THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) WRITING TWO LETTERS IN ANY LANGUAGE ON SHABBOS
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that one who writes two of the same letters or
two different letters "in any language" is Chayav. Does this include two
letters of literally *any* language?
(a) The OHR ZARUA (2:76, 85) cites from the Yerushalmi that the two letters
discussed in our Mishnah are letters such as "Aleph Alpha." The Ohr Zarua
infers from this statement that one is Chayav only for writing two letters
in either Hebrew or in Yevanis, i.e. Greek (the two languages in which a
Sefer Torah may be written according to Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, see
Megilah 8b). If one writes two letters in any other language, he is Patur.
The REMA (OC 306:11) cites the ruling of the Ohr Zarua with regard to the
Halachah of buying land in Israel from a gentile on Shabbos. Because of the
importance of settling the land of Israel, a person may buy land from a
gentile on Shabbos and have the gentile write the contract (Gitin 8b). The
Ohr Zarua states that the contract should not be written in Hebrew or
Yevanis but in another language. Since writing in another language is only
prohibited mid'Rabanan, and having a gentile do Melachah (writing) is also
mid'Rabanan, this entails a "Shevus d'Shevus" and is permitted for the sake
of settling the land of Israel.
(b) The BI'UR HALACHAH (ad loc.) discusses this ruling of the Ohr Zarua at
length and concludes that there is no basis for the Ohr Zarua's conclusion.
The Bi'ur Halachah has three basic objections. (1) First, our Mishnah
clearly says "in *any* language." (2) Second, the Yerushalmi *cannot* mean
that one is Chayav for writing only in two languages. When the Yerushalmi
says that one is Chayav for writing "Aleph Alpha," it is in the middle of
discussing the opinion of Rebbi Yosi, who maintains that one is Chayav even
for Roshem (making any recognizable mark, and certainly letters of any
language). (3) Third, all Rishonim disagree with the Ohr Zarua and say that
writing two letters of any language is forbidden.
Therefore, the Bi'ur Halachah concludes that the explanation of the
Yerushalmi is different than that proposed by the Ohr Zarua. Even the Rema,
who cites the Ohr Zarua, is citing him only as an added *stringency*, i.e.
he does not permit a contract to be written on Shabbos in Hebrew and
Yevanis. However, with regard to any leniency we do not rely on the
peerless opinion of the Ohr Zarua.
2) WRITING TWO LETTERS THAT MEAN SOMETHING ON SHABBOS
QUESTION: The Gemara seems to conclude that in order to be Chayav for
writing two letters on Shabbos, one has to write two letters that spell out
a word. If a person writes only two Alef's (from the word "A'azercha"), he
will *not* be Chayav, because two Alef's do not comprise a word.
When the Mishnah on the previous Amud states that one who writes two
letters is Chayav, Rashi explains "for example, two Alef's." Why did Rashi
explain the two letters as two that do not make up a word? Rashi should
have explained two letters like "Gimel Gimel" that make a word ("Gag" --
roof)! (TOSFOS REBBI AKIVA EIGER on the Mishnayos)
(a) The RASHASH explains that when the Mishnah says that one is Chayav for
writing with either his right hand or his left hand, one Amora in the
Gemara explains that it is following the opinion of Rebbi Yosi, who
maintains that any two recognizable marks constitutes writing (even if the
marks are not letters, and certainly even if they do not spell out a word).
Rashi is assuming this interpretation of the Mishnah, and if so, one would
certainly be Chayav for writing two Alef's.
(b) REBBI AKIVA EIGER answers that perhaps Rashi inferred that when the
Mishnah says one is Chayav for writing "two letters," that implies any two
letters, and they do not have to spell out a word. He thus took the Mishnah
to be a new opinion, unparalleled in the Beraisa which the Gemara later
brings (see chart #16)
(c) The RASHASH and the BI'UR HALACHAH (OC 340) suggest another answer.
Although the Tana'im who maintain that one must write an actual word in
order to be Chayav, that is only when one initially intended to write a
complete word and ended up writing only two letters. Since there must be
some similarity between what one intended to do and what he actually did
(and he initially intended to write a complete word), the two letters that
he writes must also be a complete word. However, when one's initial
intention was to write only two letters, they do not have to spell out any