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Carrying a basket along with a stone on Shabbat

Shabbat (21:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 days ago

The Mishnah (21:1) teaches that one may carry a basket that has a stone in it, despite the stone being muktzeh and one not being able to handled it on its own.

The Bartenura explains the case in the Mishnah is where the basket also contains fruit, otherwise the basket would be considered a basis le’davar assur (a base for something that is prohibited) and one would not be able to move the basket either. The Bartenura further qualifies the case. He explains that the cases must also be where one is unable to shake out stone - the fruit is soft or moist and would spoil if emptied on the ground and cannot be move to one side in order to shakeout the stone. In other words, if we were dealing with dry goods that would not spoil, the basket would need to be empty of its contents to remove the stone, and then refilled with the fruit alone.

The Bartenura explains further that the case is where there is a hole in the basket with the stone acting to seal the space. In other words, the stone is necessary for the basket to function. According to the Rambam’s explanation on the Mishnah all these conditions must be fulfilled.

These qualifications are all found in the Gemara (Shabbat 142a). The Tosfot Yom Tov however argues that if the stone is acting as a wall for the basket, that alone should be sufficient to permit carrying the basket. The Tosfot Yom Tov directs our attention to the earlier Mishnah where we learnt that if a stone was fixed to a pumpkin shell in order to weigh it down when drawing water, then one would be permitted to move the shell. We see that when the stone is necessary for the utensil’s function it does not prohibit the handling of the kli, so why are the early conditions necessary?

Indeed the Rambam appears to change his position in the Mishnah Torah explaining that if the stone served as a wall or if the basket contained wet fruit then one can carry the basket along with the stone. The Tosfot Yom Tov however understands from the flow of the Gemara that when Rav suggests this explanation, the Gemara had rejected the previous suggestion that the Mishnah was dealing with a case involving fruit that would spoil. We find that that this is the Ravaad’s understanding as well when he questions the Rambam’s ruling. Either way, we find that when the stone serves as the wall, one may handle the kli.

The Chidushei Mahariach however defends the Bartenura citing the Tosfot (second answer). Even if the stone is serving as the wall, the case must still be referring to where the fruit cannot be emptied. Otherwise, one should empty the basket of its contents and transfer the fruit in small amounts using the basket; as much as the basket can contain up until the exposed hole. He continues explaining that the Tosfot and Bartenura must understand that this case is different to the case involving the pumpkin shell since there it is only permitted once the stone has been set aside for that purpose1.

The Ritva also explains that Gemara in two different ways - whether or not the explanation of the stone serving as the wall is treated independently. Relevant for the defence of the Bartenura is his explanation according to the understanding that the stone serving as the wall still requires that there is fruit in the basket. The Ritva explains that if the stone was securely fastened to the wall it would be no different to case of the stone in the pumpkin shell. Once it is fastened the stone is consider batel (annulled) to the kli (utensil). In this case however the stone is not securely fastened. Therefore, it is only when the basket contains fruit that the stone is immediately required and can be considered as part of the kli.


1 The first suggestion of the Tosfot is the stone acting as a wall alone is enough of a justification since if we emptied the basket along with the stone then we would not have a utensil in which to place the permitted contents.

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