05. The Prohibitions of Carrying on Shabbat

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We have seen that the prohibition of Hotza’ah applies to carrying objects from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim or karmelit (which rabbinically is considered a reshut ha-rabim), and vice versa. We have also seen that it is prohibited for one to carry an object four amot within a reshut ha-rabim or a karmelit. Now let us see more precisely how this Torah prohibition is defined.

The melakha of Hotza’ah has three stages:

1) picking up an object in one domain (akira, [lit. “uprooting”]);

2) transporting it to a different domain (ha’avara);

3) putting it down in that domain (hanaĥa).

Even if one accomplishes all three of these with one action, for example, by throwing an object from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim, or throwing it four amot within a reshut ha-rabim, he has violated Hotza’ah. Similarly, if one is holding an object or has one in his pocket as he walks from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim, he violates Hotza’ah. When he begins to walk, he “uproots” the object; when he walks from one domain to the other, he transports it to a different domain; and when he stops walking in the second domain, he is putting it down.[3]

In order to transgress a Torah prohibition, one person must complete all three stages. Thus, if one picks up an item in a reshut ha-yaĥid and extends his arm with the item into a reshut ha-rabim, he has not transgressed by Torah law unless he puts down the item in the reshut ha-rabim. If someone else, standing in the reshut ha-rabim, removes the item from his hand, the item has been transported from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim, but neither person has performed an entire melakha by Torah law, since the first person performed akira and ha’avara while the second person performed hanaĥa.

The Sages nevertheless prohibited transporting objects in this way, lest people circumvent the Torah prohibition, grow accustomed to taking it lightly, and ultimately transgress Torah law by performing all three stages (SA 347:1).

It is important to be aware that, according to Torah law, the prohibition on Hotza’ah applies only when it is performed in the usual fashion. For example, if one takes an item in his hand, slips it in his pocket, or puts it in his backpack, he is carrying normally and is thus transgressing Torah law. In contrast, if he uses a shinui, such as carrying a handkerchief in his shoe or on his head, he has not violated Torah law. Nevertheless, the Sages prohibited carrying with a shinui lest people end up carrying without a shinui.

In sum, the Torah prohibition of Hotza’ah is limited to the performance of the entire melakha by one individual in the way it is normally done during the week. Additionally, the Sages prohibited any action that causes the same result as the melakha, even if it is done with a shinui or undertaken by more than one person. If the goal is accomplished – transferring the item to the desired place – the action is prohibited. It is important to note that even in a karmelit, the Sages prohibited carrying an item with a shinui or by more than one person.[4]


[3]. One may not carry while walking nonstop from a reshut ha-yaĥid through a reshut ha-rabim into another reshut ha-yaĥid. Some say that this is prohibited by Torah law (Tosafot, Eruvin 33a, s.v. “de-ha”). However, many maintain that as long as one did not stop walking while in the reshut ha-rabim, the prohibition is only rabbinic, because as long as he is walking he has not performed a hanaĥa in the reshut ha-rabim (Rashba and Ritva, Eruvin 33a; Taz 346:2). Indeed, practical halakha follows this position (SAH 347:9; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in SSK ch. 30 n. 134). Therefore, where there is uncertainty about the validity of the local eruv, one may carry while walking nonstop from a reshut ha-yaĥid to another reshut ha-yaĥid via a reshut ha-rabim. As long as he does not stop, his carrying involves an uncertainty about a doubly rabbinic law: first, most poskim maintain that what we call a reshut ha-rabim is in fact a rabbinic karmelit; second, walking nonstop from a reshut ha-yaĥid into another reshut ha-yaĥid via reshut ha-rabim is also prohibited rabbinically.

[4]. The distinction between a rabbinic and a Torah prohibition lies in the severity of the punishment. One who knowingly violates Shabbat by Torah law is punished with karet (extirpation); if the violation is unknowing, he is liable to bring a sin offering. If he does the melakha with a shinui, which means the prohibition is rabbinic, then if he did so knowingly, he is given rabbinically-ordained lashes; if it is unknowing, there is no punishment. An additional difference is that when it comes to a Torah prohibition, we are only lenient if danger to life is involved; in contrast, when a prohibition is rabbinic, there are certain times of necessity when we may be lenient even if there is no danger to life. For example, one who is sick may violate certain rabbinic prohibitions (below 28:2). Additionally, one who stands to lose a great deal of money may disregard certain rabbinic prohibitions in order to salvage his money by, for example, carrying money with a shinui from a reshut ha-rabim to a reshut ha-yaĥid (Rema 301:33; MB 266:17). The Sages also permitted violating rabbinic prohibitions in order to save tefilin, as explained in SA 301:42. See also the next section.

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