Going Public Excerpted and adapted from a shiur by HaRav Chaim Weg December 7, 2023…
November 10, 2022
Q Last Shabbos, my toddler walked out of the house with my silver becher and dropped it in the street. Given that there is no eiruv in our area, is there a way I could have moved it to the curb so it wouldn’t be run over?
A One of the 39 melachos is hotza’ah, carrying an item between reshus hayachid and reshus harabim, a toldah (derivative) of which is ma’avir arba amos, moving an item four amos in reshus harabim (Shabbos 96b). The Ba’al Hamaor (35b in Rif) explains the comparison to hotza’ah: A person is considered to occupy his surrounding four amos, so when he moves something from that place, it is like removing it from his domain.
Chazal extended the melacha, applying it to a karmelis as well. Almost any area (except a surface smaller than 4×4 tfachim) that doesn’t qualify as a reshus hayachid or reshus harabim is classified as a karmelis. Therefore, even on a quiet side street, one may not move an object four amos.
The issur of ma’avir is only violated when the full distance is covered in a single movement. If one moves an item three amos, stops, and then moves it another three amos, he hasn’t transgressed mide’Oreisa. But Chazal forbade moving an item any distance in reshus harabim. This precludes the option of moving the becher to the curb in several small movements.
Still, the poskim debate whether this decree applies in a karmelis or only in reshus harabim. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 349:5) states clearly that it includes a karmelis, but the Biur Halacha discusses this at length and concludes that one may possibly be lenient for mitzvah purposes. But protecting a becher is not a tzorech mitzvah.
There is a simple solution described in the Mishnah (Eiruvin 95b): R’ Yehudah says a person may give a barrel to his friend, and his friend to his friend, etc. Since each person is moving the barrel less than four amos, it is permitted. Where multiple people are involved, Chazal didn’t forbid transporting the item under four amos, because it is not likely that one of them will mistakenly carry it too far.
Although some poskim rule in accordance with the Chachamim, who forbid this (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 3 cites two opinions), the Mishnah Brurah (ibid. 13) rules leniently, but he says it is commendable to be stringent in this.
Some poskim (Pri Megadim) permit two people to continuously pass the object to one another, comparing it to a chain of multiple people. But the Biur Halacha disagrees.