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Thought for the Day: Two Types of Mixtures -- עירוב חצירות and בין השמשות

Most of us at least give lip service to wanting to live a life free of contradictions.  In fact, there is a very strong style of proof in mathematics called "Proof by contradiction", where one asserts that the thing he wants to prove is actually false and then shows that such an assertion leads to a logical contradiction, thus proving the assertion much be false; ie, that his original proposition is true.

None the less, the practicalities of living often force us into contradictory situation.  For example, this afternoon I plan to daven mincha right before sundown and ma'ariv immediately afterwards.  I am allowed to daven mincha up till nightfall according to the majority opinion of Chazal, and I am allowed to daven ma'ariv as early as פלג המנחה (an hour and a quarter  or so before nightfall) according to R' Yehuda.  Those two opinions are contradictory (according to R' Yehuda I am not allowed to daven mincha after פלג המנחה and according to the majority opinion I am not allowed to daven ma'ariv before nightfall).  Since it is hard to get a minyan together, though, Chazal allowed this תרתי דסתרי/oxymoron.

בין השמשות is by nature a period of confusion/contradiction; it could be day or it could be night.  There are three opinions about how that works.  One opinion is that בין השמשות is the last part of the previous/exiting day, one opinion is that בין השמשות is the beginning of the next/entering night, and the final opinion is that day switches to night as some instant during בין השמשות.

עירוב חצירות is another kind of mixing -- it is mixing domains, which is does buy creating forging a partnership between the affected parties.  Since it is a sort of business deal, it needs to be completed before the onset of Shabbos.  In order that the business deal service Shabbos, the עירוב itself (ie, the bread or matzah) needs to remain intact (at least a mouthful or so) for some part of Shabbos.  Taken together, that means that to stay out of all uncertainty, the עירוב חצירות needs to be established before בין השמשות and the עירוב itself needs to remain intact until (at least) after בין השמשות.  However, since it is very important to create an עירוב חצירות wherever possible (siman 395), Chazal were content as long as either the עירוב חצירות was established before בין השמשות or the עירוב itself was intact until (at least) after בין השמשות.

In fact, imagine one person, we'll call him Avi, who is acting as an agent (get it, Avi and agent both start with "a") to set up an עירוב חצירות for each of two parties: Earl and Donald.  Avi sets up Earl's first (early... get it?)  before בין השמשות.  By the time Avi goes back to get Donald's עירוב, he is delayed (Delayed/Donald... I am so clever) past בין השמשות.  Worse, he looks back and sees that now a cat (they are always trouble) has gotten into Earl's עירוב and eaten it all up.  No problem.  True, Earl's עירוב was eaten during בין השמשות, but it was established before בין השמשות; so good to go.  Donald's עירוב, which was not actually established until בין השמשות, however, remained intact till passed בין השמשות.  Even though there was only one agent, since he has acting for two different parties, each is allowed to apply the leniency that is relevant to his situation.

Chazal did not, however, allow a person to set down his עירוב and then eat it; claiming that when he set it down he had in mind that בין השמשות should be considered as day, but when he ate it he had in mind that בין השמשות should be considered as night.  Obviously the rules are not arbitrary and that sort of behavior is just derisive of the whole process.

It's things like this that make me chuckle when non-Orthodox complain that we have so many restrictions... Good grief, we have nothing but a world of leniencies!


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