Carrying Tiny Amounts

Shabbat (7:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

The Mishnah learnt two weeks ago started a topic that dominated most of our learning this week. The Mishnah there (7:3) taught:

Whatever is proper to store away (i.e. can be stored) and is of such a quantity that one would keep stored and a person takes it out on Shabbat he is obligated to bring a chatat offering. But whatever it is not proper to keep stored away and not of a quantity that anyone would store, and a person takes it out on Shabbat, only the person who stores any of it is culpable.

We learnt from the Mishnah that one is only obligated to bring a korban chatat if they (inadvertently) carried a shiur (measure) of the item that people in general would store away. The exception is that if person would store even a smaller measure of that product, he alone would be chayav. The Mishnah then continues to list various items and their minimum shiur that one would keep.

It is surprising therefore that the Mishnah, towards the end of the week (10:1) teaches the following:

If someone would store away as a seed or a sample (for sales) or for medicinal purposes, and he took it out on Shabbat, he would be obligated [to bring a chatat] even for the smallest amount (kol shehu); but any other person is chayav [only] for the general shiur.

The question, as pointed out by the Tosfot(Shabbat 90b) is that this Mishnah seems to be superfluous. It appears to only be restating, by means of example, the principle in the above quoted, earlier Mishnah. What more do we learn from this Mishnah?

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that this is not really a question; it is the way of the Mishnah to right in brief in one place what it writes in detail in another. He cites the Tosfot elsewhere who solve a similar difficulty in this way.

The Sefat Emet however provides a number of reasons why our Mishnah is needed. Firstly he answers that the Rambam learns that when the Mishnah states that “of such a quantity that one would keep store up” it means that if people would not store a particular item because it is readily available or because of its low value in that location then they would not be chayav even if it is of a shiur greater than those listed in the Mishnayot. Consequently, even though the Mishnah states “only a person who stores any of it is culpable” we do not yet know that this is applies to a shiur less than those stated explicitly. Our Mishnah is therefore needed to teach that if someone would store even a kol shehu and carried it out on Shabbat they would be chayav.

The Sefat Emet offers another answer. He explains that we must remember that our Mishnah also teaches that if one set aside an item for medicinal purposes (for which it is not normally used) then they would be chayav, yet another person, as already stated, would not. Were it not for this Mishnah we might have thought that anyone else would also be chayav for this small amount as well. The only reason why the other person is not keeping this small amount is because he is healthy and does not require any medication. Consequently, the fact that the first person sets that particular item aside for medicine should be significant for another person if he took it out. The Mishnah therefore teaches that any variation for a normal use is only significant for the person who keeps it for that purpose.

The Pnei Yehoshua explains in a similar manner that from the earlier Mishnah, one might have thought that one’s variation from the norm does not affect another only for items that are never stored at less than the shiur stated in the Mishnayot. For thing that might, e.g. for medicine or samples, then one’s setting aside the item can obligate another person who carries it on Shabbat. The Mishnah therefore teaches that an individual’s storing an item of less than the minimum shiur never affects another.

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