Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Milking Cows on Shabbat - Part II - Excerpts from Amud Hay’mini, pp. 258-270
[Last week we discussed the possibility of beginning the milking process on Shabbat so that the milk goes to waste and switching receptacles later on so the rest can be used. We showed that the original hook-up to the cow is not a melacha (a full-fledged violation of Shabbat), since barring further action, the milk will be removed from the cow in a way that it will be inedible.]
The question now is whether adjusting a valve so that milk will end up in a container where it can be used is a melacha. Such a consequence of the action of adjusting a valve seems equivalent to the case of one who directs the flow of water so that it drowns someone. The gemara (Sanhedrin 77b) says that if the water flowed directly to the victim (koach rishon), the culprit is liable. So too, in our case, the flow into the clean container is direct, and the one who adjusted the valve is considered to have done the melacha. The Biur Halacha (on 252:5) learns from that gemara to the laws of Shabbat that one who makes water flow into a watermill violates the melacha of grinding if the grinding begins right away. The Magen Avraham (cited there) distinguishes between putting grain into an operating mill, which he says is not a melacha, and having the water operate the mill where grain was already put, which is a melacha. By understanding the Magen Avraham’s distinction, we can shed light on our question.
If, as the Biur Halacha says, we can compare the culpability regarding Shabbat and damages and murder, then the Magen Avraham is difficult. The gemara (Sanhedrin 77a) states that if one brings to and ties a person down in a dangerously hot place, he can be guilty of murder. The same is true by damages. Why isn’t bringing grain to a mill analogous? The Magen Avraham must assume that, in some ways, Shabbat is more lenient than the other areas.
However, we find sources to the contrary. If one throws something up in the air, and the wind blows it so that it damages, he is exempt. If one throws threshed grain into the air on Shabbat and the wind separates the chaff, he violates the melacha of winnowing, because on Shabbat the Torah obligates for thought that brings a melacha (Bava Kamma 60a). On the other hand, the gemara (Shabbat 120b) says that one who causes a fire to go out by g’rama (indirect action) does not violate a melacha just as a person who enters a bath with Hashem’s name on his skin does not violate erasing His name. We can reconcile the apparent contradiction based on the Rosh’s comment that winnowing is an exception, because the nature of that melacha is throwing grain to the wind. In regard to other melachot,we do say that g’rama is not a violation of a melacha. The problem, though, still remains, as follows. In regard to the operation of a watermill, the Magen Avraham considers putting the grain in as g’rama regarding Shabbat, whereas the sources view it as direct regarding murder and damages.
The Rashba seams to make the following distinction. Regarding entering the bath, the erasure may not take place right away, and delayed erasure is g’rama. The same is so regarding Shabbat, even if the effect begins immediately. So why regarding murder, is a person culpable even if the victim died in the heat only later? We must distinguish between issues. The main issue regarding damages and murder is the result; the action and its mechanism are secondary. Regarding Shabbat and erasure, the main issue is the action. Therefore, the action has to cause the effect more immediately and directly. If so, one cannot learn from damages to Shabbat. Adjusting a valve could obligate damage payment, but it is not considered a melacha. Further investigation [we will skip the details] shows that this matter is a machloket among Rishonim. Therefore, in practice, we cannot allow a system whereby one closes a valve to cause the milk to be kept, as, some Rishonim rule that this is a Torah prohibition of causing a melacha by means of a koach rishon.
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