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Forgetting Today is Shabbat

Shabbat (7:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 7 days ago

If one accidently performs one of the thirty-nine melachot on Shabbat, in the times of the Beit HaMikdash they were obligated to bring a korban chatat. Whether one is required to bring more korbanot for further inadvertent violations depends on the nature of the case. The seventh perek opens by explaining when further violation are treated independently. One case is where one knew about that melacha is prohibited on Shabbat yet forgot that that day was Shabbat. The Mishnah explains that one would need to bring one korban for every Shabbat. We shall try to understand why.

Normally yediya, awareness or discovery that one violated a prohibition of Shabbat, serves to differentiate (mechalek) and thereby obligate one with another korban chatat for a further violation. The Gemara (Keritut 16a) explains that in our case the intervening days are considered yediya. Rashi explains this is because it is impossible that during the course of the week he would not have learnt that the day in question was Shabbat.

The Tosfot (Shabbat 67b) however find this position difficult for several reasons. Firstly, R’ Eliezer raises a difficulty based on a later Gemara (70b). There Rava discusses a case where one reaps and grinds but forgot that it was Shabbat but was aware that these two acts are melachot. He then reaps and grinds again, this time aware that it is Shabbat but forgot that these to melachot are forbidden. He explains that if after that he becomes aware of the first errors and then the second ones, one chatat offering will suffice. The Tosfot concludes that simple knowledge that the day is Shabbat does not constitute yediya in order to obligate an additional korban chatat. The knowledge required is knowledge that one has sinned.

The second difficulty found in the Tosfot is raised by the Rivam who explains that the Gemara (69b) brings a pasuk as the source for this law. The Gemara cites that two pesukim: “And Bnei Yisrael kept the Shabbat…” (Shemot 31:16) and “And my Shabbatot (plural) you shall keep” (Vayikra 19:3). R’ Nachman bar Yitzchak explains that the first pasuk is the source for our case where one can be obligated to bring a chatat offering for every Shabbat that he forget it was Shabbat and performed melachot. The second pasuk is the source for the first law in the Mishnah where one forgot the concept of Shabbat for an extended period. The Mishnah rules that one korban will suffice. Returning to our case the Rivam reasons that if the reason was really that one would definitely know during the course of the week that that day was Shabbat and it is this yediya that differentiates, then a pasuk is unnecessary to teach this law.

The Ramban defends Rashi against these attacks. He explains that in the latter cases, the person was unaware that he sinned from beginning to end. This is true even though the basis of the error changed at one point. In our case however, once he learns that the day was Shabbat, he will know that an action like the one he performed is forbidden even if he does not recall that he sinned. Consequently such knowledge is consider yediya. He continues that the pasuk is indeed required to teach us this point. In other words, despite the fact that the knowledge does not make him aware that he sinned, since it makes him aware of his error it is mechalek.

The Ramban however suggest that when the Gemara teaches that the intervening days constitute yediya this is not because someone told him or he remembered that that day was Shabbat. Rather since he knows that concept of Shabbat and that it occurs every seven days and that after six regular (certain) weekdays, the day that follows is Shabbat, had he contemplated for a moment it would have been clear that that day was Shabbat and so was seven days prior. Consequently, the intervening days are considered yediya even if he did not pay attention to the matter. The Rambam suggest that perhaps this was Rashi’s true intention in his explanation.

The Ramban finally quotes R’ Shmuel that suggest that since he knows that one of the intervening days is a weekday, that alone constitutes a hefsek (break) since he has momentarily broken out from the doubt.

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