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Shabbat Halacha Series (Part 3 of 37) Conditions for Melacha by Rabbi Daniel Schloss The eight conditions necessary

for an act to be classified as Melacha. The Torah describes the process of constructing the Mishkan (Tabernacle) as "Melechet Mach'shevet" -- carefully planned professional work. Since the Melachot of Shabbat are derived from the building of the Mishkan, an act must have all the characteristics of carefully planned professional work in order to qualify as a Melacha. The following eight conditions describe both the mind-frame, as well as the nature of the act taking place, that is necessary for a full "Melechet Mach'shevet." A, B, C - Conditions that deal with one's frame of mind during the act: A. AWARENESS - A person must have a conscious awareness that he is performing a prohibited act, in order for it to be considered a Melacha. "Mit'aseik" (lit. "busying oneself") refers to a Melacha committed without awareness of what was being done. If a person intended to do an act that is not Melacha without realizing that he was actually committing a Melacha, he would not be held responsible for having committed the Melacha. For example, one who lifts what he thinks are cut flowers, only to find that they were still attached to the ground and by lifting them he had actually picked them, would not be held responsible for having violated Shabbat (Melechet Kotzer). Had that person intended to lift cut flowers, but mistakenly lifted different flowers that were attached to the ground (or in a different example if a person brushes against a light switch by mistake, turning it on), then that would not be defined as an act of Melacha at all. B. INTENT - The Melacha result of the act must be the reason for doing the action; otherwise the act is called Davar Sh'aino Mit'kavein. 1. In a case where the act will inevitably result in a Melacha, even if that was not one's original intention, this is called a P'sik Reisha [lit. "cutting off the head"]. For example, it is forbidden to pull a heavy bench across a dirt floor, because this will inevitably dig a furrow. a. If one is actually not pleased with that Melacha result because the result is detrimental (d'Lo Neicha Lai), or if it results in no benefit (Lo Ichpat Lai), then the act is Patur aval Assur. For example, one may not wash his hands above plants that belong to someone else, even if he does not wish to benefit that person. However, if the result would only occur indirectly (Gramma), it is actually permitted. b. On the other hand, if one is pleased with the Melacha result (d'Neicha Lai), then the act remains prohibited by Torah law. For example: One who washes his hands above his own plants, even though his intention is not to water them. This is Chayav due to P'sik Reisha, since the plant owner certainly benefits from the watering. 2. In a case where the act may result in Melacha, but it is possible that the Melacha may not occur, then the act is permitted. This is only permitted if one's intention is to get the permitted result, and not to create the possible Melacha-result. It is, therefore, permitted to walk across the lawn even if one's shoes are uprooting some grass. C. PURPOSE - The act must be done for the sake of the Melacha-accomplishment, rather than for some fringe benefit and/or for alleviating an undesirable situation. When one would have preferred not to do the Melacha altogether (for example, digging a hole

in the ground to get the dirt, not because one wanted to make a hole itself; or turning off a light to save money), it is considered Melacha Sh'ainah Tzrichah l'Gufah and is Patur aval Assur. The Rabbis permit such an act to prevent suffering -- for example, it is permitted to trap a snake that bites even if there would be no danger to life, since the purpose is the prevention of harm rather than snake-collecting (Melechet Tzeida). D, E, F - Conditions that deal with the manner in which the act is carried out: D. CONVENTIONALLY - The Melacha must be done in the way it is conventionally performed. If it is done in an unconventional way -- with a Shinui (e.g. k'l'Achar Yad -lit. with the back of one's hand), it is Patur aval Assur. The Shinui must be a significant deviation. Trimming one's fingernails by hand, for example, is unconventional and is thus considered a Shinui (Melechet Gozez). E. DIRECTLY - The act must directly produce the prohibited result, rather than cause the Melacha to take place indirectly. If the Melacha happens indirectly, i.e. by way of another "force" and with a delay, it is called Gramma [lit. "caused"], and is Patur aval Assur. For example, if one turns a light switch to the "on" position when the electricity is shut off, in order that the light will be turned on when the electricity is later connected by a timer, it is Patur aval Assur. F. MANPOWER-EFFICIENTLY - The fewest possible people must do the act. If two people did a Melacha which one person could have done on his own (i.e. neither really needed the other's help), they are both Patur. For example, if two people hold a sickle and cut grain, it is called Shnayim Sh'Asu (lit. "two who performed"). Likewise if one person picks up an item and someone else transports it to a different domain, this is called Chatzi Melacha (lit. "half a Melacha"). However, if two people do an act together that neither one could have done alone, e.g. carrying heavy furniture, they are both Chayav. G, H, I - Conditions that deal with what is accomplished: G. CONSTRUCTIVE - The act must have a constructive result, i.e. it produced something that can be physically used. If the act is destructive (Mekalkel), yielding no beneficial result in the act itself, it is Patur aval Assur. (In certain cases one is even permitted to "destroy" -- e.g. a plastic bag with food, in order to get to the contents. H. PERMANENT - The act must have a lasting result (Mit'kayaim). If the result brought about by the Melacha is temporary, it is Patur aval Assur. This condition applies differently to the various Melachot according to the nature of the Melacha. For example, one is Chayav for heating up water on Shabbat even though that water will cool off completely, but one is not Chayav for writing in disappearing ink. ------------I. QUANTITATIVE SIGNIFICANCE - For every Melacha there is a minimum quantity of substance in order for one to be Chayav. If, however, less than the required quantity was involved, that would still constitute a Torah prohibition, but one would not be liable for punishment (Patur aval Assur min HaTorah).