For the week ending 10 November 2012 / 24 Heshvan 5773

Shabbat 37 - 43

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Keeping food on the stove and returning it there on Shabbat
  • Status of something illegally cooked
  • Different ovens and different fuels
  • Washing with hot water on Shabbat and Yom Tov
  • Heating oil for applying to body
  • Where hands should not be placed
  • Retaining heat of liquids
  • Extinguishing burning objects
  • Mixing hot and cold liquids
  • Adding spices to the pot
  • Putting a vessel out of commission
  • Laws of muktzah objects which may not be handled
  • Removing a corpse on Shabbat

Coal in the Street

If one comes across a burning coal in the public thoroughfare which can present a danger to passersby, what should he do?

The Sage Shmuel dealt with this problem and ruled that it depends on whether the coals source is metal or wood. If it is from metal, the prohibition on extinguishing it by pouring water on it or any other way is not of Torah origin because your action is not a creative one, only one of elimination. Since this is forbidden only by Rabbinic Law one may take this step for the protection of the public. In the case of a coal made from wood, however, the extinguishing, although done for the purpose of putting out the fire, achieves the positive purpose of creating charcoal and is therefore prohibited by Torah Law and cannot be done even for the publics safety since there is no danger to life.

This distinction is based on Shmuels adopting the position of Rabbi Yehuda that even if ones purpose in doing something on Shabbat is not for a creative result, it is still forbidden by Torah Law if that is the outcome. Although Rambam (Laws of Shabbat 12:2) upholds this view, the mainstream position, as recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 334:27) is that even the extinguishing of a wood coal is forbidden only by Rabbinic Law since the intention of such an action was not creating charcoal. One can therefore extinguish such a burning wood coal for the protection of the public.

The halachic commentaries point out that such extinguishing may only be done if there is no other option such as kicking it aside from the path of passersby.

  • Shabbat 42a

What the Sages Say

"One may think about Torah subjects everywhere except in the bathhouse and in the bathroom."

  • Rabbi Yochanan as quoted by the Sage Rabbok bar Rav Chanah

"In those places one may speak about secular matters even in lashon kodesh, but may not speak about sacred matters even in another language."

  • The Sage Abaye

"It is permissible to even render a halachic ruling in such places if it is necessary to do so in order to prevent someone from doing something forbidden."

  • Rabbi Yitzchak bar Avdimi

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