Mazal Tov! Shabbos 157 The great finale, and back to מלאכת מחשבת

It would probably to wrong to expect a masechet of this nature to end with some “lighter” material, and true to expectation, Maseches Shabbos is a marathon from beginning to end.

On the concluding daf of this epic tractate, we went back to discussing the complex topic of Muktza, focusing on the dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon regarding whether certain forms of muktza are prohibited on shabbos at all.

We meet exotic types of muktza again, such as מוקצה מחמת חסרון כיס , which even Rabbi Shimon forbids, and which we have already learned may not even be moved if needed for a permitted purpose or for the space it is occupying.

We see that the Amoraim appear to be split down the middle regarding whether to follow Rabbi Shimon or Rabbi Yehuda, with Ula, Rav, and Levi following Rabbi Yehuda, and Shmuel, Zeiri, and Rabbi Yochanan following Rabbi Shimon.

As if this is not enough to pack into the last daf, we learn about annulment of vows on shabbos and in general, and revisit other hot topics we have discussed, such as blocking windows and טומאה.

A final חדוש of the Mishna is that it is permitted, at least under certain circumstances to measure things on shabbos.

Although measuring is usually forbidden on Shabbos or Yom Tov as a form of weekday activity (see Beitza 28a,) our Mishna explicitly permits measuring a cloth to see if it is large enough to become impure, as well as measuring a mikveh to see if the water has the minimum required depth.

At the end of the Mishna, we are told that “from their words, we learnt that we may block, measure, and tie on shabbos.”

Although there is no stipulation in this final sentence that this must be for the sake of a mitzva such as mikva, we will see later that the Gemara understood it precisely in that limited way.

It seems, however that Chazal could not have found a better way to end off though, by bringing in once again the most important concept in Shabbos law- the rule of מלאכת מחשבת.

The Gemara ends with a story where Ula was visiting the house of the exilarch. He saw Rabbah bar Rav Huna sitting inside a bathtub full of water and measuring it while inside.

Shocked, Ullah asked him how he could be measuring on shabbos!

Even though the Mishna permitted measuring on shabbos for the sake of various mitzvot, we do not see that it gave a blanket permission to do so in the absence of a mitzva.

(Why he was not bothered by him being in a bathtub on shabbos was the topic of an earlier post too!)

Rabbah bar Rav Huna responded that he was simply being מתעסק בעלמא (literally busying himself.)

Rashi explains that he was not doing it for any specific need but just to keep himself busy.

We have seen the term מתעסק a few times in this Masechta, and it always refers to performing an action unintentionally in some way.

Performing an action intentionally “just to keep busy” but with no specific need in mind is certainly not the normal use of the word in this masechta, and the masechta has certainly left us with some unexpected homework!

I guess we going to have to come back to Shabbos one day…

הדרן עליך מסכת שבת ודעתן עליך

Shabbos 121 מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא ,dangers to safety, and the foolish Chasid

One of the most far-reaching disputes amongst the Tannaim (sages of the Mishnaic period) regarding the laws of Shabbos is regarding מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא ,literally a melacha done for a purpose other than the improvement of the object of the melacha, but usually understood by extension to refer to melacha done for a purpose other than the purpose it was done for in the work of the mishkan.
Unlike דבר שאין מתכוין, where there is no intention to perform the forbidden act at all, here the action is performed completely intentionally, but for a different purpose.
A classic example is where someone takes a dead body out of one’s domain on shabbos (Shabbos 93a)
This constitutes the forbidden melacha of הוצאה (“carrying” or transferring an item from one domain to another.)
However, in this case, the corpse in not removed because one wants it to be somewhere else, it is removed because one does NOT want it to be where it currently is.
In such a case, Rabbi Yehuda holds that he is biblically liable still, but Rabbi Shimon holds that one is exempt on a biblical level and has only transgressed a rabbinical prohibition.
Another classic example is someone who digs a hole in the ground (Shabbos 73b). This constitutes the melacha of חופר (ploughing), which is usually defined as making the ground more suitable for planting.
What happens, however, if a person digs a hole, not because he wants the resulting hole, but because he wants to make use of the dust or sand which he digs up?
According to Rabbi Yehuda, the purpose of the melacha makes no difference, so long as it is constructive, whereas according to Rabbi Shimon, although such an action is rabbinically forbidden, there is no biblical prohibition and one is thus exempt from the harsh biblical punishment associated with it. (note that when the hold is made inside one’s home, the Gemara opines that even Rabbi Yehuda exempts the person seeing as it is מקלקל. This seems to imply that if an action itself is destructive, even if it has a constructive purpose, one is still biblically exempt, which is rather problematic in light of the fact that some מלאכות such as making a wound, knocking down a building, or tearing are by definition destructive, but still biblically forbidden seeing as there main purpose is constructive. But this is for a different discussion (see Shabbos 31b regarding סותר על מנת לבנות במקום אחר for a possible approach)
It is generally understood (see Chagiga 10b where this is explicit) that this is another example of the exemption of מלאכת מחשבת, significant and calculated work – in this case the different purpose of the action reduces the significance or importance of the action , seeing as had it been done in the mishkan for such a purpose, it would not have been a significant part of the work performed there.

Another classic example of מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is most cases of extinguishing a flame or a fire.
We should all be familiar with the famous Mishna said every shabbos evening )Shabbos 29b,) which records the view of Rabbi Yossi that one is only liable for extinguishing a flame if he does it for the wick itself, in order to make it easier to burn .
In contrast, extinguishing a fire simply because one wants it to be dark, or because one does not want to waste the oil or blacken the lamp, is only a rabbinical prohibition.
It is important to note that the תנא קמא (first opinion) in the same Mishna holds that one is biblically liable for such an action and is only exempt if it was done to prevent actual danger.
This aligns the view of the Tana Kama with that of Rabbi Yehuda, and Rabbi Yossi with Rabbi Shimon.
As it is a well known rule of psak, stated by the authoritative Amora Rabbi Yochanan, that the Halacha usually follows a סתם משנה (anonymous Mishna where no dissenting opinion is recorded,) finding such a Mishna which takes a stand on this subject could be a major factor in how we rule.
On this daf, we have at least 3 different examples of what appears to be מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא.
In the first Mishna on the daf, which is indeed a סתם משנה , we are told that it is forbidden to actively ask a non-Jew to extinguish a fire, but one does not have to stop him from doing so.
As the reason for the extinguishing the fire is clearly to save one’s property, and not for the wick, this seems to be a clear case of מלאכה שאינה צריכא לגופא.
If the author of our Mishna held that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is only a rabbinical prohibition, it seems rather harsh that he would forbidden asking a non- Jew to do this, giving the principle of שבות דשבות that we have discussed many times, which allows one to ask a non-Jew to perform a rabbinically forbidden melacha for the sake of a mitzva, great need, or distress.
There are very few greater needs than preventing one’s house from burning down chalila, and it would certainly be a severe form of distress if it did so.
One is forced to conclude that either the author of this Mishna holds that מלאכה שאינה צריכא לגופא is a biblical prohibition, or that he rejects the entire principle of שבות דשבות as stated.
Indeed, the Rambam, (Shabbos 1/7) rules like Rabbi Yehuda that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is a biblical transgression, and this Mishna might be one of his main sources for this.
In contrast, Rabbeinu Chananel, Raavad, Tosfos and many other authorities hold that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is only a rabbinical prohibition.
Accordingly, Tosfos on our daf states clearly that there is indeed no blanket permission for a שבות דשבות even for the sake of a mitzva or great need,(presumably he holds that the example we learn this leniency from in the gemara, namely bris milah, is an exception due to the fundamental uniqueness of this mitzva.)
Yet it is the view of many other authorities, as well as that of the Shulchan Aruch and Rema, that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is indeed only rabbinical, and that the leniency of שבות דשבות applies across the board, at least when the rabbinical action is performed by a non-Jew.
As such, in order to explain this Mishna, we would need to either

  1. find another equally authoritative Mishna that holds that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is only rabbinical
  2. Conclude that even according to Rabbi Shimon who holds that מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא is only rabbinical, it is more severe than most rabbinical prohibitions and the leniency of שבות דשבות does not apply to it.
  3. Conclude that the author of our Mishna does not consider extinguishing a fire to save property to be מלאכה שאינה צריכא לגופא, in contrast to the explicit view of Rabbi Yossi who does.
  4. Explain why Chazal where particularly strict in the case of our Mishna

In the next Mishna on the daf, we are told among other things that it is permitted to trap a scorpion on shabbos to prevent it from biting by covering it with a vessel.
However, the Mishna then states that such a case was brought in front of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai and he expressed his concern that shabbos might have been desecrated unknowingly.
As it is obvious that if this was a poisonous scorpion that was likely to bite him, no one would argue that covering it was forbidden, it seems clear that we are talking about a non-toxic scorpion, and the basis of the Tana Kama’s leniency is that one does not want the scorpion, but merely to prevent it from damaging.
This makes it מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא, and given that it is only rabbinically prohibited in the first place, the Tana Kama permits it in order to prevent the pain inflict by a bite.
If this analysis is correct, we could be faced with another two Tannaim debating the status of מלאכה שאינה צריכא לגופא.

On the second side of the daf, the Amora (sage of the Talmudic period,) Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi rules that any creature that causes damage may be killed on shabbos. Rav Yosef quotes a Beraisa that mentions 5 specifically dangerous creatures (one of them being the snake of Eretz Yisroel- probably the venomous Palestinian viper that is ironically a protected species despite the danger it poises to residents.)
He derives from this that other creatures that cause damage but are not life-threatening may not be killed on shabbos, which serves to disprove the lenient ruling of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.
Rav Yosef reconciles these two statements by saying that everyone agrees that if a life-threatening creature is running towards him, poising an immediate danger, one may kill it.
In such a case, even Rabbi Yehuda agrees that it is permitted to kill them due to concerns for pikuach nefesh.
When it comes to other non-life-threatening creatures that nevertheless cause damage (such as biting,) Rabbi Yehuda would forbid it but Rabbi Shimon would permit it, seeing as it is מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופא , which according to him is only rabbinically forbidden, and thus permitted to prevent damage. (see Rashi and Tosfos though for 2 different ways of understanding the Gemara’s answer.)
We have shown how 3 different cases on our daf form essential primary material in the analysis of the law regarding מלאכה שאינה צריכא לגופא, and its scope- the actual halacha is beyond the scope of this post, but familiar to any serious student of hilchos Shabbos.
In addition to its ramifications for this principle, this sugya seems to imply that although the golden rule with matters of pikuach nefesh is that ספק נפשות להקיל, in case of doubt, one always errs on the side of caution, this rule does have certain limits and the perceived danger to life does have to be more than just the realm of the paranoid.
This is further illustrated in the continuation of the sugya.
The Gemara tells how a Tana(in this context, reader of Beraitot, not someone from the tannaic period) taught a Beraita in front of Rabbah bar Rav Huna:
“One who kills snakes and scorpions on shabbos, the spirit of the Chasidim (pious ones) is not at peace with (does not approve.)”
Rabbah bar Rav Huna retorted that if this is the case, the spirit of the sages is not at peace with those Chasidim! (seeing as they were being stringent in the laws of shabbos at the expense of concern for safety!)
This reminds of the case of the חסיד שוטה, the foolish pious person, who sees a woman drowning and refuses to save her because it is not modest to look at her (Sotah 21b.)
Yet, for an entirely different reason, Rav Huna disagrees in this case.
The Gemara accounts how he once saw someone killing a wasp on shabbos, presumably for the above reason, and rebuked him, saying “Have you finished killing them all?”
Rav Huna seems to be of the view that given that there is no end to how many insects one can spend one’s shabbos killing, and the efficacy of each act in itself is doubtful, this is outside the normal concern of pikuach nefesh and in the realm of paranoia.
Once again, it is not our mandate here to come to halachik conclusions, but the basic messages of this incident need to be internalized – On the one hand, being concerned about other prohibitions at the expense of danger to life is considered “foolish piety” and not to be tolerated. On the other hand, we need to be able to distinguish between real, albeit small, concerns for life and actions with a reasonable chance of mitigating that risk, and obsessive paranoia with little efficacy.

Shabbos 113 Tying knots on Shabbos and דבר שאין מתקים.

On our Daf, we are told the generally accepted rule of Rabbi Yehuda that tying any knot which is not permanent is not a biblical transgression on shabbos.
We have seen this idea recently when the Mishna (Shabbos 111b) taught us that one is only liable for tying the type of knot tied by camel-drivers and sailors.
Rashi over there explained that this means that the knot has to last forever (presumably in the absence of human intervention), likes the knots tied to join the broken threads in the curtains of the mishkan.
The Gemara indeed verifies that this refers to the knot which ties a camel’s nose-ring in place permanently, so that the rope that it is driven with can be tied to the ring and untied as needed, as well as the knot tied with a rope to a ship through which ropes can be tied in to order to anchor it.
In contrast, the knots made to tie the anchor-ropes to the knot-rope or the rope to the camel’s nose-ring are not regarded as permanent knots. These are rabbinically forbidden, for reasons given later in the sugya.
On this basis, the Gemara allows tying shoelaces on shabbos under certain circumstances, and forbids them under others, and this sugya needs to be well understood before coming to any conclusions regarding doing this in practice.
Similarly, regarding the melacha of כותב (writing), the Mishna (Shabbos 104b) tells us that one is not liable if one writes with something such a fruit juice or dust that does not last.
Several questions with far-reaching ramifications needs to be addressed, among them:

  • What is the reason for this requirement?
  • Is this requirement for the effects of a melacha to be permanent, or at least long-lasting, limited to the מלאכות where it is mentioned explicitly by Chazal, like writing and tying knots, or is a general rule for all melachot of Shabbos.
  • How long does the effect of the action have to last in order for it to be considered permanent?
    One might argue that having a permanent affect is part of the general rule that an action has to be מלאכת מחשבת, significant and calculated work, and something whose affect is merely temporary is not significant enough to fall into that category.
    On the other hand, one might argue that the way these particular מלאכות were performed in the mishkan were in ways that were permanent, and we derive this rule directly from that, not from the general rule of מלאכת מחשבת. This seems to be the approach that Rashi has taken here regarding regarding tying nots.
    This approach seems logical, given that there are many מלאכות, such as plowing a furrow or baking bread, whose affects are clearly not permanent- for example a furrow is filled in by blowing dust or destroyed by rain or people who walk over it, and a loaf of bread goes rotten and inedible on its own after a few days.
    However, the Magid Mishna (Shabbos 11\15) says explicitly that this is a general rule that applies to ALL מלאכות.
    According to this, one would perhaps need to accept this as a general rule but admit that when a melacha was specifically done in the Mishkan without permanent affects , like in the above two examples, there would be an exception to this rule.
    Alternatively, one would need to limit the definition of “permanent” to the time that these two examples and other like them generally last for- perhaps a week or so (is the lechem hapanim perhaps a precedent for this?)
    In truth, even Rashi who has no need to limit the definition of permanent and clearly has not done so on the Mishna, does seem to understand that the reason why there is still a rabbinical prohibition on tying the rope to the boat or the camel’s ring is because one might leave it there “a week or two.”
    There, Rashi too seems to imply that leaving it there a week or two would be a biblical transgression, and Chazal thus forbade tying it even for a short time in case one comes to do so.
    This apparent contradiction in Rashi requires its own analysis, but we unfortunately do not have time for that now.
    The key to the question of whether the requirement for permanence, whatever it means, applies to all מלאכות, probably lies in an earlier Mishna.
    The Mishna (Shabbos 102) tells us that in order to be liable for a melacha on Shabbos, it has to be דבר המתקים, something that lasts.
    In the somewhat cryptic words words of the Mishna זה הכלל כל העושה מלאכה ומלאכתו מתקיימת בשבת חייב- This is the rule, anyone who does a melacha and his melacha endures on Shabbos, is liable.
    This is the simple meaning of the Mishna, and the way the above-cited Magid Mishna, and possibly the Rambam himself, as we shall discuss later, interprets it.
    In fact, the Yerushalmi, as quoted by the Rashba and the Ritva, also seems to have learnt it that way, as it explains that the construction of the mishkan was considered permanent seeing as it stayed in one place until the divine command to move was given, or that building for a certain period (בנין לשעה) is also considered building.
    However, the wording of the Mishna implies that if the results of the melacha last all of that shabbos, it is considered מלאכת מחשבת, and if they do not, it is not, serving both as the basis for the general exemption of a melacha whose effect is not permanent, and a broad definition of permanent to something that lasts the whole shabbos.
    This means in effect that there is no actual fixed length of time that defines permanent, as it clearly depends when on Shabbos this action is performed- it could be as long as almost 24 hours and as little as less than a minute, an unusual form of measurement to say the least.
    How does this fit in with what we learnt regarding tying knots (and probably also writing) where the examples given were actions that are truly permanent?
    One possibility is that those two melachot are exceptions, due to the specific ways they were performed in the mishkan, but the general rule is far more limited.
    This would also answer the difficulties we raised based on baking, ploughing, and the like, whose affects are not permanent in the classic sense of the world, but certainly last till at least the end of shabbos.
    It would not, however, answer how the Yerushalmi derives this from the building of the Mishkan, which certainly lasted longer than one shabbos, and was not built on shabbos at all!
    Another possibility is that there is indeed no general rule at all, and that this cryptic Mishna has a totally different meaning to what its arguably most simple reading is (certainly the way I first read it.)
    A look at Rashi, shows that he has what’s seems like a rather creative interpretation of both דבר המתקיים and בשבת an approach that is shared by a surprisingly number of other Rishonim with various variations (see for example, Ran , Bertenura on the Mishna, and even the Meiri!)
    He understands מתקיים not to refer to the time that the effect of the melacha lasts, but to the utility of the action- an action that is sometimes good enough to be left as is, and requires nothing to be added, is considered מתקיים.
    He also interprets בשבת not to refer to how long the results of the action need to endure, but rather the day that the action is done.
    This interpretation seems not only creative, but rather problematic. Firstly, the Mishna does not say the words that Rashi uses שכיוצא בו מתקים [בלא הוספה] – (note the brackets indicating a possibly questionable version of his words). Secondly, the word בשבת appears redundant, given that all the melachot we are talking about are referring to things done on shabbos!
    Furthermore, just like the מלאכות of writing and tying were only done in the Mishkan in ways that were long-lasting, it is clear that at least most were done in a way that lasts longer than 24 hours or even a week, so just like the length of the effect of the above melachot needs to be similar to that of the Mishkan, surely all actions need to as well, even if complete permanence of effect is not needed?
    Most of all though, the implication that a melacha needs to produce something which could sometimes be left as is, is rather problematic- since when where the ground herbs in the mishkan left as is? They were used for cooking the dyes. Since when does one leave threshed produce as is without further purifying it or a kneaded loaf unbaked?
    Other Rishonim, take a similar approach to the Mishna, but interpret מתקיים as something which does not need to be undone.
    According to these Rishonim, we are left without an explicit source for a general rule that a melacha which lacks a lasting effect is not biblically prohibited, and it is possible, though not definite, that this leniency is limited to the melachot it has explicitly been applied too.
    I had the gut feeling that the Rambam would learn the Mishna כפשוטו- He does not seem to comment in his פרוש המשניות , or regarding a general rule, but in my online search, I came across the דף על דף anthology who quoted the Minchas Yitchak who claims that the Rambam does precisely this.
    He points to the Rambam )Shabbos 9/13) regarding צובע, where he says that it has to be done with materials that last, but brings the wording of our Mishna in perek 7 with its general rule דבר המתקיים בשבת!
    Why the Rambam chooses to display his interpretation of the Mishna specifically there and not as a general rule, is a question in its own right- however it seems pretty clear that this is how he understands the Mishna, unless he is simply borrowing its wording and applying it to a completely different principle, which while not impossible for the Rambam, would not be our first choice.
    Now that we have seen that the Rambam and some other Rishonim do indeed learn that our Mishna is teaching us a general exemption for a melacha that lacks a lasting effect, and limited the definition of temporary to that shabbos, we need to explain why we treat the melachos of writing and tying a knot differently and require those to have a really permanent effect.
    We also need to reassess whether Rashi and those who interpret the Mishna like him agree with this principle, but simply don’t believe that it is sourced in our Mishna, whether they reject it out of hand, or whether they have a longer view of permanence required for all melachot, similar to what we see by writing and tying a knot, and therefore interpret this Mishna as referring to something completely different.
    The results of the further research required to have massive ramifications for the scope and applicability of this commonly assumed but perhaps narrower than assumed leniency!

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!

Shabbos 92 מתעסק and unintentional melacha revisited

This Daf is packed with examples of some of the most important principles of Melocho on Shabbos, mainly based on the idea that in order to be biblically forbidden and punishable, an act has to be considered מלאכת מחשבת (a significant, important, or calculated act of work.)

Among them, are the idea that a melacha done in a significantly unusual way (שנוי) is exempt from punishment, as is the rule of two people performing a melacha that could be done by one person ( more on that tomorrow , Hashem willing .)

We have discussed before the concept of מתעסק, where someone who does not have full intention to perform the forbidden act might be exempt .

This, unlike many of the exemptions of מלאכת מחשבת, is derived ( כריתות יט.) from a specific מעוט ( exclusion) in the verse that obligates one to bring a קרבן חטאת for performing a serious transgression unknowingly – “וחטא בה פרט למתעסק” . ( interestingly enough, so is שנים שעשו, right here on the daf)

Yet , despite having its own source, the Gemara in numerous places also states that המסעסק בשבת פטור מלאכת מחשבת אסרה תורה המתעסק בחלבים ועריות חיב שכן נהנה – one who performs a melacha on shabbos without intention is exempt, as the Torah only forbade calculated melacha, but if one eats forbidden fats or sleeps with someone forbidden to him unintentionally, he is liable , as he has derived pleasure from it .

This seems to imply that מתעסק is yet another exemption of מלאכת מחשבת , and not an independent exemption based on its own source .

One can ask further that if the only reason מסעסק is liable by forbidden fats and עריות is because of the pleasure he gets ( a subject for analysis in its own right), then it should apply in ALL areas of halacha where pleasure is not a factor, not only on shabbos , so what is the relevance to מלאכת מחשבת , which is only an exemption on shabbos? ( see Rashi there who asks the question and takes a different approach to what I suggest below, which is more constant perhaps with other Rishonim here , for reasons outside the scope of this post, but that need to be fully studied to get an understanding of this concept.)

It stands to reason that there probably two different kinds of מתעסק or intentional melacha , one category that is exempt in all areas of halacha other than where הנאה ( pleasure) is involved , and one that is only exempt on shabbos .

For example , the classical case of מתעסק where one intends to pick up something detached from the ground and landed up picking up something connected to the ground ( see earlier post on perek 7) , is similar to intending to eating permitted fat and landing up eating forbidden fat, which would be exempt if not for the fact that he derived benefit.

It follows that there is no need for the concept of מלאכת מחשבת to exempt this, as it is covered under the blanket exemption learnt from its own source, which applies in theory to all areas of halacha.

But there is another kind of מתעסק , which we see in the main sugya in כריתות, as well as on our daf today !

This involves a case where one intends to do something that is forbidden, but lands up performing the same forbidden action on a different חפצא ( object ) than intended , or in a different manner (צורה) than intended .

One example subject to debate in the sugya in כריתות is when one intends to light or extinguish a certain candle and lands up lighting or extinguishing a different one .

In other areas of halocho, if one would intend to , for example, bow down to one idol. , and landed up bowing down to another , it is very possible that one would still be liable, seeing as one intended to do the same forbidden action, and there is no exclusion from וחטא בה .

However, on shabbos, the exemption of מלאכת מחשבת is so strong, that it requires a complete fulfillment of נתקים מחשבתו, (his intentions were fully fulfilled .)

Any deviation from this could be a reason for exemption, due to this broader form of מתעסק.

A far -reaching application on this rule is found in a Mishna on our daf!

If one intends to carry something in front of him, and lands up carrying it behind him, even though there is no lack of intent ( מתעסק) in the מעשה ( action), or even in the חפצא ( object of the action), but merely in the צורה ( manner or form of the action), one is exempt!

Rashi explains that this is a form of לא נתקיימה מחשבתו ( his intentions were not fully fulfilled ) which in turn is a form of מתעסק!

[ These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha ]