Stoning the Baker

Daf 67 (Shabbas 4a-4b)

Summary. The gemara explains why a hand laden with fruit on the Sabbath may be extended into another domain and retracted only if it is not emptied into the other domain. (Emptying it in the other domain fulfills the intention of removing the fruit from the domain– an activity forbidden on the Sabbath).

In the case of dough inadvertently left baking in an oven after the beginning of the Sabbath, the gemara questions whether or not the baker is liable to make an offering– suggesting that it depends on whether the bread is fully baked before the baker realizes that it is in the oven, but concluding that the danger to the baker of leaving it in the oven is more serious than liability for an offering. (The penalty for desecrating the Sabbath is stoning.)

There is a distinction between handing an object to someone in another domain (in which case the one who performs the act does not set it down; i.e., he leaves it “in the air”) and the more serious transgression of tossing it (wherein his intention is for it to land there). According to a note in ArtScroll, the implications of this distinction are only resolved on 97a!

There is also a question of the liability of one who tosses an object such that it passes through a public domain from one private domain to another. Here, there is disagreement between rebbi and others as to the minimum dimensions of the intervening domain that would trigger liability.

Comment

I want to allow for the possibility that there is a playful quality to these disputes; that they are, in fact. a game the rabbis played on a Shabbes afternoon. The baker, one suggests, has more to worry about than liability for an offering; if he realizes the bread is in the oven and simply leaves it there, the penalty is stoning. I bet they had a chuckle over that one! You could search the literature from mishnah to gemara to baraisa to the Dead Sea Scrolls and all the documents in the geniza that have yet to be deciphered and never find a single account of the tragic fate of such a baker being hauled into the pit and pummeled to death by rocks.

And this business of tossing stuff from one domain to another! One example describes a tree that grows in a private domain with branches extending into a public domain and the poor sap in the private domain who tosses something up the tree on Shabbes (and why would he be doing that?!) and the object he tossed got entangled in the branch hovering over the public domain.

Is it really so hard to imagine that these are mind games for a lazy Shabbes afternoon– a playful way to celebrate the fact that we are commanded to relax?

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One Response to Stoning the Baker

  1. elenizl says:

    Yes – these surely could be lazy Shabbos afternoon pastimes!

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