) Concerning the weekly

Dr Raphael Zarum

[Standard disclaimer: All views not in square brackets are those of the speaker, not myself. Accuracy of transcription is not guaranteed.]

A whole chapter of Tractate Shabbos is about what happens if you forget it's Shabbos. But there is one section about what happens if you don't know when Shabbos is.

Shabbat 69b שבת סט ב

Rav Huna said: If a person is travelling on a road or in the wilderness and does not know when it is Shabbos1, they must count six days2 and then observe one day3.

Ḥiyya bar Rav said: They must observe one day and then count six.

In what do they differ? One Master holds that it is like the creation of the world; the other Master holds that it is like Adam, the first person4...

Rava said: Every day they should do for themselves just enough for their basic needs, except on that [Shabbos] day.5

And on that [Shabbos] day should they die!?6 They should have prepared double their needs on the previous day.

But perhaps the previous day was actually Shabbos? So then every day they should do for themselves just enough for their needs, even on that [Shabbos] day.7

Then how may that [Shabbos] day be recognised for them?8 By Kiddush and Havdalah9.

Rava said: If the person has partial knowledge of the day on which they embarked they may do work on that entire day.10

But is that obvious?

[No!] You might have thought since they would not depart on Shabbos they also would not depart on the eve of Shabbos. Thus this person even if they departed on Thursday would be permitted to perform work for two days.

So Rava informs us that sometimes a caravan is available and it happens that someone does depart [on Friday].11

רב הונא היה מהלך [בדרך או] ששה ימים ומשמר יום אחד׃

חייא בר רב אומר משמר יום אחד ומונה ששה׃

במאי קמיפלגי מר סבר כברייתו של עולם ומר סבר כאדם הראשון׃

אמר רבא בכל יום ויום עושה לו כדי פרנסתו, בר מההוא יומא׃

וההוא יומא לימות דעביד[בר מההוא יומא]עושה לו כדי פרנסתו מאתמול שתי פרנסות׃

ודילמא מאתמול שבת הואי אלא כל יום ויום עושה לו פרנסתו אפילו ההוא יומא׃

וההוא יומא במאי מינכר ליה בקידושא ואבדלתא׃

אמר רבא אם היה מכיר מקצת היום שיצא בו עושה מלאכה כל [נמי]היום כולו׃


מהו דתימא כיון דשבת לא נפיק במעלי שבתא לא נפיק והאי אי נמי בחמשה בשבתא נפיק לישתרי ליה למיעבד מלאכה תרי יומי קא משמע לן זימנין דמשכח שיירתא ומקרי ונפיק׃

  1. Shabbos is unique in this respect: All other festivals you could work out from the moon, or even the stars (given long enough). Where does the seven-day week come from? One theory is that they're named after the (visible) planets: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. But though this is based on astronomy, it's not calculable by astronomy.

  2. Another theory is that seven is a magic number. Why is this? One idea is that you can pack seven spheres around one [um, surely seven in total?]. For the rabbis, though, the origin is Divine.

  3. Including that day, the commentaries say.

  4. Note the phrase: שומר, keep Shabbos, as opposed to simply not doing מלאכה. So why שומר and not זוכר, remember, as in the other version of the Ten Commandments? Because you've forgotten when Shabbos is!

  5. The first opinion is saying be like G-d, in the Creation; the second opinion is like those who say that Shabbos was Adam's first and last day in Eden. Man was created on Friday afternoon, and immediately began preparing for Shabbos. So, if you find yourself on a desert island, do you arrange your life in emulation of G-d or of Man? The halacha goes for the former. If you went like Man, you'd be saying reality is the same, things haven't changed; you'll be back in touch one day. Being in emulation of G-d, though, is saying that Man comes into this world with Creation already there. There's no guarantee you'll ever be granted a higher truth.

  6. This is because you've only got a one-in-seven chance of identifying Shabbos correctly. Otherwise, you're going to be breaking the real Shabbos one day. So you do the minimum required—except for not travelling, if you're on a journey! Having contingency every day of your life recognises living in continual doubt—very postmodern, for the Talmud! The Talmud recognises that sometimes this has to be the case.

  7. Because, by doing the minimum amount required, you're not prepared for Shabbos.

  8. Now every day is potentially the real Shabbos, but there's no observed Shabbos any longer! So how do you do something to tell what's your Shabbos?

  9. Do you create Shabbos, or does Shabbos come upon you? The Chassidim debated this a lot. There's a story about a Chassid who went to his Rebbe about it, asking whether the Shabbos he felt on Friday night was inherent in the day or in him. The Rebbe told him to make Kiddush on Wednesday night and see if he felt Shabbos. The Chassid did so, and said he felt Shabbos. The Rebbe said "See the power of Shabbos—it extends to Wednesday!"

    Coming back to our desert island, we're told to make Kiddush and Havdala, and nothing else—no extra praying, or Torah service, or anything else. (Lighting candles is a late custom; it's not essential.) Kiddush and Havdala are for the purpose of separation—separating between secular and holy, and vice versa, respectively. And this is why we drink in them—drink is associated with a change in consciousness. Note that we make havdala in the Amida in the blessing of דעת—knowledge, awareness. So, we have no community or rituals left; all we have knowledge rituals.

    This is not very Jewish, but the rabbis still find a way to make it fit in. Shabbos is about being aware of the cycle of time, taking us back to Creation itself. Now, we're given the law of Shabbos only in שמות, not in the Creation story. Only the speaker thinks we are. The Shabbos verses in the Creation story we say three times in an hour—in the Amida, before the Seven-Faceted Blessing, then in Kiddush at home.

    Genesis 2:1-2:3 בראשית ב א־ג
    Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם׃ ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה וישבת ביום השביעי מכל מלאכתו אשר עשה׃ ויברך אלהים את יום השביעי ויקדש אתו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלהים לעשות׃

    We're told G-d blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. What does it mean to bless a day? What else has been blessed so far in the Creation story? Man, and fish: they're blessed to go forth and multiply. The rabbis connect בְּרָכָה, blessing, to בְּרֵכָה—a source of water, something that flows forth.

    Adam sinned; G-d says he can stay until after Shabbos, but then G-d says, "This is a great idea; let's do it again next week." Every Shabbos is an overflow of that original pool of the first Shabbos, like a stack of champagne glasses overflowing one into the next—or like the background radiation of the universe today being still left over from the beginning of time. The idea about living out part of the Creation each week isn't just a metaphor; it's actually real!

    Of course, Kiddush is one of the few things many Jews do practice on Shabbos today. The Gemara doesn't just have to be interpreted as referring to a physical wilderness, but can apply to Jews in a spiritual wilderness too. Even for Jews who are observant, but aren't sure they're doing Kiddush right, or think they're in the wrong denomination, or whatever, this Gemara talks to them. Just make the Kiddush as best you can; and stop and think and concentrate on it.

    Making the Kiddush itself counts: recognising Creation. You don't have to keep Shabbos for it to count; even for a frum person to be included in Kiddush by someone who breaks Shabbos counts, so long as they recognise that G-d created the world. (There's always someone frummer!) Whatever you do has a value.

  10. I.e., you wouldn't have left on Shabbos! If you know how many days since you left, you can work out which one day Shabbos isn't. By working that day, you're recognising one thing which hasn't been lost: the day you left. There are vestiges of your previous life you have not lost. This could be nostalgia too: heirlooms from the past. The rabbis are saying these are important, and should be valued.

    Do you have to keep Shabbos on the Moon? We're told to keep the מצות only תחת השמים; after all, השמים שמים לה׳ והארץ נתן לבני־אדם, but you haven't left the Earth. you've taken it with you, with your spaceship and air. When crossing the International Date Line, you observe Shabbos according to when you left.

  11. Sometimes you don't have complete control. At your home, you have complete control, but when you, frex, go to University, you have to construct your Shabbos around the constraints of the society you are living in.

In this chapter of the Gemara, the rabbis are flying blind: all the structures that they live by are gone. They have to reconstruct everything again from scratch. It's difficult to live not knowing perfect absolutes; but that's how we have to live. And we create our own structure, using the essence of Shabbos flowing down since the dawn of time.

Pesachim 104a פסחים קג ב / קד א

Then he commenced [havdalah] and recited: He who makes a distinction between holy and non-holy, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six working days. Said he to him: Why do you need all this? Surely Rav Yehudah said in Rav's name: He who makes a distinction between holy and non-holy, was the formula of havdalah as recited by R. Yehudah ha-Nasi? I hold with the following, answered he. For R. Eleazar said in R. Oshaia's name: He who would recite but few [distinctions] must recite not less than three; while he who would add, must not add beyond seven. Said he to him: But you said neither three nor seven? It is true, answered her, "between the seventh day and the six working days" is of the nature of the conclusion..."

He who is well-versed recites man [points of distinction], while he who is not well-versed recites one? It is [dependent on] Tannaim. For R. Yoḥanan said: The son of holy men recited one, but the people are accustomed to recite three. Who is the son of holy men? R. Menaḥem b. Simai; and why did they call him the son of holy men? Because he did not look at the effigy of a coin. R. Samuel b. Idi sent [word] to him: My brother Ḥananiah recites one. But the halacha is not according to him.

R. Yehoshua b. Levi said: he who recites havdalah must recite [formulas] in the nature of the distinctions mentioned in the Torah. An objection is raised: What is the order of the distinctions [recited in the havdalah]? He recites:
Who makes a distinction between holy and profane,
between light and darkness
between Israel and the nations,
and between the seventh day and the six working days,
between unclean and clean,
between the sea and the dry land,
between the upper waters and the nether waters
between Priests, Levites and Israelites;

and then concludes with the order of Creation. Others say, with He Who formed the Creation. R. Yose b. R. Yehudah said: He concludes, Who sanctifies Israel.

Now if this is correct, surely no distinction is mentioned [in the Torah] between the sea and the dry land? Delete, "between the sea and the dry land" from this. If so, [you must] also [delete] "between the seventh day and the six working days"? That corresponds to the conclusion.

Then there is one less so there are not seven? I will tell you: [who made a distinction between] Priests, Levites and Israelites is two formulas: Between Levites and Israelites is one... Between Priests and Levites is another...

פתח ואמר המבדיל בין קודש לחול בין אור לחשך בין ישראל לעמים בין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה׃ אמר ליה למה לך כולי האי והאמר רב יהודה אמר רב המבדיל בין קודש לחול זו היא הבדלתו של רבי יהודה הנשיא׃ אמר ליה אנא כהא סבירא לי דאמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי אושעיא הפוחת לא יפחות משלש והמוסיף לא יוסיף על שבע׃ אמר ליה והא מר לא תלתא אמר ולא שבע אמר אמר ליה איברא בין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה מעין חתימה היא ...

הרגיל אומר הרבה ושאינו רגיל אומר אחת תנאי היא דאמר רבי יוחנן בנן של קדושים אומר אחת ונהגו העם לומר שלש׃ מאן ניהו בנן של קדושים רבי מנחם בר סימאי׃ ואמאי קרו ליה בנן של קדושים דלא איסתכל בצורתא דזוזא׃ שלח ליה רב שמואל בר אידי חנניא אחי אומר אחת ולית הלכתא כוותיה׃

אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי המבדיל צריך שיאמר מעין הבדלות האמורות בתורה׃ מיתיבי סדר הבדלות היאך אומר
המבדיל בין קודש לחול
בין אור לחושך
בין ישראל לעמים
ובין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה
בין טמא לטהור
בין הים לחרבה
בין מים העליונים למים התחתונים
בין כהנים ללוים וישראלים
וחותם בסדר בראשית ואחרים אומרים ביוצר בראשית רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר חותם מקדש ישראל

ואם איתא הא בין הים לחרבה לא כתיבא ביה הבדלה סמי מכאן בין הים לחרבה

אי הכי בין יום השביעי לששת ימי המעשה נמי מעין חתימה הוא בצר חדא וליכא שבע אמרי כהנים לוים וישראלים תרי מילי נינהו בין לוים לישראלים... בין כהנים ללוים...

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