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Shabbat Parshat Shelach

Shabbat Mevarchim Tammuz

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In the Torah portion of Shelach, we read the story of the Mekoshesh,[1] the Jew who desecrated Shabbat in the desert by publicly collecting sticks. Although some say that he had a good intention Рto teach the Jewish people the seriousness of the laws of Shabbat, he was put to death.[2]  There are various opinions as to precisely how the Mekoshesh violated the Shabbat:
  • Some say he uprooted sticks from the ground. This is related to the melacha (labor) of kotzer (harvesting).[3]
  • Some say he was gathering the sticks.[4] This is the melacha of me’amer (gathering).
  • Others say he carried the sticks four amot (cubits) in the public domain.[5]
In connection with the third opinion, this article will discuss the various laws relating to carrying on Shabbat.
Carrying on Shabbat
One of the forbidden labors on Shabbat is hotza’ah – carrying out from a private domain to a public domain or carrying from a public domain into a private domain.[6] In addition, there is an oral law which Moshe Rabeinu received at Mount Sinai that carrying four amot in the public domain is included in this melacha and is thus forbidden by Torah law.[7] By Rabbinic law, one may also not carry from a semi-public area, known as a karmelit, to a public or a private domain or vice versa. (The precise definition of a karmelit is beyond the scope of this article.)
Defining Private and Public Domain
The Torah’s definition of a public vs. a private domain is not related to the ownership of the property. Rather, an area surrounded by four walls (as explained in the Code of Jewish Law), is considered a private domain regardless of whether or not it has an owner. While an area that is open to the public and is not enclosed by walls is considered a public domain.[8]
Using an Eiruv
In many neighborhoods with high concentrations of religious Jews (may they increase!) an eiruv is constructed in order to transform the public domain into a private one and thereby enable people to carry. The method of how to construct an eiruv and how it effects this transformation is beyond the scope of this article. For various reasons (which are also beyond the scope of this article), some people do not rely on eiruvin (plural of eiruv).
This article will discuss halachot for a neighborhood that does not have an eiruv or for people who do not use an eiruv. Even if one uses the eiruv where he lives, there are occasions he will be in a place where there is no eiruv, so these halachot are important to know and to teach to one’s children.
If One Doesn’t Use the Eiruv
Even if one is strict and does not use the eiruv, he may be able to rely on it in terms of wearing some of the items which some allow and some forbid as discussed below. This is only true is the eiruv is under the ongoing supervision of a rabbi who is an expert in the (complex) laws of eiruvin. One should discuss the details of this matter with their rabbi.
Layers of Clothing
Wearing clothing is not considered carrying on Shabbat as one’s clothing is considered tafel (secondary) to the wearer.[9] One may even wear two (or more) of the same articles of clothing simultaneously as this is considered a usual way to wear clothing since some people do this when they are cold. Thus, one may do this even if his intent is to bring the clothing to a friend in another location.[10]
Two Belts
Some say one may also wear two belts simultaneously. Others say it is not considered usual to wear two belts, one directly on top of the other, and as such one may not wear them in this manner on Shabbat. In practice, one should be strict and follow the latter opinion. If, however, there is a garment between the two belts, it is permissible to wear them as each belt serves the function of keeping a garment in place.[11]
For this reason, Rav Moshe Feinstein forbids one to wear a gartel (ritual belt worn for prayer) in a public domain on Shabbat unless it is securing a garment such as a jacket[12] or a kapota (frock coat).[13]
The sages forbade wearing certain items if it might in some way cause a person to carry it on Shabbat. Here are some examples of this:
Some permit wearing gloves on Shabbat while others forbid it because one might remove them in the public domain and carry them, forgetting that it is Shabbat. It is proper to be strict regarding this[14] although the custom of many is to be lenient.[15] If it is extremely cold, however, some say it is certainly permissible to wear gloves[16] since it is highly unlikely one would take off his gloves in frigid weather.[17] If the gloves are sewn (or tied with a permanent knot) onto one’s sleeves, it is permissible to wear them as, even if one were to remove the gloves, he would not end up carrying them in the usual way.[18]
Loose and Reserve Buttons
The Mishnah Berurah writes that if one has a loose button on a garment that does not serve its function and he is planning to repair it, one may not wear that garment outside on Shabbat. The same applies to a broken clasp or torn loop: if one is planning to repair it, it is considered important and thus not secondary to the garment, and so the garment may not be worn.[19]Although some disagree[20] with this ruling, it is proper to be strict.[21]
One should not walk outside on Shabbat while wearing a garment that has reserve buttons sewn into it as these buttons do not serve any purpose in the garment at this time.[22] Some are lenient and permit this.[23]
Belts and Suspenders
If one has a belt that is attached to a garment with loops which usually stay in the garment (e.g., a robe or a winter coat that has a belt), one may wear that garment in the public domain on Shabbat even if the belt is not tied.[24] Some are strict in this regard and say one should tie the belt before going out into a public domain.[25]
One may not walk outside with suspenders that are hanging from one’s pants instead of actually holding them up.[26]
Canes and Crutches
One who absolutely needs a cane, a walker, or crutches to be able to walk may use them on Shabbat in the public domain, whereas one who can walk unaided but needs a cane to steady his steps may not use it in the public domain on Shabbat.[27]
One who is wheelchair-bound may push himself in a wheelchair on Shabbat in a public domain, but others may not push him. Some are strict and forbid even pushing oneself. Certainly, he may not carry anything in his pockets or have anything hanging from his wheelchair.[28]
Hearing Aids
Some say one may not walk outside while wearing a hearing aid on Shabbat.[29] Others are lenient and permit it if it is well attached to one’s ear and there is no possibility that it will fall off.[30]
Reading Glasses and Sunglasses
One may not wear reading glasses while walking in the public domain on Shabbat.[31] The same is true of non-prescription sunglasses unless one’s eyes are sensitive and he was instructed by a doctor to wear them.[32]
One should not wear a watch in a public domain on Shabbat[33] unless it is a fancy watch which he considers to be a piece of jewelry. It is defined as a piece of jewelry if one would wear the watch even when it is not working, because of its attractive appearance.[34]
Dry Cleaner’s Tag
If one is bothered by a cleaner’s tag that is on a garment and plans to remove it, one should remove it before Shabbat as some say it is forbidden to walk out with it into the public domain. If it does not bother him, he may leave it on the garment on Shabbat as well.[35]
There are many more halachot relating to this matter which I hope, with G-d’s help, to discuss another time.
May we soon merit to the time of everlasting Shabbat!

[1] Some say that this was Tzelofchod whose daughters later inherited his portion (Rabbi Akiva in Shabbat, 96b, see Numbers, 27:1-11). Some say that his actual name was mekoshesh (Pirush Rabeinu Hillel on the Sifri, quoted in Torah Shleima).
[2] Numbers, 15:32 – 36
[3] Talmud Yerushalmy, Sanhedrin, 5:1 and the Braita in Shabbat 96b. See Rambam, Laws of Shabbat, 8:3 that tolesh (plucking fruit) is a tulda (secondary labor) of kotzer (harvesting).
[4] Rav Acha bar Yaakov in Shabbat ibid
[5] Ibid, in the name of Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel
[6] Carrying out to the public domain (hotza’ah) is considered the av (primary labor that was done in the tabernacle) while carrying into the private domain is called hachnosa and is considered to be a tulda (secondary labor). See Shabbat, ibid. But see Rambam, laws of Shabbat, 12:8 and Lechem Mishnah.
[7] Shabbat, ibid
[8] See O.C. 345 at length that some say that, in order to be considered a public domain by Torah law, an area must be transversed by 600,000 every day.
[9] See Biur Halacha on 301:7 D.H Kol HaYotzei
[10] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 301:42
[11] Ibid
[12] See Piskei Teshuvot, 301:45 and notes 311 and 312 that Rav Binyomin Zilber (Brit Olam, Meleachet Hamotei, ot 15 and 16) says that since it is only usual for people to wear their gartels over their jackets when they are davening, one should not wear it in the street on Shabbos as it is not considered a (usual) article of clothing. But see Minchat Yitzchak, vol. 5:41 who argues with this premise and says that one may wear a gartel over a jacket in the street. He advises that one who wishes to be strict should unbutton his jacket so that the gartel serves the function of keeping his jacket closed. Both agree that one may wear a gartel over their kapota) since many people keep their gartels on their kapotas for as long as they are wearing the kapota, not only during davening.
[13] Igrot Moshe, vol. 5, O.C. 46
[14] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 301:44
[15] Mishnah Berurah, 301:141
[16] Aruch HaShulchan, 301:105
[17] Piskei Teshuvot, 301:48
[18] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ibid, Biur Halacha D.H. Shyitferem, on 301:37
[19] Mishnah Berurah, ibid, 150 in the name of the Chayei Adam. See also Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ibid, 47. The Ketzot HaShulchan 105, note 26 explains the reason for those who are lenient regarding this.
[20] Aruch HaShulchan, ibis, 107
[21] Piskei Teshuvot, ibid, 51
[22] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato, 18:30. Rav Yehudah Kalman Marlow obm, the Rav of Crown Heights, once instructed me to walk home without a shirt rather than wear a shirt that has reserve buttons on them (A.C.)
[23] Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on ibid, note 131
[24] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato, 18:29
[25] Sources quoted in Piskei Tshuvot, note 345
[26] Piskei Teshuvot, note 347
[27] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 301:13
[28] Piskei Teshuvot, ibid, 23
[29] Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato, 34:28
[30] Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in ibid, note 108 is unsure about this. See other sources cited in Piskei Teshuvot, ibid, 28
[31] Shmirat Shabbat Kehlichato, 18:16
[32] Ibid, 18
[33] Ibid, 27. But see there note 108 that Rav Moshe Feinstein permits wearing an ordinary watch but recommends that a G-d fearing person refrain from doing so.
[34] Ibid, 27
[35] Piskei Teshuvot, ibid, 33
Wishing You all a Shabbat Shalom!
Aryeh Citron

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