Carrying Above Ten T’fachim and Moshit

Shabbat (11:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 17 years ago

It was previously defined that hotza’ah is transferring an object from a private domain to the public domain, or from the public domain to a private domain. A private domain is an area that is at least four t’fachim (handbreadths) by four t’fachim and surrounded on all sides by a wall at least ten t’fachim high. The entire enclosed volume (of infinite height) is considered part of the private domain. Conversely, in the public domain, only the area from the ground up until ten t’fachim is considered part of the public domain. The space above ten t’fachim is defined as a makom patur. (See Bartenura Shabbat 11:1 for a definition of these and other halachic domains.)

The eleventh perek begins by confirming that just as one may not carry from a private domain to the public domain, one cannot throw an object in such a manner. The Mishnah however then raises the case where one throws an object from one private domain to another via the public domain. R’ Akiva maintains that one has transgressed the biblical prohibition of hotza’ah while the Chachamim disagree.

In the Gemara (Shabbat 97a) Raba asks whether the debate concerns a case where the object travels via the public domain below ten t’fachim or above ten t’fachim. Recall that when the object passes below ten t’fachim the object passes through the public domain. On the one hand, if the Mishnah is discussing a case where the object is thrown below ten t’fachim, then they are really arguing about whether an object passing through the space is equivalent to resting in that domain (kluta k’ma she’huncha). This could also mean that everyone agrees that if it the object was thrown above ten t’fachim (through the makom patur) then the biblical prohibition has not been transgressed. On the other hand, the Mishnah may be referring to when the object is thrown above ten t’fachim. All may accept the principle of kluta k’ma she’huncha and agree that if one threw the object below ten t’fachim he is chayav. However when an object is thrown above ten t’fachim, perhaps R’ Akiva compares this act of throwing to another similar activity where one is chayav even if it occurs above ten t’fachimmoshit.

What is moshit? The Mishnah (11:2) explains that the levi’im would pass the beams of the Mishkan from one wagon to another, each higher than ten t’fachim from the ground. Each wagon was considered a private domain, with the region in between being the public domain. Since the melachot are learnt from the activities performed in the construction of the Mishkan, this activity would be forbidden. Therefore, according to R’ Akiva just as moshit is prohibited above ten t’fachim so is throwing the object, where as the Chachamim maintain that one cannot compare the two cases.

The Gemara brings three different responses to Raba’s question (see Shabbat 97a for more detail). Yet, before one can understand the responses, one must understand the question. According to the latter alternative, why would R’ Akiva and the Chachamim argue whether throwing can be compared to moshit? Perhaps analysing another debate in the Rishonim may shed light on this question.

Can one take an object from one private domain and place it in another private domain, via the public domain above ten t’fachim? Rashi (Eiruvin 33a) maintains that this is the classic case of moshit and one would clearly transgress the biblical prohibition. The Rashba (Eiruvin 33a) argues that this is not so. The way moshit was performed was that beams were slid across from one wagon to the other such that at some point, one end of the beam would be in contact with one wagon and the other end with the other wagon with the centre of the beam over the public domain. If an object is completely removed from one private domain before entering the next, then it is not defined as moshit. While Rashi uses moshit to more broadly define hotza’ah, the Rashba adopts moshit in its most literal sense. The Rashba strengthens this image of moshit as a specific case by quoting the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 11:2) that states while in general one is chayav for performing a melacha if they did it on their own, when it comes to moshit, one is only chayav if they did it with another person.

Returning to the debate between R’ Akiva and Chachamim, perhaps they argue about the extent that moshit is considered a model for the melacha allowing it to be extended to throwing as well or whether it is a strict definition of a prohibited activity precluding it from being extended to another area. This debate highlights the difficult task given to the Chachamim when defining the melachot of Shabbat. When analysing a particular activity, how broad or restricted is the definition? Granted that the avot melacha are models or examples, the mission is to provide a coherent technical definition so that one can assess other activities with clarity.

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