Talmudic pages

Eruvin 84

Romeo in the courtyard.

Today’s daf is devoted exclusively to an ongoing debate between Rav and Shmuel regarding an eruv connecting a courtyard and a balcony. It started with a mishnah on yesterday’s daf which poses the situation that the residents of one dwelling with a courtyard and another with a balcony have each built an eruv for their individual property but have not created an eruv hatzerot, an eruv combining both of their properties into one domain. This can create a problem because any area accessible to both parties — for example, a well from which each is able to draw water — becomes forbidden to everyone.

The Talmud went on to define “accessibility” for each party. What if the people in the courtyard can only reach the area in question by throwing a rope up to it? Is that considered “accessible”? The general principle states that if the homes have individual eruvim and the area in question is more accessible to one party than the other, it “belongs” to that party for Shabbat. However, if it is equally accessible to both parties, it is forbidden to both.

This leads us to the debate between Rav and Shmuel. If Romeo in the courtyard can only reach a particular area by throwing something up to it and Juliet on the balcony can only reach it by lowering something down to it, is it considered equally (in)accessible to both — and therefore impermissible to both without an eruv hatzerot? Rav says yes, in the absence of an eruv hatzerot, both residents are forbidden to use the area in question. Shmuel says no, Juliet may still use the area on Shabbat.

On today’s page, the debate between Rav and Shmuel continues as the Talmud brings a series of Tannaitic sources that seem to support one opinion but then explains how the other opinion could also be supported by an alternate reading of the source. By the end of our daf we are no closer to an answer as to whether we follow Rav or Shmuel.

So what was the point of all of this? What have we gained from this daf?

One of the values of such a conversation is to highlight just how difficult it is to live in such an arrangement without an eruv hatzerot. Otherwise, the absurdity of the situation is such that the residents of the courtyard could dig a well which becomes forbidden to them on Shabbat but permitted to their upstairs neighbors!

Later in Daf Yomi — in about four years’ time! — we will get to tractate Bava Batra which discusses at great length the laws of neighbors. Most introductory classes to Bava Batra like to cite Robert Frost who wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Indeed, an overarching theme of Bava Batra is that good neighborly relations are maintained with clear property delineations and rules. However, Tractate Eruvin offers the opposite message. Shabbat is a time to take down those fences — or, more accurately, put up broader fences — and get to know your neighbors!

The idea for this piece was inspired by R. Dov Linzer’s Daf Yomi classes.

Read all of Eruvin 84 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on November 1st, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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