01. The Melakha of Hotza’ah

The melakha of Hotza’ah consists of transporting an object from a private domain (reshut ha-yaĥid) to a public domain (reshut ha-rabim) or vice versa, or transporting an object more than four amot in a public domain.

During the six weekdays, man’s role is to perform melakhot in order to improve and develop the world; to craft tools and instruments, build houses, and cultivate crops for food and textiles. The highest purpose of each and every melakha is to build the Mishkan and Mikdash, in which God’s presence can dwell. Despite the tremendous value of work, the Torah commands us to refrain from all melakha on Shabbat in order to explore the foundations of faith and to study Torah. In this way, the work that we do all week long is imbued with deeper significance. It has the power to bring the world closer to perfection and establish within it a Mikdash for the Lord, God of Israel.

The novelty of Hotza’ah is that an act that does not physically alter an object can still be considered a melakha. Even changing its location in some substantive way is considered a melakha. Location is thus of paramount importance. There is nothing in the world that does not have a location, a place. When an item is in its place, it has a purpose; when it is not, it is unimportant. For example, in a place with no water, water is very valuable, while in a place with plenty of water, its value declines. Furthermore, nothing can exist without a place to be. This explains why God is referred to as Makom (Place) – because He ensures the world’s continued existence and provides a place for it to be. When the Sages discussed each type of place, they used the word “reshut” (property, authority, domain), since every object exists by the authority of the place where it rests.

We find in the Torah that the donations for the Mishkan were collected from each individual’s private domain (reshut ha-yaĥid) and were brought to the public domain (reshut ha-rabim) where the Mishkan was built. This was considered a melakha, as the verse states explicitly: “Moshe then ordered that the proclamation be made throughout the encampment: ‘Let no man or woman make further effort (melakha) on behalf of the donations for the sanctuary!’ And the people stopped bringing” (Shemot 36:6).

According to Torah law, there are three types of domains: a private domain (reshut ha-yaĥid), a public domain (reshut ha-rabim), and an exempt area (mekom petur). The Sages decreed that most places defined by Torah law as a mekom petur would have the status of a public domain. Such a rabbinically defined public domain is called a karmelit.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman