21 – Hotza’ah

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.

02. Private and Public Domains

A reshut ha-yaĥid is an area enclosed by walls, which render it a single place, and one may carry objects in this enclosed area. Even a large area surrounded by walls is considered one place, and there is no fundamental difference whether an object is located on its east or west side.

The classic example of a reshut ha-yaĥid is a house, though an area may be considered a reshut ha-yaĥid even without a roof. As long as it is enclosed by a barrier ten tefaĥim high (76 cm), it is a reshut ha-yaĥid. A pit that is ten tefaĥim deep is also considered a reshut ha-yaĥid, as is a rock or hill that is ten tefaĥim high. Even if there are no walls surrounding the rock or hill, the fact that they are raised ten tefaĥim from the ground puts them in the same category as something walled. We treat them as if they have walls that extend upward beyond the top of the rock or hill. To be defined as a reshut ha-yaĥid, an area must be at least four tefaĥim wide (about 30 cm). Lacking this width, the area is not significant enough to be deemed a reshut ha-yaĥid, only a mekom petur. It should be noted that a sharp incline is considered a wall as well.[1]

A reshut ha-rabim is an area that serves public needs such as streets, squares, markets, and intercity roads. To qualify as a reshut ha-rabim, an area must be at least 16 amot wide, and unroofed. Some add an additional condition: every day it must be traversed by 600,000 people, equivalent to the number of Israelites during our ancestors’ travels in the desert, according to the Torah (see section 8 below). In principle, all prohibitions on carrying are connected to reshut ha-rabim. Formulated in the negative, there is no Torah prohibition on carrying where there is no reshut ha-rabim. Within a reshut ha-rabim, one may not carry an object more than four amot (see sections 3-4 below), and one may not transport an object from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim and vice versa.

[1]. If the slope surrounding a hill is steep enough (it declines ten tefaĥim vertically within four amot [ 182.4 cm] horizontally), it is considered a wall, which makes everything atop the slope into a reshut ha-yaĥid. The Sages refer to such a hill as a tel ha-mitlaket (MB 345:5; there is disagreement about whether the slope itself is considered a part of the reshut ha-yaĥid, as explained in BHL 352:2 s.v. “be-inyan”). The same rule applies to a valley that is surrounded by a slope of such steepness.The Sages ordained that if a place surrounded by walls is larger than beit satayim, even though according to Torah law it is still a reshut ha-yaĥid, one may carry within it only if its walls were made for residential purposes. If they are natural walls, one must put up a new wall that is wider than ten amot and at a distance of less than ten amot from the natural wall, so that people have participated in the surrounding wall. Then one may carry in the entire area (SA 358:8; MB ad loc. 62). Beit satayim is the size of the courtyard of the Mishkan, the dimensions of which were 50 amot by 100 amot (5,000 square amot). That translates into 1039.68 square meters, or a little more than a dunam (about a quarter of an acre).

The exact size of a tefaĥ is the width of the hand across the knuckles that connect the four fingers (excluding the thumb) to the palm, or approximately 7.6 cm (see below ch. 29 n. 1). Accordingly, three tefaĥim are 22.8 cm. I rounded it off to 23 in the text of this chapter (sections 3 and 7) to make it easier to remember. Four tefaĥim are 30.4 cm, and I rounded it off to 30. Similarly, 16 amot are 7.296 m, which I round off to 7.3.

03. Mekom Petur and Karmelit

The third type of domain is a mekom petur (an exempt area). According to Torah law, this includes fields, deserts, oceans, lakes, and other places not enclosed by walls (and thus not deemed reshut ha-yaĥid) and also not used by the masses on a regular basis (and thus are not deemed reshut ha-rabim). Since these are undefined places, they have no significance as a location. An object in a mekom petur is not located in a place that establishes a connection with it. Therefore, Torah law permits carrying an object from a mekom petur to a reshut ha-yaĥid or a reshut ha-rabim, and vice versa. Similarly, one may carry objects within a mekom petur for as long and far as he wishes.

However, since a mekom petur is in some ways similar to a reshut ha-rabim – as the masses may make use of both types of areas – the Sages safeguarded the Torah and declared that any open area that is not a reshut ha-yaĥid shall be called a karmelit and have a status akin to that of a reshut ha-rabim. Thus it is prohibited to carry an object more than four amot in a karmelit, and one may not carry anything from a karmelit to a reshut ha-yaĥid or reshut ha-rabim, and vice versa.

The only places that are still called a mekom petur are those that are not fit for significant use, such as rocks that are higher than three tefaĥim (about 23 cm) and also less than four tefaĥim wide (about 30 cm). One may carry something from a mekom petur into a reshut ha-yaĥid or reshut ha-rabim, and vice versa. Such a mekom petur was not included in the decree because it is fundamentally different from the other domains. Since it is over three tefaĥim high, it is distinct from the ground, and since it is less than four tefaĥim wide, it is not big enough to be significant. Therefore, no one will make the mistake of thinking that if one may carry in an insignificant mekom petur, one may also carry in a larger and more significant place.[2]

[2]. A mekom petur can be within a reshut ha-rabim. The poskim disagree whether a mekom petur can be within a karmelit. Some say that since a karmelit started out as a mekom petur but the Sages categorized it as a karmelit, any mekom petur within it is subsumed by its karmelit status, and is treated as a karmelit (Ran, Hagahot Maimoniyot, Tur, and Beit Yosef quoting Rambam). Others maintain that since a karmelit has the status of reshut ha-rabim, if there is an area within it that is more than three tefaĥim high and less than four tefaĥim wide, that area is a mekom petur (Rashi, Magid Mishneh quoting Rashba, Me’iri, and Rabbeinu Yeruĥam). But, within a reshut ha-yaĥid, all agree there cannot be a mekom petur, because the fence that surrounds the reshut ha-yaĥid makes everything within it part of the reshut ha-yaĥid (Rema 345:19; BHL s.v. “Ran” and “ve-yesh ĥolkim”).A reshut ha-rabim extends only to the height of ten tefaĥim. If one takes an object in hand and walks on a tightrope or beam that is set up above a reshut ha-rabim, he is not transgressing the prohibition of carrying, because the space above ten tefaĥim is considered a mekom petur. However, there is a disagreement regarding the law relating to a table that is over ten tefaĥim high and four tefaĥim wide that is standing in a reshut ha-rabim or a karmelit. According to SA 345:16, since there are no walls to turn it into a reshut ha-yaĥid, it is considered a karmelit, while according to MB 345:66 and the Vilna Gaon (based on a number of Rishonim), it is defined as a mekom petur because there is no such thing as a karmelit or a reshut ha-rabim above ten tefaĥim. SHT ad loc. 68 states that R. Yosef Karo recanted (R. Elimelech Lange, Hilkhot Eruvin, p. 20).

04. The Reason Behind the Prohibition of Carrying Four Amot in a Reshut Ha-Rabim

As we have seen, one may not transport objects from one domain to another. Within a private domain, even in a large house with many rooms, one may move objects around freely, because the entire reshut ha-yaĥid is considered one domain. Moving items within it is not considered transporting them from one domain to another. In contrast, in a reshut ha-rabim, one may move an object within his four amot. Since a reshut ha-rabim is communal, each individual may make use of only the four amot he occupies. Four amot is enough space for one to lie down with arms and legs outstretched. If one moves an item outside his four amot, he has moved it from his space to the communal reshut ha-rabim. This is prohibited by Torah law.

From a spiritual perspective, it should be noted that all the confusion and corruption in the world stems from division and dissension. Nations fight one another, people compete with each other, and ideological movements struggle with one another. Thus, tremendous amounts of energy are wasted on strife and contention. Even an individual is often torn between his seemingly contradictory desires. The way to rectify these tensions is to reveal the unity underlying all existence. With belief that one God created the entire world, we can understand that all the different desires in the world are directed toward one goal. Only by following the Torah’s directions can we harmonize them, and thus improve and perfect the world. Now we can understand why the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is considered a major Torah principle: it bridges the world’s fissures and helps us reveal its fundamental unity.

We are now in a position to understand why objects may be carried in a reshut ha-yaĥid. In a sense, a reshut ha-yaĥid is a perfected place. The walls that enclose it give it a unity of purpose. Thus all its rooms and the areas within it are considered in one place, within which items may be carried. In contrast, a reshut ha-rabim has yet to be perfected. It still expresses the different interests of many different people, and the objects found within it are not yet considered in one place. This is why carrying anything more than four amot in a reshut ha-rabim is considered a melakha.

As for a karmelit, on the one hand it is not set aside for public use and does not obviously express different interests. Thus, according to Torah law it is the same as a mekom petur, and carrying in it is not prohibited. On the other hand, since a karmelit is used in a variety of ways by a variety of people, it has something in common with a reshut ha-rabim. Therefore, the Sages decided that a karmelit should be treated like a reshut ha-rabim, and carrying in it is prohibited.

If a reshut ha-rabim is enclosed by a wall or fence, and it has gates that are closed at night, its fundamental unity and common denominator is thus revealed, and it is perfected like a reshut ha-yaĥid. One may thus carry throughout. A karmelit can be perfected even without being enclosed by a fence or wall. A tzurat ha-petaĥ alone suffices to make it the equivalent of a reshut ha-yaĥid in which items may be carried (as explained below, 29:2).

05. The Prohibitions of Carrying on Shabbat

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.

06. Carrying Less than Four Amot in a Reshut Ha-Rabim

We have seen in the previous sections that the prohibition of Hotza’ah includes transporting an object more than four amot in a public domain, since one’s personal space within the public domain is defined as four amot. If he transports an object further, he is deemed to have moved it to a different domain and transgressed Torah law. But within a square of four amot by four amot one may carry. Therefore, only one who carries something a distance greater than the diagonal of a four-amot square (2.58 m) has violated a Torah prohibition, because only then is it clear that he carried outside the permissible area.

By Torah law, one who wants to transport an object within a reshut ha-rabim may carry it a bit less than four amot, stand still in order to establish a new location for the object, then walk again for less than four amot. He can continue in this way – starting and stopping – until he has transported the object wherever he wants it. However, the Sages forbade this lest one end up carrying more than four amot and thus violate Torah law. Even in a karmelit, which is considered a reshut ha-rabim only rabbinically, they forbade carrying an object less than four amot out of concern that one might come to carry more than four amot in a reshut ha-rabim.[5]

However, one who stands to lose his money, such as one who is traveling with a large sum of money when Shabbat begins and has no safe place to hide it, and no non-Jew is available to guard the money or transport it to his home, then in order to prevent his suffering a financial loss the Sages permit the Jew to carry his backpack in the manner discussed in the previous paragraph – starting and stopping, and making sure to walk less than four amot each time (paĥot paĥot mi-daled amot). He may continue this way until he reaches a place where he can safely leave the money. This permission applies even in a reshut ha-rabim. In a karmelit, one may generally carry this way for the sake of a mitzva (SA 266:7, 8; BHL 349:5).[6]

[5]. According to many poskim (Raavad, Ha-Ma’or, Rosh, and others), if many people are there, it is permitted le-khatĥila for each one to carry an item fewer than four amot and pass it to the next person, who will also carry it less than four amot. Using this method, they can transport the object across great distances. Pri Megadim allows this even when there are only two people involved, as long as each one carries the item less than four amot before passing it back to the other person. In contrast, some Rishonim prohibit doing this even with many people (Ramban). These positions are cited by SA 349:3 and BHL s.v. “va-ĥavero.” The Sages permitted carrying tefilin on Shabbat in this manner, if it is necessary in order to keep them safe (SA 301:42).

[6]. If the person who did not make it home before the start of Shabbat was walking nonstop from before Shabbat began, there is another possible solution. He can run until he arrives at his home. Since the akira of the object was done before Shabbat began, in any case he will not violate Torah law. In order to save his money, the Sages allowed him to run to his house, even though this involves transporting an item to a different reshut (ha’avara) and setting it down there (hanaĥa), which are normally prohibited. They ruled that he should run, to ensure that he does not make the mistake of stopping (Shabbat 153b: “He should run, not go gently [i.e., walk]. Why? Since there is nothing to remind him, he may end up performing akira and hanaĥa”). If possible, upon arrival in the reshut ha-yaĥid, he should take off his backpack with a shinui, so as to minimize the prohibition as much as possible (SA 266:11).

07. Carrying in a Mekom Petur

As we have seen (section 3), a mekom petur is an area within a reshut ha-rabim like a stone taller than three tefaĥim (about 23 cm) but less than four tefaĥim wide (about 30 cm). Since a mekom petur is not deemed significant, one may transport an object from a reshut ha-rabim or a reshut ha-yaĥid and place it on a mekom petur, and vice versa.

According to Torah law one may move an object from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim by first removing it from the reshut ha-yaĥid and placing it on the mekom petur and then picking it up from the mekom petur and placing it in the reshut ha-rabim. However, the Sages forbade this lest people make light of Hotza’ah that is prohibited by Torah law as well.

Poskim disagree about whether one may use a mekom petur to transfer an item from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a karmelit or vice versa. Some maintain that it is rabbinically prohibited to transfer items by means of a mekom petur even to a karmelit. Even though all the prohibitions of carrying in a karmelit are rabbinic, the Sages did not differentiate here (Ha-Ma’or, Raavad, and Rosh). Others maintain that only when there is a concern that people will end up violating Torah law by carrying from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a reshut ha-rabim or vice versa is it forbidden to transfer items via a mekom petur, but one may transfer them from a reshut ha-yaĥid to a karmelit in this fashion (Rif and Rambam).

In practice, at times of necessity one may rely on those who are lenient and carry from a reshut ha-yaĥid or a karmelit and vice versa via a mekom petur. This is important for soldiers who are stuck in a place with no eruv on Shabbat. If they want to move something from their tent (which is a reshut ha-yaĥid) to the common area of the encampment (which is a karmelit), they should leave their tent and keep moving until they find a mekom petur on which to place the item. Afterward, they can take it from the mekom petur and put it down in the common area, and vice versa. This should also be the procedure for transferring items from one tent to the next via the common area. The item should be removed from the tent, left on a mekom petur in the common area, and then taken wherever it needs to go.[7]

[7]. This is the most practical solution for soldiers in the Israeli army. The best mekom petur is a rock or a pole that is higher than ten tefaĥim (76 cm) and narrower than four tefaĥim (about 30 cm). However, if this pole or rock is lower than ten tefaĥim, as we saw in n. 2, the poskim disagree about whether it is deemed a mekom petur. Some say that there is no such thing as a mekom petur within a karmelit, while others maintain that it can exist. In times of necessity, soldiers in the army may be lenient (Meshiv Milĥama §5 and §60). Sometimes the only way to arrange a mekom petur is by using a bench that is narrower than four tefaĥim . The problem is that another doubt arises in this case, because Me’iri states that a finished product (kli) cannot be considered a mekom petur (SHT 345:15). But in times of necessity when there is no other solution, a kli that is lower than ten tefaĥim in a karmelit can be considered a mekom petur (Sho’el U-meshiv 4:3:2; Hilkhot Eruvin ch. 1 n. 16).A person’s shoulder: According to Rashba and Tosafot, another person’s body can be considered a mekom petur, on condition that it is higher than ten tefaĥim; a person’s shoulder generally fits this condition. Others say that a person’s body cannot be considered a place, and therefore cannot be a mekom petur (see MB 347:10). In times of necessity when there is no other solution, one may rely upon the lenient position.

08. Reshut Ha-rabim as Defined by Torah Law

The most pressing practical question when dealing with issues of Hotza’ah on Shabbat is whether streets in cities and towns are considered a reshut ha-rabim or karmelit. If streets today are considered a reshut ha-rabim, then it is very difficult to do what is necessary to transform them into a reshut ha-yaĥid. This transformation involves surrounding the entire city with a fence, installing doors in every entranceway, and ensuring that they are all closed at night. Barring this, it would be prohibited to carry in our cities and towns.

In contrast, if streets today are defined as a karmelit (i.e., only rabbinically are they treated as a reshut ha-rabim), then it is relatively easy to transform them into a reshut ha-yaĥid where carrying would be permitted. This transformation involves surrounding the city with a tzurat ha-petaĥ (halakhic doorway), by erecting poles and extending strings between them to form a sort of doorway between every pole (below 29:2-3).

Let us preface our discussion by recalling that the prohibitions of Shabbat are derived from the types of labor performed for the Mishkan. When the Torah commands us to refrain from melakha on Shabbat, it means refraining from Mishkan work, in which the Jews were involved in the desert. If so, then the definition of reshut ha-rabim should also be derived from the Israelites’ desert existence. Since the main thoroughfare in the Israelite camp was sixteen amot wide (7.30 m) in order to enable the passage of the two wagons that transported the different parts of the Mishkan, it follows that only a street equally wide is deemed a reshut ha-rabim. However, Rishonim disagree whether, in order to qualify an area as a reshut ha-rabim, there is also a minimum requirement for the number of people who make use of the street.

Some maintain that any street or marketplace that is open to the public and is sixteen amot wide is considered a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. It makes no difference how many people pass through each day. According to this opinion, the eruvin that we construct nowadays (namely, the type known as tzurat ha-petaĥ) are ineffective, because our cities have streets wider than sixteen amot. Furthermore, according to this position, as long as a city has streets that are sixteen amot wide, a tzurat ha-petaĥ is not effective for the smaller streets either; the existence of a reshut ha-rabim within an area encompassed by a tzurat ha-petaĥ invalidates it. This is the opinion of Rambam, Rabbeinu Tam, Ramban, Rashba, and many others.

Others maintain that since the camp of the Israelites in the desert consisted of 600,000 men, all of whom needed to walk to the Mishkan in order to help build it and to hear the Torah taught by our teacher Moshe, the Kohanim, and the Levi’im, it follows that a reshut ha-rabim is defined as a road or marketplace that is at least sixteen amot wide, and through which 600,000 people pass daily. If fewer people traverse it daily, it is considered a karmelit. This is the opinion of Behag, Rashi, Smag, Rosh, and many others. Within this position, there is an additional debate. Some maintain that an area still qualifies as a reshut ha-rabim even if it is not used by 600,000 daily, but only frequently or even just occasionally. For in the desert, not all the men traveled on the path to the Mishkan every day. In practice, only in megacities such as New York City and Mexico City are there streets traversed by 600,000 people every day. Even most big cities do not have that many people passing through daily. Thus according to this opinion, most streets are not considered a reshut ha-rabim but rather a karmelit. Therefore, carrying there on Shabbat can be permitted with an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type. According to this opinion, today the streets considered a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law are mainly intercity highways. Since these roads are meant to serve everybody, and their use is not limited to people of one city alone, they are considered reshut ha-rabim even if fewer than 600,000 people pass through each day.[8]

[8]. BHL 345:7 lists twelve Rishonim who are lenient and twelve who are stringent. According to the simple reading of SA, one should be stringent. Based on this, a number of Aĥaronim write that le-khatĥila Sephardim must be stringent and not rely on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type (Yalkut Yosef 345:4; Menuĥat Ahava 3:27:10, 59). In contrast, some Aĥaronim (MA, AHS) argue that R. Yosef Karo did not reach a decision, since SA in multiple places seems to follow the lenient position (303:18; 325:2). In the introduction to the second volume of Or Le-Tziyon 1:1:1-2, R. Ben-Zion Abba Shaul explains that R. Karo is stringent in a case of doubt about a Torah law and lenient in a case of doubt about a rabbinic law. Based on this principle, R. Abba Shaul resolves the apparent contradictions in SA. MA and Taz observe that most poskim tend to be lenient here. Therefore, they continue, one may rely on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type to permit carrying in our cities. Many Ashkenazim follow this. Other Aĥaronim write that even though we cannot dissuade those who are lenient, nevertheless it is proper for a one who wishes to act virtuously in the eyes of his Creator to be stringent, since this is a doubt about a Torah law. MB 345:23 states similarly.Regarding the lenient position, some questions have been raised. First, if, indeed, it is necessary to have 600,000 use an area in order for it to be deemed a reshut ha-rabim, how is it possible that this criterion is nowhere mentioned in the Gemara? Second, the Sages decreed that we should not blow the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana if it falls on Shabbat and that we should not shake the lulav on the first day of Sukkot if it falls on Shabbat out of concern that people would carry the shofar or lulav in the public domain (RH 29b). In the time of the Sages, there were no streets with 600,000 people passing through. If a place with fewer than that many people is not considered a reshut ha-rabim, no one could have been carrying in a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. If this is the case, why did they make their decree? Third, if there is no such thing as a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law today, why did they decree (section 14 below) that women not go out with their jewelry, out of concern that they would carry it?

A possible answer is that the reason that the Sages decreed not to blow the shofar or go out with jewelry on Shabbat is that even according to the lenient position, intercity roads are considered reshut ha-rabim regardless of how many people use them, as explained in BHL 345:7 toward the end of s.v. “she-ein.” In the time of the Sages, traveling on intercity roads was common since the cities were small. People would travel from city to city and from village to city on the same roads. The reason for the difference between intracity roads and intercity ones is that the roads outside a city belong to the entire world. Therefore, even if less than 600,000 people traverse an intercity road daily, it still belongs to the public and is considered a reshut ha-rabim. In contrast, a road within a city or adjacent to it belongs to the city residents and is not a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. In such a case, only if 600,000 people traverse it daily is it considered a public road rather than belonging to the city’s residents. Based on this, we can understand why the Sages said that if the gates of Jerusalem had not been locked at night, it would have been a reshut ha-rabim (Eruvin 6b), even though presumably fewer than 600,000 people passed through daily. Since Jerusalem served the entire Jewish people, its streets belonged to all the pilgrims, and thus were comparable to intercity roads. Therefore, had the city not been walled, and had the gates not been locked each night, it would have been deemed a reshut ha-rabim. See more in the next note.

09. In Practice

In practice, most observant Jews follow the lenient position and carry in cities, relying on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type. This leads to an interesting question: given that half of the poskim are stringent, believing that an eruv of the tzurat hapetaĥ type is not sufficient in cities with streets wider than sixteen amot (and that it is irrelevant how many people pass through), how is it that most observant Jews follow the lenient position? After all, it is a case of doubt pertaining to a Torah law, where we are normally stringent.

The simple answer is that in rare cases, when dealing with an issue in which it is very difficult to be stringent, sometimes the custom takes hold to rely on a lenient opinion even though there is a possible Torah violation at stake. Furthermore, it truly is difficult to follow the stringent position here, as that would mean that no one could go out on Shabbat with anything in his pockets, even tissues and the like, which are sometimes necessary. Additionally, families would not be able to visit one another, because one may not push a stroller in a reshut ha-rabim, and there would be no way to bring diapers, bottles, and so on. Since there is no alternative, and given that half of the poskim are lenient, we can rely on the lenient position in this case.

We should add that the poskim are not really evenly divided in this case. As we will see, some poskim ruled that there are additional requirements that must be met in order for an area to be considered a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. If we take these requirements into account, it turns out that according to most poskim, today’s streets would not qualify as a reshut ha-rabim. Therefore, an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type is sufficient. First, according to some poskim, an area is considered a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law only when the street bisects the entire city in a straight line. If it is slightly crooked, it is no longer a reshut ha-rabim. Most cities do not have a main street that is completely straight, and thus we may rely on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type. Second, some poskim feel that since our streets are laid out such that every street is intersected by another street, all the streets are considered enclosed by a wall on three sides. Accordingly, they do not qualify as a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law, and an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type is sufficient (AHS and Ĥazon Ish). There are additional reasons to be lenient, as explained in the notes.

When we combine all these opinions, it turns out that according to the majority of poskim, today’s streets are considered a karmelit, and carrying in them can be permitted with an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type.

Nevertheless, according to many, since a Torah prohibition may be at stake, le-khatĥila it is proper not to rely on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type in a place where there are streets wider than sixteen amot.[9]


[9]. There are four, maybe five reasons that our streets are not considered reshut ha-rabim by Torah law.1) As we have seen, according to half the poskim, if 600,000 people do not traverse an area daily, it is not a public domain. Very few places meet this condition. Even though some maintain that even a street that occasionally has that many passersby is considered a reshut ha-rabim (AHS 345:26; Beit Ephraim, OĤ 26; Hilkhot Eruvin, p. 25 based on the Rishonim’s expression “600,000 found there”), such a street is uncommon as well.

2) According to Rashi and others, a street is only considered a reshut ha-rabim if it bisects the city in an absolutely straight line. Generally, this is not the case. (However, Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:148 rejects this reasoning.)

3) Some (Beit Ephraim, OĤ 26; AHS 345:19-22; Ĥazon Ish, OĤ 107:5-8) state that given the way our streets are laid out, where each street is intersected by another street, all the streets can be considered enclosed by a wall on three sides. For according to Torah law, a wall only needs to be mostly closed. Since buildings line most streets, closing off most of the area, a street is already enclosed by two walls. Since another street intersects it, and this second street also has buildings that are close enough together to be considered a wall, the intersecting street provides the third wall. It turns out that every city street is enclosed by three walls, and thus by Torah law is not deemed a reshut ha-rabim. It is only rabbinically that an enclosure requires four walls and that a wall must be completely closed. Since this is a doubt about a rabbinic law, we can be lenient.

4) One can present a reasonable argument that it is the Sages who decided that an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type is not sufficient to permit carrying in a reshut ha-rabim; by the original Torah law, a tzurat ha-petaĥ is considered a true wall. Thus the entire debate is on the rabbinic level, and when there is a doubt about a rabbinic rule, we are lenient. (BHL presents this in 364:2 as the opinion of Rambam. Even though difficulties have been raised with it, Or Le-Tziyon 1:30 suggests that Rosh as well maintains that a tzurat ha-petaĥ is considered a wall by Torah law, in which case the debate is on the rabbinic level.)

5) Perhaps we may also say that since part of the State of Israel is surrounded by walls on three sides (albeit very distant ones), according to Tosafot they are considered legitimate walls by Torah law, so once again we are faced with a doubt about a rabbinic law (see Harĥavot 29:4:3).

Thus we see that the poskim are not truly evenly divided in this case. Rather, according to most poskim, our streets are not defined as a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. Additionally, it is a sfek sfeika (in fact, there are four uncertainties). According to the rules of halakhic jurisprudence, in such a case the law follows the lenient position.

Some big cities contain streets where 600,000 people indeed pass through every day – not by foot but by car or bus. At first glance, it would seem that carrying in such cities cannot be permitted with an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to suggest that these intracity highways are not considered reshut ha-rabim. For since they are closed to pedestrians, they are not really open to the public. Besides, each car is considered a reshut ha-yaĥid (Yeshu’ot Malko, OĤ 26). Following this reasoning, all would agree that most streets today are not public domains according to Torah law, because once we disqualify the part of a street used by cars, the street is no longer sixteen amot wide. Some disagree with this approach (AHS 345:26; Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:139).

Other objections have been raised to our eruvin. First, if a city contains non-Jews or Jews who desecrate Shabbat, the Sages decreed that they cannot be included in the halakhic partnership on which an eruv is based, and thus it cannot work. See below 29:7 for solutions to this problem. Second, there are often large gardens in cities, larger than beit satayim (see n. 1). These areas disqualify the eruv because they are not designed for walking in. However, in practice, if one may walk in these gardens and there are paths running through them, they do not disqualify the eruv. If the gardens are enclosed by a fence, they also do not disqualify the eruv. Third, Rambam maintains that an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type is not effective if the distance between the poles is greater than ten amot (4.56 m). However, since most poskim disagree with him, and the law is rabbinic, we do not take his position into account. (This is according to the anonymous position cited in SA 362:10.)

Even in an area enclosed by an eruv, some people try to avoid relying on it. For example, when they need to bring a baby or anything else from one house to another via the street, they walk nonstop until they reach their destination. Since there is no hanaĥa in the reshut ha-rabim, according to many this is not considered carrying by Torah law (as explained in n. 3). Doing this adds another rabbinic element to the equation, and it seems that one may thus be lenient even le-khatĥila.

10. Wearing Clothes Is Not Considered Carrying

One may put on his clothes, shoes, and hat, and then enter a reshut ha-rabim, because clothes are secondary to one’s body. As long as one is wearing them, they do not have independent status but are viewed as part of his body. Thus, he is not viewed as carrying them.

Even clothes that are designed to be worn under specific conditions are considered secondary to the body. Therefore, one may wear a plastic raincoat over a coat or galoshes over shoes, since these are examples of normal rain gear. One may also wear two pairs of socks or two shirts, one on top of the other, since in the winter some people do this regularly. Therefore, if one wishes to bring his friend a shirt via a reshut ha-rabim, he can wear it over his own shirt and walk to his friend’s home, even during the summer. However, if he just picks up the shirt or carries it over his shoulder and then enters a reshut ha-rabim, he violates Torah law.[10]

If a woman wants to carry a blanket or tablecloth through the public domain, she may wrap herself in it the way she would wrap herself in a shawl. Even though these items are not themselves clothes, as long as they are worn in the same fashion as clothes, one may enter a different domain with them. Similarly, one who is going to immerse in a mikveh can wrap himself in a towel and walk through a reshut ha-rabim, and one who wants to carry a kerchief may wrap it around his neck like a scarf, and go out (MB 301:133; SSK 18:48). The underlying principle is that one may wear any item in the normal manner of dressing (SA 301:35-36).

The Sages ordained that one should not enter a reshut ha-rabim wearing an item of clothing that is likely to fall off, out of concern that he will end up carrying it four amot in the reshut ha-rabim.[11] In contrast, one may go outside wearing a yarmulke, even if it is not held very firmly in place. Even if it were to fall off, we are not concerned that he would carry it four amot, since a man may not walk four amot without a head-covering. Therefore, if it falls off, we can assume that immediately after picking it up he will replace it (SA 301:7; MB ad loc. 153).

Some maintain that one should not wear gloves in an area without an eruv. After all, if it becomes warm, he might take them off, put them in his pocket, and walk four amot, thus violating Torah law. Le-khatĥila, it is proper to be stringent, but the custom is to be lenient (SA 301:37; see BHL ad loc.).

The poskim disagree about the status of a plastic cover that is made to protect a man’s hat from the rain. Some forbid wearing this cover, arguing that it is not worn in the same way as clothing, and its sole purpose is to protect the hat. Others permit wearing it, maintaining that it is indeed worn in the same way as clothing. One who wishes may be lenient.[12]

[10]. According to SA 301:36, any item of clothing may be worn outside, even if it is worn in an unusual way. For example, one may wear two belts, one on top of the other. Since each belt is put on in the normal way of dressing – it is permitted. However, Rema maintains that this is only considered the normal way of dressing if there are people who sometimes dress that way. Accordingly, one may wear two shirts, one on top of the other, or similarly layer two pairs of socks. In contrast, since no one wears two belts in the manner described above, one may not go outside dressed this way on Shabbat.

[11]. AHS 301:53 maintains that if there is an item of clothing that is technically permissible to wear in a reshut ha-rabim but was rabbinically prohibited (out of concern that one might carry it four amot if it were to fall off, if people were to make fun of it, or if he were to need to remove it to go to the bathroom), that prohibition is applicable only in a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law. The only type of item that the Sages prohibited one to wear even in a karmelit is women’s jewelry (see section 14 below).

[12]. Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:108-110 prohibits going out wearing a plastic hat cover. This is based on SA 301:13-14, which states that items designed to protect clothing are not considered clothing, and thus one may not go out wearing them. Since plastic hat covers are meant to protect hats and not people’s bodies, they are not clothing. They are also not decorative, so they may not be worn on Shabbat. This is also the opinion of Minĥat Yitzĥak 3:26. There is also a concern that once the rain stops, one might remove the hat cover and carry it four amot. However, according to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, a plastic cover that was made especially for a hat and that is not removed when the rain stops can be considered an item of clothing, and one may walk in a reshut ha-rabim wearing it (SSK ch. 18 n. 46). This is also the position of Tzitz Eliezer 10:23 and Yabi’a Omer 5:24. This debate constitutes uncertainty about a rabbinic law, for even those who prohibit agree that it cannot be a Torah prohibition, as this is not the normal way to carry. This is also a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufah. Moreover, according to many poskim, nowadays there is no public domain as defined by Torah law. Accordingly, one may be lenient.

11. Items Deemed Secondary to Clothing

Any items that are normally attached to clothing, such as buttons and pockets, are considered part of the clothing and secondary to the person’s body. Thus there is no prohibition of carrying them. Even though carrying buttons or pouches would be a violation of Hotza’ah, the buttons and pockets that are normally attached to clothing are part of the garment and secondary to it. Manufacturer’s tags are also considered part of the clothing and secondary to it. One may also wear a coat with a hood, even when the hood is not actually being worn but is hanging down behind the person; even though he has no intention of putting it on, the hood is still considered part of the coat. Items attached to clothing for decorative purposes, like buttons on the cuffs of a suit or feathers attached to a hat or another garment, are also considered part of the garment.

Sometimes, extra buttons are sewn into a garment in a hidden area, to be used as replacements in case one loses a button. These buttons are not used to fasten or decorate the garment. Some maintain that since these buttons are not in current use yet are significant, one may not go out with them to a reshut ha-rabim (Ĥayei Adam 56:3). According to most poskim, however, one may go out with them. Since it is standard for these buttons to be attached to an item of clothing, they are considered a part of it and secondary to it. The same debate pertains to a ripped hanging loop, which is sewn into a coat or jacket to allow it to be easily hung up. Normally, the loop is attached and functional like a regular button. However, if one side of the loop rips, it is not in current use. The strict position would say that that it remains significant, and thus one may not go out with such a coat to a reshut ha-rabim. The lenient position would respond that regardless whether one intends to fix the loop, it is not considered significant, and remains secondary to the coat. Thus, one may wear the coat in a reshut ha-rabim. Since the disagreement here relates to a rabbinic prohibition, the halakha follows the lenient position.[13]

[13]. The law of extra buttons is the same as that of a ripped belt loop or buttonhole. According to Ĥayei Adam 56:3, if one intends to fix and reattach it, he renders it significant. Since it currently cannot be used for the button or belt, wearing it outside is considered carrying it. The law would similarly apply to one wearing unfit tzitzit outside, which is a transgression (SA 301:30). This is also the status of a hanging loop that has ripped on one side. Since one can no longer hang the item of clothing from it, one may not wear it in a public domain. This is the position of MB 301:150, and SSK 18:33, 42, and 44 follows it as well. Some suggest that one should resolve not to fix the loop, but rather to throw it away and attach a new one. This way the torn loop is not significant for him, and reverts to being secondary to the clothing. Thus one may wear the clothing in a reshut ha-rabim. Many poskim, though, maintain that these loops are not significant and are always considered secondary to the clothing. They are only considered significant if they are made out of gold, and it would be forbidden to wear them outside if they are not functional. This is the position of SAH 301:47, AHS ad loc. 107, Tehila Le-David §32, and other poskim as quoted in Menuĥat Ahava 3:27:27. In any case, it would seem that even those who prohibit would concede that the prohibition is only rabbinic, since this is not the normal way of carrying, and it is a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufah. Thus, this constitutes an uncertainty about a rabbinic law. (However, further analysis is required before comparing our case to that of unfit tzitzit, which is discussed in SA 301:30. There, one can say that wearing tzitzit on clothing is the normal way to carry them. Furthermore, the act of carrying there is le-tzorekh gufah; it is for the sake of the tzitzit itself, as the mitzva requires the tzitzit to be attached to the clothing that one then wears outside. Even if the tzitzit are disqualified, the person wishes to bring them home in order to fix them, so he is carrying them in the normal fashion. All this is not true of our case, in which the person walks around in the clothing without giving a thought to the extra buttons or torn loop. Thus this is not le-tzorekh gufah, nor is anyone accustomed to carrying buttons or loops in this fashion.)

12. Items That Serve the Body – Glasses and Bandages

Just as one may walk in a reshut ha-rabim while wearing clothes because they are deemed secondary to his body, so too one may enter a reshut ha-rabim with other items that serve him, as they too are considered secondary to his body (SA 301:22). For example, one who is hard of hearing may enter a reshut ha-rabim wearing a hearing aid (above 17:3). Similarly, one who is nearsighted may go out wearing glasses, because the glasses are secondary to the body. However, one may not wear sunglasses in a reshut ha-rabim, because there is a concern that when he reaches a shady area he will take them off, put them in his pocket, and carry them. If one needs to wear sunglasses because his eyes are sensitive, and he does not remove them even in the shade, then he may wear them in a reshut ha-rabim. If one has clip-on sunglasses that can simply be flipped up when necessary without being removed from the glasses, he may wear them in a reshut ha-rabim, since there is no concern that one will end up removing and carrying them (see SSK 18:18; Yalkut Yosef 301:35).

If one is wearing an adhesive or cloth bandage to help heal or protect a cut, it is considered serving his body and may be worn in a reshut ha-rabim. Similarly, one with a wounded arm may go out wearing a sling. One whose ear hurts may go out with cotton in it. Bite plates and orthodontic retainers may also be worn. All of these serve the body and are secondary to it (SA 301:28; MB ad loc. 108; SSK 34:29).

13. Canes, Seeing-Eye Dogs, and Wheelchairs

If one is partially disabled and needs a cane to walk, he may walk in a reshut ha-rabim with a cane because the cane has the same status as his shoes – indispensable for walking. However, if he can walk without a cane, even if only with great difficulty, he may not enter a reshut ha-rabim with a cane (SA 301:17).

A blind person, who normally uses a white cane to help him get around, may not use it on Shabbat if he can manage without it; in such a case, the cane is considered a burden and may not be used where there is no eruv (SA 301:18). If he cannot manage without it, for example, if he needs to navigate an unfamiliar neighborhood, he may go out with his cane (AHS 301:72).[14]

A blind person may enter the public domain with a seeing-eye dog. Even though he is holding onto the harness attached to the dog, this is not prohibited. Since the harness is always attached to the dog, it is secondary to its body, and there is no problem of carrying (Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:45; Menuĥat Ahava 3:27:49; see SSK ch. 18 n. 62 and above 20:2).

One who is wheelchair-bound and propels the wheelchair manually may go out in the public domain with the wheelchair, as the wheelchair is considered comparable to his shoes (SA 30:16-17; Igrot Moshe, OĤ 4:90). However, if the disabled person is unable to propel himself, he may not be pushed, just as a baby who cannot walk may not be carried in the public domain or a karmelit (MB 308:153). For the sake of a mitzva, though, a non-Jew may be asked to push someone in a wheelchair. This is classified as a shvut di-shvut, which is permissible for a great need and for the sake of a mitzva (above 9:11).[15]

[14]. Nowadays the blind are taught to use a white cane, and so they feel unable to manage without one even in familiar areas. Thus it may be permissible for them to enter a reshut ha-rabim with a cane even in a familiar area.

[15]. Some question the permissibility of a disabled person propelling himself in a wheelchair on Shabbat (Har Tzvi, OĤ 1:170; SSK 34:27). The concern is that even if the disabled person is able to propel the wheelchair himself, it might still not be considered secondary to him. However, the primary position is the lenient one. See Yalkut Yosef 301:56; Piskei Teshuva 301:9.

Many maintain that one may only ask a non-Jew to push a disabled person in a wheelchair in a karmelit, because, according to them, the chair is not secondary to the person, and thus pushing it is prohibited by Torah law. Thus in a reshut ha-rabim there is only one shvut involved (Ĥelkat Yaakov 1:66; Minĥat Yitzhak 2:114:6; Nishmat Avraham 301:16, n. 1). Nevertheless, there is room to say that a disabled person’s wheelchair is secondary to him. Accordingly, since “a living being carries itself,” moving him is only rabbinically prohibited. This case is comparable to that of a bedridden person, about whom the Talmud states that carrying him in a reshut ha-rabim is only rabbinically prohibited (Shabbat 93b). Thus, one may ask a non-Jew to push the disabled person even in a reshut ha-rabim. This is the position of Rabbi Peretz (Otzar Piskei Eruvin §38). It can also be argued that the status of the disabled is similar to that of the ill, for whom the Sages permitted transgressing the rabbinic prohibition of having melakha performed by a non-Jew.

14. Jewelry

As we have seen, the prohibition of Hotza’ah does not apply to items that are secondary to the body. Therefore, one may go out in a reshut ha-rabim wearing all types of clothing. Following this line of reasoning, it would seem that jewelry, which is used to beautify a person, should be considered secondary to the body as long as it is worn on the body or clothes, and should not present a problem of Hotza’ah.

Nevertheless, the Sages were concerned that a woman might want to show her friend her jewelry and thus remove it, hold it, forget about Shabbat, and walk four amot in the public domain, thus violating Torah law. Therefore, the Sages prohibited wearing all jewelry that one might want to show someone else. This includes earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, and headbands.

However, since the time of the Rishonim, women customarily go out wearing jewelry on Shabbat. The poskim disagree regarding why this has been the case. Some say that while it is true that technically it is rabbinically prohibited, the rabbis did not try to prevent the practice when it became widespread, because they came to the conclusion that even if they were to protest, the women would not change their ways. Therefore, the rabbis preferred not to publicize the prohibition, as it is better that people transgress unknowingly rather than knowingly.

Other poskim try to provide some justification for the practice, explaining that the reason for the rabbinic prohibition was the concern that people would end up carrying four amot in reshut ha-rabim and thus violate Torah law. Nowadays, however, when according to many there is virtually nowhere that meets the criteria of a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law, even if one does end up carrying jewelry, it will not be a Torah transgression. We do not extend the prohibition on going out with jewelry into areas considered reshut ha-rabim rabbinically, as there is a principle that we do not enact a rabbinic safeguard around a rabbinic safeguard.

Others say that since jewelry is more common now, we do not need to worry that a woman will remove her jewelry in the street to show her friends. Therefore, even in an area that is a reshut ha-rabim by Torah law, one may wear jewelry on Shabbat.

Since the entire issue is rabbinic, one may rely on the lenient opinions. Indeed, women customarily go out wearing jewelry even where there is no eruv.[16]

[16]. According to Rif and Rambam, in any area other than a reshut ha-yaĥid, a woman may not wear jewelry that she might remove. This is also the primary position cited in SA 103:18. Accordingly, there is no way to permit going out today wearing jewelry (Rosh and Ran). If so, the reason we do not object to this practice is because it is preferable that people transgress unknowingly rather than knowingly. Ramban and Rashba take this a step further and maintain that one should not wear jewelry even in a courtyard where there is an eruv, because one might forget and wear it in a reshut ha-rabim. In contrast, based on Tosafot, Shabbat 64b, Sefer Ha-Teruma maintains that nowadays, when there are no public domains that meet the Torah’s criteria, there is no prohibition against wearing jewelry. (However, as I explained in n. 8, all would agree that intercity highways are reshut ha-rabim even today. Thus we must ask why those Rishonim were not concerned about this. It would seem that in the times of the Rishonim, women were not accustomed to travel between cities, while in the earlier times of the Sages they had been accustomed to do so. Therefore, the Sages decreed that women may not go out wearing jewelry, but later the Rishonim were less concerned.) R. Shimshon writes in the name of Rabbeinu Sar Shalom that since it has become much more common than it used to be for women to wear jewelry, women are no longer accustomed to removing jewelry to show one another in reshut ha-rabim; therefore a woman may go out nowadays wearing jewelry. This is the common practice. Nevertheless, some maintain that le-khatĥila it is still preferable to be stringent and not wear jewelry in an area without an eruv.It should be noted that there were specific types of jewelry that the Sages prohibited wearing on Shabbat. This was because women customarily immersed in wells and streams to purify themselves after menstruation, and the Sages were concerned that prior to immersion they might remove their jewelry and carry it four amot to the immersion place. However, Orĥot Ĥayim points out (Hilkhot Shabbat §261) that nowadays immersion is done in a mikveh, which is in a reshut ha-yaĥid, so the concern no longer applies. This can justify the current practice of wearing jewelry on Shabbat (SSK ch. 18 n. 55).

15. Watches, Keys, Identity Cards, and Medications

The poskim disagree about the status of a watch. Some maintain that only if it is decorative like jewelry may it be worn in the public domain. The test for whether it can be considered decorative is what the owner does if the watch stops. If he would take it off, it indicates that the watch is not jewelry and is used only to tell time. Since that use is not for the sake of his body, wearing the watch in the public domain is considered carrying and is prohibited on Shabbat. In contrast, if the owner leaves it on even when it has stopped because it is decorative (for example, if it is made of gold), then it is deemed jewelry and may be worn in the public domain.

Many poskim maintain that since a watch is worn on the body as is clothing – a person without a watch feels as if he is not fully dressed, and the normal use of a watch is while it is on the body – it follows that the watch is secondary to the body. Thus it is considered like an item of clothing or jewelry, which may be worn on Shabbat in a reshut ha-rabim. The primary opinion is the lenient one, but one who chooses to be stringent should be commended.[17]

A serious problem arises for people who live in or visit an area without an eruv. What can they do when they leave the house and need to take a key with them? The solution is to use the key as a belt buckle. This means one should take a shoelace and thread it through the key, tie it with a bow knot, and put it on as a belt, so that the key will serve as a buckle. In this way one may wear the key in the public domain (SSK 18:49-50; see n. 10 above).

There are places where people must carry an identity card or passport on their person at all times. If someone there must go out on Shabbat for a great need or for the sake of a mitzva, he should carry the passport or identity card with a shinui. For example, he may place it under his hat, or inside his shirt where it is held up by his belt. In this way, one does Hotza’ah via a shvut di-shvut, which he may do for a great need or for the sake of a mitzva (above 9:11).

Similarly, if a doctor has ordered a patient not to leave the house without carrying a certain medication, the patient may go out for a great need or for the sake of a mitzva, as long as he carries the medicine with a shinui. One who must rely on this leniency should try not to come to a stop in the reshut ha-rabim until he reaches the reshut ha-yaĥid that is his final destination (SSK 40:7; n. 3 above).[18]

In a place without an eruv, if life-and-death security concerns demand that people carry a gun and a cell phone, these items may be taken along on normal Shabbat activities. The phone should be carried with a shinui, but the gun should be carried normally, as carrying it with a shinui could be dangerous. One may not go out on Shabbat with a gun or a walkie-talkie just for an outing. This rule will be explained in detail later on (27:17).

[17]. SSK 18:27 follows the first opinion but adds that those who are lenient have grounds for their leniency. Yaskil Avdi 7:19 and Le-horot Natan 4:26 state similarly. It seems that Minĥat Yitzĥak 1:67 is stringent even when a watch is made of gold. In contrast, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is lenient, as cited in SSK ch. 18 n. 113. Similarly, Igrot Moshe states that the primary ruling permits wearing a watch (OĤ 1:111). This is also the opinion of Yeĥaveh Da’at 3:23 and Menuĥat Ahava 3:27:33. In an area enclosed by an eruv, even those who are normally stringent and do not rely on an eruv of the tzurat ha-petaĥ type for streets wider than sixteen amot are lenient to allow wearing a watch there.

[18]. First, everyone agrees that the shinui renders the prohibition rabbinic in this case. Second, for those who maintain that there is no reshut ha-rabim today, this becomes a shvut di-shvut. Third, Maharash Engel 3:43 explains that this act of carrying is a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufah, because the person does not need the identity card for its own sake (le-gufah), but only to protect himself. However, it is difficult to claim that one who must carry medication does not need the medicine for its own sake (see Tzitz Eliezer 13:34). According to those who maintain that there are areas that qualify as reshut ha-rabim even nowadays, there is less room for leniency. Thus, it is proper when carrying medication to avoid stopping in reshut ha-rabim, as explained above in n. 3 (see Nishmat Avraham 301:2, n. 1). Le-khatĥila, one should not stop when carrying an identity card either.

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