Sunday, December 02, 2012

Why did חז"ל make so many גזירות related to carrying on Shabbos?

Daf Yomi just started the 6th פרק of Shabbos which deals extensively with גזירות related to carrying on Shabbos. The Gemara has extensive discussions about what jewelry women can wear on Shabbos, what are animals allowed to go out with, etc. all גזירות  in fear of the person violating the איסור דאורייתא of carrying 4 אמות in a רשות הרבים. It is patently clear that in the the time of חז"ל that they felt that this was a very valid concern as we know that that חז"ל followed a number of rules when making גזירות, two of them being:

1. מילתא דלא שכיחא לא גזרו ביה רבנן - We don't make גזירות for far-fetched cases.
2. we don't make a גזירה לגזירה - We only make גזירות to protect people from violating an איסור דאורייתא, we don't make גזירות to protect people from violating an איסור דרבנן.

Based on the above חז"ל would only have made all of these גזירות  regarding carrying if there was a real concern that people would violate the איסור דאורייתא of carrying in a רשות הרבים. What this means is that there must have been MANY places deemed רשות הרבים in existence in Israel (and Bavel) otherwise they never would have made all of these גזירות as it would have been a מילתא דלא שכיחא and/or a גזירה לגזירה.

However, this is very very difficult. תוספות on 64b already makes the claim that we don't have a רשות הרבים דאורייתא nowadays because we don't have 600,000 people and our streets aren't wide enough. This opinion of Rashi and Tosafos has been accepted להלכה and is the basis of all city עירובין. But, if this is true, then how in the time of חז"ל did they ever have a רשות הרבים דאורייתא? Why would they make all of these גזירות if they didn't? It is not believable that in the time of חז"ל the population of the cities in Israel was larger then today. The only city today, in 2012, with a population over 600,000 is Jerusalem and only a fraction of that is in the old city (which is the only part of the city that existed 2000 years ago and in fact was smaller then it is today). Every other city in Israel today has a population less then 600,000 people. There is no way that in the times of חז"ל the cities were anywhere near as large given what we know of the population etc.

In short, how could it be that in the time of חז"ל two thousand years ago they were so worried about people violating an איסור דאורייתא of הוצאה when we can't find a רשות הרבים דאורייתא today? Brooklyn, with a population of 2.5 million people (larger by far then any city 2000 years ago) is the only place that I have heard of that there even is a discussion about. There are עירובין in every large city in Israel (based on the presumption that the city is not a רשות הרבים דאורייתא) and many large cities/communities in America.  How do we reconcile this with the many גזירות that חז"ל made regarding carrying on Shabbos (including canceling the miztva of Shofar when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos)? How come חז"ל felt that a רשות הרבים דאורייתא existed and we don't?


Ariel Jusid said...

I'm an Am Haaretz, but I found something that may be useful:

The Rambam didn't require 600,000 people traversing the
area but any street 16 amot wide is רשות הרבים דאורייתא. Ditto
for the RIF, the Ramban Shabbat 57a; Ramban on Eruvin 59a; the RAN
Shabbat 57a; Tshuvot haRashba Chelek Alef Siman 724; the Meiri; and
the RIVASH Siman 7. And that's the consensus in the Bet Yosef TUR
Orach Chaim 345 as well.

Ariel Jusid said...


In Orach Hayim siman 345 the Shulhan Aruch states: “What is a reshut harabim? Streets that are 16 amot wide (about 25ft.) without a roof or a wall around them, or even when walled but a street runs through on a straight line without gates at each end to close at night, that is a reshut harabim. Some say that any street in which 600,000 people do not pass through every day is not a public domain.”

As you see the Shulhan Aruch brings two opinions with almost opposing ramifications. In the first opinion all that is required to establish a reshut harabim is a 16 amot street with no walls around, this definition would identify almost every city that we know as a biblical public domain. The second opinion requires an added feature of 600,000 people passing through every day, there is hardly any city in the world that would meet this criterion, and therefore no reality of a public domain.

What does Rebbi Yosef Karo himself hold? The rule is that when he brings in Shulhan Aruch first a Halacha stam – “general”, followed by yesh omrim – “some say”, his own ruling is that of the first opinion. In this matter he rules that any city with streets 16 amot wide with no walls, roofs and gates is considered a biblical public domain and one may not carry in it on Shabbat (this is also the opinion of the Rambam, Rif, Ramban, Rashba, Ran and others).

Chusidel said...

The real teritz is.
Gezairos were made in the midbur that was a rshus hurabim.
According to rambam it wasnt, and on the rambam you may ask, why was the gzaireh made to begin with.

Adam Zur said...

The cities in Bavel where the amoraim lived did not have 600,000. Those were not major cities. and even major cities like Rome had barely a few million. Sura and Pumpadisa did not have 600000 going through the street every day. Even Brooklyn does not have that. It would seem that in this case the Rambam was right.

bluke said...


Where did you get such an idea that these gezeros were made in the midbar? Do you have any source for this? In fact, it is pretty clear from the Gemara that this was not the case but the gezeros came much later.

bluke said...


You are correct that there is such an opinion, but the bottom line is that l'halacha we pasken that you do need 600,000 and that is the basis for all of the city eruvin nowadays.

Ariel Jusid said...

I understand that the reason for the eruvin nowadays isn't that you need 600,000. Indeed, even according to Rashi, Tosafot, Rabenu Tam, Rosh etc., there is almost no concept of reshut harabim.

If our cities were considered as reshut harabim, then it wouldn't be enough with eruv tzurat hapetach; it would be necessary eruv mechitzot. The reason for using eruv tzurat hapetach is that most of the cities nowadays are considered Carmelit.

Ephrayim said...

Briefly I will say this. The Munich manuscript attests to the variant reading contained in the Bahag that requires 600,000. מורדכי יהודה ליב זקש published an article about that. But you raise good points, what does it mean? Mahari Asad says that 600,000 is only the shiur for reshus harabim for hotzah for carrying from one reshus to another. For carrying 4 amos, the shiur for reshus harabim is different. I have much to add and I wrote about this for myself, but do not have much time now.

Regarding the possibility of 600,000 in ancient times, there are contradictory statements in the name of Rav Yochanan about this. It is noteworthy that Herodotus writes that the CITY of Babylonia had 600,000 in it. The conflation of the state and city has lead to many errors amongst the commentators. The contradictory statements might be resolved by distinguishing between the two.

Glunker said...

I discussed this a bit here:

It does seem like certain kulos arose because of hardship, it would be very hard to say there was no reshus harabim. Chazal cancelled shofar and lulav because of fear of carrying, which has to be reshus harabim areas. (Also, the Jews who came up from Bavel are criticized for carrying on shabbos.)

But there are some possible explanations. Anyways, best not to keep things above 10 tefachim so not in reshus harabim d'oraysa.