Eiruvin 64a-b - Passing judgment on halakhic rulings

May 11, 2013



With regard to the question of how to establish an eiruv for a courtyard where a non-Jew lives (one who is not interested in cooperating by leasing his part of the courtyard to the Jewish residents), Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel suggests that, if necessary, a legal fiction can be created. One of the Jews can ask his permission to use the courtyard for some other purpose – storage, for example – and then can act as an agent for the non-Jew to establish the eiruv.
Upon hearing this suggestion, Rav Nahman commented that it was an excellent halakhic statement.
The Gemara quotes another unrelated statement of Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel, which says that someone who drinks a revi'it of wine should not rule on issues of halakhah, until he has recovered from its intoxicating effects.
Upon hearing this, Rav Nahman commented that it was a poor halakhic statement. Rav Nahman claimed that his personal experience was that until he drank a revi'it of wine he was not able to think clearly.
Upon hearing Rav Nahman’s reactions to the statements of Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel, Rava pointed out the homiletic teaching based on the passage in Mishlei (29:3) – “He who loves wisdom gladdens his father, but he who keeps company with prostitutes (zonot) wastes his fortune” – that someone who says “this teaching is pleasant [zo na’a], but this is not pleasant,” will lose the fortune of Torah. Rav Nahman accepts Rava’s rebuke and commits to refrain from passing such judgment on the future.

Rashi in Mishlei explains the homiletic teaching as being based on the fact that this is the only time in Tanakh that the word “Zonot” is written with full vowels. Thus the interpretation is to break the word in half – zo na’ot – “this is pleasant.” Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what appears attractive to one person is seen otherwise by another, with regard to halakhot it is inappropriate to say that one statement is beautiful and another is not. The Meiri explains that even as choices need to be made in order to establish the halakhah, it is inappropriate to state that one position is unpleasant; rather we accept one and reject the other based on objective criteria.

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger. To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.
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