כ״א בטבת ה׳תשע״ג (January 3, 2013)

Shabbat 92a-b: Using Your Head to Carry

As we have learned, it is forbidden to carry in the public domain on Shabbat.

According to the Mishna on today’s daf, the Biblical prohibition against carrying only applies when it is done in a typical manner. If the object is carried in an unusual manner there is no Biblical prohibition. This leads the Gemara to inquire about carrying a burden on your head.

Rav said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya: One who carries out a burden on his head on Shabbat is liable to bring a sin-offering, as the people of Hotzal do so. They would typically carry burdens on their heads. The Gemara asks: And do the people of Hotzal constitute the majority of the world? Even if in one place it is a typical method of carrying a burden, it remains an atypical method of carrying in the rest of the world. Rather, if this ruling was stated, it was stated as follows. Rav said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya: If a resident of Hotzal carried out a burden on his head on Shabbat he is liable, as the people of his city do so. The Gemara asks again: Even if the inhabitants of his city do this, let his intention be rendered irrelevant by the opinions of all other people. If an individual or small group of people conduct themselves in an atypical manner, their conduct is not rendered typical. Typical conduct is determined by the majority of people. Rather, if this was stated, it was stated as follows. One who carries out a burden on his head is exempt.

Hotzal was a large village in Babylonia with an extremely ancient Jewish settlement. If there was only one village with that name, its inhabitants can be traced back to the tribe of Benjamin, and the town can be considered one of the most ancient sites in Babylonia. Many famous Sages hail from Hotzal, and its inhabitants were known for their unique way of conducting themselves. The Talmud relates that the ancient synagogue in Hotzal was one of the sites from which the Divine Presence never strayed. According to Rav Sherira Gaon, Hotzal was adjacent to Neharde’a.

Some commentaries explain that the argument that a given behavior is unique to a specific place is a method of reasoning that is only employed when the local custom is problematic in some way, as in a case where it is unreasonable or inherently inferior. However, local customs that do not fall into those categories are binding at least on the residents of that locale (Me’iri).

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