1) HALACHAH: BURYING THE DEAD OVERRIDES LEARNING TORAH
OPINIONS: The Gemara cites a Beraisa which states that the Mitzvos of burying the dead and escorting a bride override the Mitzvah of learning Torah. The Beraisa adds that it was the practice of Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i to interrupt his learning for the sake of burying the dead. The Gemara explains that the number of people required to attend the funeral depends on how great of a Talmid Chacham the departed was.
Does the Gemara mean that one who is learning Torah is obligated to interrupt his learning in order to participate in the burial, or that he is merely permitted, but not obligated, to do so?
(a) The RAN and other Rishonim assert that there is no obligation to interrupt one's learning for Hotza'as ha'Mes. Rather, one merely is permitted to do so. They cite proof from the fact that the Beraisa says that Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i used to interrupt his learning in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of burying the dead. If one is obligated to interrupt his learning, what was so unique about the practice of Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i, who was simply fulfilling his obligation? It must be that it is not an obligation, and nevertheless Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i conducted himself stringently and treated it like an obligation.
These Rishonim adduce further proof from the Gemara earlier (3b) which says that one must interrupt his learning for the sake of burying a Mes Mitzvah. This implies that only for the burial of a Mes Mitzvah is one obligated to interrupt his learning, but not for the burial of any other Mes.
(b) Other Rishonim, including TOSFOS (3b, DH Mes Mitzvah) and the ROSH (Kesuvos 2:5), maintain that one is obligated to interrupt his learning for the burial of the dead. They explain that when the Gemara earlier (3b) says that one must interrupt his learning in order to bury a Mes Mitzvah, it does not intend to limit the obligation to a Mes Mitzvah. It mentions Mes Mitzvah only because the rest of the Sugya there discusses other Mitzvos which are pushed aside for the burial of a Mes Mitzvah.
According to these Rishonim, why does the Beraisa make special mention of the conduct of Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i? The Rosh explains that the Beraisa merely emphasizes the importance of the obligation to interrupt one's learning for the Mitzvah of burying the dead: if the great Tana, Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i -- who was constantly involved in learning Torah -- would interrupt his learning for the Mitzvah of burying the dead, then certainly everyone else must do so. This is also the approach of the SHITAH MEKUBETZES (in Kesuvos) in the name of the RITVA.
(The KORBAN NESANEL there (#40), however, explains that although most people are obligated to interrupt their learning for the Mitzvah of burying the dead, one whose Torah learning is his sole pursuit is not obligated. According to the Korban Nesanel, the Beraisa here means that although Rebbi Yehudah bar Rebbi Ila'i was exempt from interrupting his learning in order to be involved in Hotza'as ha'Mes, he acted beyond the letter of the law. Nevertheless, the BEIS SHMUEL (EH 65:3) rules in accordance with the Rosh, who says that even one whose Torah learning is his only occupation is obligated to interrupt his learning for Hotza'as ha'Mes.)
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 361:1) rules in accordance with the Gemara here that one interrupts his Torah learning to perform the Mitzvah of burying the dead. However, the Shulchan Aruch does not write explicitly whether one is permitted or obligated to do so. The SHACH writes that the Halachah follows those Rishonim who rule that one is obligated, and not just permitted, to do so.
2) HALACHAH: ENTERING A SYNAGOGUE TO AVOID THE RAIN
QUESTION: The Mishnah (28a) states that one may not walk through a synagogue in order to use it as a shortcut. The Beraisa there (28b) similarly states that one may not enter a synagogue in order to protect himself from the rain.
The Gemara implies that there are no circumstances under which one would be permitted to enter a synagogue in order to protect himself from the rain, with the exception of one whose learning is disturbed by the rain. The MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 151:4, and Sha'ar ha'Tziyun #2) rules in accordance with the Gemara and writes that one may not enter a synagogue to avoid the rain even if he sits down inside and reads a verse or learns a Halachah.
The Gemara here, however, gives several conditions under which one would be permitted to walk though a synagogue as a shortcut. For example, if a path existed there before the synagogue was built, or if one entered the synagogue in order to learn or pray there, he may walk out the other side of the synagogue to expedite his arrival at his destination. Similarly, one may enter a synagogue with intention to use it as a shortcut if he tarries a moment there and reads a verse or learns a Halachah.
Why is one permitted to use a synagogue as a shortcut under certain circumstances, but one is never permitted to use a synagogue to protect him from the rain?
(a) RAV YOSEF BEN ARZA (in YOSEF DA'AS) suggests that at the moment one enters a synagogue to use it as a shortcut, he has not yet used the synagogue for an inappropriate purpose. By sitting down and reading a verse or learning a Halachah he shows honor to the holy place, and he is considered to have entered without intention to use the synagogue as a shortcut.
In contrast, when one enters a synagogue to escape from the rain, he uses the holy place for an inappropriate purpose at the very moment of his entry. He has already slighted the honor of the holy place and he cannot remove that offense by sitting and reading a verse.
(b) Alternatively, when one enters a synagogue to use it as a shortcut, he does not use the actual building itself as a shortcut but rather the ground upon which the synagogue is built. Had the synagogue not been built there, he would get the same benefit from walking along that path. He is not permitted to use the synagogue as a shortcut only because he appears to be using the synagogue in an inappropriate way, but his act does not actually constitute misuse of the Kedushah of the synagogue (and thus he is permitted to walk through the synagogue if he sits down to read a verse or learn a Halachah). In contrast, when one enters a synagogue to escape from the rain, he benefits from the actual building itself.
(Even though the land upon which a synagogue is built also has Kedushah, it seems that simply walking there is not considered an inappropriate usage of the land.) (Ibid.)