Talmudic pages

Eruvin 24

How to make a sandal impure.

The Talmud often references materials from other areas of Jewish law to help it answer a question. An example of this appears on today’s daf.

The Gemara is discussing the rules about carrying in a karpef on Shabbat. A karpef is an enclosed courtyard that is used for storage, and because it is not part of a residence, it is forbidden to carry within it on Shabbat. That is, unless modifications are made to transform the space.

Rav Naḥman said that Shmuel said: With regard to a karpef that is greater than two beit se’a, and which was not enclosed from the outset for the purpose of residence, what should one do if he wishes to carry within it? He should make a breach in the fence larger than ten cubits, which nullifies the partition, and then fence it off and reduce the opening to only ten cubits, which thereby creates an entrance.

Shmuel teaches that one can render a karpef permissible for carrying on Shabbat by making a hole in the enclosure that is greater than ten cubits, and then reducing the gap to ten cubits to create an entrance. Tearing down a section of the fence nullifies the fence’s status as a partition; rebuilding it makes it a new fence. Since the new fence was built with the intention of designating the enclosed space as residential, carrying is permitted within the space.

The Gemara then poses a question: What if instead of making one large hole and replacing it with a ten-cubit entrance, you make a one-cubit hole and fence it off, and then another, and then another, until it equalled more than ten cubits? Would that still work?

To answer this question, the rabbis turn to the laws of ritually impure household utensils, where the rabbis encountered a similar dilemma. An impure utensil becomes pure if it develops a hole larger than a pomegranate. But what if the hole was the size of an olive? And after that hole was repaired, another olive-sized hole developed. And so on, until the total size of the repaired holes is more than the size of a pomegranate. Does that render the utensil pure?

To answer that question, the rabbis again search for an analogous case, and they find one in this law about a sandal: If the strap of an impure sandal breaks and is repaired, the sandal remains ritually impure. But if a second strap breaks and is repaired, the repaired sandal is considered to have a lower level of impurity. Why? The sandal with a single broken strap remains functional, so its status has not changed. But if the second strap breaks, it’s rendered non-functional and the repair constitutes the creation of a new sandal, so its original status is lost.

The rabbis apply this same logic to the household utensil and ultimately to the karpef. Even though the utensil never had a hole the size of a pomegranate, it becomes a new entity when the sum of the olive-size holes equals that of a pomegranate. Similarly, when the total width of the cubit-wide sections of fence exceeds ten cubits, the fence is considered a new entity, allowing for carrying within it on Shabbat.

Talmudic discussions like this can be difficult to follow, especially when the imported material is drawn from unfamiliar sources. The good news is that the more pages of Talmud you read, the more likely that the referenced material becomes familiar. So hang in there. Soon enough you’ll find quotations from afar from sections of the Talmud you already know.

Read all of Eruvin 24 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on September 2, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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