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September 20, 2021 | י״ד בתשרי תשפ״ב | TODAY'S DAF: Beitzah 21 - First Day of Sukkot, September 21

Distance, Cooperation and Coronavirus

Distance, Cooperation and Coronavirus

On Erev Yom Kippur 2020, the Daf Yomi once more miraculously guides us in how to behave during regular times and during a pandemic.  The Israeli government is now allowing people to venture 1 kilometer from their homes.  According to various rabbinic calculations,  1 kilometer is very close to 2000 amot (cubits) so now it’s quite easy to feel the distances and limitations they were dealing with in the Talmud.  In addition, everyone is being asked to stay 2 meters from each other.  Amazingly, the measure of 4 cubits (which is considered biblical personal space) is approximately 2 meters.

And finally, we learned today that it is necessary for all houses in the courtyard to participate in the eruv in order to allow everyone to benefit.  If someone does not participate, no one can carry in the shared space. Not only that, but when you participate in the eruv, you have to put your lot in with the rest of the participants, and really intend to share with them.

אֲפִילּוּ תֵּימָא בֵּית הִלֵּל: עַד כָּאן לָא קָאָמְרִי בֵּית הִלֵּל הָתָם אֶלָּא דְּמָלְיָין לְמָנָא וְאִיַּיתַּר, אֲבָל הֵיכָא דְּפַלְגֵיהּ מִיפְלָג — לָא.

The Gemara answers: Even if you say that Shmuel stated his opinion in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel, Beit Hillel stated their opinion only there, where the first utensil was filled and there was still some food left over, and therefore, some of the leftover food had to be placed in a second utensil. But where they divided it from the outset, even Beit Hillel agree that the eiruv is not valid. (

Where they divided it from the outset, the eruv is not valid.  The rabbis use the Hebrew word “pilug”…division.  This is a word we hear a lot on the news—that the nation is divided.  Ok, if we have differences that’s fine. We won’t always agree.  But to divide ourselves from the outset is not fine.  ALL JEWS ARE GUARANTORS FOR EACH OTHER.  Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh.  כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה

Notice the root of the word eruv again.

By now it has become obvious…we are all in this together.  We all need to wear masks, practice hygiene and cooperate with the isolation restrictions.  This Yom Kippur, most of us will remain in our homes with our immediate family members, the people from whom we usually need to ask forgiveness most.

These messages are so relevant to our fight against the coronavirus today, and they will serve us well later on.  If we can rely on this ancient wisdom, with a modern public health twist, maybe we can really send this virus back to the dark cave from which it emerged, while lifting humanity to greater heights than ever before.

Julie Mendelsohn

Julie Bloch Mendelsohn made aliyah with her family in 2009. Julie has a law degree, a Master of Public Health, has studied several foreign languages, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in archaeology. Julie dyes, spins, and weaves her own yarn and textiles. She loves to learn Daf Yomi and is interested in topics relating to Jewish law and ancient materials and crafts, ancient languages, and history.
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