Shabbat 107

Amid our discussion concerning the prohibition of ‘trapping’ an animal on Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 107a) explores the Shabbat prohibition of החובל – inflicting a wound to an animal.

As we know, there is an overall Torah prohibition against צער בעלי חיים (causing anguish to animals), and consequently it should be immediately obvious that none of the discussion featured in today’s daf relates to deliberate harming an animal (God forbid!). Instead, since attempts to trap an animal often lead to their injury, we are being taught that aside from the transgression of צוד (trapping), such an action would also include a further transgression of החובל. But what action is regarded as transgressing החובל?

Most commentaries suggest that החובל occurs when an animal is wounded in a manner that blood accumulates in a particular place to form a bruise, and especially since this is hard to see with some smaller animals, the Mishna & Gemara explains how this occurs with respect to small creatures or those with particularly thick skin.

Having explained all this, we find in Shabbat 107b that a different word is used with respect to wounds – חבורה – which is defined by Levi as being an irreversible wound. According to some commentaries, the key difference between a חבלה and a חבורה is the question of whether the wound is reversible or not, while others also note that while a חבלה occurs when blood accumulates under the skin, a חבורה occurs when blood is spilled (i.e. blood comes out from the wound).

Naturally, while reading the daf it is easy to skip over the difference between the word חבלה and חבורה, but on the receiving end the different is huge – it is the difference between a temporary bruise, and a lifelong injury.

All too often we presume that even if we have done or said something to another that may have aggravated them that it hasn’t caused real offence because no ‘injury’ is evident to us. This is our first mistake in thinking that every injury is visible, and concerning this, the Mishna teaches us that a חבלה is an injury that is not clearly visible.

But even when we know we have upset someone, too many of us think that what we have caused is ‘only’ a חבלה – ie. a temporary bruise in life. But all too often, what is considered by someone as a חבלה is, for others, a חבורה, and those actions or words can be a lifelong scar that is, at least for some, irreversible.

Just like different animals have different skins, so too do different people, and while physical injuries may be hard to see in some animals, verbal or emotional injuries are almost always impossible to see in people. And this is why we must be careful with our deeds and with our words, because if we are not, we may – God forbid – cause a חבלה, and perhaps even a חבורה.