Shabbos 73 Shinui (doing forbidden melacha in an unusual manner)
This is a very packed daf content wise, starting with more examples of actions lacking full intent, moving to perhaps the most central Mishna in the Masechta containing the list of all 39 forbidden categories of melacha (“work”) on Shabbos , and carrying on with more detailed discussions of the first few of these categories, as well as various other exemptions from liability.
Among the later, we see one of many references in the Maseches and Shas as a whole to melacha done כלאחר יד (in a backhanded, or unusual manner), for which one is not biblically liable to the relevant punishment. (perek 10 Mishna 3 actually lists many examples regarding the melacha of הוצאה )
It is no easy task to get a clear definition of when the manner a melacha is carried out in is defined as backhanded or unusual, but some clues can be gathered from the word used to categorize them, namely כלאחר יד ( backhanded .)
Although it is clear from other sugyas that performing such melacha is still rabbinically prohibited ,this still has HUGE practical ramifications, as it is clear that such actions can be permitted in certain cases, such as צער ( distress) even if not life threatening ( see Kasubos 60a re goat milk) ,and it could also be permitted sometimes if the action itself is already only rabbinically prohibited ( שבות דשבות ) ,AND it is a case of great need or for the sake of a mitzva ( whether shvus deshvus is permitted for any mitzva even by Jew as opposed to in the context of אמירה לעכום is yet another fascinating discussion for a later post, Hashem willing .
From the phrase itself, It seems that if one does an action usually performed with the front of one’s hand with the back of one’s hand, that is the prototype for an unusual action .
One still needs to analyse whether this is simply due to it being a significantly DIFFERENT way of doing the action as opposed to the usual way, or whether it is because it is a clumsy and inefficient way of doing it- One Nafka Minah could be wearing a key on an armband , which is certainly unusual but not at all clumsy or inefficient! ( it is true that the reason things are done in a certain way is usually because it is the more efficient and easier way to do it, but there are also other factors, such as fashion , cost , and personal taste which could come into play .
However, to get a clearer picture of what types of שנוי ( change) in the manner of the action qualify the action as backhanded, it is necessary to examine the different cases around shas, many of which are in this masechta, and some of which we have already covered this cycle – we can’t do that all in the context of this post, but we can try start !
It will also be necessary to examine the sources for this rule, if possible, and see what definition makes most sense based on that source.
We have already learned that a woman normally wears a ring without a signet and a man wears one with a signet ( see daf 62a), and that those are the respective types of ring that are considered a garment for each of them and thus permitted to wear in the public domain on shabbos.
We also learnt that if a man goes out beshogeig (unknowingly) with a ring without a signet or a woman goes out with a ring with a signet, he or she is liable to a korban .
The Gemara there asked why he or she is liable, seeing that wearing something is not the normal way to transport it, and it should thus be considered a backhanded melacha.
It answers that seeing as it is normal sometimes for them to take it out on behalf of their spouse to put in a safe house , and when they do so, they wear it, it is not considered to be an unusual way of transporting it, and seeing as it is not considered a valid garment or decoration for them, they are liable .
We see from there that wearing something rather than carrying it in one’s hand could theoretically be considered an unusual way of transporting something, even though it is not an inefficient or clumsy way of doing so, like performing an action with the back of one’s hand is- the only “but” ( which is a big but) is that it can’t be something that its normal even sometimes to transport by wearing.
Now back to our daf – Rav Papa rules that if one throws a clod of dirt at a palm-tree beshoheig and it detaches a date from the branches, one is liable to bring 2 korbanos(sacrifice), one for uprooting ( harvesting ) and one for mefareik( according to Rashi, a form of threshing [another long complex discussion ] .
In contrast, Rav Ashi (who is usually the final word), rules that he is not liable at all, as this is neither the normal way of picking something or of threshing it.
Does this mean that Rav Papa holds that doing a melacha in a backhanded manner makes one liable, or does he simply mean that it is not considered an unusual way?
As the former is unlikely, given that the exemption of כלאחר יד appears to be a generally accepted one in the shas, perhaps one can suggest that the machlokes(dispute) is based on our chakira(analysis) regarding the definition of “backhanded.”)
Perhaps Rav Papa holds that seeing as this is not necessarily an inefficient or clumsy way of getting the date to fall, and in fact might be easier in some cases than using other methods ( certainly for one with good aim), it is not considered כלאחר יד .
And Rav Ashi holds that seeing as it is indeed unusual, that is sufficient to make it considered significantly backhanded and thus be exempt.
Any other ideas?
And given that in practise we learn most of these exemptions from the requirement of מלאכת מחשבת in the mishkan (or do we?), does this analysis work?