Shabbos 93 שנים שעשו    A melacha performed by 2 people

Shabbos 93 שנים שעשו    A melacha performed by 2 people

As mentioned yesterday, I would like to focus today on an extremely practical leniency in the laws of Shabbos- the exemption of a melacha done by 2 people.


This rules takes us all the way back to the beginning of the Masechta, where we learnt that in order to be forbidden biblically and liable to  a korban (or מיתה  or כרת  if done knowingly) for transferring something on Shabbos from one domain to another,  one has to both uproot the object from the one domain and put it down in the other.


Someone who does only one of these actions, has performed a rabbinical prohibition, not a biblical one, and is exempt from the biblically prescribed punishment.


A question that might have still been left open during the many daf that discussed this rule, is what the source is for this exemption!


One possibility is that it is simply another manifestation of the general rule that a biblically prohibited Melacha must be considered מלאכת מחשבת, an important, calculated, and significant act of work.

One could argue that if one only performed part of the action, leaving the rest for someone else to complete, one’s action is simply not מלאכת מחשבת.


On our daf, we face a different, though possibly related, exemption.


Here, two people perform a Melacha together, such as writing with the same quilt, or carrying the same item from one domain to another.


In this case, we are faced with 3 opinions:

-Rabbi Meir is of the view that one is liable

-Rabbi Yehuda is of the view that so long as neither of them could have managed the action on their own, they are exempt. Otherwise, they are liable.

– Rabbi Shimon is of the view that even if each of them could have managed the action on their own, they are still exempt.


The Gemara derives these 3 views from the passuk in Vayikra which is the basis for the requirement to bring a sin offering:


ואם נפש אחת תחטא בשגגה מעם הארץ בעשתה.

“and if one soul sins unknowingly from amongst the people, by doing it.”

According to Rabbi Yehuda, and Rabbi Shimon, there 3 מעוטים (exclusions) here:

נפש  (a person in the singular)

אחת (one)

בעשותה  performing it, ie ALL of the transgression)


Rabbi Yehuda uses one of these to exclude the case when each of them do part of the Melacha, ie either עקירה (uprooting) or הנחה (putting down), as in the first Mishna of the Masechta.

He then uses another one to exclude a case when two people perform the entire act together, when they could have done it on their own, ie our case, when two people carried a fig outside.

The third exclusion is used by him for a different matter.


Rabbi Shimon agrees with Rabbi Yehuda regarding the first two exclusions and uses the third as well to exclude a case when both of them could NOT have done the action on their own.


Rabbi Meir holds that the first 2 exclusions, i.e. נפש אחת , count as 1, not 2, and only excludes the case of 2 people doing different parts of the melacha- he uses the other exclusion (בעשותה) for  the same different matter Rabbi Yehuda derived from it.


It follows that both Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda agree that in a case where two people perform the entire melacha together, and they could have each done it on their own, they are exempt.

The Halacha follows this majority view (see Rambam, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch on this subject), and both cases of שנים שעשו, the case where different parts of the melacha are performed by 2 different people, and our case, where an entire  melacha that could have been performed by one person is done by two people together, are exempt from the biblical punishment and are only rabbinically forbidden.


It also follows from our daf that both leniencies are learnt from their own unique words in the above mentioned passuk, and not just from the requirement for מלאכת מחשבת.


Why is it important at the end of the day whether this is derived from its own passuk, or from מלאכת מחשבת?


I would like to suggest two possible practical ramifications (נ”מ):


What happens if two people perform together another forbidden action, NOT related to shabbos, that they could have both done individually?

For example, if two people together made an idol.

If the exemption was only from מלאכת מחשבת, it would only apply to shabbos, and these two would definitely be liable.

However, if the exemption is due to the independent passuk regarding the laws of sacrifices, it has no specific relation to shabbos, and should in theory also apply to other prohibitions.

Yet despite this, I am yet to see an example of the Gemara applying this exemption to prohibitions other than shabbos.


Another Nafka Minah could be regarding the leniency of שבות דשבות (an action that is only rabbinical in nature for two different reasons.)

The rule is usually, regarding shabbos at least, that such an action is permitted in case of suffering, great need, or for the sake of a Mitzva (though whether this applies to an action performed by a Jew, or only to one performed by a non-Jew is in fact subject to debate.)

If this leniency  indeed applies to actions performed by a Jew as well, what happens if two people perform one action that each of them could have done on their own, in an unusual manner (שנוי)?

This action is only rabbinically prohibited for 2 reasons- it is unusual, AND 2 people have performed it instead of one.

However, if the leniency of שנים שעשו, is also, like שנוי, derived from the requirement of  מלאכת מחשבת , one could argue that this is not really a שבות דשבות , but all part of the same one exemption, namely מלאכת מחשבת!

(I did put this possibility to haGaon Moreinu haRav Osher Weiss Shelita, and his gut feel was that it would still be called a שבות דשבות, but there is certainly what to explore here.)


If, on the other hand, as we have proven, the leniency of שנים שעשו comes from a completely different context than that of שנוי  and other Mishkan\Meleches Machsheves related leniencies, our case would clearly be an example of  a שבות דשבות , and according to those who permit this even when done by a Jew for the sake of Mitzva, great need, or to avoid suffering, this should certainly be permitted!

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