מתני׳ לא ישב אדם לפני הספר סמוך למנחה עד שיתפלל לא יכנס אדם למרחץ ולא לבורסקי ולא לאכול ולא לדין ואם התחילו אין מפסיקין מפסיקין לקרות קריאת שמע ואין מפסיקין לתפלה:
MISHNA: After having dealt with the limited and defined topic of the halakhot of carrying out on Shabbat, the mishna begins to deal with the halakhot of Shabbat chronologically, beginning with activities that one may not perform prior to the onset of Shabbat. With regard to one’s daily conduct, the mishna says: A person may not sit before the barber adjacent to the time of minḥa until he recites the afternoon prayer. And a person may not enter the bathhouse and may not enter to work in a tannery [burseki]. And he may neither begin to eat a meal nor to sit in judgment until he prays. And however, if they already began engaging in those activities, they need not stop and recite the Amida prayer. The tanna articulated a principle: One stops engaging in all of these activities to recite Shema and one does not stop to recite the Amida prayer.
גמ׳ הי סמוך למנחה אילימא למנחה גדולה אמאי לא האיכא שהות ביום טובא אלא סמוך למנחה קטנה
GEMARA: First, the Gemara seeks to clarify: Which “adjacent to minḥa,” in other words, adjacent to which minḥa is the mishna referring? There is a difference between the time of greater minḥa [minḥa gedola], which begins approximately a half hour after noon, and the time of lesser minḥa [minḥa ketana], which begins approximately two and a half hours before sunset. The Gemara elaborates: If you say that it is prohibited to perform all of these activities adjacent to minḥa gedola, why not? Isn’t there still much time remaining in the day? Rather, the mishna means adjacent to minḥa ketana.
אם התחילו אין מפסיקין נימא תיהוי תיובתא דרבי יהושע בן לוי דאמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כיון שהגיע זמן תפלת המנחה אסור לאדם שיטעום כלום קודם שיתפלל תפלת המנחה
The Gemara asks: In that case, if they started, they need not stop. Let us say that this will be a conclusive refutation of the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Once the time of the afternoon prayer has arrived, it is prohibited for a person to taste anything before he recites the afternoon prayer. The implication is that even if one began to eat he must stop.
לא לעולם סמוך למנחה גדולה ובתספורת בן אלעשה ולא למרחץ לכולא מילתא דמרחץ ולא לבורסקי לבורסקי גדולה ולא לאכול בסעודה גדולה ולא לדין בתחלת דין
Rather, that explanation is rejected and the Gemara says: Actually the mishna is referring to adjacent to minḥa gedola, and the statement of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is dealing with adjacent to minḥa ketana. In response to the question: If the mishna means adjacent to minḥa gedola isn’t there significant time remaining in the day? The Gemara explains that each of the activities enumerated in the mishna is performed in an especially time-consuming manner. When the mishna said: A person may not sit before the barber, it was referring to a haircut of ben Elasa, whose haircut was very complicated and required several hours to complete. When the mishna said: A person may not go into the bathhouse adjacent to minḥa, it was referring to all matters involved in a visit to the bathhouse; not only washing, but also washing one’s hair, rinsing, and sweating. And he may not enter the tannery adjacent to minḥa, the reference is to a large tannery where there are many hides that require tanning and he must initiate the tanning process from the beginning. And he may not enter to eat, the reference is to a big meal, which lasts a long time. And he may not enter to sit in judgment, refers to a judge who enters at the beginning of the trial, and, generally, it will take a long time until a verdict is reached.
רב אחא בר יעקב אמר לעולם בתספורת דידן לכתחילה אמאי לא ישב גזירה שמא ישבר הזוג ולא למרחץ להזיע בעלמא לכתחלה אמאי לא גזירה שמא יתעלפה ולא לבורסקי לעיוני בעלמא לכתחלה אמאי לא דילמא חזי פסידא בזביניה ומטריד ולא לאכול בסעודה קטנה לכתחלה אמאי לא דילמא אתי לאמשוכי ולא לדין בגמר הדין לכתחלה אמאי לא דילמא חזי טעמא וסתר דינא
Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov said: Indeed the mishna can be explained as referring to minḥa gedola and actually, even our ordinary haircut is prohibited. Ab initio, why may he not sit before the barber adjacent to the time of minḥa? Due to a decree lest the scissors break, and considerable time pass until they repair the scissors or obtain others. When the mishna said: A person may not enter the bathhouse adjacent to minḥa, it is prohibited even if he is entering just to sweat. Ab initio, why may he not enter? Due to a decree issued by the Sages lest he faint in the bathhouse and considerable time elapse until he recovers. And he may not enter the tannery adjacent to minḥa, even if he intends just to examine the skins. Ab initio, why may he not enter? Due to the concern that perhaps he will notice damage to his merchandise and become anxious and come to restore what was ruined. And he may not enter to eat a meal adjacent to the time of minḥa is referring even to a small meal. Ab initio, why may he not enter? There is concern that perhaps he will come to extend his meal for a long time. And he may not enter to sit in judgment adjacent to the time of minḥa, the mishna is referring even at the conclusion of the trial. Ab initio, why may he not enter? Due to concern that perhaps he will find a reason, contrary to what he originally thought, and will overturn the verdict completely, necessitating the restart of the trial from the beginning.
מאימתי התחלת תספורת אמר רב אבין משיניח מעפורת של ספרין על ברכיו ומאימתי התחלת מרחץ אמר רב אבין משיערה מעפרתו הימנו ומאימתי התחלת בורסקי משיקשור בין כתיפיו ומאימתי התחלת אכילה רב אמר משיטול ידיו ורבי חנינא אמר משיתיר חגורה
We learned in the mishna that if he began one of the aforementioned activities, haircut, bath, tannery, meal, and judgment, he is not required to stop. The Gemara asked: From when is it considered the beginning of the haircut? Rav Avin said: From when he places the barber’s wrap over his knees. And from when is it considered the beginning of the bath? Rav Avin said: From when the one entering the bathhouse to bathe removes his outer wrap, his cloak. And from when is it considered the beginning of his visit to the tannery? From when he ties the leather apron between his shoulders (Me’iri). And from when is it considered the beginning of eating? Rav said: From when he ritually washes his hands for the meal. And Rabbi Ḥanina said: From when he loosens his belt.
ולא פליגי הא לן והא להו
The Gemara comments: And they do not disagree. Rather this, the statement of Rabbi Ḥanina, who said that the beginning of the meal is considered from when he loosens his belt, is for us, for the people of Babylonia, who are accustomed to close their belts tightly, and therefore the beginning of the meal is when one loosens his belt. And that, the statement of Rav, who said that the beginning of the meal is considered from when he ritually washes his hands, is for them, the people of Eretz Yisrael who did not close their belts tightly, and therefore only when one washes his hands does the meal begin.
אמר אביי הני חברין בבלאי למאן דאמר תפלת ערבית רשות כיון דשרא ליה המייניה לא מטרחינן ליה ולמאן דאמר חובה מטרחינן ליה והא תפלת מנחה דלכולי עלמא חובה היא ותנן אם התחילו אין מפסיקין ואמר רבי חנינא משיתיר חגורו
Similarly, Abaye said: Those Babylonian Torah scholars, according to the opinion of the one who said: The evening prayer is voluntary, once one of them loosens his belt, we do not impose upon him to stop his meal and pray. And the Gemara wonders: And according to the opinion of the one who said that the evening prayer is obligatory, we do impose upon him? Doesn’t everyone agree that the afternoon prayer is obligatory? And we learned in our mishna that if they started eating, they need not stop. And with regard to that halakha, Rabbi Ḥanina said: The beginning of the meal is from when he loosens his belt.