What is Talmud Tweets?

What is Talmud Tweets? A short, personal take on a page of Talmud - every day!

For several years now, I have been following the tradition of "Daf Yomi" - reading a set page of Talmud daily. With the start of a new 7 1/2 year cycle, I thought I would share a taste of what the Talmud offers, with a bit of personal commentary included. The idea is not to give a scholarly explanation. Rather, it is for those new to Talmud to give a little taste - a tweet, as it were - of the richness of this text and dialogue it contains. The Talmud is a window into a style of thinking as well as the world as it changed over the centuries of its compilation.

These are not literal "tweets" - I don't limit myself to 140 characters. Rather, these are intended to be short, quick takes - focusing in on one part of a much richer discussion. Hopefully, I will pique your interest. As Hillel says: "Go and study it!" (Shabbat 31a)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Eruvin 77 – Wall Tops, Convenience and Ladders

The Mishnah deals with two kinds of situations dealing with two adjacent courtyards separated by a wall. If that wall is 10 handbreadths high and 4 thick they are two separate spaces and cannot be combined. But what about the area on top of the wall? According to the Mishanah:


But this is not absolute. A breach in the wall 10 cubits wide connects the two and they can create either one eruv or two - that is, they can be individual spaces, or one combined space.

So far so well. The gemara, though, goes through a number of possible conditions. For example, what if the wall is higher on one side than on the other?

Rabbah son of R. Hunaciting R. Nahman ruled: A wall between two courtyards, one of whose sides was ten handbreadths high and the other one of which was on a level with the ground, is assigned to that courtyard with the floor of which it is level, because the use of it is convenient to the latter but inconvenient to the former, and any place the use of which is convenient to one and inconvenient to another, is to be assigned to the one to whom its use is convenient.

That strikes me as an interesting general principle.

What about a different way to combine two spaces? For example, not a breach in the wall, but  a ladders?
Believe it or not, it depends on the ladder!

 An Egyptian ladder effects no reduction but a Tyrian ladder does.

What is to be understood by an ‘Egyptian ladder’? — At the school of R. Jannai it was explained: One that has less than four rungs.

The rabbis go on to explain that the Egyptian ladder is light and therefore easily moved while the Tyrian ladder is likely to remain in place throughout the Shabbat. Therefore it is more “permanent” and can be considered like a breach in the wall.

What about two ladders, one on each side?

Abaye ruled: If a wall between two courtyards was ten handbreadths high, and one ladder four handbreadths wide was placed on the one side and another of the same width was placed on the other side, and there is less than a distance of three handbreadths between them, a valid reduction is effected, but if there was a distance of three handbreadths between them, no valid reduction is effected.

That’s a lot of conditions! But wait:

This, however, applies only where the wall was less than four handbreadths thick but if it was four handbreadths thick the reduction is valid even if the ladders were far removed from one another.

Because the wall top is large enough to walk on and becomes a “free space.” A person can climb a ladder on one side, walk along the wall and climb down on the other ladder.

This can now be one space, or two as the owners prefer.

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