י״ב בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (November 26, 2012)

Shabbat 54a-b: How to Lead Camels on Shabbat

The Gemara on today’s daf continues its discussions of the laws that regulate what can be placed on an animal on Shabbat. The Mishna teaches:

And one may not tie camels one to the other and pull the lead camel, thereby pulling the others after it.

The Gemara asks:

What is the reason for this? Rav Ashi said: Because he appears like one going to the market [ḥinga] to sell merchandise or to deliver a caravan of camels. In deference to Shabbat, one may not create that impression.

The majority opinion is that the word ḥinga in this context refers to a market. Elsewhere, Rashi interprets the term as a long journey. The connotation of a market is based on the custom to hold market days in conjunction with pagan holidays when large masses of people would gather. Therefore, it is called ḥinga and not ḥaga because ḥaga means festival, while ḥinga indicates the sorrow and pain associated with idolatry. In similar fashion, referred to pagan festivals as yom eidam, meaning a day of their misfortune (see also Rabbeinu Ḥananel who relates it to the name of a specific pagan festival). Some commentaries teach that the word ḥinga is derived from the word ḥuga, a circle or circuit, because one who goes to a market walks around (Me’iri).

Most commentaries explain that it is prohibited to tie several camels one behind the other, and pull them on Shabbat as though they were part of a caravan. If he holds the bits of several camels together, however, it is permitted. Some authorities disagree, ruling that leading more than one animal at a time is always prohibited. According to that understanding, when the Gemara speaks of placing the rope in his hands, it is referring to a rope that connects one bit to another (an opinion cited in the Tur).

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