Dreaming of Sonoma (Daf Yomi Eruvin 11)

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“If you say that both this and that are cases where the vines were attached from the side, what is there to say?”

Today’s text brought me back to the vineyards of Northern California where if we were not in the middle of a pandemic, I would book a flight to today. I would travel to Squaw Valley each summer for a poetry conference when I was younger and had the great privilege of studying with Galway Kinnell, who I considered my mentor for both poetry and life. Afterwards a group of us would travel to San Francisco where we would devour the atmosphere of the City Lights Bookstore and imagine what it must have been like when Ginsberg and Kerouac were regulars. We would travel to small off-the-grid vineyards in Sonoma where we sampled old vine varietals from backyard wineries.

Today’s text brought me back to those summers in Northern California. We are told a tale by Ravin bar Rav Adda who quoted Rabbi Yitzḥak about a winemaker in the valley of Beit Hortan who strung vines over four poles and by doing so creating a permissible space for planting diverse kinds of seeds so close together. He rooted four piles in the ground in the four corners of his vineyard and stretched vines over the top and by doing so, established a doorway on each side. He brought his case to the Rabbis to opine on and they gave him the green light to plant a forbidden mixture of seeds so close together.

Reish Lakish extends the example to suggest that if such a construct allows diverse seeds to be planted, so too would it allow for carrying within the area. But of course, there is always a diversity of opinions on such matters and Rabbi Yohanan, who we have discovered in recent readings has very strong opinions on carrying in alleyways and courtyards, says that the extension of logic does not apply; it may be permissible to plant diverse seeds within the area covered with vines, but it does not extend to carrying on Shabbat.

The matter of the disagreement between Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan hinges on the width of the artificial doorway created in the vineyard. It is considered a legitimate entrance for carrying if it is only ten cubits wide. If the posts are further apart, carrying would not be permitted. On the matter of width, both parties appear to be in agreement that an opening in the form of a doorway greater than ten cubits does not permit carrying.

There is another matter to consider in regard to a vineyard. If the posts are ten cubits apart and the vines are attached to the side of the posts, the form of the doorway does not allow for carrying on Shabbat according to Rabbi Yohanan. Reigh Lakish is on the opposite side of the matter and believes that such a doorway would be effective. So where there was agreement, there is also discord.

The message today, with the visit to a forest where we find another Rabbi sitting underneath a tree who provides more guidance on such matters, is that we should accept the uneasiness that comes with disagreement. It is not always a comfortable place to rest, but it allows for understanding of each other’s perspective and an opening of the intertwined equation of heart and mind.

For a New Yorker, California was always a dreamlike place where I found a city in bloom when I visited Los Angeles in the winter and the east coast was dark and dreary, and cool breezes and healing sunlight when I visited San Francisco in the summer when New York was sodden with humidity. My heart goes out to those who live in California and are dealing with encroaching wildfires, an uptick in coronavirus cases and a shuttered economy. The grapevine is one of the greatest gifts we receive from the earth. And once again, those precious vineyards in Northern California are at risk of being harmed by wildfires during one of the hottest summers on record.


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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