Masechet Shabbat opens with the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat. The Mishnah quickly transitions to discussing those activities that should not be performed on erev Shabbat. The first of which is out of concern that the prohibition of carrying will be transgressed (1:3): “A tailor should not walk with a needle pinned to his clothing close to dark, in case he forgets [and carries it on Shabbat].”
Before doing so however, the Mishnah interjects with the following case: “One should not sit before a barber close to mincha1 until they have prayed.” The Bartenura explains that the concern is that the scissors might break after the haircut has started and the time for mincha will pass by the time they are repaired and the haircut is completed. The interesting thing about this case is that it does not apply solely to erev Shabbat but to the rest of the week as well. The same is true for the other cases listed in the same Mishnah. The question then is why is this Mishnah mentioned at all in our masechet?
Rashi (Shabbat 9b) explains that it because it is similar to the Mishnah that follows involving the above mentioned tailor. In both cases there is a concern that one may forget or get lost in what they are doing with the result being negative.
If the similarity between the Mishnayot is reason enough for this Mishnah to be brought in our masechet then surely the Mishnah relating to Shabbat should be mentioned first. The Bartenura answers that the laws of our Mishnah are quite brief and can be dealt with quickly, while the laws of Shabbat that follow are more detailed and are dealt with at length.
The Pnei Yehoshua answers that the case of the tailor as well as the other cases listed in that Mishnah are amongst the eighteen laws where the Halacha was decided to be like Beit Shammai, as we will learn next week. Consequently that Mishnah was placed after this one as it connects to the later Mishnah.
Granted that there is a thematic similarity, but is this really enough? The Sefat Emet explains that one might of thought the even though during the week it is prohibited to have a haircut close to mincha, perhaps on erev Shabbat it is permitted. He explains that firstly with the severe prohibitions of Shabbat imminent, one is far more likely to remember to stop and first pray mincha. Furthermore, there used to be trumpet blasts erev Shabbat reminding people to stop work, so the alarm clock was set! Nevertheless Shabbat is no different and one cannot have a hair cut close to mincha without praying first.
The Rashash teaches similarly that relevance to Shabbat is that there is a mitzvah to have a haircut and wash on erev Shabbat. Perhaps then the Rashash is explaining like the Sefat Emet that one might have thought that there is some flexibility with the gezeira that applies during the rest of the week as it is a mitzvah to have a haircut. Consequently this Mishnah is extremely relevant to our masechet so as to teach that it applies to erev Shabbat as much as the rest of the week.
1 Close to mincha is a half an hour prior to mincha. The Bartenura explains that the mincha referred to here is mincha gedolah which is six and a half “relative” hours into the day, where a relative hour is one twelfth of the daylight time.
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