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Carry a Wallet on Shabbat

Shabbat (24:1) | Yisrael Bankier | a day ago

The Mishnah (24:1) discusses a case where one is travelling, carrying a wallet as Shabbat begins. The Mishnah first suggests that one can give his wallet to a nochri to carry it for him. If that option is not available he can rest the item on his animal. The Bartenura explains that the traveller should only place the wallet on his animal once it begins to walk, and remove it before it stops. That way the animal is not perform the full melacha; the animals is not performing akira (uprooting the item) or hanacha (placing it down) but only transporting it. This is important because otherwise the person would be considered as if he is driving his animal with a load (mechamar) which is prohibited on a biblical level.

The Bartenura continues explaining that the Mishnah prefers using the nochri in this case, since when using the animal one runs the risk of violating a biblical prohibition whereas giving the item to a nochri violates a rabbinic one.

Considering that the solutions involve a rabbinic prohibition, why is one permitted to give the wallet to a nochri to carry? The Bartenura explains that the Chachamim understood that it would be too much of a challenge for one to part with his possessions. Had the Chachamim not provided a permissible avenue, then it is likely that one would simply carry the wallet and thereby violate the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat.

The Ran cites the Tosfot that present the opinion of the Sefer HaTerumah who maintains that the logic behind this law can be extended to permit one to hide their money on Shabbat if they are concerned that it will get stolen. The Ran then cites the Ramban who disagrees. The Ramban aligns this cases with the Mishnayot we learnt earlier regarding a fire. Recall that the Chachamim restricted what one can save from a fire. There the concern was that since people are generally worried about their possessions, they might extinguish with the fire in process. Note the same logic appears to be applied in the reverse. Here we a relax the restrictions whereas there the restriction are tightened. The Ramban answers that in our case one would find it too difficult to throw away his wallet that he is already holding. In the other cases, the Chachamim demanded that he remain passive, which one is capable of doing.

The Ran then cites the Rashba who finds the Ramban’s distinction difficult, since the discussion in the Gemara implies that the ruling in our Mishnah applies even if he is not holding his wallet (see inside). Furthermore the Rashba explains that the logic behind the case with a fire was specific to that case. Since the fire is spreading, there is a sense of urgency and one might put out the fire. The concern however was not that if they allowed them to save items that they would do so in a manner other than was permitted by the Chachamim, e.g. carry it to the public domain. Consequently, our case too, they were not concerned that a person would then save his wallet in a manner other than permitted.

The Rashba however does in principle agree with the Ramban that one would not be able to move his money out of fear that it will get stolen. The Rashba explains that in our case the rabbinic prohibition was permitted in order to avoid the person violating a biblical one. In the case of hiding money, permitting the activity does not make sense. We would be permitting a rabbinic prohibition (of moving mukteh) on order to prevent him from violating a rabbinic prohibition.

The Ran also agrees with the ruling of the Ramban against the Sefer HaTerumah but based on a different reason. He explains that in the case of the fire there is a sense of urgency. Particularly because of that urgency, we are concerned that one will not be particular with the boundaries permitted by the Chachamim. The same could be said where one is trying to hide his items from thieves. In our case however, there is no real urgency. The concern is simply his ability to lose his money. Consequently, the Chachamim can provide him with a permissible avenue.

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