Talmud Tips

For the week ending 5 April 2014 / 5 Nisan 5774

Beitza 7 - 13

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“One who digs a hole on Shabbat and needs only the dirt is patur (exempt from punishment according to the Torah).”

Rabbi Aba teaches this on our daf. Although digging a hole on Shabbat would normally be considered a melacha of the Torah — boneh (building) if done inside, or choresh (plowing) if done outside — this case is different. Since the digger does not really need the action of the melacha – making a hole — but rather needs only dirt from somewhere, this is what is known as a “melacha sh’eino tzricha l’gufa” and is not prohibited by the Torah. Although the Sages normally forbade such an action, if it is done for the purpose of enjoying a festive day —such as having dirt for the mitzvah of covering the blood of certain animals that are ritually slaughtered for eating — it is permitted (Tosefot).

  • Beitza 8a

“Anytime that our Sages forbade an action due to ‘marit ayin’ (an activity that appears to be forbidden), it is forbidden even in the most private of places.”

Our gemara cites this teaching of Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav in posing a question on a previous statement in our gemara by Rav Chanan who permits such an action in a private place where no one is watching. Although Rav is an Amora and Rav Chanan is also an Amora — and therefore of seemingly equal standing and entitled to hold different rulings — our gemara holds that Rav’s ruling is stronger since he was the “Chief Rabbi” of the entire Diaspora aside from Shmuel (Rashi and Tosefot).

  • Beitza 9a

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