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Akira (Lifting) and Hanacha (Resting) (2b-3a)

  • Rav Ezra Bick


1. גמ' ב': "אמר ליה רב מתנה" עד ג'. שניים שעשאוה פטורין"

2. רש"י, תוס' ד"ה פטורי, רשב"א ד"ה פטורי.

3. פסחים פ"ה: "אמר רבי אמי ... עקירה והנחה", רש"י שם ד"ה דעבד, תוס' ד"ה הוצאה.

4. רש"י שבת ג': ד"ה ד"ה מבע"י.


            The Mishna is comprised of cases where the person bears a chatat responsibility ("chayav"); i.e, he has transgressed on a d'oraita level and other cases where he is exempt ("patur"). Rashi on the Mishna (2a, s.v. u-shetayim) writes:

… And two by rabbinic enactment, where the melakha is performed by two people, this one lifting [the object] and the other one resting it. Lekhatchila (ab initio) this is forbidden, but if he did it, he is exempt, as we learn in the Gemara: If two people did it [= the melakha], they are exempt.

Later in the passage Rashi writes:

If the poor man stretches [his hand] – where he did the lifting and the owner of the house took it from [his hand] and rested it inside, so that the owner of the house performed the resting.

Both are exempt – for neither one performed a complete melakha, but they are forbidden to do so lekhatchila, lest each one come to perform a complete melakha on Shabbat.

In order to be liable, that is, in order to violate a Torah prohibition, a person must lift the object from one domain, transfer it to a different domain, and rest it there. Several sugyot that we will encounter in the future will deal with the question what is considered "lifting" (akira) and what is considered "resting" (hanacha). At this point, however, we do not need these more precise definitions.

            Rashi explains that the term used by the Mishna in reference to these cases, peturin, "exempt," means that the parties are exempt, but nevertheless the action is forbidden, that is to say, there is a rabbinic prohibition. This is stated explicitly in our passage on p. 3a: "Everything taught as involving an exemption on Shabbat, involves an exemption, yet it is forbidden."

            The Gemara at the end of p. 2b relates to the discrepancy between the number appearing in the Mishna – eight – and the total number of cases in the Mishna, which is much greater. In the end the Gemara explains the matter as follows: "Exempt acts whereby one can come to the liability of a sin-offering are counted; those whereby one cannot come to the liability of a sin-offering are not counted" (3a). In other words, there are, indeed, more cases, but the number in the Mishna relates to only some of the cases, those "whereby one can come to the liability of a sin-offering."

            Rashi explains that the cases that are counted are the cases of akira, and not the cases of hanacha. He writes: "Exempt acts whereby one can come to the liability of a sin-offering – e.g., acts of akira which are the beginning of the melakha, where there is reason to forbid, lest he finish it [= the melakha]. But acts of hanacha cannot come to the liability of a sin-offering, for no act of akira was performed by that person." 

            The plain meaning of Rashi's comment implies that akira without hanacha is forbidden by rabbinic law, and the Rabbis forbade it because if the person continues in his action, his akira can lead to the violation of a Torah prohibition. This is not the case with respect to an act of hanacha that was not proceeded by an act of akira; since there is no concern about it leading to the violation of a Torah prohibition, there is no room for a rabbinic decree, and the act is not even forbidden by rabbinic law. For Rashi writes that with respect to acts of akira, "there is reason to forbid" – which is not the case with respect to acts of hanacha. The implication is that there is no reason to forbid in the case of hanacha, and it follows that there is no prohibition. According to many commentators, this conclusion is implausible, and therefore they explain that Rashi relates exclusively to the literary formulation in the mishna, why we count the acts of akira, but not the acts of hanacha. Both, however, are forbidden by rabbinic law. This reading, apart from the fact that it does not coincide with the plain meaning of Rashi's words, is also difficult, as it does not explain the logic of counting the acts of akira, which are forbidden by rabbinic law, lest a person come to complete the melakha, while not counting the acts of hanacha, which are also forbidden by rabbinic law, for some other reason (apparently, so that in other parallel situations a person not come to perform the entire melakha, from akira to hanacha). What is the logic of counting only the prohibitions of the first type, but not those of the second? But if we say that the second set of actions are not forbidden at all, not even by rabbinic law, it is clear why they are not included in the Mishna's count.

            We will return to this question below, but for now let us merely note that Rashi speaks of acts of akira and acts of hanacha. So too in the Mishna, as was cited above, Rashi speaks of lifting an object without resting it and resting the object without lifting it. The Tosafot (s.v. patur) raise several objections to Rashi. One of them is: "Lifting [an object] without moving [it to a different domain] (hotza'a) is mere movement, with no intimation of liability of a sin-offering whatsoever." The Tosafot clarify the fact that every complete act of hotza'a involves three components: akira, moving the object (or as the Tosafot call it: hotza'a), and hanacha. The Tosafot understand that according to Rashi, if one person lifted an object, and a second person both removed it to another domain and put it down to rest, the first person violated a rabbinic prohibition (in the Mishna, this is the law governing the owner of the house, in the case where the poor person stretches his hand inside and takes the object from the hand of the owner of the house [who already lifted it], and the poor person takes it out, and he is liable while the owner of the house is exempt). The Tosafot ask: How is it possible for the owner of the house to be subject to a rabbinic prohibition; surely he did nothing, and this is mere movement of the object, since the object does not leave the private domain by way of the owner of the house?

            The Tosafot assume that rabbinic prohibitions must mirror the Torah melakha, only that a certain technical component that is necessary for liability by Torah law is missing. It is clear from the Tosafot's wording that the element that defines the very essence of the melakha is hotza'a, that is, crossing the boundary between the private domain and the public domain. This is what defines the act as the melakha of hotza'a. By Torah law there is also a need for both an act of akira in the private domain, and an act of hanacha in the public domain. Therefore, if a person performed hotza'a without lifting the object or resting it, he is not liable by Torah law, but there is nonetheless room to forbid this by rabbinic law. In the words of the Tosafot in the continuation (the view of the Riva): "The one who stretches out his hand, and brings the object in or takes it out, who in the parallel case in the first clause is liable for a sin-offering, here is exempt, since he did not perform the entire melakha, as a small part was missing, either akira or hanacha." Akira without hotza'a is nothing, and should not be subject to a rabbinic prohibition – "there is no risk of a sin-offering whatsoever." This is not the case with respect to hotza'a without akira, regarding which there is no liability for a sin-offering, but there is an "intimation" of liability of a sin-offering, and therefore there is a rabbinic prohibition, for essentially the person performed the melakha, only that "a small part was missing."

            It follows that according to the Tosefot (the Riva), the essence of the melakha is the hotza'a, that is, removing an object from one domain to another, from a private domain to a public domain (or vice versa, in which case it is called hachnasa, "bringing in"). The acts of akira and hanacha are not part of the essence of the melakha, but rather additional external conditions for liability, which by rabbinic law may be waived. If you ask: According to this, what is in fact the function of the akira and the hanacha, and why are they necessary for liability for performing the melakha by Torah law? – the answer is that they are like a measure (shi'ur) in the performance of the melakha. The essential forbidden act is the transfer from one domain to the other, but in order for the transfer to be significant and engender liability, the object must start "deep" inside the realm of the private domain, and reach "deep" into the realm of the public domain. Even without akira and hanacha you can transfer an object from one domain to the other (and therefore this is subject to a rabbinic prohibition), but in order to become liable by Torah law, you must transfer the object "a great deal," in a very significant manner. The essence of the melakha is transferring the object across the boundary between the two domains, and in the absence of such a transfer, there is no melakha whatsoever, and even by rabbinic law, this is not forbidden, or as the Tosafot formulate this: "This is mere movement, with no intimation of liability of a sin-offering whatsoever." But in the opposite case, where there is transfer across a boundary separating between two domains, but what is missing is akira or hanacha (and presumably also if even both are missing), the melakha itself was performed, only that an exemption applies by Torah law, and therefore it is reasonable that this should be forbidden by rabbinic law.

            Rashi appears to maintain the opposite opinion. His entire emphasis is on the acts of akira and hanacha (and regarding hanacha without akira, we already mentioned that the wording of Rashi implies that this is altogether permitted, but most commentators maintain that even hanacha alone is rabbinically forbidden, even though this case is not counted in the Mishna). The melakha of hotza'a is not the act of moving and transferring an object from one place to another, but rather establishing a location for an object, that is, bestowing a new identity upon the object by assigning a new location for it. The relationship here is the very opposite of that which defined the relationship according to the Tosafot. The acts of akira and hanacha are the essence of the melakha. Akira, in its literal sense – uprooting the object's old identity as belonging to a certain location – and hanacha, that is, bestowing a new identity upon the object by fixing it in a new location. The transfer/movement is merely a way for the hanacha to be in a different place than the akira. According to this, there is room to forbid by rabbinic law akira alone or hanacha alone, even without a transfer across a boundary, since the isolated action accomplishes half of the work of assigning an identity to the object as belonging to one place or another.

            In order to understand this matter better, let us consider the following case. What is the law if a person lifts up an object in a private domain, and holds it in his hand, and at the same time someone else demolishes the walls that define the place as a private domain, turning it thereby into part of the public domain, and then he rests the object in the very same place from which he lifted it up, without having moved it at all? According to the Tosafot, it is clear that he did nothing at all, since he did not transfer the object from one place to another. But according to Rashi, he assigns a new identity to the object by lifting it up in a private domain and setting it down in a public domain, even though the object did not actually move at all. Logically speaking, there is room to say that he would be liable in such a case, as there is akira, hanacha, and a change in the object from belonging to a private domain to belonging to the public domain. In actual practice, I assume that this is not the Halakha, because even according to Rashi, an act of melakha is necessary, and here he is not absolutely responsible for the change in the status of the domain. But this case demonstrates in principle the two positions and the difference between them.

            To summarize, we asked what is the definition of the melakha of hotza'a. Is it an act of moving and transferring an object from one place to another (from a private domain to a public domain, or vice versa)? Or is it an act of changing the status of the object, from belonging to one place to belonging to a different place?  One practical ramification of this distinction is the reversal in the status of the akira and hanacha as opposed to the movement. According to the first position, which I attribute to the Tosafot, the essence is the movement, whereas the akira and the hanacha are merely measures in the act of the melakha and not part of the essence of the melakha. According to the second position, which I attribute to Rashi, the essence of the melakha is the akira and the hanacha, whereas the movement is merely a way that allows hanacha in a new place after the object was lifted up from its original place.

            In the previous shiur we dealt with the definition of hotza'a as a "deficient melakha." We suggested this to mean that in hotza'a there is no change in the status of the object, there is no real creative act, as we find in every other melakha. The question that remains is: What is the conclusion? After the Torah defines hotza'a as a melakha, how do we define its character? One possibility is to say that even according to the conclusion, hotza'a does not meet the definition of a melakha, and the Torah only calls it a melakha for the purpose of imposing liability for it on Shabbat, despite the fact that it does not meet the definition of melakha. The strongest expression of this conclusion is the position of the Tosafot Rosh that the fact that hotza'a is a deficient melakha explains why there is no prohibition of hotza'a on a Festival, since "it is not a melakha and with respect to a Festival it is written: 'You shall not do a melakha'" (Tosafot ha-Rosh 2a, s.v. yetzi'ot). This implies that every other melakha is a melakha because of the result, the creative act in it, but hotza'a is designated a melakha because of the action, even without any results. This accords with the position that I attribute to the Tosafot in our passage, that hotza'a is defined as movement, the transfer of an object from one domain to another. But the position that I attribute to Rashi will explain that by including hotza'a in the list of melakhot the Torah teaches that even a change in location is a change in the status of an object; that is to say, that the location of an object is a component in the very definition and identity of the object. According to this, hotza'a is a melakha of changing the identity of an object, from an object that belongs to a certain place (a private domain) to an object that belongs and is defined by its being found in a different place (a public domain), just as grinding is a melakha of changing the identity of an object from one solid block to powder, and the like, and so too all the other melakhot.

            Returning to our sugya: Rashi, in accordance with his opinion, asserts that akira alone, even without hanacha (and without a transfer from one domain to the other), is subject to a rabbinic prohibition. That is to say, the change in the object's identity begins already when it is being lifted up, as that cancels its previous identity. The Gemara states that the Mishna counts only the acts of akira, but not the acts of hanacha. At the beginning of this shiur, we inferred from a close reading of Rashi that acts of akira are forbidden by rabbinic law, but acts of hanacha are permitted. See the Rashba (s.v. patur), who after citing the opinion of Rashi writes: "And some explain in the opposite manner that [the Mishna] counts the acts of hanacha because through them the melakha is completed, and it is the essence of the melakha, for it is by way of hanacha that a person generally becomes liable for a sin-offering, but with an akira [alone] he has done nothing. This seems to be correct." (The Rashba's words here are based on those of the Ramban.) It would appear that the Rashba understood Rashi as we have explained, but he argues that if we are already prohibiting by rabbinic decree either akira or hanacha, the logical candidate is hanacha, and not akira. The reason is clear: Akira, according to Rashi, cancels the old identity; hanacha determines a new identity. Hanacha, then, is the essence of the melakha, that is, the essence of the creation of something new, which is the definition of a melakha on Shabbat. Rashi explained the preference of akira over hanacha with an incidental reason – that a person who lifts up an object can, if he continues, come to violate a Torah prohibition. The Rashba, however, prefers the fundamental reason – the person who sets the object down creates a new identity, which is not the case with the person who lifts the object up. (The wording of the Rashba indicates that he maintains that the component that is not included in the count – in his opinion, the akira – is not only not counted, but even permitted, for regarding akira he writes: "He has done nothing," implying that there is no reason whatsoever to prohibit this.)

            See Pesachim 85b: There is a prohibition to remove the meat of a Paschal-offering from the house in which it had been set to be eaten ("You shall not take [totzi] any of the meat outside, out of the house"; Shemot 12:46). The Gemara says that in order to become liable for the violation of this prohibition, there must be akira and hanacha. It explains: "Hotza'a is written in connection with it, as [in connection with] Shabbat; just as [in the case of] Shabbat, [he is not culpable] unless he performs akira and hanacha, so too here [he is not culpable] unless he performs akira and hanacha." Rashi there writes (s.v. de'avad):

Just as [in the case of] Shabbat – that we need akira and hanacha, for until he sets it down the melakha has not been completed, and regarding Shabbat and all instances of liability for a sin-offering it is written: "When he does it" (Vayikra 4:27) – one who does all of it, and not one who does part of it. And this one too, even though he is not liable to a sin-offering, we need hotza'a like there.

There is room to ask: If the need for akira and hanacha on Shabbat stems from the definition of the melakha of hotza'a as a new creation, as we have proposed for Rashi in tractate Shabbat, why should akira and hanacha be necessary in the case of the Paschal-offering, where there is no need for a melakha or a creative act?

            We must say that we learn from the case of Shabbat the meaning of the word hotza'a. Since with respect to Shabbat we need akira and hanacha, we learn that hotza'a does not denote mere movement, but the designation of a new place – a place outside – for an object that previously had been defined as having a place inside. Since the term hotza'a is also used with respect to the Paschal-offering, we learn that with respect to that law as well, the prohibition is not to move the meat, but to change its special identity and define it as belonging outside. Thus akira and hanacha are needed, for only with akira and hanacha is the meat endowed with the status of belonging now outside, and no longer belonging inside. On the contrary, the position of Tosafot requires explanation, for if akira and hanacha are not part of the definition of hotza'a, but only a measure in the action with regard to the prohibition of Shabbat, by what reason do we require the same measure with regard to the Paschal-offering? We must say that according to the Tosafot the Gemara in Pesachim describes a Scriptural decree, sort of a gezera shava (verbal analogy). Since the Torah uses the same word in connection with both the meat of the Paschal-offering and Shabbat (and as the Tosafot in Pesachim emphasize, the prohibition on Shabbat is learned from the verse: "Let no man go out (yetze) of his place" (Shemot 16:29), i.e., let him not take out (yotzi), we learn that the laws of hotza'a on Shabbat (the need for akira and hanacha) apply also to the Paschal-offering.  

            Lastly, let us return to a point that was raised at the beginning of this shiur. We argued that the plain meaning of the words of Rashi implies that hanacha without akira is permitted outright, and not forbidden even by rabbinic decree. Many commentators do not accept this conclusion, and argue that Rashi speaks only of the count in the Mishna, but hanacha without akira is indeed forbidden by rabbinic decree. They adduce proof from Rashi's explicit words on p. 3b (s.v. mi-be'od yom), that if a person stretched out his hand with an object in it before Shabbat, and then rested the object in a public domain on Shabbat, there is no liability, "as there was no akira on Shabbat, but only hanacha, and regarding this there is a rabbinic prohibition, as he performed part [of the melakha]." Rashi explicitly writes that hanacha without akira is considered like performing part of the melakha, for which he is exempt, but it is nevertheless forbidden. This is indeed a cogent proof, but it should be noted that we can easily distinguish between the case where one person lifts the object up and the other puts it down, and the case on p. 3b, where a person lifts an object up on Friday afternoon and he himself puts it down on Shabbat. It might be that in the case where the person performing the hanacha did not do any akira, his hanacha is not considered as setting a new identity for the object, since the object in question came to him without any spatial identity. But if he himself lifted up the object, even before Shabbat, and he later set it down on Shabbat, it turns out that he gave the object a new spatial identity, and he did so on Shabbat, since it is the hanacha that completes this determination, and the conclusion is the determining factor. Therefore, the question regarding Rashi's position in the case where one person lifts the object up and another sets it down, whether the person performing the hanacha transgresses a rabbinic prohibition, still requires further examination.

(Translated by David Strauss)

Sources for the next shiur: Akirat Gufot


1. גמ' ג. "בעי מינוה רב מרבי" עד ג.' "...כרה"י לא דמיא מידו דבעה"ב". רש"י.

2. תוס' ד"ה עקירת וד"ה מאי, תוס' הרא"ש ד"ה מי וד"ה מ"ט.

3. חי' הרמב"ן ג'. ד"ה ה'ג בפר"ח ידו לא נייח (במהדורות חדשות של חי' הרמב"ן).

4. חי' הרשב"א ד"ה ה"ג ר"ח, חי' הר"ן ד"ה ידו.

5. חי' הרשב"א דף ה'. ד"ה הא, באמצע "ואינו נראה בעיני ... למעלה מעשרה פטור".