כ״ז בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (December 11, 2012)

Shabbat 69a-b: Losing Track of Shabbat

What should someone do if they have lost track of Shabbat? At home with a calendar this is difficult to do, but what happens to someone who is in the desert and loses track of time? This is a question discussed on today’s daf.

Rav Huna said: One who was walking along the way or in the desert, and he does not know when Shabbat occurs, he counts six days from the day that he realized that he lost track of Shabbat and then observes one day as Shabbat. Ḥiyya bar Ra’v says: He first observes one day as Shabbat and then he counts six weekdays. The Gemara explains: With regard to what do they disagree? One Sage, Ra’v Huna, held: It is like the creation of the world, weekdays followed by Shabbat. And one Sage, Ḥiyya bar Ra’v, held: It is like Adam, the first man, who was created on the sixth day. He observed Shabbat followed by the six days of the week.

Under these circumstances, the person is aware that the day he has chosen to celebrate Shabbat is likely an ordinary weekday and that Shabbat may truly fall on a different day. For this reason Rava suggests that the person should limit his activities on all days. The Gemara records:

Rava said: The person who lost track of Shabbat and treats one day a week as Shabbat, each day he makes enough food to sustain himself, except for that day which he designated as Shabbat.

This position is ultimately rejected by the Gemara which reaches a different conclusion:

Rather, on each and every day he makes enough food to sustain himself for that day, including on that day that he designated as Shabbat. And if you ask: And how is that day which he designated as Shabbat distinguishable from the rest? It is distinguishable by means of the Kiddush and the havdala that he recites on that day.

In the Jerusalem Talmud, the dispute about celebrating Shabbat under these circumstances is attributed to Rav and Shmuel. In explanation of one of the opinions, an approach is cited according to which one counts six days and observes one, then counts five days and observes one, then four, then three, and then two until he is counting one day and observing one, at which point he again starts counting six and observing one. According to this approach, during every two rounds of counting days in that manner, the day he determined as Shabbat is really Shabbat.

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