I recently received an email asking two excellent questions on yesterday’s daf, Menachot 64. I post the questions here, with my answers below.
Question: Why would you be permitted to be mechalel Shabbat on erev Pesach in order to flay the animal to get at its innards if the innards could instead be offered up later that night (i.e., after Shabbat is over)? Convenience alone shouldn’t be enough to be docheh the prohibition.
Answer: You are right, this is far from obvious. Even R. Yishmael’s position – which limits the flaying until the chest – needs justifying. What is the need to do this on Shabbat? The Keren Orah underscores this, pointing out that we are specifically talking about the Pesach, and not other korbanot which are brought on Shabbat and eaten (e.g., chatat of a musaf of Yom Tov), because here there is no need to do it today. In the case of a chatat, by contrast, since the eating of the meat on that day is part of the mitzvah, and since that can only be done after the innards are offered up, there is clear justification to offer the innards today. But for a Pesach,, even the meat can’t be eaten until tonight! Therefore, it is a chiddush to say that this can be done on Shabbat. Here is what he says:
ולאו דוקא נקט פסח, דבכל קרבנות ציבור הוי מצי לאשמעינן כו’. אין דבריהם ז”ל מובנים, דבכל קרבנות ציבור לא שייכא פלוגתא זו, לא בעולת ציבור ולא בחטאת, דעולה ודאי מפשיט את כולה ומעליהו מיד, ובחטאת נמי דצריך לאכול מיד וודאי מפשיט את כולו אפילו בשבת, וכי פליגי בפסח, דלא חזי לאכילה עד הערב, א”כ הוי טירחא שלא לצורך שבת, ואפילו בישול חטאת ציבור נראה דהותר בשבת, כמו הקטר חלבים, דהוי מצוה בשעתה, ה”נ אכילת חטאת, ודווקא בפסח הוא דאין צלייתו דוחה שבת, דלא חזי היום…
Tosafot says that the debate is not specifically about Pesach, because this issue could have been raised by any of the communal sacrifices (when it is brought on Shabbat). But their words do not make sense, because this debate would not have been relevant neither in regards to a communalolah or a communal chatat. In the case of the olah, it would obviously be required to flay the entire animal so that it can all be put on the altar immediately. Similarly, regarding a chatat which must be eaten immediately, one would certainly flay it even on Shabbat [since it cannot be eaten as long as the innards have not been offered on the altar]. Rather, the debate is specifically in regards to the Pesach, which cannot be eaten until nightfall, and thus effort regarding it are not being done for the sake of Shabbat [but rather for the eating after Shabbat]. In contrast, it appears that cooking of a communal chatat would be allowed on Shabbat, just like the burning of its innards which is the doing of a mitzvah in its proper time, and this is also true in regards to eating a chatat. It is specifically the Pesach whose roasting does not override Shabbat and that is not fit for eating today, that this debate [regarding how much can be flayed] exists.
So what is the answer? It seems that there is an implicit understanding that anything that is part of the avodah today, even if it can be postponed until tonight, can be done today – that all of this is included in the principle that Pesach overrides Shabbat. Interestingly, in the Tosefta where this appears (Pesachim 4:10, Lieberman), R. Yishmael’s statement appears alone, without the opinion of the Sages. This leaves open the possibility that he is being lenient, allowing the flaying, and not strict, in limiting it to the chest. And, indeed, the Yerushalmi, when it quotes the Tosefta, states:
תני רבי ישמעאל הפשיטו דוחה את השבת תני רבי ישמעאל בנו של יוחנן בן ברוקה או’ בשבת היה מפשיט את החזה
We taught in a braitta, ‘R. Yishmael says that flaying of Pesach overrides Shabbat.’ We taught in a braitta, “R. Yishmael the son of R. Yochanan ben Broka says, ‘On Shabbat they would flay it until the chest.”
Yerushalmi Pesachim 6:1
That is, according to the Yerushalmi, R. Yishmael is being lenient and introducing the idea that they flaying can override. The Yerushalmi does go on to say, like our Gemara, that R. Yishmael is also being restrictive, and not allowing more to be done, although it would make the mitzvah nicer. Nevertheless, the first point that R. Yishmael is introducing is that there is an allowance to do the flaying of the Pesach altogether on Shabbat.
Ritva in Shabbat (116b, s.v. Tanu Rabbanan) implicitly makes this point as well, except following the Bavli assumes that it is not the innovation of R. Yishmael but an assumption shared between him and the Sages. Here is what he says: דשחיטת הפסח והקטרת אימורין וכל צורכיהן דוחה שבת לדברי הכל, דאמר קרא במועדו אפילו בשבת. “Because the slaughtering of the Pesach and the offering up of its innards and everything that is needed (for the korban) override Shabbat according to all opinions (R. Yishmael and the Sages), for the verse states: “In its season,” [which means] even on Shabbat.
Question: Why do we compare our situations of melacha d’oraita to techum Shabbat, which is d’rabbanan?
Answer: If by techum shabbat you mean the case of testifying for the new moon – that is not limited to a techum problem. It includes carrying provisions for the journey, which would be a biblical prohibition of carrying. See mishna Rosh Hashana 1:9:
מי שראה את החדש ואינו יכול להלך מוליכין אותו על החמור אפילו במטה ואם צודה להם לוקחין בידם מקלות ואם היתה דרך רחוקה לוקחין בידם מזונות שעל מהלך לילה ויום מחללין את השבת ויוצאין לעדות החדש שנאמר (ויקרא כ”ג) אלה מועדי ה’ אשר תקראו אותם במועדם
If one who has seen the moon is not able to go on foot, he may be brought on an donkey or even in a bed [on Sabbath]. If they [the witnesses] are likely to be waylaid, they may take cudgels [to defend themselves]. If the distance is great [to Jerusalem], they may take provisions with them, since for as much as a night and a day’s journey they were allowed to profane Sabbath and go forth to testify to the appearance of the new moon, as it says: “These are the appointed seasons of the Lord . . . which ye shall proclaim in their appointed season.”