Shabbat Parashat Bechukotai| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Milking Cows on Shabbat - Part I - Excerpts from Amud Hay’mini, pp. 258-270
One of the challenges of the new Jewish settlement of Israel was to ensure that a Torah observant society could survive and prosper without compromising halacha. Meeting this challenge was one of the life dreams that Rav Yisraeli actualized. One area that needed solutions was the question of milking cows on Shabbat without making all the milk go to waste. Regular milking is included in the melacha (a full-fledged violation of Shabbat) of dash (threshing), which separates a food from a non-food. Barring a practical system, the viability of religious agricultural settlements’ ability to compete in the market would be compromised. Three main systems have been used: 1) Non-Jews do the work; 2) The first milk that comes out is spoiled by chemicals in the receptacle. 3) The milking process is done indirectly. Each system has halachic advantages, disadvantages, and technical challenges. We present an overview of Rav Yisraeli’s trailblazing ideas on the matter in a very abbreviated fashion.
There is a milking machine that attaches two hoses, one inside the other, to the cows’ utters. Only when both are secured does air pressure cause the milk to flow. One can attach one of the hoses so that a timer will automatically secure the second hose only after a certain amount of time. The question is whether a Jew may operate such a machine on Shabbat.
The first part of our analysis deals with the possibility of using a milking machine without time delays in such a way that the first milk to come out falls into a receptacle in which the milk is immediately rendered unusable. In such a case, it is not considered to be similar to the threshing process, where a usable grain is separated, for here the milk never becomes usable. The question is whether one can do a subsequent action to cause the continued flow of milk to enter a normal container. There are two issues involved here. Firstly, can one start a process of milking which is not immediately considered a melacha, with the knowledge that he will subsequently turn it into a melacha? The second question is whether it is permitted to do the second action, which turns the milking into a melacha from that point on.
The gemara (Sanhedrin 77b) seems to settle the first issue. If one throws an arrow at someone who is protected by a shield, the shield is removed before the arrow arrives, and the person is killed, the thrower is not liable as a murderer. This is the case even if the thrower removed the shield after throwing (ibid.). In the case of monetary damage, the thrower is likewise exempt (Bava Kamma 26b). So too here, the first action should not be considered a melacha because it is set up for the milk to be unusable. The fact that he plans to turn the action into a melacha should not change its nature retroactively. The concept that one who lights a fire is considered like one who directly damages, even though the damage only develops as the fire spreads, is not pertinent here. That is because the fire spreads without the need for additional action. In contrast, in our case, if no one chooses to act, the milk will continue to go to waste.
The problem is that according to Tosasfot (Bava Kamma 33a) the thrower is exempt only when he did not know that the protection would be removed. Although the Rashba understands differently, it seems that we do not have a consensus to allow attaching the machine. However, it seems, paradoxically, that the situation is more lenient when it is the thrower who removes the shield. Then, when he threw, he had the ability to do nothing and have nothing happen. In contrast, if he expected someone else to remove the shield, then his act and its consequences would be complete from his perspective from the outset. So, if the one who milks the cows is the one to transfer the receptacles, the first action of using the machine is not a melacha.
Next week we will discuss the second issue with this system.
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