‘Through It The Water Trickled Out’
Our daf discusses the interpretation of several pesukim describing water in Jerusalem that will flow, in the future, from the Holy of Holies to beyond the borders of Israel. The Gemara talks about several streams of water and their distance from the Beis Hamikdash, as well as their applicable use for mikva’ot and sacrifices. The weather in Israel, especially Jerusalem, can change. While water will flow in the winter as well as in the summer, it may freeze, thus limiting its use.
At the height of winter the rivers of many European countries freeze and people find walking on the solid ice surface a cakewalk. Poskim debate whether to consider a frozen river a pit with sides or ordinary solid ground. This debate has implications for, among other things, eruvin. A river surrounding a town can serve as a separation (mechitzah) and as an eruv as long as its banks are high enough – at least 10 handbreadths. (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 363:29; Mishnah Berurah, ibid.).
The Chasam Sofer was staying in the city of Dreznitz one winter, and the local river froze. To the surprise of the local rav, the Chasam Sofer did not protest when people continued carrying on Shabbos, relying on the river as a mechitzah. The Chasam Sofer explained to the rav that, in his opinion, ice is like water. A pit 10 handbreadths high is a mechitzah whether it is filled with water or ice. He deduced this halacha from the Gemara (Menachos 55a) as follows:
Hey! They Shrunk The Figs
A person may use dried figs to separate terumos and ma’aseros for fresh figs (provided they both were produced in the same year). The Gemara says this is the din because “he can soak them and cause them to return to their previous plump state.” From this Gemara, the Chasam Sofer deduces that temporary states do not affect the permanent nature of an object. Dried figs are considered like plump figs. Similarly, ice – which comes from water and turns again into water once it melts – is considered water. Thus, a pit filled with ice is just like a pit filled with water. As long as its banks are 10 handbreadths tall, it can serve as a mechitzah (Responsa Chasam Sofer Vol. I, Orach Chayim 89; see ibid. for other proofs; his opinion is cited in the Mishnah Berurah, ibid., s.k. 121; see ad loc. about the Acharonim disagreeing about the issue; see also Magen Avraham, Taz and Even Ha’ezer).
The Chasam Sofer supports his position with an interesting proof. The Gemara (Eruvin 22b) suggests considering the whole world a private domain (reshus hayachid) since it is surrounded by oceans with seashores that could be considered mechitzot. And yet we know that it is not considered a private domain. The Taz remarks that sea water does not freeze and does not annul the mechitza. The Chasam Sofer, however, points out that the seas in the North Pole and South Pole regions do freeze. Yet, nonetheless, the Gemara considers the possibility that these shores serve as a mechitzah.
The Chasam Sofer applies his logic to frozen human waste as well. The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 82, s.k 2) permits reciting Kerias Shema next to frozen tzo’ah which, because of the cold, doesn’t exude an odor. However, the Chasam Sofer (ibid., and in his remarks on Shulchan Aruch, O.Ch. 82) disagrees. He argues that the halachic status of tzo’ah stays the same. Its temporary frozen state is irrelevant; once it thaws, it will smell again. Therefore, one may not say Krias Shema in its vicinity.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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