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 137 The constructive wound and misaseik (unintentional melacha) revisited

I had the zechus recently to listen to a video-shiur by Rabbeinu haRav Osher Weiss שליט”א, on the subject of דבר שאין מתכוין and פסיק רישיה (forms of unintended melacha we have discussed before in various posts.)

He discussed a question which I have often been bothered by, that seems so obvious, yet doesn’t seem to be dealt with by the Rishonim (early commentaries) at all.

The question centers on what the source for the leniency of דבר שאין מתכוין is- after-all, seeing as it applies not only on shabbos but in other areas of halacha too (see earlier entries,) it can not simply be based on the requirement of מלאכת מחשבת.

He gave an explanation very similar to what I have myself suggested, obviously with better proofs, but started out by saying that whenever we encounter an obvious question that is not dealt with by the Rishonim at all, we should generally assume that the answer was so obvious to them that the question didn’t even begin.

It then becomes our task not simply to answer the question, but to explain why the answer is actually SO obvious.

Of course, before jumping to this approach, one needs to go through the entire shas with all the major Rishonim and be sure that the question was in fact not asked, at a minimum going through all related sugyas.

As I am not Rav Osher Weiss and do not have close to that level of knowledge, this is simply not possible for me, even with the help of the Masores hashas (cross-reference printed in most editions of the  Talmud) and even with the Bar-Ilan search tool.  As such, although I try to check for parallel sugyas and do my homework, I often simply miss something.

Here is an example of this happening to me:

We have established in this chapter that one is permitted to perform all essential actions that form part of the circumcision process on the eighth day from birth, even if it falls on shabbos.

In contrast, if the bris is delayed for whatever reason and not performed on the eighth day, one is not permitted to perform it on shabbos, and waits till the next day.

The Mishna discusses a case where a mohel had 2 different babies to bris, one whose eighth day fell on shabbos, and one whose eighth day fell on the next day.

Somehow, he made an error and circumcised the younger baby when he was only 7 days old on shabbos, and the older one the next day when he was 9 days old.

The Mishna rules that this is an example of desecrating shabbos בשוגג (in error) and he is required to bring a קרבן חטאת (sin-offering.)

However, we have seen earlier in our study of Shabbos (Shabbos 72), that there is a way of performing a melacha unintentionally, known as Misaseik, for which one is exempt.

Although this exemption could possibly apply with other transgressions that do not involve הנאה (pleasure), this exemption is particular applicable on shabbos due to the requirement for מלאכת מחשבת.

We have discussed a substantial debate between the Amoraim Abaya and Rava, as well as Rashi and the Tosfos, regarding under which precise circumstances a melacha is considered  מתעסק and thus exempt from a korban.

To sum up, according to Abaya, the classic example is one who intends to lift up an item that is detached from the ground and lands up cutting (detaching) an item connecting to the ground.

He intended to perform a  permitted action, namely lifting, and landed up mistakenly performing

1.      a different action, namely cutting

2.      on a forbidden object, namely something attached to the ground

This is very far from his original permitted intention, both in terms of the מעשה (action) and the חפצא  (object the action is applied to) and he is thus exempt.

Rava is more lenient and holds that the classic example is one where one’s actual action is only different to one’s intended action in terms of the object it is applied to, not the action itself.

The classic case, according to Rava,  is thus as follows:  One intended to apply an action (namely cutting) to a permitted item (namely something detached from the ground, and landed up applying that SAME intended action, to a different object (something attached to the ground) that it is forbidden to apply that action to.

We also showed that Rashi (Kerisos 19b)  interpreted the case Rava is referring to as one where he knew which item was permitted and which was forbidden, intended to cut the permitted detached item, but his hand slipped and he landed up cutting the forbidden attached item instead.

Seeing as his intended action was not applied to the intended object of his action, it is clear that לא נעשתה מחשבתו (his thoughts were not fulfilled,) and he is thus exempt.

However, if he intended to pick up a certain item thinking it was detached, and later discovered that it was really attached, it is considered as if his intentions were fulfilled, and is not considered מתעסק  but rather שוגג  ( a transgression action performed intentionally but unknowingly,) for which he is liable to bring a sin-offering.

The Tosfos, in contrast, understood that it is precisely this later case that Rava is referring to, pointing out that in a case where his action was not performed on the desired object, he would be exempt even if his intended object was also forbidden!

According to Tosfos’ explanation of מתעסק, the classic case is thus precisely when one intends to apply an action to an object which he believes is permitted, but after doing so, it becomes clear that it was in fact a forbidden object.

Surely the case of our mishna is a precise example of such a case, and should thus be exempt completely, rather than liable to a sin-offering as per the Mishna?

A person intends to perform an action (circumcision) on what he thinks is a permitted “object” (the 8 day old child) and later finds out that it was a forbidden “object” (the 7 day old child.)-

According to Abaya, seeing as he intended to do the action of circumcision, he would be liable.

According to the way Rashi understood Rava’s view,  one could argue that the Mishna is not referring to a case where his hand slipped and circumcised the wrong baby (something rather disturbing and hopefully very unlikely,), but to a case where he thought the baby he was circumcising was the 8 day old when he was really the 7 year old .

Such a case would understandably result in liability.

Yet if we follow the generally accepted view of Rava according to Tosfos, the case of our mishna should be classic מתעסק and result in zero liability (at least as far as shabbos laws are concerned.)

I searched zealously through the various Rishonim on the daf, and although it is always possible that I missed something, I failed to find anyone who asks this seemingly obvious question.

I reached the point of frustration where I wondered whether this was an example of the type of question Rav Osher had referred to, whose answer is SO obvious to the Rishonim  that the question doesn’t even beg asking , but I couldn’t figure out why- what was I missing.

In desperation, I started looked through the Achronim(later commentaries,)something I always prefer to do only once I have come up with my own approach to an issue (a very Maharal style  approach  I have learnt from my Rebbe, Rabbeinu haRav Blachman שליט”א   )

I felt like such a fool when I saw that Rabbi Akiva Eiger, often considered as the king of the Achronim, points that that the Gemara itself asks this question in the main sugya of Misaseik (Kerisos 19b) and answers that this case is different, seeing as circumcision involves the prohibition of   )עושה חבורה  making a wound(, which falls under the melacha of שוחט ( slaughtering or taking a life, the blood spilled being considered a partial taking of life.)

Although a melacha performed with only a destructive purpose (מקלקל, see earlier post) usually does not result in liability, there is a view that there are 2 melachot to which this exemption does not apply, seeing as they are by definition destructive- wounding, and burning.

The Gemara in Kerisos says that seeing as מקלקל is not an exemption for these melachot, NEITHER is מתעסק.

There we go- I forget a Gemara I had learnt- question asked, question answered.

Yet this answer needs some serious explaining- after all, these melachot might not be subject to the exemption of מקלקל, but that is because they are by definition mainly destructive acts.

Yet the other exemptions based on מלאכת מחשבת do apply to them, so why shouldn’t מתעסק?

Furthermore, if we accept that answer of the Gemara in Kerisos as final and authoritative, we will be faced with a סתם משנה  (anonymous Mishna) that supports the view that מתעסק בחבורה חייב  (one is liable for an act of Misaseik that involved wounding,) which has major implications for this melacha as well as the other melacha singled out, namely making a fire.

Even more problematic is the fact that in the main sugya of מקלקל בחבורה  (Bava Kama 34b,) Rabbi Yochanan rejects the view that one is liable for such a purely destructive act even for these melachot and applies the obligation to situations where there is a need for the result of the action.

Making our Mishna reliant on this view thus places Rabbi Yochanan in direct opposition to a סתם משנה, whereas he is the one who always stressed the fact that we always rule like a  סתם משנה.

There is much more to discuss before we can answer these questions, but that’s it for now….

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 ]