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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



Questions for the Week of Parshas Balak

Animal Services

What do we learn from the possuk ?

The Rambam writes [1] that this possuk teaches us that one may not use an animal to carry baggage on Shabbos. Although the possuk specifically states an ox and donkey, it includes all animals and fowl. [2] The gemora even refers to fish pulling a wagon (the fish is in a river and is harnessed to a wagon on the river bank).

Does carrying baggage refer to a donkey in a stable?

No, carrying means doing a melacha, for example carrying something on its back for a distance of more than four amos in a reshus harabim, complete with akira and hanacha (walking and halting), or carrying an item from a reshus harabim to a reshus hayachid and vice versa.

But that means that an animal may have a load on its back but does not perform melacha?

Indeed yes. The word menucha in relation to Shabbos means abstention from melacha; it does not mean physical resting. [3] We find in halacha [4] that permitting an animal to stand with a load on its back for no reason involves tzaar baalei chaim, and one must do whatever possible to relieve the animal of its burden, which is a separate issue.

What is the biblical punishment for violating this issur (making an animal do a melacha)?

The Rambam writes that since the issur is learned from a mitvzas aseh namely, your animal should rest, and is not a  (negative commandment) there are no lashes (malkot) or other punishments.

The Rambam continues to ask but as there is a when it says ..., meaning one may not plow with ones animal and similar melachos, why is one exempt from punishment?

He answers that this particular is utilized to forewarn that doing a melacha can result in the death penalty and as a result is not open to warn against lashes. (We further find a machlokes between the Maggid Mishne and the Ramban whether the Rambam learns that there is a or not, see the Rambam inside.)

Are there practical applications to this halacha?

A question that arose in previous years regards using a chimpanzee or similar animals to assist the disabled such as paraplegics, cerebral palsied people and others in their daily routine. As long as the assistance does not involve melachos it is not a problem, but when it involves turning on lights, cooking food etc. which these animals are trained to do, the problem is real.

Obviously the necessity is great and cannot be brushed aside but the issur of mechamer (causing an animal to do a melacha) and having an animal do a melacha must be taken into consideration. It is far simpler to use a gentile on Shabbos for the ill, because many halachos are waived aside regarding using gentiles for the ill, unlike using an animal etc., but this may not always be a practical solution.

If it is ossur to make an animal do a melacha, how can an animal be led into a field to eat grass attached to the ground?

Indeed the animal will be uprooting grass, the melacha of kotzer, but it is for its own benefit. The gemora teaches that it is permissible to allow an animal to do a melacha for its benefit from the possuk , the animal must rest and if it cannot eat naturally it is not resting. [5]

For this reason one may walk a dog wearing a collar and leash in a reshus harabim, because it is for the animals benefit. The Mishna Berura writes [6] that just as we wear clothing in a reshus harabim and it is not considered carrying, so too an animal may wear protective gear in a reshus harabim. A collar and leash are protective gear.

Is my animal permitted to walk in a reshus harabim with an item that is intended only for decoration?

The gemora Shabbos 52a writes that Rav Hunas animals were in a reshus harabim with decorative collars around their necks, which is a problem, because a previous gemora wrote that decorations are ossur.

Rashi and the Ran learn that commonly worn decorations may be adorned on Shabbos as well, but Tosefos and R Yerucham learn that the decorative collar was slightly loose, enabling one to catch the animal if necessary. In other words, Tosefos learns that it is ossur to adorn decorative items solely for that purpose and the collars of Rav Hunas animals were used for safety as well.

The Mishna Berura concludes [7] with the Bach saying that he paskened like Tosefos lechumra.

May one carry a leash attached to a dog in a reshus harabim?

If one is careful not to drag the dog, since it protects the dog it is permitted, however the leash must not protrude from ones hand more than 9 cm. [8] Likewise, the leash should not be slack and be within 9 cm. to the ground. [9] Both these halachos are because of maris ayin. The first is ossur because it appears as if one is carrying a rope, the second because the rope does not appear to be protecting the dog.

[1] Hilchos Shabbos 20:1.

[2] Rambam ibid.

[3] Although physical exertion might be a violation of menucha, generally speaking menucha refers to abstention from melacha.

[4] Simon 266:10.

[5] Simon 324:13 and MB 33.

[6] Simon 305:1.

[7] Simon 305:12.

[8] Simon 305:16.

[9] Ibid.


Vort on the Parsha

The gemora says [1] that all the brachos Bilam blessed eventually became curses except one , which remained a bracha, namely that yeshivos and shuls never ceased in Am Yisrael. Rav Shlomo Zalman asked, how does the gemora know that did not turn to a curse and all the others did?

The gemora bases it on the possuk, ' , meaning a single curse remained a bracha and did not become a curse.

The possuk is the only possuk mentioned in 2nd person while all the others are in 3rd person. A bracha is given in 2nd person because it is direct from person to person (we can add that it is from ones heart to the other persons heart) whereas 3rd person might be praise etc. not brachos.

When the gemora says that a single bracha remained, is the only bracha and all the others are praises.

This is an incredible lesson of how one is to bless another person. Not abstract and detached, but from heart to heart.

[1] Rav Ezriel Auerbach shlita told me this vort in the name of his illustrious father, " Rav Shlomo Zalman ztzl.



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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.