The g'mara then discusses R' Akiva's restriction. When he makes an exception for the west, is he saying that you can build closer there (the 50-cubit restriction applies only to the other directions), or is he saying you can't build there at all? The latter: R' Akiva says that the west is a "constant abode". Well, that just raises more questions -- a constant abode for what?
Shall we say it is the constant abode of winds? No, because there are four winds. No, it's the constant abode of the Shekhina (the divine presence), as it says in Nechemiah 9:6: "and the host of heaven worships You" -- meaning that the sun and the moon in the east bow down to the Shekhina in the west. R' Aha bar Yaakov objects, saying that this means when the sun and moon are setting, i.e. are in the west, so they bow to the Shekhina in the east. R' Oshaya objects to both of them, saying the Shekhina is everywhere, and R' Sheshet agrees with him. R' Abbahu then argues that the Shekhina is in the west because 'Uryah, a word meaning "evening", is equivalent to avir Yah, meaning "air of God". (25a)
Not addressed here: what about the next town to the east? Fine, I place a tannery to the west of my town to avoid putting it in my west, but haven't I then put it in theirs (if there's a town there)? And is it really unlimited distance, or is it more "out of sight (smell), out of mind"?
Also, the sun and moon might bow toward the west (according to some), but when we pray we humans bow toward Jerusalem because that is the "divine seat", so to speak. For me, that's eastward (and south some).
Originally posted at http://cellio.dreamwidth.org/1997529.htm