Eruvin 101

Much of today’s daf (Eruvin 101) is interested in doors, keys and locks, with Mishna Eruvin 10:9 (101a) focussing its attention on whether it is possible to stand in a reshut harabim (public domain) while picking up, or placing down, the key for a door on a windowsill above the door (which is considered to be a reshut hayachid – a private domain).
While the Sages ruled that this was permissible, Rabbi Meir ruled that this could only be done if the doorway was partitioned off such that it was now considered to be a reshut hayachid. The Sages disagreed, and in response they stated how ‘it happened in the poultry dealers’ market in Jerusalem that they would lock [the doors to their shops] and place the key on the windowsill above the door’. To which Rabbi Yossi added, ‘[this event occurred] in the wool merchants’ market.’
Having read this Mishna, and aside from the halachic disagreement between the Sages and Rabbi Meir, I was perplexed by the additional remark of Rabbi Yossi. Specifically, why did he feel that it was so important to clarify the fact that this occurred in the wool merchant’s market?
Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz (1782–1860), author of the ‘Tiferet Yisrael’ commentary on the Mishna, raises this question and asserts that Rabbi Yossi felt the need to clarify this fact in order to make a halachic point.
As he explains, the poultry dealers would sell both raw and ready cooked poultry (see Mishna Kelim 5:6), and thus entrance to the poultry shop would have been considered to be a ‘tzorech Shabbat’ i.e. necessary for Shabbat. Contrasting this, given the various laws against weaving on Shabbat, one would be hard pushed to find a halachic justification to enter a wool merchant’s market on Shabbat. Therefore, Rabbi Yossi wished to let us know that a key may be placed or taken from a windowsill both for reasons that are deemed to be necessary for Shabbat as well as for any other reason, meaning that this permission is not an exception to the rule, but the rule itself.
Oftentimes we make presumptions about what other people need. For example, a presumption is made here – based on the laws of Shabbat – that people need meat on Shabbat, but they don’t need wool. Yet what Rabbi Yossi comes to teach us is that if the door can be opened in this manner on Shabbat, then all doors – and not just some – can be opened in this way, and while most people may only need to do so in order to access what we think they need, others may need to open a different door because that is what they need.
Clearly this observation has many varied applications, but I shall just reflect on one – namely teaching & learning, and this is because most teachers teach certain skills to help their students open specific doors which the teachers believe are important. In fact, teachers often make regular references to those specific doors which they believe are particularly important for their students.
However, at least once in a while (and, in my opinion, much more often!) it is necessary – as Rabbi Yossi does according to the explanation given by Rabbi Lipschitz – to tell people that the access they are being given to certain tools, skills and keys can be used to open many doors, and not just some.