The fifth perek of masechet Shabbat discusses the limits on what an animal may wear or carry on Shabbat as it walks in the public domain. The content is important since one is commanded to rest his animals on Shabbat. What is the source of this law?
Rashi (Avodah Zarah 15a) understands that it is based on the pasuk – “you shall not do any melacha, you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid servant, your ox, your donkey and all your animals” (Devarim 5:15). It would appear that if one’s animals performed any melacha, the owner will have violated a negative commandment.
The Tosfot however understand that the source is “… so that your ox and donkey shall rest” (Shemot 23:12). The difference between Rashi and Tosfot is whether we are dealing with positive commandment or a negative prohibition. The Tosfot understand that the pasuk referred to by Rashi only refers to the prohibition of mechamer – driving a donkey with a load. Regarding all other melachot, or if the donkey was not driven, there is a positive mizvah to rest one’s animals.
Based on the position of the Tosfot, the Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger is unsure as to whether women are included in this mitzvah (provided it is not a case of mechamer). That is because according to the Tosfot, this would constitute a time-bound positive mitzvah of which women are exempt. While it is true that women are obligated in the mitzvah of Kiddush – a positive mitzvah – that is due to the hekesh (textual link) of zachor and shamor. It is possible that the hekesh only applies for Kiddush. The Tosfot R’ Akiva directs our attention to the Beit Yosef (OC 291:6) who cites the Ran that states that regarding Shabbat, women are obligated in all matters the same as men. The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger however leaves the question unanswered.
The student of the R’ Akiva Eiger adds a comment that while the Pri Megadim also raises this doubt, it appears that according the Gemara’s explanation of another Mishnah we learnt that women are certainly obligated. We learnt (5:4) that a cow may not go out on Shabbat wearing a strap or chain between its horns. The Mishnah continues that the cow of R’ Elazar ben Azarya went out on Shabbat in this manner, which did not please the Chachamim. The Gemara comments that it was not really his cow, rather the cow in question belonged to a lady in the neighbourhood. Nevertheless, since R’ Elazar ben Azarya did not object to the practice, the cow is attributed to him. Since the story involve a woman, it is clear that they too are obligated in resting their animals on Shabbat.
In assessing why women would be obligated as well the Tifferet Yerushalaim (5:74) explains that at a first attempt one could differentiate between a positive commandment requiring one to take action (like Kiddush) and our case where the positive commandment is to refrain. Regarding the latter, it would appear it is closer to a negative commandment and therefore woman should be equally obligated in keeping it. Nevertheless, he continues, that the Tosfot (Kidushin 34a) explicitly rejects this suggestion. In other words, a positive mitzvah instructing restraint is the same as any other positive mitzvah in this respect.
The Tifferet Yerushalaim continues that, based on the Tosfot, he understands that when the Ran commented that men and women are obligated in all matters equally, he was only referring to positive mitzvot that required an action, e.g. lechem mishneh or eating three meals. He concludes that they are indeed exempt on a biblical level from this mitzvah. Nevertheless, on a rabbinic level they are prohibitted from working their animals due to the general issue of uvdin de’chol (engaging in weekday activities). This then could explain the case involving the cow of R’ Elazar ben Azarya. The reason that the Chachamim were displeased, was not because it was a violation of a biblical mitzvah, but rather a rabbinic one.
The Tifferet Yisrael however finds this explanation forced and rejects it for several reasons. For example, one argument is that if she had violated a rabbinic prohibition, by attributing it to R’ Elazar ben Azarya it is as exacerbating the issue by portraying it as if he violated a biblical prohibition. The Tifferet Yisrael therefore say that case as solid proof that they too are obligated on a biblical level in this mitzvah.
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