Food or Drink Transported on Shabbat

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

 

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Question:

May one eat food or drink water that had been transported by motor vehicle on Shabbat?

 

Answer:

This is a difficult and complicated issue, the clarification of which requires extensive discussion. Rav Shlomo Goren has already dealt with the question at length in one of the issues of Machanayim, and I will bring his conclusions as they were summarized in Piskei Hilkhot Tzava. Nevertheless, as I recognize your thirst to understand the word of God and your limited opportunity to engage in a comprehensive study of the matter, I will review the fundamental points, generally following the approach developed by Rav Goren. The conclusion is that in pressing circumstances there is room to permit the consumption of food and water that were delivered on Shabbat, based on the assumption that the driver who brought them is regarded as a shogeg – an inadvertent sinner – since he believes that such activity is permitted in time of war, even though the present condition [in Kislev, 5734 (December, 1973)] is defined as a period of ceasefire [in the Yom Kippur War).

 

            There are three issues that follow from the three prohibitions that are violated through the vehicular transport of the food and water:

 

1) The prohibition of driving the vehicle.

2) The prohibition of removing an object from a private domain to a karmelit (semi-public domain) or transporting an object four cubits in a karmelit.

3) The prohibition of techumim when the food or water is taken outside its Shabbat limit.

 

            As for the first two prohibitions I will suffice with the words of the Chayyei Adam (kelal 9) that are brought in the Beiur Halakha (318, s.v. achat):

 

[The prohibition against utilizing an object with which a Shabbat violation occurred applies] only in a case where a change was made in the object itself, e.g., through cooking or the like. But if someone transports an object from one domain to another, effecting no change – if done inadvertently, it is permitted even to him on the same day; and if done intentionally, it is forbidden even to others until immediately after Shabbat. Nevertheless, one should be stringent with respect to all Torah prohibitions like cooking.

 

            In my opinion, this ruling of the Chayyei Adam addresses the first two problems mentioned above.

 

            As for the prohibition of techumim, we must make use of the allowance granted in a military camp, where special allowances were made with respect to four obligations. If there are ten soldiers in a particular place with some military mission, even if they are not on the front line, they are treated like a military camp. This is clear from the words of the Rishonim, but this is not the forum to expand upon the matter. The Gemara in Eiruvin states (17b):

 

It was stated in the school of Rabbi Yannai: [This ruling] was taught only in regard to an eiruv of courtyards, but their obligation to an eiruv of Shabbat limits remains unaffected. For Rabbi Chiyya taught: For [transgressing the laws of] eiruv of Shabbat limits one is liable for lashes by Torah law.

 

            The Rashba writes:

 

But we accept the view of the Sages that the laws of eiruv of Shabbat limits are by Rabbinic decree. Therefore in a military camp, an exemption is granted even with respect to the obligation of an eiruv of Shabbat limits. And Rav Ashi who answered… was speaking according to Rabbi Yannai, but he does not agree with him.

 

And so he writes in Avodat ha-Kodesh:

 

There is an opinion that all Shabbat limits are not by Torah law, but by Rabbinic decree. And therefore in a military camp an exemption is granted even with respect to the obligation of an eiruv of Shabbat limits, even that of three parsa'ot. And I am inclined to this position.

 

So too writes the Ritva (ad loc.):

 

We do not follow Rabbi Yannai or his establishment of our Mishna as referring to an eiruv of courtyards. Rather our Mishna should be understood in its plain sense as granting an allowance regarding both the obligation of an eiruv of courtyards and the obligation of an eiruv of Shabbat limits. There is nothing more to add.

 

            This also seems to be the view of the Ramban, ad loc.; and see there where he expands upon his explanation of the view of the Rif. So too writes the Shiltei Gibborim in the name of the Or Zaru'a, that those in a military camp are exempt both from the obligation of an eiruv of courtyards and from the obligation of an eiruv of Shabbat limits.

 

            Here we come to a disagreement among the Rishonim: is the prohibition of Shabbat limits always only by Rabbinic decree or is the Shabbat limit of less than 12 mils rabbinic, while more than that is prohibited by Torah law? Many Rishonim, including the Ramban and the Rashba, maintain that even the limit of more than 12 mils is only prohibited by Rabbinic decree. But according to the Rambam and others, the limit of more than 12 mils is by Torah law. According to this, with regard to a distance of more than 12 mils, which is approximately 12 kilometers, no allowance was granted in a military camp.

 

Here however we can must add what the Maggid Mishneh writes in the name of the Rambam in a responsum (Shabbat 27:3), that the prohibition of Shabbat limits applies only in an actual public domain, but in a karmelit there is no prohibition of Shabbat limits by Torah law, even with respect to a distance of more than 12 mils. Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav (404) and Rabbi Akiva Eiger rule accordingly. Even though the Mishna Berura raises strong objections against this view and concludes that one should practice stringency, in a situation of pressing circumstances there is room to rely on the authority of Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav and Rabbi Akiva Eiger for leniency. See also Rav Goren's Piskei Halakhot who grants an allowance to those in a military camp.

 

            If the vehicle that delivered the food also brought supplies which for security reasons are permitted to be transported on Shabbat, there is another reason for leniency based on the view of the Chafetz Chayyim in his book Machaneh Yisrael (31:2, note) regarding ribbui shiurim – taking beyond the Shabbat limit more than is necessary – as there is more room for leniency in this case than if the entire transport was unnecessary.

 

            Finally, here is Rav Goren's answer to the question posed above as it is brought in Piskei Hilkhot Tzava, p. 40:

 

If water was knowingly brought in a prohibited manner by motor vehicle on Shabbat, whether from within the Shabbat limit or from outside of it, that is to say, that the person bringing the water knew that transporting the water in such manner involved a violation of Shabbat law, the water is forbidden. If it was brought inadvertently, that is to say, that the person bringing the water did not know that transporting the water in such manner involved a violation of Shabbat law, or he thought that there was an allowance to bring the water based on piku'ach nefesh (saving a life), as it were, the water is permitted to the members of the unit.

If the water was brought from a place which could have been reached by foot, even with difficulty, there is room to be lenient and permit the water when there is no other drinking water, even if it was knowingly brought by motor vehicle (based on the view of the Ritva).

If the water was brought from outside the limit on a Festival day, even if it was brought from outside 12 mils, the water is permitted – because there is no problem of bringing it from outside the limit, for we rule in accordance with the view that there is no prohibition of limits in a military camp, and because there is no prohibition of transporting the water in a field where there is no eiruv on a Festival. Therefore even if the water was brought to the unit in a prohibited manner, the water is permitted.

In pressing circumstances, when it is possible to bring water from a nearby settlement or from a local water point, only that there is no eiruv, the water may be carried after first being set on a place defined as a "makom petur," as clarified in a different responsum in Machanayim. In such a case the water may be carried to the unit in a permitted manner.

If a vehicle was being driven for security purposes, and it towed a water tank, the water is treated as water transported on Shabbat in accordance with the rules outlined above. But if the water was loaded on the vehicle itself, the water is permitted.

In any event, the water is permitted immediately after Shabbat for all the soldiers, and there is no need to wait as long as it would take to bring the water now on Motza'ei Shabbat, as there is no such requirement when the act forbidden on Shabbat was performed by a Jew.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


* This article originally appeared in Alon Shevut 3, no. 1.