Friday, November 03, 2006

Daf Yomi Beitza 14b: Lying On Shaatnez -- The *Biblical* Rabbinic Edict

We encounter the following on Beitza 14b. (I'm citing from my translation of the Rif, which is slightly different in parts.)
We may send clothing {on Yom Tov}, whether sewn up or unsewn, even though they have shaatnez in them, and they are for the needs of the festival; but not a sandal with spikes or an unsewn shoe.
Rabbi Yehuda says: Not even a white shoe, because it needs a craftsman {to blacken it}.

This is the general rule: Whatever may be used, on Yom Tov we may send it.

Sewn {clothing} is fine {and understandable} -- they are fit for wearing. Unsewn also -- they are fit for covering. But shaatnez -- for what is it fit?
And if you say that it is fit for folding underneath you {need textual emendation here}? But they learnt {in a brayta}:
{Vayikra 19:19}:
יט אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי, תִּשְׁמֹרוּ--בְּהֶמְתְּךָ לֹא-תַרְבִּיעַ כִּלְאַיִם, שָׂדְךָ לֹא-תִזְרַע כִּלְאָיִם; וּבֶגֶד כִּלְאַיִם שַׁעַטְנֵז, לֹא יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ. 19 Ye shall keep My statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together.
but you may spread it underneath you. But the Sages said that it is forbidden to do so as a decree lest a single thread wrap upon his flesh.
And if you say that {this is a case where} something separates in between {the shaatnez and ihs flesh}. But Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi cited Rabbi Yossi ben Shaul in the name of the holy congregation in Yerushalayim that even ten {bed}spreads one atop the other, and shaatnez between them {emend to: underneath them} it is forbidden to sleep upon them.
What is the nature of this decree? Indeed, this decree seems almost sacrilegious. There is an explicit miut from the pasuk to exclude sitting or lying upon shaatnez, based on lo yaaleh alecha, and the Sages turn around and immediately forbid it lest one come to do the act explicitly and midrashically mentioned in the pasuk. Thus, they effectively undo the derasha! This is allowed -- I am not saying it isn't -- but it seems a bit strange.

However, I would submit the following. Why did the Sages get this idea to make a decree which effectively undoes the derasha? I would claim that they found authorization -- nay, encouragement and a mandate -- from a derasha on this very same pasuk.

Look at the rest of the pasuk, and specifically at the verbs in this pasuk. They are the same type as many other commandments. Consider the verbs in turn:

תִּשְׁמֹרוּ - Ye shall keep
לֹא-תַרְבִּיעַ - Thou shalt not let gender
לֹא-תִזְרַע - Thou shalt not sow

as opposed to:

לֹא יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ - neither shall there come upon thee

The focus is not on the person, but on the object. This is not the classic cheftza/gavra distinction, but comes close. The pasuk could have stated "thou shalt not put shaatnez upon thyself." Instead, the focus is on the object, and how it should not come upon the person.

The full phrase makes it clear that the garment is the subject and the person is the object in this case:

וּבֶגֶד כִּלְאַיִם שַׁעַטְנֵז, לֹא יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ

On a peshat level, all one need say is that this is a stylistic variation at the end of the pasuk to keep things interesting.

However, on a midrashic level, one could make the following claim. The injunction here is not that one should not don the shaatnez clothing, and place it upon himself. Of course, that is forbidden, since then shaatnez clothing will have come upon him. Rather, this is a command to ensure that shaatnez clothing does not somehow come upon him. This shift in subject suggests that his mission is to make sure that the shaatnez does not in any way and up upon him, as opposed to, say, under him, where he would not be in violation. The clothing is on a mission to come upon him, and his mission is to prevent it.

How does one prevent this? One way, as mentioned above, it to refrain from deliberately putting it on. Another way is to take steps to ensure that the clothing does not accidentally come upon him of its own accord.

How does one do this? By distancing himself from use of shaatnez. By establishing a Rabbinic decree not to sit on shaatnez, and by keeping with this Rabbinic decree, one keeps the command of lo yaaleh alecha by ensuring that it does not come upon him.

That was my first reaction on reading this brayta -- that the Rabbinic decree is itself a fulfillment of a Biblical derasha.

If so, this is important. It means that Rabbinic institutions can be fulfillments of derashot, a pet theory of mine in many places in the gemara. One that springs to mind at the moment is the attempt to find a derasha to require shofar on Rosh haShana but not on Shabbat Rosh haShana, because of yom zichron terua, a derasha that Rava rejects for various reasons. But also many times when Rishonim end up saying that a derasha is just an asmachta, a hint, even where it does not really seem so, but based on the fact that other things suggest that this is a Rabbinic enactment.

Anyhow, this was gut reaction to the brayta, and then I found some support for this theory using girsology. The gemara I cited ended:
But Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi cited Rabbi Yossi ben Shaul in the name of the holy congregation in Yerushalayim that even ten {bed}spreads one atop the other, and shaatnez underneath them, it is forbidden to sleep upon them.
The gemara actually continues with a statement that is edited out -- it is put in parentheses. That statement is: mishum shene`emar, lo yaaleh alecha. That is, the practice, and prohibition, of the Holy Congregation of Yerushalayim was based on the fact that the pasuk states lo yaaleh alecha. But there are two problems with this statement, which led to its being edited out. First, this prohibition is a Rabbinic enactment, so why cite a pasuk? Second, this citation of a pasuk was used above to show why lying on shaatnez should be permitted.

I believe that the answer to these two problems is the one I gave above, that the girsa of gemara is correct, and that they find in these words the mandate for adopting this extra prohibition.

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