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33b: Positive Time-Bound Mitzvot (1)

Rav Michael Siev

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The main topic of our discussion for several weeks now has been the honor that is due to parents and teachers, particularly the obligation to rise in their honor when they approach. The gemara now applies this idea to a different area.

We are on the fifth long line on 33b.


It was asked of them: What is it (is there an obligation) to stand in the presence of a Torah scroll?

Rabbi Chilkiyya and Rabbi Simon and Rabbi Elazar say: "It is a kal va-chomer:

in the presence of those who learn it we stand; how much more so in its presence!"

Rabbi Illa'i and Rabbi Ya'akov bar Zavdi were sitting,

Rabbi Shimon bar Abba passed by, and they stood before him.


He said to them: "Firstly, you are scholars and I am a chaver;

and additionally, should Torah stand before those who learn it?"

He held like Rabbi Elazar, for Rabbi Elazar said:


"A Torah scholar is not permitted to stand in the presence of his teacher when [the student] is engaged in Torah [study]."

Abayei cursed it (Rabbi Elazar's ruling).

איבעיא להו: מהו לעמוד מפני ספר תורה?

ר' חלקיה ור' סימון ור' אלעזר אמרי: קל וחומר,

מפני לומדיה עומדים, מפניה לא כל שכן!

ר' אלעי ור' יעקב בר זבדי הוו יתבי,

חליף ואזיל ר' שמעון בר אבא וקמו מקמיה.

אמר להו: חדא, דאתון חכימי ואנא חבר;

ועוד, כלום תורה עומדת מפני לומדיה?

סבר לה כר' אלעזר, דאמר ר' אלעזר:

אין ת"ח (תלמיד חכם) רשאי לעמוד מפני רבו בשעה שעוסק בתורה.

לייט עלה אביי.

The gemara questions what Halakha dictates with regard to honoring a Torah scroll: do we say that just as one must honor certain people by standing up when they approach, the same is true with regard to a Torah scroll, or is this type of honor reserved for human beings?

The gemara quotes three sages who maintain that one must, in fact, stand in honor of a Torah scroll. They derive this based on a logical analysis: one is obligated to stand in the presence of a Torah scholar because of the Torah he has learned; surely one should have to show honor to the Torah itself! This type of reasoning, which is quite common in the Talmud, is called a "kal va-chomer" (literally, "light and harshness"); if a law applies to a less severe case, in our situation the person who deserves honor, it should certainly apply to the more severe case of the Torah scroll, which deserves even more honor than a person.

The gemara tells a story which relates to this comparison of the Torah itself and those who study it: Rabbi Illa'i and Rabbi Ya'akov bar Zavdi were sitting and learning Torah, and Rabbi Shimon bar Abba walked by them; as a sign of honor to him, Rabbi Illa'i and Rabbi Ya'akov stood up. Rabbi Shimon admonished them for standing, claiming that they were not obligated to honor him at all, as they were even more distinguished than he (a chaver, or friend, is someone associated with Torah scholars, but who is not himself a scholar). He added that since they were learning, they also should not have interrupted their study in order to stand for him; should the Torah itself be interrupted in order to honor people who are only deserving of respect because they study that very Torah? It is important to note that Rabbi Shimon does not simply provide two reasons why the other sages were exempt from standing in his honor; the first reason explains that they were exempt from doing so, while the second reason goes further and claims that it was actually inappropriate for them to stand, as their interrupting their study in order to do so implied that Torah was secondary to a human being.

The gemara comments that Rabbi Shimon, who objected to the other sages interrupting their study, concurred with the position of Rabbi Elazar, who ruled explicitly that a Torah scholar may not interrupt his study in order to stand for his teacher. However, the gemara concludes, Abayei strongly opposed this view, and actually cursed it, and, as Rashi (s.v. layit) notes, anyone who follows it. In fact, the Shulkhan Aruch (YD 244:11) rules that one must stand for a Torah scholar even if one is engaged in study.

Back to the Gemara

We resume eight lines from the bottom of 33b.


"And they stared after Moshe until he arrived at the tent:"

Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Yitzchak Nappecha,

one said [that this verse intends] to disparage, one said to praise.


The one who said to disparage, as it is [explained elsewhere].

The one who said to praise: Chizkiyya said, "Rabbi Chanina the son of Rabbi Abbahau told me in the name of Rabbi Abbahu in the name of Rabbi Avdimi from Chaifa:

'If a scholar passes, one [must] stand in his presence for four cubits,

and once he has passed [beyond] four cubits, one [may] sit;

If the head of the court passes - one [must] stand in his presence as long as one can see,

and one he has passed [beyond] four cubits, one [may] sit;

If the nasi passes - one [must] stand in his presence as far as one can see,

and one does not sit until [the nasi] sits in his place,

as it says: "And they stared after Moshe until he arrived at the tent."'"  

והביטו אחרי משה עד בואו האהלה:

ר' אמי ור' יצחק נפחא,

חד אמר: לגנאי, וחד אמר: לשבח.

מאן דאמר לגנאי, כדאיתא.

מ"ד (מאן דאמר) לשבח: אמר חזקיה, אמר לי ר' חנינא בריה דר' אבהו א"ר אבהו א"ר אבדימי דמן חיפא:

חכם עובר - עומד מלפניו ד' אמות,

וכיון שעבר ד' אמות יושב;

אב ב"ד (בית דין) עובר - עומד מלפניו מלא עיניו,

וכיון שעבר ד' אמות יושב;

נשיא עובר - עומד מלפניו מלא עיניו,

ואינו יושב עד שישב במקומו,

שנאמר: והביטו אחרי משה עד בואו האהלה.

The gemara begins by quoting a verse from Shemot (33:8). In the aftermath of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Torah describes how Moshe pitched a tent outside of the encampment of the nation, and called it the Tent of Meeting (the term later used for the Sanctuary of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle). Due to the great sin, it was impossible for the Divine presence to dwell amongst the people; therefore, the Tent of Meeting was situated outside of the camp, and anyone who wanted to encounter the Divine presence would leave the camp and visit the Tent of Meeting. The pasuk quoted by our gemara relates that when Moshe would leave the camp to go visit the Tent of Meeting, the people would stand at the entrances of their own tents and watch him until he reached the Tent of Meeting.

The gemara quotes a dispute about the intent of the people as they stood and watched Moshe walk to the tent. One view is that the pasuk expresses something inappropriate about the people's behavior. The gemara does not spell out what the people's intention was according to this position; Rashi (s.v. ke-de'ita) explains that the gemara did not want to mention this due to the fact that it was a negative reaction on the part of the people. However, Rashi does explain the intention, based upon the opinion of Rabbi Chamma in Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 4: the people stood and watched Moshe with suspicion, imagining that he was embezzling money and growing fat on their account.

The other view is that the pasuk intends to praise the people for their appropriate treatment of Moshe (the opinion of Rabbi Yitzchak ibid.). Chizkiyya explains based on a ruling about honoring Torah figures: if a scholar passes by, one must rise in his honor when the scholar comes within four cubits, and may sit as soon as he moves four cubits away. If the chief justice of the Rabbinical court approaches, one must stand as soon as he comes into view, and may sit as soon as he has passed by and is more than four cubits away. If the nasi approaches, one must stand as soon as the nasi comes into view and remain standing until the nasi reaches his own place and sits down. The source for this last ruling is the pasuk quoted at the beginning of the passage; just as the entire nation stood until Moshe reached the Tent of Meeting, so one should remain standing for any nasi until he sits in his place. Thus, the fact that the people stood for Moshe is interpreted in a positive light, as a sign of respect.

Practically speaking, the Rambam (Hilkhot Talmud Torah 6:6) rules, based on an alternate text of our gemara, that one may sit as soon as a scholar passes by, even if he has not moved more than four cubits away. The Shulchan Arukh (YD 244:9) accepts this position.

Back to the Gemara

We resume with the second to last line on 33b.


All time-bound positive mitzvot, etc.:

The Rabbis taught: "What is a time-bound positive mitzva? Sukka and lulav, shofar and tzitzit and tefillin.

And what is a positive mitzva that is not time-bound?

Mezuza, [making a] fence, [returning a] lost item and sending [the mother bird out of] the nest."

And is it a rule?


But [what about] matza, rejoicing [on Festivals], assembling - they are time bound-positive mitzvot, and women are obligated!

And furthermore, [what about] Torah study, procreation and redeeming the firstborn,

which are not time bound positive mitzvot, and women are exempt!

Rabbi Yochanan said: "We do not learn from rules and even in a place where it says, 'except,'

for we learn in a mishna: 'With everything may one make an eruv and join together, except for water and salt;'

and is that all? But there are truffles and mushrooms!

Rather, we do not learn from rules, and even where it says 'except.'"

כל מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא וכו':

ת"ר (תנו רבנן): איזוהי מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא? סוכה, ולולב, שופר, וציצית, ותפילין.

ואיזוהי מצות עשה שלא הזמן גרמא?

מזוזה, מעקה, אבידה, ושילוח הקן.

וכללא הוא?

הרי מצה, שמחה, הקהל, דמצות עשה שהזמן גרמא, ונשים חייבות!

ותו, והרי תלמוד תורה, פריה ורביה, ופדיון הבן,

דלאו מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא הוא, ונשים פטורות!

אמר רבי יוחנן: אין למדין מן הכללות ואפילו במקום שנאמר בו חוץ,

דתנן: בכל מערבין ומשתתפין, חוץ מן המים ומלח;

ותו ליכא? והאיכא כמהין ופטריות!

אלא, אין למדין מן הכללות ואפילו במקום שנאמר בו חוץ.

At this point, the gemara returns to explain the mishna on 29a. Until now, the gemara has focused on a discussion of the issue of parents' obligations toward their children and children's obligations toward their parents, as well as the related issue of students' obligations toward their teachers. At this point, the gemara turns its attention to the rest of the mishna, which lays down a basic principle with regard to women's obligations in mitzvot: women are obligated to adhere to all of the Torah's prohibitions (with three exceptions), but with regard to positive mitzvot, women are obligated only in mitzvot that are not bound by time. They are exempt from positive mitzvot that are time-bound, which are known as mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman.

Our gemara quotes a beraita that, on the basis of this ruling, enumerates the mitzvot that fall under each category. The category of mitzvot asei she-hazzeman geraman, from which women are exempt, include the mitzvot of living in a sukka and picking up the four species on the holiday of Sukkot, blowing the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana, attaching tzitzit strings to four cornered garments and donning tefillin (phylacteries). The category of positive mitzvot that are not bound by time, and in which women are therefore obligated, includes affixing a mezuza to one's doorpost, building a fence around one's roof, returning lost items and shilu'ach ha-ken, which refers to chasing away the mother bird before taking her eggs or chicks.

The gemara questions the precision of these lists. After all, there are time-bound mitzvot that women are obligated in, such as eating matza on the first night of Pesach, rejoicing on the festivals and the mitzva of hakhel, which requires the entire nation to gather together once every seven years (on the Sukkot following the shemitta year) in order to listen to the king read certain selections from the Torah. Similarly, there are positive mitzvot that do not appear to depend on time, yet women are exempt from them: learning Torah, procreation and pidyon ha-ben (redeeming the firstborn). How, then, can our mishna claim that women's obligation in positive mitzvot is directly linked to the criterion of whether or not it is time-bound?

Essentially, Rabbi Yochanan confirms the challenge. He explains that we cannot learn from rules, meaning that we cannot assume rules to be all-inclusive. This applies even where the statement of the rule admits certain exceptions: one might have thought that if the mishna or beraita has taken the time to enumerate the exceptions to the rule, that list must be exhaustive; Rabbi Yochanan argues that even then, we cannot assume the rule to be all-inclusive.

As an example of this, Rabbi Yochanan cites a mishna in Eruvin (26b), which teaches that one may use any food item other than water and salt for the purposes of eruv and shituf. Eruv, according to Rashi (s.v. be-khol), refers to eruvei chatzerot. One is allowed to carry on shabbat in a private domain (reshut ha-yachid) but not in a public domain (reshut ha-rabbim) or from one type of domain to the other. Rabbinically, it is also forbidden to carry in a reshut ha-yachid to which many people have joint rights, lest one not differentiate between such a place and a reshut ha-rabbim. However, residents can symbolically join together in order to establish a unified residence, in which case the domain is viewed as though it is owned by one family unit; since the people have gone to the trouble of symbolically joining together, we are not concerned that they will confuse the reshut ha-yachid with a reshut ha-rabbim.

Thus, for example, if multiple houses have joint use of a courtyard (chatzer), they can all contribute some food that is stored in one place, thus establishing symbolic joint residence in that place. This process in known as eruvei chatzerot, and allows people to carry in the courtyard. Similarly, if several courtyards open and have use of an alleyway (mavoi), one representative of each chatzer may contribute some food, thus joining all the residents of all of the courtyards together; this process is known as shitufei mevo'ot.

The mishna rules that any food other than water and salt may be used for purposes of establishing the joint residence necessary for an eruvei chatzerot or shitufei mevo'ot. However, in addition to water and salt, one may not use truffles and mushrooms for these purposes! Rabbi Yochanan thus concludes that we cannot assume that rules are all-encompassing, even when the rule itself lists exceptions.  

We will continue next week with a discussion of the definition and parameters of the rule regarding a mitzvat asei she-hazzeman gerama.

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