ד׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ג (October 20, 2012)

Shabbat 17a-b: Must Objects Rest on Shabbat?

In the Mishna on today’s daf we find a fundamental disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding the following question: Must one begin refraining from actions prohibited on Shabbat on Shabbat eve or may one initiate an action prior to Shabbat, even if he knows that it will continue on its own on Shabbat itself? The source of this dispute is the Biblical passage that prohibits creative activity on Shabbat not only for household members, but also for animals that belong to a Jewish person (see Shmot 20:9, Devarim 5:13). Beit Shammai extrapolate this idea to obligate a person in shevitat kelim – that a person’s objects must “rest” on Shabbat, that is, he cannot derive benefit from work performed by objects and implements belonging to him on Shabbat – a concept rejected by Beit Hillel.

The Mishna teaches: Beit Shammai say: One may only soak dry ink in water and dry plants, which produce dyes, in water and vetch for animal food to soften them in water on Shabbat eve, adjacent to Shabbat, if there is clearly sufficient time for them to soak for their designated purpose while it is still day, before Shabbat begins, and their continued soaking on Shabbat will have no effect. And Beit Hillel permit doing so. Beit Shammai say: One may only place bundles of combed flax inside the oven on Shabbat eve if there is sufficient time so that they will be heated while it is still day. And one may only place wool  into the dyer’s kettle if there is sufficient time for the wool to absorb the dye while it is still day. And Beit Hillel permit doing so.
Beit Shammai say: One may spread traps for an animal and birds and fish only if there is sufficient time remaining in the day for them to be trapped in them while it is still day, and Beit Hillel permit doing so even if there is not sufficient time remaining in the day.

Beit Shammai say: One may not give skins to a gentile tanner, nor clothes to a gentile launderer, unless there is sufficient time for work on them to be completed while it is still day, before Shabbat begins. And in all of them Beit Hillel permit doing so with the sun, i.e., as long as the sun is shining on Friday.

The halakha follows the opinion of Beit Hillel, so on Shabbat eve, while it is still day, it is permissible for a Jew to give an item to a gentile so that the gentile will perform one of the labors prohibited on Shabbat on his behalf. However, the Jew may not insist that he perform the labor specifically on Shabbat. In addition, if the gentile is a regular employee of the Jew it is prohibited (Rambam Sefer Zemanim, Hilkhot Shabbat 6:19; Shulḥan Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 244:1).

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