Carrying Less Than Four Amot

Eiruvin (10:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 14 years ago

The beginning of the final perek of Masechet Eiruvin discusses a case where one finds pairs of tefillin in the public domain. The Mishnah present solutions for how one can legally transfer these tefillin from this vulnerably open space to a more protected location. For example, if there were only a few pairs then one could put the tefillin on and transfer them as ‘clothing’. (Incidentally, the Mishnah records the debate regarding how many pairs one can wear at a time.) If however there are many pairs of tefillin and due to various threats, staying there till after Shabbat or covering them there are not options, the various Tana’im present different possible solutions.

As the prohibition of carrying in the public domain is for a distance of four amot the Tana Kama suggests that one can transfer them all intermittently for distances of less than four amot. In other words, he should carry the tefillin for a distance of less than four amot, pause for a moment and then carry for an additional distance of less than four amot.

R’ Yehuda however presents a different solution. He suggests that the person should carry the tefillin for a distance of less than four amot and then hand them to another person who will carry them for that distance and who will inturn hand them on to another person.

The Gemara (Eiruvin 97b) proceeds to explain the reason for the different opinions. The Tana Kama prefers his solution, since because R’ Yehuda involves many people, a level of disrespect to Shabbat will be needlessly publicised. R’ Yehuda however prefers his solution since because the Tana Kama’s solution involves only the individual carrying intermittently, there is a strong chance that at one point the person will carry the object more than four amot.

One may ask whether the two opinions are mutually exclusive. In other words does each opinion present the sole solution to the problem or do they represent preferential solutions. The language of the Gemara seems to suggest that each provide a preferred solution as it uses the language “adif”. The Tosfot (Ibid.) appear to understand the debate in this way. They explain that in a case where the person who found the tefillin is alone, R’ Shimon would agree that they may employ the Tana Kama’s solution. One could understand however that the Bartenura disagrees and suggest that R’ Shimon would not allow the Tana Kama’s solution (see the Bartenura and the Beit Yosef (301:42)).

The Rambam (Shabbat ) and the Shulchan Aruch (301:42) bring both these opinions as Halacha. A simple reading would suggest that either solution would be appropriate with no preference given to either one. Nevertheless, the Tosfot Yom Tov preferred to explain that the Rambam was ruling according to the opinion of R’ Shimon and that the Tana Kama’s opinion was only included in the case were the person is alone. (See the Beit Yosef (301:42) for an alternative resolution.)

Till now we have dealt only with a special circumstance – saving the tefillin, an object of kedusha, from desecration. What if one wishes to carry something through the public domain for more mundane needs – would these options be available?

The opinion presented by R’ Yehuda suggests that the “human-chain” option presented by R’ Shimon would be permissible. The Rambam brings this down as Halacha (Shabbat ) stating that it is permissible to carry in such a manner through the public domain. The Ra’avad qualifies the Rambam’s statement that it is only permissible in pressing circumstances or great need. The Orach HaShulchan (349:4) writes that this must indeed be the Rambam’s intention.

The Shulchan Aruch (349:3) also brings this “human-chain” option without any qualification. He also adds however that there are some opinions that do prohibit carrying in such a manner. Consequently the Mishnah Berurah (349:13) rules that in general one should adhere to the opinion that forbids carrying in this manner.

The interesting point to note is that when it comes to permissible carrying techniques for mundane needs only “human-chain” option is cited. Why? The Orach HaShulchan (ibid.) states that only this method would be permissible as there are a number of people involved that could ensure that no one carries the object more than four amot. The Taz (349) explains similarly adding that under normal circumstances the Chachamim prohibited a single person carrying intermittently out of the concern that they would carry more than four amot.

[As always one should consult their Rav before drawing any conclusions from this article.]

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