As we celebrated the completion of maseches Eruvin in
the Daf Yomi, we reflected on how people see the laws that it
discusses: as a big "chumrah," a "burden" placed upon
our Shabbos observance by Chazal. A specific example is that
the rabbonim prohibited us from carrying from one private
domain to another private domain, even though as far as the
Torah was originally concerned, this was freely permitted.
The only related Torah-based prohibition is to carry from a
public domain (reshus horabbim) to a private domain
(reshus hayochid) or vice versa.
This social distance from the Torah prohibition was actually
instituted by Shlomo Hamelech, that is, very early in our
history and almost a thousand years before the time of the
Mishnah. It is one of the earliest decrees.
In fact a posuk praises Shlomo Hamelech for enacting
this innovation: Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: When
Shlomo Hamelech enacted (tikein) eruvin and
netillas yodayim, a Heavenly Voice went out and said,
"My son, if your heart is wise, it gladdens my heart"
(Mishlei 23:15). And it also says, "My son is wise and
[therefore] my heart is gladdened and I can answer those who
attack me verbally."
The Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim 99) explains that this
strong praise of Shlomo Hamelech coming from such a high
source is not because that wisest of all men slapped on a new
restriction. On the contrary. The effusive praise referring
specifically to his wisdom is for his introduction of eruv
chatzeiros to allow carrying from one private
domain to another, and not for the limitation.
The Torah-based prohibition on carrying between a private and
a public domain is, as Tosafos explains at the
beginning of maseches Shabbos (2a), a very minimal
melochoh (melochoh geru'oh). Moving an object
an inch, if it involves this kind of carrying, is a capital
crime! It is easy to understand how it became evident
relatively early that it needed attention from the leaders of
Klal Yisroel if it was to be practically observed
properly by everyone.
What was impressive about Shlomo Hamelech's chochmoh
was that he found a way to ensure the preservation of the
melochoh of carrying between domains, yet not by
simply prohibiting everything in sight that came close to the
main Torah-based melochoh. Rather, his achievement was
that he managed to effect the preservation while at the same
time finding an acceptable way to allow us to continue
carrying between two private domains. His outstanding
chochmoh that was recognized by the Bas Kol was
that he innovated the heter of eruvei
chatzeiros, and not that he prohibited carrying between
private domains in the first place.
The second example of Shlomo Hamelech's chochmoh
mentioned by the Bas Kol exhibits precisely the same
kind of innovation. The Bas Kol praises Shlomo
Hamelech for finding a relatively easy way to be able to
continue to eat — after it was found necessary to
consider one's hand to be unclean as a safeguard. It is
netillas yodayim that is praised as it gives us a way
to eat, and not the new prohibition of second-degree
tumoh that was put onto people's hands.
HaRav Matisyohu Shtrashun points out that this approach even
provides an understanding of the second posuk cited by
the Bas Kol: " . . . and I can answer those who
attack me verbally." He says that this alludes to the
scoffers like those at the home of Binyomin the doctor, who
said, "What good are the rabbonim? They never permitted us to
eat ravens or prohibited us from eating doves." HaRav
Shtrashun describes them as those who "complain about the
The Bas Kol is calling attention to a case that shows
how wrong they are in every aspect. The desire of the
chachomim is to find permissible ways to do things
within the framework of Torah while preserving what is
essential. It is when they do this successfully that they
have truly earned the title, "Chachomim."