Tearing down the walls (Daf Yomi Eruvin 92)

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“Why is it necessary to repeat the ruling with regard to both roofs and courtyards when the cases are apparently identical?”

Today’s Daf Yomi portion deals with small and large roofs and courtyards that are adjacent to each other. I cannot help making the leap to the inequity among those who live in large properties and those who live in small ones and those who have no domicile at all. We are basically told that the rights of the larger roofs and courtyards override those of the smaller.

Society tends to favor those that have the louder voices. But sometimes the quiet voices win as well. We need the quiet introspective voices along with the loud boisterous ones to create substantive change. Men and women, rich and poor, the franchised and disenfranchised, people of all races and religions are in this rooftop dance together.

We are told in today’s reading that if a large and small roof sit side-by-side and the boundary between them is no wider ten cubits, carrying on the large roof is permitted on Shabbat without an eruv, but is prohibited on the small roof. The similar theory applies when a small and large courtyard are adjacent to each other. We are told that “it is permitted for the residents of the large courtyard to carry, but it is prohibited for the residents of the small one to do so.”

The residents of the larger courtyard and roof have the ability to carry while their less affluent brethren are restricted because “the legal status of the breach is like that of the entrance.” The larger structures have an opening into the smaller one that functions like an entrance in the wall of a courtyard, while the smaller ones have no such partition. In essence the larger structures are more fortified and dominate the space.

The voice of the Gemara asks why this lesson is taught twice, since one example may suffice. Rav is quoted as saying that the repetition is important to teach because it fortifies the concept that the principles of carrying on a roof are similar to those that take place in a courtyard. There is a consistency in the repetition of the argument. It about establishing partitions in order to “be conspicuous for it to be permitted for the residents to carry on their account.” It is like the wealthy who build large homes to announce they have land rights and have arrived in the world, and the even wealthier who conceal their homes behind shrubs and walls so that they appear less conspicuous.

The discussion of the large and small roof and courtyard areas remind me of my visit to the Western Wall last Yom Kippur. It was a moving experience to be there on the holiest day of the year in a city that resonated with history and tradition and the roots of my religion. But there was something not quite right to be in the smaller section of the Kotel that was crowded with women in white who silently waited for their turn to touch the wall. The men have a much larger section to pray and experience the emotional intensity of the holiest site in Judaism.

What was remarkable about the two section is not just the disparity in size among them, but how energetic the men’s section was with the humming of their prayers and their rocking back and forth. The women were mostly praying in silence or peering over the dividing wall to listen to the men’s prayers. It was a quiet day and it might be that if I had come back on another day that was not Yom Kippur, I would have found the women’s section livelier. But the image of the women looking over the wall into the men’s section is what has resonated with me.

Women have come a long way. We have not let walls hold us back from participating fully in society, in whatever way we desire. We are no longer relegated to being perched over a wall watching men pray. We can join in with them where and how we want to (but not at the Western Wall). We are redefining what it means to read and interpret the Talmud as a global community, through our own perspective. And through this scholarship, we are tearing down walls.

And I would be remiss if I fail to mention that another wall has come down in the United States. We have elected the first female Vice President in history. It is a reminder that everyone has a voice that is worthy of being heard.


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 https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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