The Difference Between the Sanctity of Shabbat and the Sanctity of Yom Tov

  • Harav Baruch Gigi

Based on a shiur by Harav Baruch Gigi

Summarized by Shaul Barth

 

 

            When Yom Tov falls on Motza'ei Shabbat, we declare in havdala: "You distinguished between the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov." In this shiur, I wish to examine the nature of this distinction.

 

Qualitative or Quantitative Difference?

 

            A priori, it is possible to propose two possible differences between the two sanctities:

 

1)            A quantitative difference of fundamentally similar sanctities. In other words, a difference of magnitude but not of kind.

 

2)            A qualitatively difference between two types of sanctity.

 

The Rambam records the duty to recite kiddush both on Friday night and on the night of Yom Tov, and explains:

 

Just as we recite kiddush on the eve of Shabbat and havdala on the night following Shabbat, so, too we recite kiddush on the eve of Yom Tov and havdala on the night following Yom Tov and on the night following Yom Kippur, for they are all Sabbaths of the Lord. (Hilkhot Shabbat 29:18).

 

            Thus, according to the Rambam, the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat are two sanctities of the same nature – "for they are all Sabbaths of the Lord" (the first understanding proposed above).[1]

 

            A different approach follows from the words of the Ibn Ezra in his Commentary to the Torah:

One of the great sages asked: We know that God rested one Sabbath. What then is the meaning of "shabtotai" – "my Sabbaths" (in the plural)? And he answered: This is because the world will exist for six thousand years and the seventh millennium is a Sabbath; and the sabbatical year is also a Sabbath.

[Rather,] there are many Sabbaths every year. And know that we do not find that it is explicitly stated about the festivals that they are a Sabbath, only that it is written, and there is disagreement about the meaning of "on the morrow of the Sabbath"… And Yom Kippur is called Sabbath only for Israel, [but] not for God. (Ibn Ezra, commentary to Shemot 31:13)

 

            Ibn Ezra explicitly writes that the festivals are not "a Sabbath" in any sense. It is clear from what he says that the sanctity of Yom Tov is a unique sanctity (the second understanding proposed above).

 

Eruv Techumin and Okhel Nefesh

 

            At first glance, we should be able to decide the issue regarding the nature of the sanctities of Shabbat and Yom Tov from what Rashi says about preparing on Yom Tov for Shabbat:

 

By Torah law, the needs of Shabbat may be done on Yom Tov, for it is written: "save that which every person must eat" (Shemot 12:16), and Shabbat and Yom Tov are a single sanctity, for both of them are called 'Sabbath.' And just as one is permitted to cook [on Yom Tov] for the same day, so too it is permissible to cook for the next day. (Pesachim 46b)

 

            According to Rashi, the reason that one is permitted to prepare for Shabbat on Yom Tov stems from the fact that we are dealing with two days of similar sanctity. Therefore, just as okhel nefesh for Yom Tov sets aside the sanctity of Yom Tov, so too okhel nefesh for Shabbat should set aside that sanctity!

 

            The Tosafot, however, suggest a different understanding:

 

And it seems to the Ri that this is what it means: The needs of Shabbat are done on Yom Tov not because it is one sanctity, but rather since it is for the mitzva of Shabbat, and if he does not do it on Yom Tov, it will not be done – it is regarded as okhel nefesh of Yom Tov. (ibid. 47b)

 

            The Tosafot argue that if we forbid a person to cook for Shabbat on Yom Tov when Yom Tov falls out on Friday, he will not be able to cook for Shabbat at all. Therefore, even the preparations for Shabbat are regarded as a need of okhel nefesh which sets aside the sanctity of Yom Tov, despite the fact that Shabbat and Yom Tov are two distinct sanctities.[2]

 

            Even though the Tosafot explicitly write that the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov "are not one sanctity," we are still not forced to say that we are dealing with two sanctities that are qualitatively different from each other (the second understanding proposed above). It is possible that the sanctities are different only in a quantitative sense and that the sanctity of Yom Tov is the same as the sanctity of Shabbat but at a "lower" level, but that such a difference suffices to prevent preparing Shabbat food from setting aside the sanctity of Yom Tov.

 

            Another passage that may shed light on this issue deals with eruv techumin:

 

The Rabbis said to Rabbi Eliezer as follows: Do you not agree that one cannot set an eruv for one day half to the north and half to the south? He said to them: Indeed. Just as one cannot set an eruv for one day half to the south and half to the north, so too one cannot set an eruv for two days, one day to the east and one day to the west… They said to Rabbi Eliezer: Do you not agree that one cannot first set an eruv for Shabbat on Yom Tov? He said to them: Indeed. Surely it is because it is one sanctity. (Eruvin 38a)

 

            The Gemara implies that it is clear to Rabbi Eliezer that Yom Tov and Shabbat do not constitute one sanctity, whereas the Rabbis are in doubt whether they constitute one sanctity or two.

 

            Here too, however, it might be suggested that we are dealing with sanctities that are only different quantitatively, but once again this difference suffices so that one cannot set an eruv on Yom Tov for Shabbat. According to this understanding, even if the two sanctities are connected, their combination one after the other is accidental, and therefore they are regarded as two different sanctities.

 

            It seems then that we cannot bring absolute proof from the aforementioned passages that the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov are qualitatively different sanctities.

 

Prayer and Sanctity

 

            It can, however, be proven from the Tosefta in Berakhot that the disagreements noted above with respect to the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat are found already among the Tannaim themselves:

 

If Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat – Bet Shammai say: He prays eight blessings, mentioning Shabbat separately and Yom Tov separately, and he starts with Shabbat. And Bet Hillel say: He prays seven blessings, and he begins with Shabbat and concludes with Shabbat and mentions the sanctity of the day in the middle. Rabbi [Yehuda ha-Nasi] says: He even concludes with "Blessed is He who sanctifies Shabbat, and Israel, and the festivals." (3:13)

 

            The Rishonim disagree about how to understand Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi: Is he presenting a third position that disagrees with both Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel, or is he merely explaining the position of Bet Hillel?

 

            Rashi explains:

 

"And he begins by mentioning Shabbat first" – "You have given us this day of rest and this festival day"; "And he concludes the blessing with Shabbat" – "Who sanctifies Shabbat" and no more; "And he mention the sanctity of the day in the middle" – And You, O Lord, our God, have given us this day of rest and this festival day." (Betza 17a, s.v. matchil)

 

            According to this explanation, Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi disagrees with Bet Hillel and says that the blessing concludes with the words, "Who sanctifies Shabbat, and Israel, and the festivals," rather than with, "Who sanctifies Shabbat" and nothing more.

 

            The Rambam, on the other hand, has a different understanding of the position of Bet Hillel:

 

He begins the intermediate blessing with a reference to Shabbat and ends it with a reference to Shabbat and mentions the sanctity of the day in the middle of the blessing. And he concludes with the words… Who sanctifies Shabbat and Israel and Rosh Chodesh." (Hilkhot Tefila 2:11)

 

            The Kesef Mishneh explains (ad loc.):

 

It therefore seems that our master explains "and he concludes with Shabbat" as not referring to the concluding formula, but rather that he says something referring to Shabbat, like, "Yismechu be-malkhutekha"… And this baraita [according to the Rambam] does not speak of the concluding formula.

 

            According to this understanding, Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi supplements Bet Hillel's position by explaining the concluding formula that must be used in accordance with their view.

 

            Attention should be paid to the fact that the Rambam notes that the prayer is essentially a prayer of Shabbat. The Rambam is dealing there with Rosh Chodesh that falls out on Shabbat. The Maharsha, explaining the Tosafot Yeshanim, articulates a similar approach:

 

For on Yom Tov [that falls out on Shabbat], one prays the prayer of Yom Tov, but on Rosh Chodesh he prays the prayer of Shabbat. (17a) 

 

            According to the Tosafot Yeshanim, when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat, the prayer that must be recited is essentially a prayer of Yom Tov, whereas on Rosh Chodesh that falls out on Shabbat, the prayer is essentially that of Shabbat.

 

            If we examine the disagreement in the Tosefta according to the various understandings, we see that it reflects the various views described over the course of this lecture. The position of Bet Shammai is not unequivocal. It is possible that they maintain that the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat are two different sanctities, or alternatively they might maintain that we are dealing with two sanctities of similar nature which happen to fall out on the same day. In any event, according to them, we are not to combine the two sanctities, but rather we must give each one its own blessing. According to Bet Hillel, on the other hand, we are dealing with sanctities that belong to the same "world." Therefore we interweave the prayer of Shabbat and the prayer of Yom Tov. According to them, we create a single blessing for the various sanctities of the day.

 

            According to this understanding of the positions of Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel, we can explain the disagreement about how to understand the relationship between Bet Hillel and Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi.

 

            According to the Rambam (following the Tosafot Yeshanim), Bet Hillel maintain that the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov belong to the same world of sanctity, but when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat, the sanctity of Yom Tov overshadows the sanctity of Shabbat. Therefore, explains Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi according to Bet Hillel, we conclude the blessing with two sanctities – "Who sanctifies Shabbat and Israel and the festivals" – but essentially the prayer is one of Yom Tov. According to Rashi, on the other hand, Bet Hillel maintain that the blessing concludes with exclusive mention of Shabbat. According to him, Bet Hillel argue that since the sanctity of Shabbat is the more severe of the two, it "takes over." Therefore we conclude exclusively with the sanctity of Shabbat, "Who sanctifies Shabbat."[3] Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi disagrees and says that we are dealing with two similar sanctities that coexist without priority given to the one over the other.

 

            Thus we find three different positions in the Tosefta, even without Bet Shammai:

 

1)            Shabbat is the dominant sanctity. Therefore, the sanctity of Yom Tov is annexed to it, and we conclude exclusively with "Who sanctifies Shabbat" (Bet Hillel according to Rashi).

 

2)            Priority is given neither to the sanctity of Shabbat, nor to the sanctity of Yom Tov, and they coexist, the one alongside the other (Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi, according to Rashi).

 

3)             The sanctity of Yom Tov is the dominant sanctity. Therefore, the sanctity of Shabbat is annexed to it and the prayer is essentially a prayer of Yom Tov (Bet Hillel and Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi, according to the Rambam).

 

God and the Sanctity of Israel

 

            Now, let us try to add a conceptual layer to the discussion.

 

            Rav Kook notes the difference between the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat, explaining:

 

The sanctity of time extends across the entire length of time – Blessed be the Lord, day by day" – and the rays of the lights of sanctity advance in a hidden manner until they find expression and revelation on the hallowed days: in the sanctity of Shabbat, the first of the holy assemblies, as intrinsic sanctity which overflows upon the world and upon Israel, and in the sanctity of Yom Tov, as receiving the overflow of sanctity by way of Israel, who hallow the festivals. (Orot ha-Kodesh II, p. 303)

 

            According to Rav Kook, the source of all sanctity is God, and the relationship between the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat is that the sanctity of Shabbat is intrinsic sanctity that God implanted in time. This sanctity is bestowed upon the festivals by way of "Israel who sanctify the festivals."

 

            According to this, the sanctity of Yom Tov derives from the sanctity of Shabbat. Thus, we understand why according to Bet Hillel (according to Rashi) we conclude the blessing with "Who sanctifies Shabbat," even though it is also Yom Tov.

 

            On the other hand, the other views that we saw above require explanation. How does Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi (according to Rashi) maintain that the sanctity of Yom Tov has independent standing alongside the sanctity of Shabbat? And how, according to Bet Hillel (according to the Rambam), is the sanctity of Yom Tov the dominant sanctity when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat? If indeed the sanctity of Yom Tov derives from the sanctity of Shabbat, what independent standing can this sanctity have?

 

            It seems that we can point to two characteristics of the sanctity of Yom Tov that do not find expression in the sanctity of Shabbat:

 

1)            The sanctity of Shabbat is first and foremost "a remembrance of the creation,” sanctity that God, who is outside of the world known to us, bestowed upon the seventh day when He created the world. In other words, we are dealing with transcendental sanctity.

 

On the other hand, the sanctity of Yom Tov is primarily "a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt." We are dealing with sanctity that stems from God's involvement in and providence over what goes on in the world. This sanctity stems from God's involvement with this world. In other words, we are dealing with immanent sanctity that follows from God's appearance in this world, and especially among the people of Israel – "Israel who sanctified the festivals."

 

2)            If we compare the musaf offerings brought on Shabbat with the musaf offerings brought on Yom Tov, we see an interesting difference. The musaf of Shabbat is a doubling of the daily offering: whereas every day one sheep is offered in the morning and one in the afternoon, on Shabbat two sheep are added as the musaf offering. In contrast, the musaf offering of Yom Tov is much more complex: each festival has its own sacrifices.

 

From this it may be inferred that while the sanctity of Shabbat still belongs to the routine of daily living, only that it is a doubled sanctity, the sanctity of Yom Tov is an exceptional sanctity that breaches borders. To a certain degree, this difference is the very opposite of the first difference noted above: the sanctity of Shabbat is a sanctity belonging to the natural cycle, whereas the sanctity of Yom Tov is a sanctity that transcends the usual limits of nature.

 

In light of these two differences, it is possible to understand why there is room to give primacy to the sanctity of Yom Tov even when it falls out on Shabbat, and to give it independent standing without blurring the sanctity of Shabbat that stands alongside it.

 

May we all merit internalizing both the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of Yom Tov in their full expression in the Temple that will be rebuilt speedily in our days.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

[1] The Rambam does not necessarily have to be understood in this fashion. It is possible that even if Yom Tov is regarded as "a Sabbath of the Lord," an essential difference between the sanctity of Yom Tov and the sanctity of Shabbat remains.

[2] It should be remembered that in the past it was impossible to prepare food so well in advance. It would therefore have been impossible to cook for Shabbat prior to Yom Tov without the food spoiling by the time Shabbat arrives.

[3] See Shita Mekubetzet (Betza, ad loc.) which follows Rashi: "According to the plain sense, he begins with Shabbat – he begins with the actual prayer of Shabbat." According to this, the prayer is essentially that of Shabbat, as opposed to the position of the Tosafot Yeshanim.