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 141-142: טלטול מן הצד- moving Muktza items indirectly and the panic button on the key chain

We have learnt elsewhere in the masechta that it is permitted to move certain types of muktza when one needs them for a permitted purpose, or where the place they occupy is needed for a permitted purpose.

The focus on these daf is how to move Muktza items when neither of those leniencies applies.

This discussion focusses around whether טלטול מן הצד שמיה טלטול, in other words, whether handling something indirectly is considered handling as far as the prohibition of handling Muktza is concerned.

The Mishna on 141b discusses a bed with straw on it that was intended as fuel for a fire.

A person now wishes to move the straw so he can lie on it, but seeing as the straw was not designated as a כלי, the leniency to move a כלי שמלאכתו לאסור for a permitted use or the place it occupies, does not apply.

The Mishna rules that one may not move it with one’s hands, but may move it with one’s body, such as with one’s shoulders.

Rashi explains that this is considered טלטול מן הצד, indirect handling, which is not considered טלטול as far as the laws of Muktza are concerned.

The Gemara brings a related ruling of Rav Nachman regarding a radish buried in the ground.

It was common practise to take whole, harvested vegetables, such as radishes, and bury them in the sand to preserve them during the dry summer.

Rav Nachman rules that if the raddish has been buried with its narrow top facing down, one may pull it out by its wider bottom, seeing as one will not be displacing any sand while doing so.

On the other hand, if the raddish was buried with its wider bottom facing down, one may not pull it out by its narrower top, seeing as it will be moving sand out of the way, which is Muktza.

The Gemara questions this ruling based on our Mishna.

Seeing as the person is not moving the sand directly, but it simply pulling out the vegetable, this

Should be considered טלטול מן הצד and should be permitted, as with the straw in the Mishna.

In light of the above, the Gemara concludes that the halacha is not like Rav Nachman and that this is permitted even if sand is moved out of the way while pulling out the vegetable.

We have various other examples of this leniency in the first few mishnayos of the new chapter on Dapim 141-142.

The Mishna rules that a person may carry a child with a stone in his hand, even though the stone is Muktza, in an enclosed courtyard (see Rashi) – this also seems to be an example of indirectly handling the Muktza stone while moving something that is not Muktza (the child.)

On Daf 142b, the Mishna permits one to tilt a barrel of wine over in order that a stone sitting on top of it will fall down, yet another such example.

Back on Daf 43a, there is a dispute regarding what to do with a corpse that ls lying out in the sun on Shabbos, given that it is Muktza

We should recall that moving a Muktza item for its own protection (מחמה לצל) is not usually an acceptable reason for moving Muktza items- yet human dignity also dictates that something must be done to prevent the corpse from rotting.

Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel rules that it may be rolled from bed to bed, seeing as this is indirect handling, and thus permitted.

Rav Chanina bar Salmai in the name of Rav, on the other hand does not allow this, and suggests an alternative solution.

It seems to follow that unlike Shmuel who permits טלטול מן הצד, Rav forbids it.

The Gemara brings a מחלוקת תנאים (tannaic dispute) regarding whether one may move a corpse on shabbos in order to save it from burning in a fire- the Tana Kama forbids it, whereas Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish permits it.

It suggests that this is also a dispute regarding whether טלטול מן הצד is permitted or not, but rejects this suggestion, and says that both Tannaim could hold that טלטול מן הצד is usually forbidden, but that Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish made an exception for a corpse so that the relatives don’t come to extinguish the fire instead.

It seems from this that the Gemara has concluded that טלטול מן הצד is forbidden.

Furthermore, even if the gemara was simply giving an alternative explanation of the tannaic dispute, but not completely rejecting the possibility that they could be arguing about טלטול מן הצד, there is still clearly a dispute about it, and Rav appears to forbid it- the halacha usually follows Rav in disputes against Shmuel in everyday halacha.

Tosfos raises an even larger difficulty that this places Rav in contradiction with himself, as on our daf (141,) it is the house of Rav that proves from the Mishna that טלטול מן הצד is permitted!

When examining these cases carefully, one can see that although they have much in common, there are also some differences:

  1. In the case of the straw, the straw is moved in an unusual way, namely with one’s shoulder rather than one’s hand, but not in the course of moving a non Muktza item it is attached to.

In the case of the child and the barrel of wine, the stone is moved indirectly, in the course of moving a non muktza entity(the child or barrel)

In the case of corpse, it is not clear what type of טלטול מן הצד is employed, moving it directly with an unusual part of the body, or moving it with a bed.

  1. In the case of the child and barrel of wine, one’s intention is to move the child or access the wine in the barrel, not to move the muktza item (the stone,) which is simply moved as a secondary effect of moving the non muktza entity.

In the case of the corpse, the intention is to move the muktza item itself, namely the corpse.

In the case of the straw, it is not completely clear whether one is moving the Muktza item (the straw) in order to make it spread out evenly and be comfortable to lie on, or whether one is moving it out of the way so he can sleep on the non Muktza item(the straw)

It is interesting that Rashi on Daf 43b defines טלטול מן הצד as כלאחר יד, a back-handed manner, the term normally used for performing a forbidden action with a שנוי (in an unusual manner.)

This would make this leniency an extension of the exemption from punishment for performing a forbidden melacha in an unusual manner, going a step further and permitting it completely when it comes to handling Muktza items in a רשות היחיד (private domain,) which is only rabbinically prohibited.

It would still be a חדוש as we do not generally permit a שבות דשבות (something forbidden only rabbinically for 2 independent reasons) for any reason whatsoever, but just for the sake of a mitzva (like bris milah), and even there, the scope of the leniency is subject to debate- see earlier posts on שבות דשבות.

Back to the contradiction in sugyos and the opinion of Rav, the Baalei Tosfos and the Rosh both suggest that there is a difference whether the טלטול מן הצד is performed for the sake of the Muktza item, or for the sake of the non Muktza item.

In the case of the corpse, it is performed in order to bring it into shade, namely for the sake of the Muktza item, and is thus forbidden according to Rav.

In the cases on our dapim, it is done for the sake of the non Muktza entities, ie the bed, the child, or the barrel, and is thus permitted.

This distinction seems to based on the assumption that in the case of the straw, one is moving the straw for the sake of the bed, not in order to make the straw more comfortable to lay down on, a point noted by Rabbeinu Yona and the Rosh.

Although there are different approaches in the Rishonim as to the definition and scope of טלטול מן הצד , the distinction made by the Tosfos forms the basis for the generally accepted halacha that it is permitted to move a Muktza object together with a non Muktza object, only if one is doing so for the sake of the non Muktza object, and not if one is doing so for the sake of the Muktza object.

In some countries where violent crime is unfortunately common, it is common for people to have panic buttons that link to a security company when pushed.

These buttons are often put on one’s keyring together with one’s keys.

Assuming that the panic button is muktza, and that the danger is not at the level that constitutes pikuach nefesh (neither which should be assumed,) would it be permitted to carry the key-chain around inside an Eruv even though one is inevitably moving the panic button with it?

It seems from the above as seeing that it is impossible to remove the panic button without handling it directly by simply shaking it off, this should be a classic example of handling a muktza item (the panic button) indirectly while directly handling a non muktza item that one needs (the key.)

As such, it should be permitted even if the button is indeed muktza and the criteria of pikuach nefesh do not apply.

Obviously, if there is indeed no concern for pikuach nefesh while going out, it would be better to remove the button before shabbos, and seeing that there is a strong argument for pikuach nefesh in any case, this leniency might be rather spurious.

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.

Shabbos 122 and 123       When and how Muktza items may be moved

It is known that one of the most far-reaching rabbinical decrees pertaining to Shabbos is the prohibition of picking up/carrying article which are defined as מוקצה (set apart from use on shabbos.)
Items which are appropriate and have been set aside, either specifically, or by default, for use on shabbos may be handled within a רשות היחיד (private domain.)
However, anything defined as מוקצה on shabbos may not even be handled within such an area.
There are various opinions offered as to the reason for this prohibition, but that will be left for a possible future post.
On our daf, we see a number of categories of Muktza, and a number of different reasons for moving Muktza, some of which might be permitted for some of these categories but not for others.
The three main categories that we see on this daf are as follows:
דבר שמלאכתו להתיר – A vessel normally used for an action which is permitted on Shabbos.  Although this is not really a category of Muktza per se, our daf does make reference to the stringent view of Rabbi Nechemya that even such a vessel may only be handled when needed for its permitted purpose, not when there is no such reason for doing so.
כלי שמלאכתו לאסור  – a vessel normally used for a melacha which is prohibited on Shabbos
דבר שמקפיד עליו  -something of
value one looks after extra carefully.
 (this is also referred to  as מוקצה מחמת חסרון כיס- see Shabbos 157a)

There are also a number of reasons that one might move a muktza item, each with their own set rules:
שלא לצורך כלל  – for no particular constructive reason
מחמה לצל – in order to protect it  (literally moving it from the sun into the shade)
לצורך גופו  – when one wishes to use the item itself for a permitted purpose.
לצורך מקומו – for the sake of its place- when one needs the space it is occupying for a permitted purpose  (provided that space is not defined as a בסיס לדבר האסור [base for a forbidden item], a different topic.)
The Mishna on 122b lists a number of items that may be used for various purposes on Shabbos, despite the laws of Muktza.
One of them is a hammer, which may be used for cracking nuts.
There is a dispute in the Gemara between Rav Yehuda and Rabbah regarding what type of hammer is referred to in the Mishna.
Rav Yehuda claims that it is referring to a hammer usually used for cracking nuts, which is a כלי שמלאכתו להתיר and thus may be used, at least for its intended permitted purpose.
Rabbah points out that our same Mishna permits using a winnowing shovel or pitchfork to pass food to a child on, and these instruments are only made and bought for performing forbidden melachot with them.
As such, Rabbah concludes that the hammer referred to in the Mishna could even be a smith’s hammer, which is clearly a כלי שמלאכתו לאסור.
We conclude from there that it is permitted to use a כלי שמלאכתו לאסור for a permitted purpose!
The Gemara a little later brings a Beraita to question this leniency.
Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai argue whether it is permitted to use an עלי (evidently a type of important vessel) to cut meat for the sake of Simchas Yom Tov.
Yet both agree that once the meat has been cut, it may no longer be used for another permitted purpose.
This seems to imply that in the absence of the special leniency of simchas Yom Tov, using something normally used for a forbidden purpose is forbidden even when one uses it for a permitted purpose, against Rabbah’s conclusion.
The Gemara answers that this instrument is different, as it is more like סיכי זיירי ומזורי (which Rashi identifies as specialist tools used by painters, or alternatively specialty weaving tools), which a person takes pains to look after and sets aside a special place to store. (see also Tosfos who quotes the Aruch’s translation(one of the most important  linguists amongst the Rishonim).
It follows that special instruments of value that a person is particular to look after and store in one place are treated as a more serious form of מוקצה and may not be used even for a permitted purpose.
The Gemara further records a debate between Rabbi Chiya bar Abaya quoting Rabbi Yochanan and Rav Shemen bar Ada regarding what type of hammer the Mishna permits one to use.
Whereas both agree that a hammer used for beating gold may be used for permitted purposes, even though it is a דבר שמלאכתו לאסור, Rabbi Yochanan is of the view that a hammer used for pounding spices (the forbidden melacha of grinding) may not be used even for  a permitted purpose, seeing as a person is particular about it.
Yet the primary source for the prohibition of using מידי דקפיד עליו (something one is particular about), can be found in the second Mishna on amud bet.
There, Rabbi Yossi tells us that any vessel may be used for a permitted purpose on shabbos, with the exception of a large saw and the peg (blade) of a plough, presumably because they are  particularly valuable or fragile items that the owner is particular to look after.
The Gemara seems to understand that Rabbi Yossi is not referring to these 2 items only, but uses them as examples of anything that fits into the category of things used for a specialised purpose that the owner takes great care with.
We thus have 3 primary sources for the stringency applied to items that one is particular with:
1.      The Beraisa where Beit Hillel agrees that an עלי many only be used until the meat has been cut, and the Gemara’s understanding that this is similar to the special painter’s tools (as explained by Rashi.)
2.      The view of Rabbi Yochanan, disputed by Rav Shemen bar Ada, that a hammer used for spices may not be used on shabbos at all.
3.      The Mishna (as interpreted by the Gemara) which permits using any vessels on shabbos except those that one is particular about.
At first glance, these 3 sources all seem to be saying the same thing, to the point that we need to understand
1.      Why the Gemara brought the Beraisa to query the lenient ruling of Rabbah rather than an explicit Mishna
2.      How Rav Shemen bar Ada could disagree with an explicit Beraisa AND Mishna.
Yet, when one looks more carefully, it appears that there are different categories of things one is particular about, and Rashi actually seems to define them differently.
There are things which one is so particular about that one usually  does not allow them to be used for anything but their intended professional purpose.- this seems to be the category discussed in the Mishna, which everyone agrees may not be used at all on Shabbos.
There are things which one might allow to be used for another purpose, but which one is careful enough to keep in a special place while not being used- This is the case discussed in the Beraisa.
Then, there are things which one might not be particular enough about to dedicate a special place for, but which one does not use for other purposesד in case they get dirty or disgusting, such as the hammer used for pounding spices (see Rashi who makes this point  and the Ritva who has a different version of the Gemara and holds that one is more particular about a gold hammer than a spice hammer.)
Perhaps, this is what Rabbi Yochanan and Rav Shemen argue about- the both agree accept the basic stringency of דבר שמקפיד עליו , but differ as to the extent of its application.
This is just an initial analysis, and a study of the Rishonim will reveal that it is not so straight forward and there are many ways to approach this, but that’s it for today….
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.