ט״ז בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (November 30, 2012)

Shabbat 58a-b: Wearing the Exilarch’s Seal on Shabbat

On today’s daf the Gemara continues its discussion regarding accoutrements that we fear may be removed and carried on Shabbat. Due to this concern, decreed that certain types of apparel should not be worn. In that context the Gemara relates the following conversation:

And this is like that which Shmuel said to Rav Ḥinnana bar Sheila: All of the Sages affiliated with the house of the Exilarch may not go out on Shabbat with sealed cloaks [sarbal], i.e., garments with seals on them, except for you, since the people of the Exilarch’s house are not particular with regard to you.

The Sages affiliated with the Exilarch were officially considered servants of the house and would wear the seal of the house of the Exilarch. Therefore, it was prohibited for them to go out into the public domain on Shabbat with a cloak bearing the Exilarch’s seal, lest the seal break and, in fear of the Exilarch, they remove the cloak, fold it, place it on their shoulders, and carry it on Shabbat. Only Rav Ḥinnana bar Sheila was permitted to go out with this seal on Shabbat since the people of the Exilarch’s house were not exacting with him. Even if he wore clothing with no seal, they would not consider it an act of insubordination against the Exilarch.

The ge’onim explain that the Exilarch was appointed to collect a clothes tax on behalf of the government. A seal was attached to every garment for which taxes had been paid. Therefore, it is prohibited to wear a sealed garment because the seal could fall off and, due to concern that one might be caught by the tax official, he will come to carry the seal with him. Rabbi Ḥinnana, however, was the exception because he was not concerned about the tax collectors (Rav Sherira Ga’on).

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