Another short moral parable on the building of walls and sharing with neighbors:
Good fences make good neighbors, so says Robert Frost. That’s the poem’s famous last line, but what the reader may have forgotten is that first the poet chose to point ‘there where it is we do not need the wall’. Perhaps he questions the need to build barriers, suggesting instead a wisdom of manageable togetherness.
Fitting for our masechet, for the moral question of ownership and neighborly relations.
At first glance, Hillel’s take on that is: What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is yours – a less applicable approach when it comes to the actual halacha of sharing property on Shabbat. Nice in theory, but tough to apply to real life. It seems from the mishna that there is a need at times to establish very clear lines, or at least we try to define them, between properties.
Yet the gemara throughout the recent chapters has gone out of its way to figure out how to share. A barrel of fruit piled high and crossing property lines can be dipped into on Shabbat. Even a pit of water lying across two yards can be shared with the right intent on Friday, although it is separated by a clear wall and despite the mixing of the water below, according to most opinions.
It’s hard for our modern world of manicured lawns and private homes to imagine a life of shared courtyards and mostly outdoor living. A glimpse at Israel’s wealth of sites, from second temple times to the middle ages and even some of today’s farming, opens a world of walls and boundaries that allow neighbors to both divide and share, much in the way that was dealt with in our chapters’ questions of property and Shabbat use. Take a look!