Eruvin 49: The Next Station
The Sheim MiShmuel explains the importance of ratzon. “We find in the verse in Parshas Ki Savo that although Hashem performed incredible miracles for us – He took us out of Egypt, brought us through the Yam Suf, and drowned the Egyptians – He did not give us a heart to understand until after we wandered for forty years.
“This part of Moshe Rabbeinu’s rebuke seems difficult. What was their sin if Hashem did not allow their hearts to understand? The answer is that Hashem is always open to granting a person whatever level he is open to receiving. The only reason that a person does not attain a level is because, from his side, he is not fitting to reach it. When one is far removed from a level, he will certainly fail to attain it. If one has a powerful longing to come close to Hashem, he will be drawn ever closer to what he is longing for, level by level.
“My father, the Avnei Neizer zt”l, used this concept to explain the Mishnah in Eruvin 49. There we find the situation of one who was walking through the countryside right before Shabbos because he needed to establish his techum Shabbos for that week. If he sees a tree or fence and says, ‘My shevisah is at the trunk,’ even if it is very far off, he will be permitted to walk two thousand amos until the tree and another two thousand amos from the tree.
“We may wonder why this should work. Who cares if he sees a tree or a fence that is relatively close to him? If he doesn’t physically reach the place before Shabbos, why does his techum start from there as it would if he had reached it?
“My father explained that if a place is where one wishes to be – and is attainable – it is as if he is there. It follows that if one truly longs for closeness to Hashem, he can reach even levels that are higher than his natural ability to reach, one step at a time.
“Now we understand Moshe’s rebuke to Yisroel: ‘Hashem did not give you a heart to understand.’ If they had enough holy desire, Hashem would have given them this from heaven. The reason they did not have understanding hearts is because they didn’t want to enough.
“This is a key to understanding how a person who has become very distant from Hashem can do teshuvah. After all, if one is so far, isn’t he virtually cut off from his Jewish identity? The answer is ratzon, holy desire. But how is such a person to muster such powerful longing for Hashem? Although this is difficult during the week, on Shabbos, which is a powerful eis ratzon, a time of holy desire, it is certainly attainable, especially during seudah shlishis. Just like during this time the ratzon ha’elyon, supernal desire, is open, one can arouse his deep longing for Hashem and do teshuvah for even the worst sins” (Sheim MiShmuel, Ki Savo, p. 156-157).
Eruvin 50: The Mistaken Gift
On thisdaf,we find that if one who accidentally took maaser beheimah, the obligatory tithe of one of every ten of his animals, twice in error by declaring the ninth, tenth and eleventh animals “tenth,” all the animals are consecrated.
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein offers a parallel situation to this: “Once, there was a couple in Eretz Yisroel with wealthy parents. It was obvious that they would keep all wedding gifts. To the couple’s surprise, they found that a friend of one family had written a check for one thousand shekels, a very generous gift for someone not in the family.
“A month after the wedding, the son of the man who had given the generous check called. He explained that he had tracked them down because his very elderly father had given them such a huge gift, which seemed very irregular. He asked them to return the bulk of the money. He said, ‘Being so elderly, he obviously erred when filling out the check…’
“The chosson agreed to return the funds, but with a catch. ‘I will be happy to return whatever you are entitled to. However, if lehalachah I am allowed to keep the money, I will.”
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled that the chosson need not return the money. ‘If the check had been for a ridiculous sum — say, a million shekels – there would be no doubt that it was an error and the money would have to be returned, but since the check is in what is a plausible sum for a gift, albeit it a surprisingly generous one, the couple is not obligated to return the gift. It is clear from several sugyos that hamotzie meichaveiro olov horayah – the one who wishes to remove something from his friend’s domain must bring proof – applies in this case” (Chashukei Chemed, Eiruvin, p. 183-184).
Eruvin 51: Assembly Line
On thisdaf,we find a way to carry on Shabbos that does not constitute a Torah transgression.
Rav Yankel Galinsky once shared a personal story on just this point: “Siberian winters are freezing. We had to hand-mill huge stands of lumber while we were on the ice, while the cold assaulted our unprotected hands and eyes. During the week, we would down the trees and saw them into lumber. On Shabbos, trucks would come and we would have to load all of the wood onto the trucks.
“There were two basic groups who were exiled from Lithuania to Siberia: prominent people who had held public office or worked in the government and the yeshiva bochurim. Naturally, we formed two distinct factions. On Shabbos, the Lithuanian non-Jews would pick up some wood and nonchalantly stroll over to the truck, toss it in, and then get some more. Conversely, the yeshiva boys formed a line and worked quickly, passing the wood from one person to another in order to minimize chillul Shabbos, until the last person on our team would deposit the wood into the truck. People from the other group took us to task for working so efficiently. Why raise expectations?
“As a matter of fact, the person who had once been the minister of justice in Lithuania and the Russian in charge of our camp both approached me and asked me why we worked so much harder than anyone else. I knew how to speak to them: ‘It is our pleasure to toil hard for Father Stalin and Mother Russia. Since Sunday is our day off, we are able to work extra hard today knowing that we can rest all day tomorrow. But I have a request which is only fair. Since we work twice as hard on this weekday, we should receive twice the regular ration of bread.’
“The Russian supervisor, obviously impressed with this, immediately agreed. And I was secretly thrilled: lechem mishnah for Shabbos!
“At a later time, I told the ex-minister of justice our true motivation. ‘In truth, ‘Mother Russia’ is not even like a foster parent for us. We acted as we did because the day was Shabbos. Carrying less than four cubits’ distance is one way to avoid violating the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos’ (Vehigadeta, Vayikra, p. 263-268).
Eruvin 52: The Seal of Shabbos
The Komarna Rebbe explained the deeper significance of the mitzvah to stay within the techum Shabbos.
“Shabbos alludes to keeping one’s thoughts holy, since one should not take his mind off the holiness of Shabbos. We see that one must keep his mind on the lesser ‘sign’ of tefillin when he has them on. How much more so is this true of Shabbos! If, chas veshalom, a person thinks negative thoughts on Shabbos, he forms a horrible blemish on his own soul on high. But since spiritually he does not harm anyone else, when he goes out of that mental techum, there is no chiyuv misah for this transgression
“The Arizal explains that the letters that form the word techum also spell chosem, a seal. This teaches that one must hermetically seal his mind from negative thoughts, especially on Shabbos” (Otzar Hachaim, Mitzvah #24).
Eruvin 53: The Will to Survive
An officer who served during the Yom Kippur War once told me an astounding story: “Once, during the fighting, one of our tanks took a direct hit. The Egyptians continued shelling the area as the surviving tank personnel and other people in the area desperately looked for any shelter. As if out of nowhere, they spied another Israeli tank in the vicinity. They rushed to the tank – which could hold a maximum of four people – and scrambled in, all ten of them. I have no idea how this was possible. I presume that their understanding that this was their only chance for survival enabled them to do what appeared to be impossible.”
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein used this story to explain an astounding statement of our sages: “On Eiruvin 53, Rebbi recounted that when they learned with Rav Elazar ben Shamu, they learned six students to an amah. After hearing the aforementioned story, I finally understood this statement. These students were able to cram into such a small space only through their incredible desire to live” (Tuvcha Yabiu, Part II, p. 352).
Eruvin 54: The Sound of Torah
Once, after Yom Kippur, the Yismach Yisroel took an avreich to task. He was never in the shteeble where most chassidim learned, and the Rebbe was afraid that he was not learning as he should.
“Rebbe, I do learn at home,” the chossid responded. “I cannot learn in the shteeble,since there is a very strong kol Torah there. I don’t feel that I have the strength to learn in a loud tone of voice, which is much more exhausting than learning quietly to myself.”
Knowing his chossid, the Rebbe felt that learning at home was not good for him. “If you are learning in a low tone, you are liable to become an am ha’aretz. This is clear from our sages in Eruvin 54. There we find that Bruriah took to task a talmid who learned silently, explaining that if one learns with all his limbs he will remember; if not, not. They also learn from the verse that only one who says the words of Torah out loud will recall them.”
The chossid accepted his Rebbe’s rebuke and agreed to begin learning in the shteeble in his town from then on (Oros Rabboseinu MiAlexander, p. 89).
Eruvin 55: Reaching the Heavens
The Sheim MiShmuel wondered about a statement on thisdaf. “We find that our sages explain the verse that the Torah is not in heaven: ‘If it had been in heaven, we would have been obligated to ascend to the sky to receive it.’ This seems difficult. What difference does it make if one would have been obligated to ascend to the heavens since one couldn’t do so anyway? We see clearly in Avodah Zarah 3 that Hashem does not act as a tyrant. Clearly, if we would have had to ascend to the heaven, we would be able to do so.
“My father explained how it is that a person is able to affect the upper realms through his actions in the material world. The reason one has this power is because of the concept of shlucho shel adam kemoso, that a messenger is considered like the one who sent him. The messenger’s hand is like the one who sent him. When we fulfill the Torah, we are messengers of Hashem. We are therefore able to affect the upper realms, kevayachol. It is possible, then, to fulfill all the mitzvos that one must do, since one is a messenger of Hashem and is given supernatural powers for this. If the Torah was in the heavens, we would certainly find that one would indeed be able to ascend there in order to fulfill Hashem’s will” (Sheim MiShmuel, Parshas Bo, p.139).