Talmudic pages

Shabbat 44

Resolving contradictions.

Today we continue our exploration of muktzeh — items that may not be moved on Shabbat, often because they are generally used to perform a kind of labor that is forbidden on Shabbat. We learn that when an item that is muktzeh, such as money, rests on an item that is not muktzeh, such as a bed, it essentially makes the lower item muktzeh as well.

Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: A bed that one designated for money to be placed upon it, if one left money upon it one day, it becomes designated for that purpose and it is prohibited to move it on Shabbat. If one did not leave money upon it, it is permitted to move it on Shabbat. 

As we have seen elsewhere, the rabbis care about intention. So Rav opens by asking about a case in which someone intended to leave money on their bed during Shabbat — perhaps, in a pre-banking era, to keep it hidden. If that person does in fact leave money on the bed, then the bed cannot be moved over Shabbat because this will move the money, which is muktzeh. But if one never actually got around to placing the money on the bed before Shabbat, then the bed itself is not muktzeh and can be moved. The mere intention of using the bed as a repository for money does not make the bed muktzeh.

But there is another somewhat intermediary case to be considered. What about a case where money was placed on a bed before Shabbat and then fell off in the course of the day? In such a case, Rav teaches that even though there is no longer money on the bed, it is still forbidden to move the bed on Shabbat because the placement of the money on the bed at the beginning of Shabbat moved the bed into the category of muktzeh. Once the money is placed, the bed has irrevocably become muktzeh for that Sabbath.

If the logic here is a little difficult to comprehend, the situation is complicated by the fact that later in this tractate, on Shabbat 123a, we will encounter a wildly different opinion. There, Rav Nahman suggests that indirect movement of muktzeh — that is, moving a bed that happens to have money on it — is permitted. So which is it? Behold, this is one reason the Talmud has spawned so much commentary.

The medieval Tosafot commentary resolves the inconsistency by concluding that what really matters is whether one intends to move the bed or the money. If one is really only interested in moving the bed and the money comes along for the ride, it is permitted. But if one’s purpose in moving the bed was to sneakily relocate the money which is muktzeh, it’s a no-go. Once again, intention matters.

Read all of Shabbat 44 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on April 19, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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