Shabbat 106

The Mishna (Shabbat 13:5) on today’s daf (Shabbat 106a) presents a fascinating debate concerning the melacha of צוד – trapping.

According to Rabbi Yehuda, when a bird is trapped in a closet or when a deer is trapped in a house, the melacha of צוד is transgressed.

Though the Chachamim (Sages) agree with the law relating to a bird, they disagree with Rabbi Yehuda about a deer and rule that even if a deer is trapped in a garden, courtyard, or any other similar small outside enclosure, the melacha of צוד is transgressed.

Underpinning both opinions seems to be the notion that an animal who – until then – experienced unlimited movement that is then confined to a particular space is considered to be ‘trapped’, and given the debate between Rabbi Yehuda and the Chachamim, it seems that different sized animals with different temperaments and spirits can feel trapped by different types of spaces.

Significantly, contemporary sages discuss the law of צוד with respect to people (including discussing the question of whether sending a child to their room on Shabbat is considered as ‘trapping’), and though there is some discussion around free spirited children (see Avnei Nezer No. 189) as well as concerning adults who – due to mental health issues – do not conform to normative social behaviour (see Shulchan Shlomo on 316:3), most authorities rule that צוד doesn’t apply to people.

Nevertheless, given the restrictions that many of us are experiencing in response to COVID-19, it is important to note that just as different sized animals with different temperaments and spirits can feel trapped by different types of spaces, so too, different people with different temperaments and spirits can feel trapped by different types of spaces. For example, there can be someone who lives in small apartment who is happy to avoid socialising and remain at home for weeks on end, while there can be someone who lives in a large house who truly feels trapped by the fact that they aren’t able to mix with friends in the way that they would like to. Simply put, what for one person may be liberating, is for another, a form of trapping.

Thus what we learn from our Mishna is that to keep the laws of trapping on Shabbat we must understand the different temperaments and spirits of different animals, and what we learn from our current COVID experience is that sometimes what is comfortable for some, is very difficult for others.