Eruvin 50

[As this is the first year when part of my Motzei Yom Kippur activities includes learning and writing a short thought on the Daf, I wanted to begin this thought by thanking all of you who read and respond to these daily thoughts, and by wishing you all a healthy, happy and blessed new year].

Today’s daf (Eruvin 50) examines the debate between Rav and Shmuel – presented in Eruvin 49b – concerning a traveller who declares, ‘Let my [symbolic Shabbat] residence be under a [particular] tree’. According to Rav, though the person wished to establish their symbolic residence under a tree, their declaration was not sufficiently specific and thus their designation was invalid. At the same time, through their declaration they also made it clear that they did not wish to establish the place where they were currently standing as their symbolic residence. Given this, such a person is considered to be resident-less and are therefore unable to move beyond a 4-amot radius from where they are standing.

However, while Shmuel agrees that the person was not sufficiently specific in establishing the tree as their symbolic place of residence, he disagrees that the failure to do so undermines the place where the person is standing as a current place of residence. Given this, Shmuel rules that the current place where the person is standing becomes their default place of residence, and the person can therefore travel up to 2,000 amot in any direction from where they are currently standing.

Almost of all of today’s daf is dedicated to understand this debate, and in doing so it brings an assortment of sources to explain and defend the positions of both Rav and Shmuel. However, while the Gemara ends the debate with a cliffhanger (‘Shall we say that this is a refutation of Rav’s ruling? No! Rav is a Tanna and he may disagree with this proof’), the codified halacha (Rambam Eruvin 7:5, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 409:11) is in accordance with Shmuel.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Daf Yomi thought, ideally, ‘goal-setting requires specificity, and…it is important that we try and be specific in terms of the personal goals we set for ourselves for the coming year’. At the same time, what we learn from Shmuel’s interpretation is that even if we don’t know quite where we are going, the very fact that we are where we are gives us considerable scope concerning our future opportunities and possibilities.

Perhaps some of us have already identified what our specific goals are for the coming year – and if that is you – then I bless you with much success. But there may be some of us who – possibly due to the distractions of our current situation – have not yet found the clarity to set our specific goals for the coming year. And if that is you, then know that we rule like Shmuel, that your journey begins from where you are currently standing, and that all you need to do is take the first step – and to keep on walking.