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Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

 

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita

 

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Questions for the Week of Parshas Chukas

Ma’ase and G’rama

This shiur is not intended to be a halachic source and one should not draw any conclusions from it. It is merely a guide to the halachic concepts. The seforim deal extensively with the definitions of g’rama and ma’ase and it is not possible in a short essay to include everything.

What is the difference between ma’ase and g’rama?

A ma’ase is a direct action and g’rama is a delayed action, for example, pouring water onto fire and extinguishing the fire is a ma’ase, whereas placing plastic bags filled with water in the path of a fire is g’rama, because the fire will melt the bags which will cause the water to extinguish the fire. [1]

Is g’rama permitted?

The possuk says ́à ụ́ùå ë́ î́àëä one may not perform a melacha, and the Gemora learns that performing – doing is ossur, g’rama is permitted. Mid’oraisso, g’rama is permitted but Chazal prohibited g’rama unless in face of loss. [2]

Can you provide examples of ma’ase and g’rama?  

v     Ma’ase: It is an issur d’oraisso, on account of zore’ah (planting), to throw seeds onto wet ground where they can take root. The Torah prohibited the planting action even though the seeds will not take root for several days.

G’rama: It is a g’rama to throw seeds on dry ground during winter, not a ma’ase, because seeds cannot grow in dry ground. [3] After it rains the seeds can take root but it is not a direct consequence of one’s action.

 

v     Ma’ase: It is an issur d’oraisso, on account of tochein (grinding), to place grain in a grinder during operation, because the grinder begins grinding immediately. [4]Even though the person is not grinding the grain by hand, placing it into the grinder is equivalent to hand grinding and is an issur d’oraisso.

G’rama: It is a g’rama to place grain in the grinder when it is not operating, because eventually when the grinder operates, it will grind the grain. It is not a ma’ase because at present there are no consequences to one’s action. [5]

An interesting point - The Bi’ur Halacha [6] is in doubt when one places grain into the grinder’s receptacle above other grain and consequently the new grain will not be ground immediately. On the one hand it is a g’rama, because one’s action does not have direct consequences but on the other hand, the grinder is in operation and the new grain will definitely be ground.

One may ask that placing oil into a lamp is a d’oraisso, on account of mav’ir (making fire), even though there is oil in the lamp. The answer is that new oil either assists the present oil’s combustion or is immediately drawn into the wick and burns, i.e. there are direct consequences to one’s action. [7]

v     Ma’ase: Trapping and capturing is an issur d’oraisso of tzeida – capturing. This is brought about either by throwing a net onto an animal or fish, lassoing, or by closing a cage door etc. One’s action bears direct consequences on the subject as it is no longer free. [8]

G’rama: It is only g’rama to set a trap, because setting a trap does not bear direct consequences on the trapped creature. Even if a short while after erecting nets or baiting a line an animal or fish is trapped, it is only g’rama because the creature was captured as a result of one’s action, not during one’s action. [9] Some poskim learn that if a trap is set in a place where animals etc. are common, it is a d'oraisso even if the animal enters the trap after being erected. [10]

An interesting point – one might ask from cooking and baking, or even planting. We know that it is ossur mid’oraisso to place a pot of water on a fire even though cooking takes a while and yet it is bishul, so why is trapping different?

The answer is that indeed one might want to view cooking as g’rama and yet the Torah considered such an action to be a ma’ase. In other words, the melacha of cooking is to place an item near a heat source intending it to cook or bake. The direct consequence of one’s action is that the item begins to cook.

Trapping has a more direct action than setting traps and baiting and therefore the melacha is the direct action of physically trapping.

Are there examples of indirect actions that are considered a ma’ase?

Closing a cage door on an animal is tzeida even though one did not do anything physical to the animal.

v     Drawing water from a hot water urn, where the remaining water is not fully cooked, is an action of bishul, because the remaining water will cook quicker. [11]

Drawing water from a hot water urn, which in turn permits cold water to pour into the urn, some say is an action, not g’rama. [12]

What are examples of g’rama?

 

A          Placing a burning candle in sand will cause the candle to extinguish prematurely. It is only g’rama because it will only take place later and nothing has altered the burning candle. On the other hand, removing oil from a lantern, according to some opinions, is a ma’ase because the flame diminishes in that instance.

[1] Simon 334:22.

[2] Ibid in Rama.

[3] See Tikunim Umiluim page 17 footnote 98, citing Iglei Tal and Sh’visas HaShabos.

[4] Although the M”A considers this g’rama as well, the Bi’ur Halacha cites many poskim who disagree and consider it to be a ma’ase. Consequently, it is an issur d’oraisso.

[5] See Tikunim Umiluim page 17 footnote 100.

[6] Simon 252:5 ă"ä ́äùị̂ú.

[7] Bi’ur Halacha ibid.

[8] Simon 316:1.

[9] M”B simon 316:18.

[10] Avnei Nezer in Tosefos.

[11] See Tikunim Umiluim page 19.

[12] SS"K 1:39.

 

Vort on the Parsha

Rashi explains the juxtaposition of Aharon’s demise and approaching Edom, that B’nei Yisroel dropped spiritually and consequently Aharon died. But the possuk says that Aharon died for failing to sanctify Hashem’s name at the rock.

The S’fas Emes cites R’ Simcha Bunim of Pshischa saying that Hashem does not punish an individual when the circle of acquaintances do not deserve to have pain – îùôèé ä' àîú öă÷å éçăéå, everything is taken into consideration.

Indeed Aharon had to die because of his actions, but why were B'nei Yisroel punished? Rashi answers because they too were not behaving correctly when approaching Edom.


 

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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.