Friday, April 19, 2013

SHABBAT: Carrying an object outdoors

 Last Friday we began our overview of the melakha (=an activity which is forbidden to perform on Shabbat) named "hotza-a", i.e., carrying, transferring an object from one domain to another domain.   The Rabbis distinguished between four different domains. 1. reshut ha-yahid a private domain , 2. reshut ha-rabbim, a public domain, 3. karmelit , the semipublic domain, and  4. meqom petor,  the exempted domain They specified case by case, in detail and at length all the different situations and laws pertaining to each category. 

There is one particular case on which we will focus our attention first, because in our days and our urban reality, this is probably the most practical case: carrying an object within a public domain, which is also considered part of this melakha (MT Shabbat,  12:8).   
But why would carrying an object in the public domain be considered as transferring it from one domain to another domain? Although this is classified as a legal axiom (Halakha leMoshe miSinai), the reasoning behind it is the following:  according to Jewish law a person standing in the public domain is deemed to create around himself a sort of a personal private domain in the area around his body. It is an abstract  perimeter of authority and liability. Jewish Law defines the area of this domain as a square of approximately six feet by six feet, each side (visually, and to be more precise,  it is the length of the person when he lays down on the floor with his arms extended. Thus, this square is slightly different in size from person to person).  Now, if for example two people, Mr A and Mr B, see a lost object in the street and both claim possession on that object, if the object happens to be within six feet of Mr A, he has the legal right to keep this object.  

So, the six feet perimeter around me is an abstract reshut hayahid, i.e., my private domain within the public domain.  Now, this area is re-created anew every time the person rests on another spot of the public domain.  Therefore, if I carry an object from my present perimeter (Area 1) into an area more than  six feet away (Area 2) it is like transferring an object from one domain to another domain.  Consequently, for example, I am permitted to transport an object in the street within my own six feet: if I take my glasses off, I can carry them within my six feet but not beyond six feet.    

(to be continued...)

Shabbat Shalom. 
Candle lighting in NYC:  7.19 pm

Shabbat Ends in NYC:  8.20 pm