Today’s daf (Shabbat 124b) contains a fascinating teaching about the laws of Mukzeh and how we indicate our intentionality towards certain objects.
As we know, בונה (building) is listed as one of the 39 prohibited Shabbat Melachot (see Mishna Shabbat 7:2, Shabbat 73a), and given this, bricks would be presumed to be ‘Mukzeh’ as they cannot be used for their normal usage (i.e. building) on Shabbat.
The question addressed by Rav Nachman in today’s daf relates to the halachic status of bricks that are left over from a construction project: Are such bricks regarded as Mukzeh (since their natural telos is for construction), or perhaps they are not considered Mukzeh (since they are not currently needed for a construction project and could be used for non-Shabbat-prohibited purposes)?
Rav Nachman answers by explaining that if the bricks have not been stacked in a manner that indicates the intentionality of the owner to use them for further construction projects then they are not considered Mukzeh and may be moved since bricks also have non-Shabbat-prohibited usages including (but not limited to) being used as a temporary seat. However, if they have been stacked in a manner that indicates the intentionality of the owner to use them for further construction projects, then the bricks are Mukzeh and cannot be moved on Shabbat.
What we learn from here is while the determination of whether or not an object is Mukzeh is generally based on the intentions of a person, how and where a person puts that object is also highly indicative of a person’s intentionality towards that object.
Of course, this principle has applications beyond the laws of Shabbat. For example, when I choose to put a book on a higher shelf, I am communicating the fact that I’ll probably not be referencing that book very often, and when I put my bike in the back of the shed, I am communicating the fact that I’m probably not planning to go on many bike rides in the coming weeks. At the same time, when I put certain books on my desk I am communicating my intentionality to read them, and when I put my bike near my front door, I am communicating my intentionality to go on a bike ride.
Altogether we learn from this that what we do with what we have speaks volumes about what we want. But let us also not forget that notwithstanding their importance, the laws of Mukzeh do not communicate all of life’s truths, and that desires and intentions themselves do not equate to actions. Which means that if you really want to do something – just do it!