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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 6a

Compare it to one who carries an article in the street: there, surely, though he is not liable as long as he holds it and proceeds, yet when he lays it down he is liable; so here too, it is not different. How compare! there, wherever he puts it down it is a place of liability; but here, if he deposits it in the colonnade, it is a place of non-liability? Rather compare it to one who carries an article [in the street] exactly four [cubits].1  There, surely, though he is exempt if he deposits it within the four cubits, yet when he deposits it at the end of the four cubits he is liable; so here too, it is not different. How compare? There it is a place of exemption [only] as far as this man is concerned, but to all others2  it is a place of liability; but here it is a place of exemption for all? Rather compare it to one who carries [an object] from private to public ground through the sides of the street:3  there, surely, though he is exempt if he lays it down in the sides of the street, yet when he lays it down in the street [itself] he is liable; so here too it is not different.

R. Papa demurred thereto: that is well according to the Rabbis, who maintain that the sides of the street are not regarded as the street; but according to R. Eliezer [b. Jacob],4  who rules that the sides of the street are regarded as the street, what can be said? — Said R. Aha son of R. Ika to him: Granted that you know R. Eliezer [b. Jacob] to rule that the sides of the street are regarded as the street where there is no fencing;5  but do you know him [to rule thus] where there is fencing?6  Hence it7  is analogous to this.

R. Johanan said: Yet Ben 'Azzai agrees in the case of one who throws.8  It was taught likewise: If one carries [an object] from a shop to an open place through a colonnade, he is liable, whether he carries [it] out or carries [it] in; or whether he reaches it across or throws it. Ben 'Azzai said: If he carries it out or in, he is exempt; if he reaches it across or throws it, he is liable.

Our Rabbis taught: There are four domains in respect to the Sabbath; private ground, public ground, karmelith, and a place of non-liability. And what is private ground? A trench ten [handbreadths] deep and four wide, and likewise a wall ten [handbreadths] high and four broad, — that is absolute private ground.9  And what is public ground? A highroad,10  a great public square,11  and open alleys,12  — that is absolute public ground. One may not carry out from this private to this public ground, nor carry in from this public to this private ground; and if one does carry out or in, unwitting, he is liable to a sin-offering; if deliberately, he is punished by kareth13  or stoned.14  But the sea, a plain, a colonnade, or a karmelith, ranks neither as public nor as private ground:15  one must not carry [objects] about16  within it and if he does, he is liable; and one must not carry out [an object] thence into public ground or from the public ground into it, nor carry [an object] from it into private ground or from the private ground into it; yet if he does carry out or in, he is not liable. As to courtyards with many owners17  and blind alleys,18  if an 'erub is made, they are permitted; if an 'erub is not made, they are forbidden.19  A man standing on a threshold20  may take [an object] from the master of the house, or give [it] to him, and may take [an object] from the poor man or give [it] to him; providing however that he does not take from the master of the house and give to the poor man or from the poor man and give it to the master of the house;21  and if he does take and give, the three are exempt. Others state, A threshold serves as two domains: if the door is open, it is as within; if shut, it is as without. But if the threshold is ten [handbreadths] high and four broad, it is a separate domain.22

The Master said: 'That is [absolute] private ground.' What does this exclude?23  — It excludes the following [view] of R. Judah. For it was taught: Even more than this did R. Judah say: If one owns two houses on the opposite sides of the street,24  he can place

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'from the beginning of four to the end of four'.
  2. To whom the limit of four cubits terminates at this particular spot.
  3. E.g., if the wall of a private courtyard fronting on the street is broken through, the place of the wall is called the sides of the street. In 'Er. 94b (quoted below) it is disputed whether this is private or public ground; yet when one carries an object into the street through the breach he is certainly liable.
  4. b. Jacob is omitted in 'Er. 94b and Keth. 31a.
  5. Rashi: stakes against which vehicles rub to protect the wall.
  6. And yet if one carries through the breach into the street he is liable.
  7. The case of the colonnade.
  8. From a shop to an open place through a colonnade: he is then liable.
  9. Even if they are in a public thoroughfare. A house, of course, is also private ground.
  10. Jast.: a camp.
  11. Or, an open place.
  12. i.e., open at both ends into streets.
  13. If he was not formally warned.
  14. If formally warned.
  15. The former, because they are not for the general passage of the multitude; the latter, because they are not enclosed. It should be observed that 'public ground' does not mean any ground that is open to the public, but that which is actually frequented by the masses.
  16. Lit., 'carry and give,' across a distance of four or more cubits.
  17. I.e., a courtyard into which many houses open and which itself abuts on the street. The inhabitants of these houses own the courtyard in common and must pass through it into the street.
  18. These too are provided with courtyards through which the inhabitants pass into the streets.
  19. For 'erub v. Glos. If the separate householders make an 'erub, e.g., each contributing a little flour for baking a large loaf, all the houses and the courtyard into which they open are counted as one domain, and carrying between them is permitted. Again, if all the courtyards are thus joined by an 'erub, carrying is permitted between the courtyards themselves and between them and the blind alley on which they abut.
  20. This is less than four handbreadths square, and is a place of non-liability, i.e., not a separate domain at all, but counted with public or private ground indifferently.
  21. This is a Rabbinical measure, lest one treat the Sabbath lightly and carry direct between public or private ground.
  22. Like the trench or wall mentioned above. it is private ground, yet not part of the house, and carrying between the two is prohibited.
  23. The emphasis suggests that only that is private ground.
  24. Facing each other.

Shabbath 6b

a board or a beam at each side1  and carry between them.2  Said they to him: A street cannot be made fit [for carrying] by an 'erub in this way.3  And why is it called 'absolute' [public ground]? — You might argue, The Rabbis differ from R. Judah, [maintaining] that it is not private ground only in respect of carrying [therein]:4  but in respect of throwing5  they agree with R. Judah:6  hence we are informed [otherwise].

The Master said: 'That is [absolute] public ground.' What does this exclude? — It excludes R. Judah's other [ruling]. For we learnt: R. Judah said: If the public thoroughfare interposes between them, it must be removed to the side; but the Sages maintain: It is unnecessary.7  And why is it called 'absolute?' — Because the first clause states 'absolute', the second does likewise. Now, let the desert too be enumerated, for it was taught: What is public ground? A high-road, a great open space, open alleys and the desert? — Said Abaye, There is no difficulty: The latter means when the Israelites dwelt in the desert; the former refers to our own days.8

The Master said: 'If one carries out or in, unwittingly, he is liable to a sin-offering; if deliberately, he is punished by kareth or stoned.' 'Unwittingly, he is liable to a sin-offering': but it is obvious? — It is necessary [to state] 'If deliberately, he is punished by kareth or stoned.' But that too is obvious? — We are informed the following, in agreement with Rab. For Rab said, I found a secret scroll of the school of R. Hiyya9  wherein it is written, Issi b. Judah said: There are thirty-nine principal labours, but one is liable only [for] one. Yet that is not so? for we learnt: The principal labours are forty less one: and we pondered thereon, Why state the number?10  And R. Johanan answered: [To teach] that if one performs all of them in one state of unawareness,11  he is liable for each separately! Rather, say thus: for one of these he is not liable; and so we are informed here that this one [sc. carrying] is of those about which there is no doubt.

The Master said: 'But the sea, a plain, a colonnade, and a karmelith rank neither as public nor as private ground.' But is a plain neither private nor public ground? Surely we learnt: A plain: in summer it is private ground in respect to the Sabbath and public ground in respect to uncleanness;12  in winter it is private ground in both respects!13  — Said 'Ulla: After all it is a karmelith; yet why is it called private ground? Because it is not public ground.14  R. Ashi said:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Of one of the houses.
  2. R. Judah holds that two partitions facing each other render the space between private ground by Biblical law. The outside walls of the houses are two such partitions, while the two are added to mark out this particular space and distinguish it from the rest of the street.
  3. V. 'Er., Sonc. ed., p. 32 notes.
  4. Forbidding it as a precautionary measure, lest one carry in public ground too.
  5. An object from other public ground into this.
  6. That liability is incurred, because by Biblical law two partitions constitute private ground,
  7. A well ten handbreadths deep and four broad in a public highway is private ground, as stated above; consequently, if one draws water and places it at the side, he desecrates the Sabbath. Therefore the Rabbis enacted that it should be surrounded by boards, even at some distance, and placed at intervals, providing that there is not a gap of more than ten cubits between any two; this renders the whole private ground, as though it were entirely enclosed. But R. Judah maintains that if the actual road taken by travellers lies between these boards, it destroys its character as private ground and makes it public ground in spite of the boards, and therefore it must be diverted. The emphasis in our Baraitha — that is public ground — is to reject this view of R. Judah.
  8. When it is not frequented.
  9. [H] Rashi: When a scholar heard a new law which had no authoritative tradition behind it and was thus rejected by the schools, he committed it to writing for fear that he might forget it, and kept it secret. Weiss, Dor, II, 189 thinks that the scroll contained views which R. Juda ha-Nasi had desired to exclude from his authoritative compilation, and therefore it was kept concealed. — On these lines a very considerable portion of the Baraitha would have had to be kept secret! Kaplan, Redaction of the Talmud, p. 277 suggests that the concealed scroll contained laws which were unsuited for unrestricted publicity. He also suggests that the phrase may not mean 'concealed' but written in a 'concealed', i.e. esoteric style. But there is nothing particularly esoteric about the style of the law quoted here. V. also Levi, Worterbuch s.v.
  10. Since they are all stated separately,
  11. I.e., he is unaware throughout that these are forbidden on the Sabbath.
  12. In summer it is not sown, hence a few may pass through it, yet not many will trouble to leave the highway. Hence carrying therein is permitted. With respect to uncleanness, it is a general principle that if a doubt arises in a strictly private place, a stringent ruling is given, and the article or person concerned is unclean; if it arises in a public i.e., not a strictly private place, we are lenient. Hence, since the plain is not strictly private, it ranks as public ground.
  13. Since it is sown, no stranger enters therein.
  14. And as the main purpose of that Mishnah is to draw a distinction between the Sabbath and uncleanness, that is sufficient, without pointing out that it is a karmelith.