Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masekhet Eruvin
An alley roof may reach so high
That it nearly approaches the sky
But alas you cannot
Carry there on Shabbat
‘Til you lower it for passersby.
A Korah is a side-to-side beam
That’s affixed so an alley will seem
Like a less public place
So it can be a space
One can carry in, our sages deem.
With many folks sharing a pot
It will never get cold or get hot
Because each guy avers
“Surely someone else stirs”
And the soup that’s inside starts to rot.
The species of Israel are treasures
Wheat, barley, and grapes – oh such pleasure
From our bounteous land
But you must understand
They are also intended as measures!
An alley extends to the sea
And its other end happens to be
By a big garbage heap
May one carry? They sweep
Garbage out periodically.
A fence may have much open space
In between its slats. If that’s the case
If there’s less wood than air
Can you still carry there
If you walk in Shabbat through that place?
What makes an alley OK?
Beam and post! That’s what Beit Shammai say.
Hillel say: Either one
Alone gets the job done
Eliezer: “Two posts!” joins the fray.
Meir says: With Akiva I learned
To use vitriol ink, thus I earned
As a scribe my own living
Yishmael had misgivings
Vitriol was a substance he spurned.
Yishmael said: You do holy work,
Rabbi Meir, and therefore don’t shirk
Or slack off. Every letter
You write, it had better
Be perfect. Destruction here lurks.
The Sotah—adulterous dame—
Gets a scroll written out. May the same
Scroll be reused again?
Must the scribe each time pen
It anew? It does not say her name.
Rabbi Meir was quite a great sage
The most famous to live in his age
But the rabbis don’t rule
In accord with his school
For his wisdom was too deep to gauge.
For two and a half years ‘twas fated
That Hillel and Shammai debated:
Is it good that man’s here
Since we sin without fear?
Better never to have been created?
What’s the blessing you say when drink?
Tarfon said: Shehakol’s what you think
But it’s not! For I vote
For Borei Nefashot
Go and see what men do, and rethink.
A well is surrounded by four
Cornered posts, though they look like twice more.
So that cattle can nuzzle
Around it and guzzle
They’re private domain space décor.
A man should walk first in a line
Any women should trail far behind
She’s ahead on a bridge?
He should stand in the ridge
To the charms of her backside, stay blind.
There are three entrances into hell:
The first is where ocean tides swell
At Jerusalem’s gate,
Where the deserts stretch straight,
To the place where the sinners all dwell.
A cow’s head and body extend
To the private domain; its rear end
Is still in public space
May it drink in that place?
Do we “rosho v’rubo” contend?
Whence come Eruv and hand-washing laws?
King Shlomo alone is the cause.
With Torah a basket
Said Shlomo, “My mascot
Is handles. I’ll add them!” Applause.
An Eruv’s a small bit of food
That is shared among neighbors. Exclude
Only water and salt
With such foods we find fault
Hearts of palm, though, are fine, we conclude.
Rabbi Zeyra would study a lot.
When he couldn’t go on, he would not.
He would sit on a stoop
Looking out for a group
Of wise scholars to greet from that spot.
Hanina sat down. On his plate
Was an onion. Hanina then ate
It. Inside was a snake!
Did he die? Heaven’s sake!
No! His colleagues averted this fate.
Can you send Eruv food with a beast?
Tell a monkey: “Please carry this east?”
To an elephant, say,
“Take my Eruv, I pray”
Yes! But man must retrieve it, at least.
Drive a donkey and camel at once?
It’s impossible! You’d be a dunce
You won’t move from your place
You’ll be stuck in that space
One should never agree to such stunts.
For the Tchum Eruv, go drag your feet
To the outermost alley or street
In that place you should park
Just until it gets dark.
Are you lazy? Then just send a treat.
If you’re fasting on Friday, you stop
Just before it’s Shabbat. Do you drop
The fast early or not?
Can you enter Shabbat
Feeling starving? You don’t want to plop.
If you dock in a port on Shabbat
Can you get off the boat? Must you not?
Rabban Gamliel said
On dry land you may tread
If at nightfall you’re in the right spot.
A telescope! What an invention
And that Gamliel had one bears mention.
He could measure the height
Of a tree (not at night,
Using shadows) and other dimensions.
Nechemia, immersed in his learning,
Did something that’s rather concerning:
He walked out of his Techum
Unaware, we presume
Now will sages permit his returning?
If you fall fast asleep on the street
When you wake up, you jump to your feet
It’s Shabbat, is it not!
Can’t believe I forgot
Now how far can I travel to eat?
Rabba said to Rav Yosef: We’ll be
On Shabbat mostly under this tree
That has so many dates
I could sell them for rates
That would pay off my taxes for me.
The Judeans were careful with words
And precise in their speech—oh, what nerds.
Galileans were sloppy
Their words, hard to copy
Their teachings thus went to the birds.
There once was a guy with a book.
He was whispering. Beruria said: “Look,
Do you want to forget
What you learn? That’s a threat!
Learn aloud.” Then she kicked him. He shook.
Learning Torah is like a gazelle
Do you want to know why? I will tell.
A gazelle’s narrow womb
Makes sex nice, we presume.
Likewise Torah, each time, casts a spell.
Torah’s words are compared to a breast
For a baby, and baby knows best.
Like the breast satisfies
When the poor baby cries
Torah offers us what to digest.
Prida’s patience was known through the land
When his student did not understand
He taught four hundred times
‘Til “I got it!” he chimed
Once he taught even more times than planned.
Torah scholars must live in a town
Where vegetables grow and abound
Onions and leeks
Will add shine to one’s cheeks
Therefore live where fresh produce is found.
We measure the Techum with a rope
But what do we do with a slope?
You don’t need to stop
Or to let the rope drop
It’ll still be precise, so we hope.
If you share your yard with a non-Jew,
When it’s shabbos, what are you to do?
If the goy will agree,
You rent his property
Make an Eruv, and then carry through.
Do not teach if your teacher is there
If you’re asked about knives, do take care.
If you don’t have respect
Then your life will be wrecked
By a snakebite. It’s true. So beware!
Is it good to drink wine ere you teach
When you’re drunk, can you give a good speech?
Said the rabbis: No, no!
Said Rav Nachman: Not so—
I must down a glass each time I preach.
Rav Hisda and Sheshet would shake
When they’d see one another, they’d quake
Each could not comprehend
How much Torah his friend
Knew. Their friendship, alas, was at stake.
Several groups of friends slept in one hall
‘Twas divided into separate stalls.
Beit Shammai will teach
It’s one Eruv for each
Says Beit Hillel: One Eruv for all.
Mom’s Eruv is good for her son
If he’s so young that she wipes his bum.
If he wakes up at night
And cries “Ima” in fright
And he cries and he cries ‘til she’ll come.
If a guy goes away for Shabbat
Do we fear he will come back, or not?
If he goes to his son
Whose wife may make him run
Back, an Eruv without him is shot.
If Tefillin are found on Shabbat
By the roadside, or a parking lot.
May you carry them in
Or would that be a sin?
Should you leave them all day in that spot?
If you’re reading a scroll on a stoop
And it falls from your hands, may you scoop
It back up? May you roll
It for “book” just means “scroll”—
Shimon says: Holy things should not droop.
May you walk across grass on the day
Of rest? What would Virginia Woolf say?
Keep off if it’s dry
If it’s wet, then pass by
At your leisure, and be on your way.