Deadly Footwear

Shabbat (6:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 13 years ago

The bulk of the discussion this week discussed what one can “wear” in the streets on Shabbat. The primary concern was if the item was not clothing or decorative, the person would be considered as carrying and thereby violating Shabbat. One case however was different – the sandal mesumar – a wooden shoe that was strengthened with nails in its sole. Being clothing, the only reason why it was prohibited from wearing was due to a rabbinic decree.

The Gemara explains that this decree was in response to a fatal incident which occurred during a time of persecution. The Gemara records three different versions, or according to others three cases, where these shoes seemed to be the cause of a large number of fatalities. In all cases a misunderstanding and fear that their enemies were pursuing them, caused a panic that lead to many be crushed.

The Gemara continues to explain that the gezeira applied only on Shabbat, which was the time of the incident. The Gemara cites a Mishnah in Beitzah that taught that while clothing can be sent to another on Yom Tov a sandal mesumar cannot, implying that this footwear is not worn on Shabbat. The Gemara therefore explains that Yom Tov was included in the gezeira since it is much like Shabbat, being a day of when people gather together and a day of issur melacha (unlike a fast day). Let us try to understand this further.

Rashi understood that the sandal mesumar was worn by those people in the stampede. Consequently, the simple explanation is that these shoes were outlawed on days of gathering (like the original incident) so that no more people would be harmed by them. 

One difficulty faced is that the Mishnah that discussed Yom Tov closed with the general rule that anything that is worn during the weekday may be sent on Yom Tov. Since a sandal mesumar is worn during the week, the general rule does not really fit. The Rashba answers that indeed, the general rule applies to other items mentioned in that Mishnah. Rashi (Beitza 15a) explains that these shoes cannot be sent on Yom Tov because there was a concern that if sent to another they would wear them.

Others however explain the sandal mesumar was not worn by the people in the stampede, but by the people that caused the panic. For example, in the second case, someone walked with these shoes on the cave in which they were hiding. This being the case, what is the reason for the gezeira?

The Ritva explains that the Chachamim were concerned that people would remember the tragedies and dampen their simchat Shabbat. He also uses this understanding to answer the difficulty posed by the general rule in the Mishnah in Beitzah. The reason why the sandal mesumar cannot even be sent to someone on Yom Tov is not because they might wear them, but because merely receiving it could ruin the person’s simchat Yom Tov. According to this understanding we find that the gezeira stems not from concerns of physical safety but due to the importance of simcha on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Have a Shabbat full of simcha! 


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