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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 123a

An article whose function is a forbidden labour is permitted when required for itself.

Abaye raised an objection to Rabbah: A mortar,1  if containing garlic, may be moved;2  if not, it may not be moved?3  — The author of this is R. Nehemiah, he replied, who maintains, A utensil may be handled only for the purpose of its [normal] use.4  He objected to him: Yet both hold alike that if he has [already] cut meat upon it, it may not be handled?5  — He thought of answering him that this agrees with R. Nehemiah, but when he heard R. Hinena b. Shalmia's dictum in Rab's name: All agree in respect of the dyer's pins, tubs, and beams:6  since one is particular about them he appoints a [special] place for them; so here too one appoints a special place for it [the pestle].7

It was stated, R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: We learnt [in our Mishnah] of a goldsmith's hammer; R. Shaman b. Abba said: We learnt of a spice hammer. He who says a spice [hammer], all the more so a goldsmith's [hammer].8  He who says a goldsmith's, — but one is particular about a spice [hammer].9

A REED OR A WHORL, etc. Our Rabbis taught: If an unripe fig was hidden in straw,10  or a cake which was hidden in live coals,11  and part thereof is uncovered, it may be handled;12  but if not, it may not be handled. R. Eleazar b. Taddai said: One impales them on a reed or a whorl, and they [the straw or coals] are shaken off of their own accord. R. Nahman said: The halachah is as R. Eleazar b. Taddai. Shall we say that R. Nahman holds, Indirect13  handling is not designated handling?14  Surely R. Nahman said: 'A radish, if it is the right way up, is permitted; if it is reversed,15  it is forbidden.16  — R. Nahman retracted from that [ruling].

A SMALL NEEDLE TO REMOVE A THORN, etc. Raba son of Rabbah sent to R. Joseph: Let our Master teach us, What of a needle from which the eye or the point has been removed?17  We have learnt it, he replied: A SMALL NEEDLE TO REMOVE A THORN: now, what does it matter to the thorn whether it has an eye or not? He [thereupon] put an objection to him: If the eye or the point of a needle is removed, it is clean?18  — Said Abaye: You oppose defilement to the Sabbath! [For] defilement we require a working utensil,19  [whereas] in respect to the Sabbath we require anything that is fit, and this too is fit for removing a splinter. Raba observed, He who raises the objection does so rightly: since it is not a utensil in respect to defilement, it is not a utensil in respect to the Sabbath.

An objection is raised: A needle, whether with or without an eye, may be handled on the Sabbath, while one with an eye was specified only in respect to defilement?20  — Abaye interpreted it on the view of Raba as referring to unfinished utensils, for sometimes he may decide to use it thus and make it rank as a utensil; but if the eye or point is removed one throws it away among the rubbish.21

Causing a new-born babe to vomit,22  R. Nahman forbids, while R. Shesheth permits. R. Nahman said: Whence do I rule thus? Because we learnt: One must not use an emetic23

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. For pounding garlic.
  2. On account of the garlic, to which the mortar is merely subsidiary.
  3. Since its essential function is forbidden, it may not be moved even for a permitted purpose, which refutes Rabbah.
  4. V. supra 36a. Whereas our Mishnah disagrees with R. Nehemiah.
  5. The reference is to a pestle: Beth Shammai rule that it must not be handled on a Festival for cutting meat thereon, because its normal use, sc. pounding, is forbidden on a Festival; Beth Hillel permit it, so as not to hinder the joy of the Festival. But if the meat has already been cut upon it, so that the permissive reason no longer holds good, Beth Hillel admits that it may not be handled.
  6. Rashi and Jast.
  7. Whence it is not to be moved for any other purpose but its own. This lays a stronger prohibition upon it; hence it may not be handled.
  8. That it may be used, and the more so is an ordinary smith's hammer — in agreement with Rabbah.
  9. Not to use it for anything else, lest it become too soiled for subsequent use on spices.
  10. For it to ripen. Straw is mukzeh for making bricks.
  11. Before the Sabbath.
  12. Since the straw or the coals themselves need not be handled.
  13. Lit., 'from the side'.
  14. V. supra 43b.
  15. Lit., 'from top to bottom … from bottom to top'.
  16. The reference is to a detached radish stored in loose earth in the ground: if it is the right side up, one may pull it out, because since the top of the radish is broader than the bottom he does not dislodge any earth; but if reversed, the loose soil will naturally cave in, hence it is tantamount to handling the soil and is forbidden, though it is only indirect handling.
  17. Does it still rank as a utensil and permitted to be handled on the Sabbath?
  18. Which shows that it is not a utensil.
  19. But if the eye or point is removed the needle is no longer a utensil.
  20. V. supra 52b. This refutes Raba.
  21. Not regarding it as a utensil at all.
  22. By inserting the finger in its mouth in order to relieve it of its phlegm (Jast.). Rashi: To manipulate and ease a child's limbs.
  23. In order to leave room for mere food.
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Shabbath 123b

on the Sabbath.1  And R. Shesheth?2  — There it is unnatural, whereas here it is natural3  R. Shesheth said, Whence do I rule thus? Because we learnt: A SMALL NEEDLE TO REMOVE A THORN.4  And R. Nahman? — There it is [externally] deposited,5  whereas here it is not [externally] deposited.6


GEMARA. Why so? It is a flat wooden utensil, and these are not susceptible to uncleanness; what is the reason? We require [something] similar to a 'sack'?9  — It was taught in R. Nehemiah's name: When he turns the olives he reverses it and looks at it.10


GEMARA. R. Nahman said: A fuller's trough12  is like the pin of a plough. Abaye said: A cobbler's knife and a butcher's chopper and a carpenter's adze are like the pin of a plough.13

Our Rabbis taught: At first they [the Sages] ruled, Three utensils may be handled on the Sabbath: A fig-cake knife,14  a pot soup ladle,15  and a small table-knife. Then16  they permitted [other articles], and they permitted again [still more], and they permitted still further, until they ruled: All utensils may be handled on the Sabbath except a large saw and the pin of a plough. What is meant by 'then they permitted [other articles], and they permitted again [still more], and they permitted still further'? — Said Abaye: [First] they permitted an article whose function is for a permitted purpose, provided it was required for itself;17  then they further permitted an article whose function is for a permitted purpose, even when its place is required; then they further permitted an article whose function is for a forbidden purpose, provided it was required for itself,18  but not when its place is required. Yet still [these might be handled] with one hand only, but not with two hands,19  until they [finally] ruled, All utensils may be handled on the Sabbath even with both hands. Raba observed to him, Consider: he [the Tanna] teaches, they permitted [other things], what difference is it whether they are required for themselves or their place is needed?20  Rather said Raba: [First] they permitted an article whose function is for a permitted purpose, both when required itself or when its place is required; then they further permitted [it to be moved] from the sun to the shade;21  then they further permitted an article whose function is for a forbidden purpose [to be moved] only when it is required for itself or when its place is required, but not from the sun to the shade. Yet [it might] still [be moved] by one person only, but not by two,22  until thy ruled: All utensils may be handled on the Sabbath, even by two persons.

Abaye put an objection to him: A mortar containing garlic may be handled; if not, it may not be handled?23  — We treat here of [moving it] from the sun to the shade. He refuted him: And both hold alike that if he had cut meat upon it it may not be handled?24  Here too it means from the sun to the shade.

R. Hanina said: This Mishnah25  was taught in the days of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah, for it is written, In those days I saw in Judah some treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves.26

R. Eleazar said: [The laws about] canes, staves, fastenings, and mortar27  were all learnt before the permission re [the handling of] utensils. 'Canes', for we learnt: Neither the placing of the canes nor their removal supersedes the Sabbath.28  'Staves, as we learnt: There were thin smooth staves there, which one placed on his shoulder and his fellow's shoulder, then he suspended [the sacrifice upon them] and skinned it.29  R. Eleazar said: If the fourteenth [of Nisan] fell on a Sabbath, one placed

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. v. infra 147a.
  2. How does he explain that?
  3. Hence it is the same as feeding an infant.
  4. And this is similar.
  5. The thorn is laid in the flesh, as it were, but has not entered the system.
  6. But is within the system, and to bring it out by causing vomiting is like mending a person, which is similar to repairing a utensil (cf. supra 106a).
  7. Used for stirring a mass of maturing olives to see whether they are fit for pressing.
  8. Closing one end of the reed.
  9. Which has a receptacle. The reference is to Lev. XI, 32.
  10. Viz., at the oil which penetrates the hollow reed; for this a bulbous (closed) top is required. which turns the cane into a utensil technically containing a receptacle.
  11. One is very particular not to use these for any purpose but their own, and this makes them mukzeh.
  12. Rashi: (i) A sieve-like perforated tub placed above the linen; water is poured over it, whereby the linen is sprinkled through the holes. Or (ii) the same, the linen being placed inside and incense is burnt underneath, so that the fragrance ascends and perfumes the garments.
  13. They may not be handled.
  14. I.e., for cutting a cake of pressed figs.
  15. [H] (v. infra p. 612, n. 5). Rashi: for removing the scum of the soup.
  16. When they saw that the people became more strict in Sabbath observance.
  17. I.e., when it was required for use, but not when its place was required.
  18. To use it in a permitted labour.
  19. I.e., if too heavy for one hand they might not be handled.
  20. When they permitted the one they would certainly simultaneously permit the other.
  21. To avoid scorching; though here neither the article itself is required For use, nor the place where it lies.
  22. Cf. p. 611, n. 7.
  23. Abaye can explain that it may not be handled when its place only is required, since its normal function is forbidden; but how can Raba explain it?
  24. V. supra a for notes.
  25. Sc. the first ruling which permitted only three utensils to be handled but forbade all others.
  26. Neh. XIII, 15. To counteract this laxity the Rabbis had to be particularly severe. — v. Halevy: Doroth, I, 3, pp. 310-345 for the dates of the Rabbinical enactments, and particularly pp. 344 seqq. for the present passage. Weiss, Dor, I, p. 57, n. 2 argues that the Greek form of the word [H] (this is the form given in Kel. XIII, 2, though it is variously corrupted elsewhere [G] = [G]) proves that this ruling must be much later, certainly not before the Greeks spread in Palestine and the Jews became acquainted with them. This is not conclusive: the original enactment may have employed a Hebrew word which was changed later in the academies, when the Greek form became more familiar.
  27. The Gemara proceeds to state these laws.
  28. Canes were placed between the loaves of showbread, to permit the air to circulate about them, so that they should not become mouldy. The loaves were set from one Sabbath to the next. Since the canes might not be handled then, they would have to be removed on Friday and rearranged at the conclusion of the Sabbath. Thus for a short while the loaves would be without them.
  29. These staves were placed in the Temple court and used for the Passover sacrifice in the manner stated.
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