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Incurring Lashes?
“On That Day Rabbi Akiva Expounded”
(Sotah 27b)



Techum Shabbos – the Sabbath boundary – extends two thousand cubits in any chosen direction from one’s place of residence on the Sabbath (or from the edge of one’s city), beyond which one is prohibited to walk on the Sabbath. (The boundary can be extended if, before the Sabbath, one places an eruv (i.e., a measure of food) at a location within 2,000 cubits of his place of residence. The location of the eruv is thus viewed as his legal place of residence and he is then permitted, on the Sabbath, to walk a distance of 2,000 cubits past the site of his eruv.)


A Biblical Source

The principle of the 2,000 cubits of techum Shabbos, explains Rabbi Akiva in our Mishna, is based on the verse in Parashas Mas’ei (Bamidbar 35:5) stating “You shall measure from outside the city on the eastern side two thousand cubits…”


A Rabbinic Ordinance

R. Eliezer disagrees and explains that the above-quoted verse does not refer to techum Shabbos. Rather, it teaches that townships in the land of Israel must leave an open area of 2,000 cubits around the town for use as fields and orchards.

The Gemara (30b) explains that this dispute centers on whether the law of techum Shabbos is biblical. R. Eliezer does not interpret this verse as referring to techum Shabbos because he is of the opinion that the prohibition to travel further than two thousand cubits on the Sabbath is a rabbinic ordinance and is not derived from the Torah.

The Rosh (Eruvin 27) rules in accordance with R. Eliezer that the issur of techum Shabbos is mi’deRabbanan, and one who transgresses this law is not subject to lashes.


A Farther Boundary

Although the Rif (Eruvin, end of first chapter) and Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 27:1) agree that there is no biblical prohibition to travel further than two thousand cubits, as R. Eliezer says, they maintain, based on the Jerusalem Talmud, that there is another, farther, boundary of twelve mil (24,000 cubits). The Jerusalem Talmud asserts that traveling more than 12 mil, which was the breadth of the camp of the Children of Israel in the desert, is a biblical violation (which is derived from the verse in Parashas Beshalach (Shemos 16:29), “…let no man leave his place on the seventh day.”


Two Verses?

Tosafos (s.v. mar savar) note, based on Eruvin (17b), that the above verse is the source for the injunction according to those who view the techum as biblical, which leaves us with a question: What is the necessity of two sources – Parashas Beshalach, as quoted in Eruvin and Parashas Mas’ei, cited by our Gemara?

Rashash (ad loc.) suggests that the two verses are complementary. Had the Torah stated only, “You shall measure… and not “…Let no man leave…,” according to the view techum is Biblical, the violator would not be subject to lashes since only negative commandments are punishable with lashes. On the other hand, the latter verse, “…Let no man leave,” would not suffice to establish the law, because it makes no mention of the techum, the two thousand cubits. Thus both verses are necessary.


Sabbath and Festivals

Alternatively, the Netziv (Meromei Sadeh ad loc.) suggests that “You shall measure…” teaches that the techum also applies to Yom Tov, whereas the verse “…Let no man leave his place on the seventh day” might have implied that the techum applies to the Sabbath only.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.