The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 7 May 2005 / 28 Nisan 5765

Shabbos 2 - 8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Become a Supporter Library Library

The Beggar and the Benefactor

A poor beggar standing on the street and his benefactor inside the house are the characters utilized by the first mishnah in Mesechta Shabbos to illustrate the laws relating to the Torah's prohibition of transferring an object from a private to public domain and vice versa. One example is that of the benefactor taking some food from inside his home and extending it outside into the hand of the beggar. The benefactor is guilty of transferring an object from the private to public domain, and if he did so because he forgot that it was Shabbos, or forgot that this act was forbidden on Shabbos he must bring a korban chatas (sin offering) as an atonement.

Why did the mishnah choose to illustrate this law with an act of charity?

Rambam offers a simple explanation. Had the mishnah simply described a scene of two people, one inside and the other outside, there would have been a need to identify the outsider as "the person standing in the street." By referring to him as the beggar he can economically be identified with a single word.

Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura offers a different approach. In a later perek (19:4) there is a discussion concerning a situation in which a person unintentionally violates the Shabbos while in the process of performing a mitzvah as to whether such a violation obligates him to bring a sacrifice. Our mishnah therefore uses the example of charity to incidentally communicate that even though the benefactor inside the house was involved in doing a mitzvah when he forgot that it was Shabbos, he is still guilty of Shabbos violation and must bring a sacrifice as atonement.

  • Shabbos 2a

A Right to Question

When the Sage Rav posed a question to Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, generally referred to as Rebbie, he received an immediate response. Rav's uncle, Rabbi Chiya, reprimanded him, however, for asking Rebbie a question in a mesechta which he was not currently studying.

"Haven't I told you," he said, "that when Rebbie is studying one mesechta you should not ask him something in another mesechta. If not for the fact that Rebbie is such a great scholar you could have caused him embarrassment by forcing him to give you an inaccurate answer."

On the basis of this statement Rambam rules (Laws of Talmud Torah 4:6) that a student of Torah should not ask his teacher a question related to a subject which he is not currently studying, for fear of embarrassing him.

What about the other way around? May the teacher challenge his student with a question related to a subject which he is not currently studying?

Regarding this, Rambam states clearly that the teacher may certainly do so in order to stimulate his student to be more perseverant in his study and review. The source is the oft repeated cases of the Sage Rabba doing unusual things in order to test the awareness of his disciple, the Sage Abaye. If the teacher can even say or do unusual things in order to test his disciples' memory of what they studied, reasons Rambam, he can certainly ask them direct questions in areas not currently being studied in order to test their memory, without consideration that he might thus embarrass them.

  • Shabbos 3b

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to The Weekly Daf

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.