In loving memory of
Yitzchak ben Chaim Zvi Schwartz z"l, who passed away on 13 Shvat 5771
and Sheva Shayndel bat David Schwartz z"l, who passed away 13 Shvat 5778
Dedicated by Avi and Sarah Schwartz
Yesterday, we noted the different views that exist regarding the origin of the “techum Shabbat” (“Shabbat boundary”) prohibition, which forbids walking over 2,000 amot beyond one’s city on Shabbat. The Rambam maintained that this constitutes a Torah prohibition, whereas several other Rishonim asserted that only the minority position of Rabbi Akiva regarded “techum Shabbat” as a Biblical prohibition, whereas the consensus opinion is that this law was enacted by the Sages.
Within the view of the Rambam, different opinions exist as to the scope of the Biblical prohibition of “techum Shabbat.” The Mishna in Masekhet Beitza (37a) establishes that one’s belongings are limited by his “techum Shabbat” boundary, and may not be brought even by somebody else beyond 2,000 amot outside his city. This means that if somebody prepared an “eiruv techumin” before Shabbat outside his city, which allows him to walk on Shabbat 2,000 amot beyond the site of the eiruv, he may not take with him something belonging to another person, who had not prepared an eiruv. The Magen Avraham (404:1) cites Rav Levi Ibn Chaviv as asserting that this aspect of “techum Shabbat” was enacted by the Sages, according to all opinions. Even the Rambam, who maintains that walking beyond “techum Shabbat” constitutes a Torah violation, limits this prohibition to walking, and concedes that the restriction on one’s belongings originates from Chazal. The Biblical source of “techum Shabbat,” as we saw yesterday, is the verse in Parashat Beshalach (16:29) in which God commanded Benei Yisrael, “Al yeitzei ish mi-mekomo ba-yom ha-shevi’i” – “No man shall leave from his place on the seventh day.” This verse speaks only of people walking beyond the boundary, and says nothing about people’s belongings, and thus, in the view of Rav Levi Ibn Chaviv, even the Rambam would concede that the law’s application to people’s belongings was enacted by Chazal, and does not constitute a Biblical provision.
However, Maharam Alshakar (41) disagreed, and maintained that according to the Rambam, even this aspect of “techum Shabbat” applies on the level of Torah law.
A third view is that of the Yeshuot Yaakov (404:2), who suggested distinguishing between one’s animals and other belongings. The Yeshuot Yaakov contended that the aforementioned Acharonim (Rav Levi Ibn Chaviv, and Maharam Alshakar) disagree only in regard to the status of animals vis-à-vis “techum Shabbat,” as one view maintained that the law forbidding bringing a person’s animal beyond his permissible boundary on Shabbat constitutes a Torah violation. When it comes to other possessions, however, such as food, clothing and utensils, all views agree that the prohibition against bringing such belongings outside their owner’s permitted boundary was enacted by Chazal, and is not forbidden by Torah.
In truth, however, this issue was debated already by the Rishonim, as noted by the Minchat Chinukh (24). The context of the discussion is the case addressed by the Gemara in Masekhet Eiruvin (79b) of a stockpile of straw situated on the border separating between the “techum Shabbat” boundaries of two towns. If half the pile is situated within one town’s “techum Shabbat” boundary, and the other half is situated within the second town’s boundary, the residents of each town are allowed to take straw from their half. The Gemara comments that intuitively, one might have assumed that according to Rabbi Akiva’s position, viewing “techum Shabbat” as a Biblical prohibition, we should forbid taking straw in such a case, given the risk of mistakenly violating a Torah prohibition. No such law was actually enacted, but this possibility which the Gemara says would have been considered. Rashi explains that the possible risk was that somebody might unwittingly take straw from the wrong part of the pile, thereby violating the Torah prohibition of “techum Shabbat.” The Ritva, however, dismisses this view, asserting that even Rabbi Akiva, who views “techum Shabbat” as a Biblical prohibition, limits this position to walking beyond the prescribed boundary, and agrees that bringing one’s belongings outside the boundary does not fall under the Torah prohibition. He therefore explains the Gemara to mean that we would have considered forbidding taking straw in this case because people might not realize that their half is within the permissible boundary, and they thus might mistakenly conclude that they are allowed to leave the boundary to bring straw. It seems clear that Rashi and the Ritva debate this very question, and that Rashi felt that according to Rabbi Akiva, the “techum Shabbat” prohibition applies on the level of Torah law even as it applies to one’s belongings. Rashi’s comments appear to contradict the theory advanced by the Yeshuot Yaakov, that all views agree that the application of “techum Shabbat” to possessions other than animals was enacted by Chazal. This point was made by Rav Asher Weiss.
In defense of the Yeshuot Yaakov, it should be noted that Rashi’s comment was made in explaining the rationale for why the Gemara considered the possibility of forbidding taking straw in such a case. Initially, the Gemara comments, we might have thought that this should be forbidden due to the potential violation of a Biblical law according to Rabbi Akiva. As we saw, however, no such prohibition was actually legislated. The Yeshuot Yaakov perhaps understood the Gemara to mean that we might have intuitively assumed that even bringing straw outside the permitted boundary constitutes a Torah violation, which warrants a safeguard, but in truth, this is not the case. The Gemara’s conclusion is that Rabbi Akiva concedes that the Torah prohibition of “techum Shabbat” does not apply to straw, and for this reason no safeguard is necessary.