ט״ו בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (November 29, 2012)

Shabbat 57a-b: How to Define “Carrying” on Shabbat

By Torah law, it is prohibited to carry a burden from domain to domain on, and it is similarly prohibited to carry an object four cubits in the public domain. Clearly, one’s clothing is not considered a burden in this sense, and one who wears clothing in the typical fashion is not considered to be carrying a burden on.

This principle requires clarification and specification: What items fall under the rubric of clothing? Not every item that a person wears on his body is clothing per se, and not every garment is typically worn. In a certain sense an ornament is like clothing; however, what items fall under the rubric of ornament? Are there objective criteria that determine whether or not an item is an ornament, or perhaps that determination is totally dependent on the individual taste of the one who places the ornament on his person? Furthermore, there are different items that one might bear on his body, e.g., bandages, prosthetic limbs, and other medical equipment, including amulets, which are neither ornaments nor clothing. In order to determine whether or not one may go out with these items into the public domain, the question as to whether they are considered either an integral part of the person bearing them or his garments must be resolved.

With regard to these issues, were also concerned lest an ornament or some other valuable item fall from the person wearing it and lest a woman come to show her ornaments to another. In those cases, the person from whom an object fell or the woman wearing the ornament may come to carry the object in their hand in a manner not comparable to wearing clothing. This would violate the prohibition against carrying out on. Clearly, this concern does not exist with regard to all people or all items.

The first Mishna in the sixth perek lists items that a woman may or may not carry into, or wear in the public domain on. This depends on whether the particular object is considered an ornament, which she may wear, or merely a burden for the woman, which she may not. Even if it is considered an ornament, there is still concern that she might remove it and carry it in her hand in the public domain, which is prohibited by Torah law.

The Mishna teaches:

A woman may neither go out with strings of wool, nor with strings of flax, nor with strips of any other materials that a woman braids in the hair of her head.

Some explain that it is prohibited to go out with woolen strings on because the strings are not braided into the hair but simply rest upon it. Therefore, one needs only to loosen them in order to remove them (Rosh).

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