A different standard (Daf Yomi Shabbos 126)

“The rabbinic decrees are not in effect in the Temple.”

I am reminded throughout much of the Daf Yomi readings of word analogies that compare two different things that have a relationship, like cat and dog, fork and spoon, chair and table. The Talmud makes these comparisons throughout much of the text. Today, the comparison is between deadbolt and shutter, dead-bolt and vessel, shutter and Temple. It is not the usual word analogy that many of us think of, but by considering these comparisons, we enter a little into the rarified world of the Rabbis that memorized, interpreted and transcribed Rabbinic law. I have been surviving some of the more arcane parts of the daily readings by pondering the relationship between words that seem unrelated on the surface.

Today we return to the discussion of deadbolt locks and hanging shutters. The treatment of the shutter comes from its association with construction and most specifically the Temple, while the lock is considered a vessel. We are told that “like the dispute herewith regard to the window shutter, so too is the dispute with regard to a bolt that was dragged.”  It is prohibited to lock a door with a deadbolt that is placed alongside it, but not attached to it on Shabbat. This applies to both a door inside and outside the Temple. Of course, if the lock is not properly attached to the door, the ability to lock things up properly is questionable.

We learn something much more interesting in this portion of the reading: “the Rabbinic decrees are not in effect in the Temple.”  The traditional reading is that the Priests who resided in the Temple, and perhaps the Rabbis, were so observant that they did not need Rabbinic rules which were put in place to act as guardrails around the Torah law for the “common people.”  But a more skeptical person could read a bit more into this: perhaps the rules just didn’t apply to the Priests and Rabbis when they were in the Temple, because they didn’t think they should be subjected to them and felt entitled to enjoy a bit more freedom than most others. I have a picture of these learned and holy men lounging around in the Temple on Shabbat in comfortable chairs reading news stories on their personal devices. Maybe that’s an overreach, but you get what I am going for. And they are definitely not wearing masks in the Temple or keeping social distancing.

We have a lot of examples of leaders today who act as though they are above the law. Yesterday, a historic Supreme Court ruling determined that no one, including the President of the United States, resides above the law. Thomas Paine wrote that the law is king. Not a king or a president or a wealthy financier, but the law is king. I know there are other countries in the world grabbling with similar issues. I am hoping that at least in my country the Supreme Court has been able to lock up the argument once and for all that our elected leaders are not kings.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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