“One may take unilateral action on another’s behalf when it is to that other person’s benefit.”
The ongoing dispute between Rav and Shmuel on partitions becomes more elevated in today’s Daf Yomi with Abaye and Rava joining the fray and choosing sides. Today’s reading is rife with Rabbinic division and disagreement. We start with a rare point of agreement among Rav and Shmuel, which quickly devolves into a dispute, with Rava supporting Shmuel’s opinion and Abaye lining up behind Rav.
The point of agreement between Rav and Shmuel involves a cross beam that is four handbreadths wide that allows carrying in a ruin that has a breach. We are told that the cross beam in essence seals the breach and Rav and Shmuel would both allow carrying if the breach is no wider than ten cubits. If the breach is wider than ten cubits, Rav and Shmuel are back at it again and disagree on whether one could carry in the ruin.
The argument is extended to a portico that has a roof and doorpost that form “the beginning of partitions.” In this instance, we are told that everyone agrees that the combination of a portico and doorpost serve to support the validity of a sukkah. When the doorposts are stripped away there is a dispute. Abaye said the sukkah would be legitimate while Rava said it would be invalid. We are told that Abaye follows the guidance of Rav in determining that the arrangement under discussion would be valid, while Rava follows the guidance of Shmuel.
We are provided with additional examples of how the complexity of construction can make certain actions permissible or prohibited depending on which Rabbi you listen to. If two houses are on opposite sides of a public domain and are connected by an upper story that functions like a bridge between the two, we are told that one may carry on Shabbat. This is maintained by Rabbi Yehuda who has supported many of Shmuel’s pronouncements. Of course, there is dissension, and the chorus of Rabbis say that carrying would not be allowed.
Rabbi Yehuda’s logic is predicated on the shape of the roof and how it descends and seals the area beneath the homes into one domain. He carries this concept forward into the discussion on if one can carry between two homes on opposite side of a public domain if there is no upper story, but rather a side post or cross beam. Again, the chorus of Rabbis say that this would not be allowed, while Rabbi Yehuda says it would because according to Torah law, “two walls suffice to form a public domain.” We are told that Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion in this case is not based on the sloping roofs, but rather the fact that Torah law allows for two walls to form a private domain.
President Obama recently posted a photo of the walk he took each day along the West Colonnade of the White House between the Oval Office and his private living quarters; this quiet photo resonated with me as I read today about the passageways that connect two homes. President Obama said that he was able to clear his mind as he took this “one-minute, open air” walk at the end of each working day. He took office at the height of the financial crisis and I wonder how he could truly clear his mind before he greeted his family and dogs in the evening when the financial system was on the edge of a precipice.
The photo displays a quiet and introspective president walking through what was a private domain while he lived with the entire world looking to him to somehow save the global economy. Another image comes to mind. It is of President Obama on the cover of Mad Magazine right after his inauguration. The headline says “Obama – the first 100 minutes.”He is holding his forehead with one hand with a cigarette in the other, and four cigarettes hanging out of his mouth. On his desk are newspapers with headlines reflecting the crash of the Dow Jones, the bankruptcy of automakers, and new Taliban threats and open bottles of aspirin and pepto-bismol. It was a frightening time, as this one is.
We need to pray that President-Elect Biden has the same fortitude to tackle the pandemic and current financial crisis as President Obama. And hopefully, he will have time to be alone with his thoughts and think.