Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Chukas (Numbers 19-22)
Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5)
1:1 And He (G-d) called to Moshe (Moses). And G-d spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying .…
The tabernacle's courtyard covered an area of fifty cubits by one-hundred cubits.
This measurement of land is cited in a number of Rabbinical laws that pertain to restrictions for carrying objects during Shabbos. The area is termed a 'Bais Sasayim.'
Now, the Talmud provides specifications for the walls of a succa. It discusses a wall that an average wind can break apart. Such a wall is invalid and must be reinforced (Succa 24b).
The Talmud cites a Mishnah (Eruvin 99b) that discusses a tree whose branches reach within three hand-breadths of the ground. The Mishnah says that the branches can be viewed as a walled area and one may carry objects under the tree during Shabbos.
The Talmud questions why the wall that was formed by the tree's branches is viewed as a valid enclosure to permit carrying, as a wind can break the branches apart.
The Talmud answers that the Mishnah is speaking about a tree whose branches are reinforced, so that they can't break apart.
The Talmud then brings a teaching that one may carry under this tree only if the area enclosed by the branches is less than a Bais Sasayim.
It raises the following issue: If reinforcement made the walls valid, then just like there is no limit to how large an area one's house can be for carrying to be permitted inside, there should also be no limit for the area that is enclosed by the tree's branches.
The Talmud closes the discussion by saying that the enclosed area is different than a person's home. The difference is that the area under the tree is primarily used for that which is outside the tree.
In his explanation of this response, Rashi appears to be saying that the area under the tree is unlike a person's home because it is a makeshift dwelling area.
He connects this with what people did in those times when they erected makeshift shelters when they were out guarding their fields. The primary purpose of such shelters was not to make a living space. Rather, it was for guarding the area outside the shelter. Similarly, the purpose for the area under the tree is viewed as being for that which is outside the tree.
It is interesting that the Talmud's words do not directly focus on the tree being a makeshift shelter or that it was made for watching fields. And it is interesting in his commentary on the discussion, Rashi explicitly links this measurement to tabernacle's courtyard.
It's difficult to see how all these concepts link together.
And, it is pretty rare to find a tree being so large that its drooping branches form an area that is five-thousand square cubits. If a cubit is a foot and a half, that's whopping 11,250 square feet. If my calculations are correct then the diameter of the area is around 120 feet. Three of such trees would fit on a football field, if you include the end-zone.
The following came to mind.
The Torah states, "And you shall guard My guarding" (Leviticus 18:30). The Talmud understands this to mean that we must make safeguards to G-D's guarding (Yevamos 21a).
As keeping the Torah guards the Jewish people, I understand this to mean that the Torah charges our Torah scholars to guard the Torah from the Jewish people themselves.
You see, people really mean well and can be so very clever. Without safeguards, people who think they have adequate Torah knowledge can wind up doing some strange things, even unwillingly transgressing Torah laws.
Here's an example.
Passover is around the corner and the Torah prohibits eating or possessing 'chametz' before and during the holiday.
By definition, chametz is raw products from five grains, such as flour, that have come into contact with water and have not been baked into edible food within eighteen minutes. This is why they rush when they bake Matzah for Passover.
This means no bread, cake, or cookies during Passover.
But yet we are very "advanced" and today and you can find cake and cookies on the shelves that are certified Kosher for Passover.
Frankly, they don't taste to me like cake and cookies and they don't have the same crumble and crunch. Instead of using flour, they are made with potato starch, exotic substitutes, and/or chemicals. But, with enough marketing and imagination, some people purchase them to manage their cravings for chametz during Passover.
Understandably, those who are persistent enough to crack culinary codes and make the most realistic pseudo-chametz will stand to gain great fame and fortune during the holiday.
So picture a religious and somewhat knowledgeable person bringing to the Passover meal what appears to be an appealing cake, icing and all. It tastes great, like real chametz, not like dressed-up sawdust. And it has the same crunch, crumble, and moisture too!
The guests say, Wow!
What was the secret, they ask. After much prodding it is revealed that the cake was made from the same flour that they use to bake a hundred-percent Kosher for Passover Matzah. So if the flour is Kosher enough for Matzah, it has to be Kosher enough for making cake.
The guests say, Oy! And the cake heads for the incinerator.
Getting back to the discussion, Rabbinic safeguards keep us safe from transgressing the Torah, which is itself very unsafe.
A number of Rabbinic safeguards were made to keep us away from carrying objects during Shabbos between private and public domains and within public domains themselves.
Unless one is well versed in all of the technical specifications that define what a private and public domain are, people can come up with some very creative but non-compliant ways to carry on Shabbos.
One of the safeguards provide restrictions on makeshift private domains and on how much "rope" our scholars gave us for carrying within them
Perhaps they searched for a model to package this particular safeguard and decided that it should be the courtyard of the tabernacle. I assume that we carried within that very famous and public enclosure during Shabbos.
Do you catch the potential for a blur? It's public and it's an enclosure.
And it appears to be a perfect match with the makeshift dwelling of one who watches fields.
Just like the watchman's hut isn't an actual residence in all senses of the word, so is the tabernacle, in that is not the actual residence of the One who dwells within it.
And just like the watchman's hut is used to house a person who is busy watching that which is outside it, so is the One who dwells in the tabernacle constantly busy watching and guarding all of us, who live outside.
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