Clearing a Space for Guests on Shabbat

Shabbat (18:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 years ago

The Mishnah (18:1) teaches that one may clear (even) four or five large baskets of produce to make space for guests or provide room for learning Torah. The Mishnah continues that one cannot clear out the entire store room. The Barteunra explains that if the entire floorspace is exposed, one might then fill in holes in the ground, which would constitute a melacha (choresh). What is the issue with clearing some space in a storeroom and how does doing so for the sake of one’s guests alleviate the problem?

The Bartenura explains that ordinarily, such strenuous activity is not permitted on Shabbat. Nevertheless, for the sake of a mitzvah the Chachamim permitted the practice. Since the practice is rabbinically prohibited (shevut) the Chachamim relaxed the restriction in the context of a mitzvah. It is nice to have guests over for Shababt. However, given that one is overriding a rabbinic prohibition using a mitzvah as a justification, it is critical that we define which guests are part of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim.

The Beit Yosef (333, s.v. katuv) cites the Terumat HaDeshen who explains that the Mishnah is referring to guests that are lodging in one’s residence. He cites the Gemara that reflects on the order of the two permissible contexts, commenting that hachnasat orchim is greater than going to the Beit Midrash (since it is mentioned first). There the Gemara is referring to guests that are coming from the field and have no place to stay. The Terumat HaDeshen however writes that there is no proof that the ruling of the Mishnah also applies to guest that one has over for a meal and leaves the questions open.

The Beit Yosef continues by explaining the doubt of the Terumat HaDeshen. He explains that simply having a friend for a meal would be defined as a suedat reshut (regular meal) and it would not be a mitzvah. The case that is a doubt for the Terumat HaDeshen is where the guest is staying at someone else’s house and is invited over for a meal. The Rama (333:1), rules that it would be considered a mitzvah in this case. Nevertheless, he agrees that simply having a friend over for a meal is not considered orchim and such a meal would be defined as a seudat reshut.

The Mishnah Berurah (333:8) however cites the Taz who explains that if one invites other friends for the honour of the (halachic) guest then they would also be considered an oreach for this law and one would be able clear out space for these additional guests as well. The Aruch HaShulchan also adds that if one invites a friend who is a talmid chacham then it would also be considered a seudat mitzvah.

The Aruch HaShulchan however cites the Magen Avraham who explains that concerning the cases it is considered a mitzvah that allows the clearing of space, while it is true that the host performs a mitzvah, it is does not make the meal and seudat mitzvah. In other words, it is still considered a seudat reshut for the guests. Why is this distinction important? Pri Megadim (AA 333:5) explains that while the host would be able to clear the space for the oreach and others invited for his honour, since for them the meal is a seudat reshut they would not be able to assist in clearing the space.

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