In the absence of an eiruv, can one carry objects through the public domain on Yom Tov? If so, why and are there any restrictions on what one may carry? This very point was debated by Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel in the following Mishnah (1:5):
Beit Shammai say that one cannot carry a child, a lulav or a sefer Torah into the public domain [on Yom Tov]. And Beit Hillel permit it.
The Gemara (Beitzah 12a) explains that everyone agrees that carrying for the sake of food (ochel nefesh) is permitted. This is learnt from the pasuk “…no work shall be done on them, except for what must be eaten for any person – only that may be done for you” (Shmot 12:16). Rather, the Gemara concludes that the Tana’im debate the validity of the following concept – “mitoch she’hutra le’tzorech, hutra she’lo le’tzorech” (hence forth simply mitoch) – which is loosely translated as “since the melacha was permitted for the sake of food preparation, it was also permitted for other needs.” (Note that this concept is also applied to kindling, slaughtering, baking and cooking. See Mishnah Berurah 518:1)
Beit Hillel, who maintain this concept, therefore permit carrying a child, lulav or sefer Torah on Yom Tov. Why were these three objects selected? The Gemara answers by explaining that Beit Hillel permit these three things while they would agree that carrying stones would indeed be forbidden even on Yom Tov.
The Rishonim attempt to understand the impact of mitoch and its scope. This article will briefly summarise the discussions that related to each of these two points.
Rashi (ibid. s.v. ela) maintains that after the application of mitoch carrying on Yom Tov was completely permitted. Yet, a rabbinic prohibition was instituted against carrying stones or other objects that have no need on Yom Tov. (This is also how the Tosfot and most of the Rishonim appear to have understood Rashi – see Biur Halacha 518) The Ran (Rif Beitzah 6a) understood that Rashi’s conception of mitoch was broader and that carrying even not for the need of Yom Tov was permitted. Only carrying stones, which already considered muktzah, and carrying something in preparation for the next day were prohibited.
The Tosfot (ibid.) disagree with Rashi. They maintain that the application of mitoch is partial and if one carries an object that has no need on Yom Tov, they have transgressed a biblical prohibition.
It therefore appears that carrying an object that is not needed for Yom Tov is at least rabbinically forbidden. However, how does one understand “the need for Yom Tov”?
The Rosh explains that one can carry objects that will be used for a mitzvah. This explains that choice of examples listed in our Mishnah. He adds, quoting the Rabbeinu Tam, that one is allowed to carry a child not only for the sake of the mitzvah of brit millah, but also to take the child to shul or go for a walk as these examples satisfy Simchat Yom Tov. The Mishnah Berurah (518:3) adds that even if the parent would be able to leave the child home with the other parent without the child being upset, yet the parent leaving desires to have its child with them, this too would be permitted due to Simchat Yom Tov.
The Rama broadens the definition one step further explaining that one is even allowed to carry utensils that he fears will be stolen if he left them at their location. The Mishnah Berurah (518:6) explains that since worrying about the fate of these objects would detract from Simchat Yom Tov it is considered a “need of Yom Tov”. Nevertheless, the Mishnah Berurah notes that there are those that disagree and argue that monetary loss is not a justifiable need of Yom Tov and therefore rules that one should ideally be concerned for this stricter opinion.
One final note, the definition appears however to be broader than carrying for the need of a mitzvah. The Mishnah Berurah (518:5) adds that carrying house keys and jewellery would also fall under this definition.
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