Carrying on Shabbat

  2. In a location which is considered public domain or a carmelis, it is forbidden—halachah l’Moshe Misinai- to carry an object more than four amos on Shabbos if there is no eruv.
  3. The amah should be measured according to the smaller of the generally accepted opinions of the size of an amah: 48 cm.
  4. It is permitted lechatchilah to carry an object less than four amos provided that it is moved only once. To carry on object several times in succession, each time less than four amos, is forbidden, even if the person who carries it stops to rest each time (resting, like putting the object down, breaks the continuity of the action) or places the object on the ground each time. Carrying an object less than four amos several times in succession is one of the eighteen things that were forbidden by the rabbis “bo b’yom” (see Shabbos 17b) to prevent a person from carrying an object four amos without realizing it. If a person stops before moving four amos to adjust his burden—not to rest—it’s as though he didn’t stop at all and violates the Torah prohibition of carrying four amos in the public domain. A person who stops just to avoid violating the Torah prohibition is also not considered to have stopped to rest. He must actually sit down each time in order to avoid violating the Torah.
  5. The rabbinical prohibition of carrying an object over a distance that is greater than four amos by resting or putting it down before traversing four amos applies only when a person has the intention of moving the object more than four amos. But if he intended to carry it less than four amos, put it down, and then changed his mind and decided he wanted to move it a little further (less than four amos), he is allowed to do so.
  6. The prohibition of carrying more than four amos through a succession of moves that are less than four amos applies even ben hashemashos. We do not apply the principle that in cases of doubt, rabbinical prohibitions are suspended. The reason is that if sequential carrying of less than four amos were allowed, it would lead to frequent violations the Torah. The prohibition of sequential carrying applies even in a carmelis. Does it apply to a carmelis ben hashemoshos? That is disputed, but in practice we are lenient if the object is transported for the sake of a mitzvah or because it is urgently needed.
  7. The prohibition of carrying less than four amos applies only to individuals. According to some, this allows for moving objects by relay, i.e., one person transferring the object to another. In this way, an object could be transported great distances without violating the prohibition of carrying. Is it permitted for two people to do this, one handing the object to the other and then moving forward to receive it? The פר"מ implies that it would be permitted in a carmelis, but in the public domain it should be avoided. Others hold that moving objects by relay more than four amos is forbidden. In practice, carrying by relay is allowed, but it is desirable to be stringent and avoid carrying in this way unless it is necessary for the sake of a mitzvah. When carrying by relay, the people involved do not have to rest or sit down because the carrying done by one person is not considered an extension of the carrying done by the other.
  8. In the public domain and in a carmelis, the prohibition of carrying pertains to the distance an object is moved ie., it may not be carried more than four amos, but to carry an object from the public domain to the private domain or even to a carmelis is strictly forbidden, whatever the distance may be.
  9. A pillar, a bench, or a wall in the street that is ten tephachim high and four tephachim wide, and a pit that is ten tephachim deep and four tephachim wide are considered to be set apart from the public domain. Their surfaces are considered private domain, so it is forbidden to take an object in the public domain and to place it upon (or into) them. (A wall that surrounds the public domain is considered private domain even if it is not four tephachim wide.) Even when a pillar, bench or wall is not ten tephachim high, if it is set into the ground, its surface is considered to be a separate domain, a carmelis, and it is forbidden to transfer an object to them from the public domain. For this reason, it is forbidden to toss things into a garbage can from the public domain, or to lift a child from the public domain and seat him on a fence or even on a bench. Many people are not aware of this.
  10. A human being exists within a physical domain. He does not constitute a physical domain. Therefore, even though a person who stands in the public domain is more than ten tephachim tall and four tephachim wide, he is not considered a separate domain.
MDhalachalMaase is written by HaRav HaGaon R’ Shammai Gross
Translated by Rabbi Tzvi Abraham