July 7, 2020

Shabbat 122

Today’s daf (Shabbat 122b) returns to the topic of ‘Mukzeh’, i.e. objects that are ‘set’ aside as having no purposeful use on Shabbat which therefore may not be moved on Shabbat. However, what we are not told is why the laws of Mukzeh exist.
Addressing this question, Rambam (Shabbat 24:12) writes that, ‘the Sages forbade the moving of certain objects on Shabbat …because they reasoned: since the prophets warned that the manner in which a person walks on Shabbat should not be the same as how they walk during the week; and since [they similarly warned] that the conversations we have on Shabbat should not be the same as weekday conversations…surely the way in which we move objects on Shabbat should not be the same as how we move them during the week – and all these rules were instituted so that Shabbat will not be viewed by us as a weekday’.
Based on this fascinating presentation, it seems that for Shabbat to achieve its function as a day of rest, and for it to provide its maximal benefit as a day of peace, we must first identify and then set aside a range of topics and objects prior to Shabbat that we realise have no purposeful use on Shabbat.
However, as our daf suggests, this process of considering which items should be ‘Mukzeh’ (set aside) also lends itself to thinking outside of the box, because it provides us with an opportunity to consider the broad range of uses of any given object. For example, while it is true that a hammer is generally used for construction, as our daf explains, a hammer can also be used to crack a nut; and while a hatchet is generally used to cut wood, it can also be used to cut a cake of pressed figs.
Thus Shabbat both helps us identify those things that have no purposeful use on Shabbat, as well as those purposes for which those objects can be used; it teaches us not to be creative and not to innovate, and by doing so it stimulates us to think creatively and innovatively; and it both limits us and inspires us to look beyond the limits of what we can necessarily see.
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