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Beasts Unburdened

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Jun 26, 2005
The Mishnah discusses the rules as to what objects an animal can have on its body when walking into a reshut harabbim, in recognition of the concept of “shvitat behemah”, or having one’s animal rest on Shabbat. The Pnei Yehoshua (Shabbat 51b), however, maintains that the specific example discussed, carrying (hotza’ah), is only subject to a rabbinic commandment. This is because hotza’ah is a “melakhah geruah”, or an inferior melakhah, and thus not regulated by the verse of “l’ma’an yanuach shorcha vachamorcha” (‘so that your ox and donkey may rest [from melakhah]; Shemot 23:12.)

The implication is thus that the status of melakhah geruah is one that not only refers to the perception of melakhah and its comprehensibility, but one that confers a lasting inferiority upon hotza’ah. This view is evident as well from R. Yehoshua Ehrenberg (Resp. D’var Yehoshua, II, 127), who addresses a question concerning the nature of the prohibition of melakhah on Shabbat. Many acharonim assert that Shabbat only prohibits the Jewish individual from disturbing his rest, but does not address melakhah that happens as an indirect result; this is understood as the meaning of the verse of “l’ma’an yanuach”. If so, a statement of the Talmud becomes difficult to understand. In discussing the exemption of a melakhah done by two people together, the Talmud (Shabbat 3a) raises the objection that between the two of them, a melakhah is taking place. However, if the focus is on the individual at rest and not on a melakhah taking place, this concern would seem unfounded.

R. Ehrenberg suggests, in response, that the above classification of melakhah is only relevant to the majority of prohibited melakhot on Shabbat. Hotza’ah, however, is a melakhah geruah. Accordingly, the Talmud (Shabbat 96b) cites an altenative verse in establishing that prohibition. Once this is the case, hotza’ah is now regulated by that alternative verse, rather than “l’ma’an yanuach”. Consequently, the understanding relevant to other melakhot does not affect hotza’ah, which is the melakhah discussed in the Talmudic passage about two doing a melakah together. Likewise, the P’nei Yehoshua’s position can be understood, as this verse is also the source for shvitat behemah. (However, note D’var Yehoshua, ibid, 128, where he states that his thesis is actually drawing on another incidence of the words ‘l’ma’an yanuach: Devarim 5:13).

The question of a lasting affect of “melakhah geruah” is also relevant to a query of the Resp. Beit Yitzchak (O.C. 34), who proposes the notion that the exemption of “m’kalkel” (destructive action) not be applied to hotza’ah, which is in any event not a constructive act (and thus distinguished for inferiority from all other melakhot; see Ohr Zarua, Hil. Shabbat 82). R. Asher Weiss, however, (Minchat Asher, Shabbat, 1) takes issue with this suggestion, noting that m’kalkel is exempted not because of its opposition to productivity, but because of the standard of melekhet machshevet (see Chagigah 10b).


References: Shabbat: 51b 

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Learning on the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah site is sponsored today by Dr. Alexander & Meryl Weingarten in memory of Dr. Alvin M. Lashinsky, Avraham Moshe ben Meir Hakohen, on the occasion of his yahrzeit on the 19th of Kislev and in honor of their children, Mark, Michael, Julie, Marnie and Michelle and by the Cohen, Kraut and Silver families in memory of Elaine Bienenfeld Silver z”l and by Michael HaKohen ben Rivka for a refuah shleimah for Michael ben Rivka and by Solomon Monderer for a refuah shleimah for Leora bat Rifka and for a refuah shleimah for Yehuda Baruch Noam ben Tova Batya betoch shar cholei Yisrael