October 9, 2021

Beitzah 39

Having previously explained how the laws of ‘techumin’ (i.e. the prohibition of walking more than 2,000 amot beyond a town or city’s boundary on Shabbat and Yom Tov) apply not only to people by their possessions, and that if one borrows an item on Shabbat or Yom Tov then the item is physically limited to the ‘techum’ (2,000 amot boundary radius) of the original owner even though the borrower may live some distance from the owner’s residence (and thus their 2,000 amot boundary radius would differ from that of the owner), the Mishna (Beitzah 5:5) in today’s daf (Beitzah 39a) draws a fascinating distinction between a גחלת (a burning coal) and a שלהבת (a flame).
We are taught that if someone borrows a גחלת (burning coal) on Yom Tov, then its movement is limited to the ‘techum’ of the owner of the coal (i.e. it cannot be carried beyond the 2,000 amot radius of the owner). Yet in contrast to this, if someone lights a candle – and thereby ‘borrows’ a שלהבת (flame) – from another, then the flame is not limited to the ‘techum’ of the original ‘owner’ of the flame, and it may be carried within the full 2,000 amot radius of the borrower (שלהבת בכל מקום). And why? Because a flame isn’t a physical object and is therefore not subject to the ‘techumin’ rule.
Significantly, Shlomo HaMelech compares a mitzvah to a candle and the Torah to a flame (see Mishlei 6:23), which inspires our Sages to explain how we can spread and share mitzvot and Torah with others without it diminishing us in any way (see Midrash Aggadah, Shemot 27:20). Just like the sharing of a flame with another, the act of sharing brings more warmth and light to the world.
Reflecting on this idea, as well as the above-mentioned teaching in today’s daf, we learn that the warmth and light of Torah and mitzvot are not limited to the ‘techum’ and physical space of the individual who is sharing them. And as we know, this is evident more today than at any other time in history given the global reach of the internet.
Personally, whenever I share my daf yomi and other Torah thoughts online, I am both amazed and inspired by the fact that the sparks of Torah ideas that emerge from my learning can be spread and shared around the world. And in the same spirit, when I am able to read a Torah thought or virtually attend a shiur of another teacher whose original location is far from where I am, I am incredibly grateful for the fact that their sparks of Torah are not bounded by a physical ‘techum’, and can – instead – reach me wherever I am and add more warmth and light to my life.
What an amazing time to live when we can proclaim that שלהבת בכל מקום – that the flames of Torah and mitzvot that we learn and produce can be shared, literally in the blink of an eye, all around the world!
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