Eiruvin 104a-b - Forbidding making noise on Shabbat

June 20, 2013



In connection with activities that are permitted specifically in the Temple precincts, the Mishnah on our daf (page) mentions that water could be drawn from water holes in the Mikdash (Temple) using a water wheel. There were several types of water wheels that existed in Temple times that were used to draw water. This one makes use of a rope and wheel system to raise the bucket containing water. More advanced techniques were also used. This one is based on sketches from Rome and Alexandria. The system is powered by an animal (or, in this sketch, a person) and draws a strong, steady stream of water for agriculture and similar needs.
The Gemara concludes that these techniques were forbidden on Shabbat outside the Mikdash because of a Rabbinic ordinance established because of concern that the water will be used not only for immediate needs, but for watering fields, as well.
An additional consideration that the Gemara suggests is that these might be forbidden because of the noise that they make. Several cases are raised, all of which appear to be outlawed because they make noise. For example, Ulla complains that someone who knocked on the door was involved in Shabbat desecration. He is corrected by Rabba, who says that it is only the creation of music that is problematic. Ulla's position is taken very seriously by the amoraim in Israel. The Jerusalem Talmud relates that Rabbi Ilai spent the night outside his house rather than knock on the door to gain entrance.

 Another case raised by the Gemara is a game of nuts played by women. In this game, a board is placed against the wall and nuts are thrown against it. The player whose nut successfully hits others gets to keep them. Such games were played throughout the generations; Rashi reports that they were played in his day, and even today such games are still played. Here, too, the Gemara rejects the suggestion that it is forbidden to play such games on Shabbat because of the noise that is made and concludes that it is because these games, when played on the dirt floor, may lead the players to fill in holes in the ground, which is forbidden on Shabbat.

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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