Talmud Tips

For the week ending 13 June 2020 / 21 Sivan 5780

Shabbat 93-99

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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With a Little Help

Rav Chisda said, “The person who could do the melacha alone, all by himself, is ‘chayav’ (obligated to bring a korban chatat sin-offering for accidentally transgressing Shabbat according to the Torah).”

It is undisputed halacha that a person who, all by himself, does a melacha on Shabbat, forgetting that it is Shabbat or forgetting that this activity is prohibited by the Torah on Shabbat, is obligated to bring a korban chatat. But what if he does this melacha together with another person? (Think of two people carrying a pot of cholent from home out into a public domain.) In particular, what is the halacha when one person could do the melacha by himself and the other person could not? Is anyone chayav, and, if so, which one? Rav Chisda says that only the one who could do it alone is chayav. The other party, although he appears to be helping, is halachically considered insignificant and irrelevant since he could not do it by himself.

Rav Ashi brings a support to Rav Chisda from a beraita involving a kohen doing avodah (service) in the Beit Hamikdash while standing with one foot on the floor and his other foot on an object. The beraita teaches a case where the object is removed from under his foot while he is doing avodah. Avodah requires that the kohen be standing. The beraita teaches that the avodah is valid if the kohen would remain standing on his other foot alone and properly perform the act of avodah. Therefore, we see that his foot that is on the object is considered insignifican and irrelevant, and the kohen is considered to be halachically standing on the floor of the Beit Hamikdash.

This sugya is the source of a practical and important daily halacha in how to stand in prayer. It would seem from here that if one leans on an object (such as a shtender) during the shemoneh esrei prayer, he is considered standing — and there is no problem — if he would remain standing even if the support was removed. However, since one should pray with great awe in front of Hashem, many halachic authorities prohibit even minor leaning except in a special case of need. (See Mishneh Berurah 94:22 and Aruch Hashulchan 94.)

  • Shabbat 93a-b

The Accusation Boomerang

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, “One who makes an accusation of wrongdoing about a person or people who are ‘kosher’ will receive a bodily punishment from Above.”

Our gemara explains the source for this teaching: When Moshe wrongly suspected the people of not believing that G-d had sent him in order to free them from slavery, he was immediately punished by Hashem with tzara’at covering his hand.

I’ve heard from rabbis over the years regarding the importance of contemplating and internalizing the seriousness of one’s words in accusing another person, even when the accusation seems justified. Before speaking, the accuser should be absolutely certain that he is following to the letter the detailed laws of shemirat halashon. Rebuking a wrongdoer is a mitzvah called “tochacha.” But when the rebuking words are inappropriate, the speaker may very well be transgressing numerous Torah prohibitions. And if that doesn’t stop him, perhaps the thought of suffering from pain or disease from Above as punishment for this impropriety might.

  • Shabbat 97a

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