Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 113a-b

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 113a-b

Dec 20, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

A third type of Rabbinic prohibition on Shabbat is designed to prevent behaviors that interfere with the spirit of the day. The Torah, the Prophets, the Elders of the Writings, and our Talmudic Sages all had an aesthetic religious vision of what Shabbat should properly be. They all felt that the day should have an utterly different character than the other days of the week. The most eloquent description of this idea is contained in the book of Isaiah, in the passage quoted above. The prophet presents a powerful conception of the religious experience of Shabbat. It is to be a day when mundane human concerns of business, transport, and even the idle gossip of daily life are put to the side.

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Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 148a

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 148a

Dec 12, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

Another type of behavior that our Sages proscribed on Shabbat includes acts that may lead to Torah prohibitions. For example, we have seen that writing two letters (or a single word) is seen by the Mishnah as a Torah prohibition. Our Sages inherited a non-Torah prohibition on transacting business over Shabbat, lest one record the transaction in a ledger. (The prohibition on business can already be found in the Prophets and Writings. See for example, Isaiah 58:13, Amos 8:5, and Nehemiah 10:32.) However, our Sages remained aware that this prohibition was not of the same magnitude as Torah prohibitions and treated it with leniency.

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Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 38b

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 38b

Dec 7, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

Last time, we mentioned that our Sages inherited prohibitions on a number of activities that are permitted by the Torah, but not in consonance with the spirit of Shabbat. Our Sages knew that prohibiting all everyday activities on Shabbat would not only be impossible, but also make Shabbat overly burdensome. Shabbat is a day of sanctified rest as an offering to Heaven, but it is also a day of earthly pleasures. As a result, the Sages limited these protective “Rabbinic prohibitions” on Shabbat to a small number of categories.

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Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 150a

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 150a

Nov 29, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

In the above passage we move beyond the thirty-nine primary forbidden categories of labor. Each of those labors, now quite familiar to you from Mishnah Shabbat 7:2, was termed melakhah and is considered by our Sages to be prohibited by Torah. Here we introduce a new category: shevut. This is labor permitted by Torah but prohibited by Rabbinic tradition. 

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Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 2a

Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 2a

Nov 21, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

Regarding Shabbat, we learned: “The primary prohibited acts (avot melakhah) are forty less one” (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). “Primary prohibited acts” implies that there must be secondary prohibited acts (toldot). The secondary acts are the same as [the primary ones]; there is no difference between a primary and a secondary [prohibited act] . . .

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Mishnah Shabbat 7:2

Mishnah Shabbat 7:2

Nov 15, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

We have already seen part of the list of thirty-nine forbidden labors of Shabbat contained here in Mishnah Shabbat 7:2. Here is the list in full. At first it looks as if the list is just a compendium of labors commonly performed in the ancient world. On closer inspection, we see that the list falls nicely into four categories of labor. We have already seen that the Talmud (Shabbat 74b) refers to the first of these groupings as sidura d’pat, the order of making bread. We see here that the mishnah also views the labors leading up to the production of clothing (group two), those used in producing scrolls (group three), and those needed to construct shelter (group four), as prohibited by Torah.

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Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 3a, 107a

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 3a, 107a

Nov 8, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

We are able to understand clearly wrong acts and clearly right acts with ease. Robbing the local grocery is readily categorized as bad behavior in our minds. Helping a less able person across the street is just as readily categorized as good behavior. Many acts, however, fall into a gray area. Is stealing to feed one’s family a bad act? What about exceeding the speed limit to arrive on time at a child’s piano recital or soccer game? There are many acts we can think of that we would describe as technically forbidden, but mitigated by the circumstances.

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Mishnah Shabbat 7:2

Mishnah Shabbat 7:2

Nov 1, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

These three sources provide us with a window into the spiritual and aesthetic experience that the observance of Shabbat is supposed to create. 

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Babylonian Talmud Hulin 5a

Babylonian Talmud Hulin 5a

Oct 20, 2008 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Text Study

These two talmudic texts are really two sides of the same coin. Shabbat is often called yesod ha-emuna (the foundation of our faith). The Bible repeatedly refers to it as an eternal sign of the covenant between God and the people Israel, weekly proclaiming both the Divine authorship of all Creation and the exodus from Egypt. One can readily understand the Jerusalem Talmud tractate Nedarim’s claim that Scripture values Shabbat as much as all the other mitzvot combined.

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