THIS SITE IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED            בית מדרש הוירטואלי עבר דירה
PLEASE FIND US AT OUR NEW TORAT HAR ETZION WEBSITE                                  
     English shiurim @          לשיעורים בעברית @

Shiur#13: The Melakha of Tzeida and Imposing Human Authority

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur#13: The Melakha of Tzeida and Imposing Human Authority


By Rav Moshe Taragin



A previous shiur addressed the unique dynamic of the melakha of tzeida (capturing) on Shabbat.  Unlike most melakhot, no discernable change or impact is rendered by the act of capture.  Most melakhot create either a physical or chemical change, whereas confining an animal accomplishes neither.    Unlike other melakhot in which the outcome is prohibited and the exact details of the process may be less significant, we might argue that tzeida, without any palpable impact, would demand a highly specialized type of action. Thus, only professional acts of catching, or at least premeditated acts, constitute a violation.


Although this theory is indicated by several unique halakhot of tzeida, it is also possible that tzeida IS NOT DIFFFERENT from conventional melakhot.  It is true that no apparent physical or chemical change is rendered, but an important psychological transformation occurs when a free animal is placed in captivity.  By imposing AUTHORITY and stripping the animal of its independence, tzeida may create the type of IMPACT which is typically forbidden. 


If this is true and tzeida is accomplished not merely by capturing, but by imposing control and stripping independence, we may assert certain unique conditions regarding this violation.  An interesting example would pertain to the "dror" bird, which is so named because it can adapt to live in the fields or in a contained house (dror being an etymological parallel to the word dira, residence).  Due to this adaptability, tzeida is only violated by placing this bird in a narrow and cloistered area (see Shabbat 106a).  Simply capturing it within a roofed area or even a home would not entail a violation.


Rashi in Beitza (24a) comments that this bird's adaptability allows it to elude human grasp even when contained in roofed structures.  According to Rashi, no act of capture has been performed by placing the bird in such structures, and obviously tzeida hasn't been perpetrated.  As logical as Rashi's statement sounds, the gemara does not assert that the bird's adaptability to different regions affords it unique "escape" abilities.  Instead, the gemara comments that its adaptability enables it to DEFY HUMAN AUTHORITY even when placed in roofed structures.  As Rabbenu Chananel in his comments to Shabbat writes, "even when captured [in an ordinary roofed structure], this bird does not [instinctively] sense its captivity since it [still] does not accept authority."  Evidently, merely containing an animal does not violate tzeida; only by imposing human authority can tzeida be violated.  A dror bird only senses this imposition in a very narrow cloister. 


A second example of "imposed authority" as a prerequisite for tzeida violation can be seen in an interesting discussion about domestic chickens and geese.  The gemara in Beitza (24a) questions the permissibility of capturing such birds on Yom Tov.  Rav Mari reasons that since they do not flee human grasp, they are already "captured" and can be seized.  Shmuel offers a different reasoning: chickens and geese return to their cages to sleep AND are fed by human hand.  It is unclear from Shmuel's statement why these conditions eliminate the melakha of tzeida. 


One approach would suggest that the sleeping and feeding cycles of such birds can be employed by humans to "lure" them.  As such, they may be considered already "ensnared" by human control and their PHYSICAL seizure may not violate tzeida.  Of course, we may question whether these animals can be seized when they are not sleeping or feeding and presumably are not naturally under human control.  However, this view would eliminate the prohibition because these birds are already "captured" and the physical seizure is redundant and meaningless. 


Rabbenu Chananel, in his comments to Beitza (24a), writes that these animals are considered domesticated and therefore no tzeida entails.  It seems that – again - Rabbenu Chananel believes that tzeida is only transgressed if authority has been imposed.  Animals that feed and sleep in the human "space" already live as "domesticated" creatures.  Tzeida cannot possibly be performed even if their movement is limited by physical seizure.  Tzeida demands imposition of authority, and where that authority already exists, no melakha can be violated. 


Yet another example may be the discussion surrounding closing a box containing flies or bees.  The gemara in Shabbat (43a) implies that a hive containing bees cannot be "tightly" sealed on Shabbat.  Based upon this precedent, the Ba'al Ha-Terumot (see the Tur Orach Chayim siman 316) claims that a box containing flies may not be sealed.  Although the comparison between bees and flies is ultimately accepted, many commentators sensed a difference and suggested the absence of tzeida infraction in the situation of flies.  Although many distinguish between the elusiveness of flies and bees (capturing flies in a box does not assure actual seizure when ultimately attempting to grasp them), the Beit Yosef distinguishes between the HIVE as the NATURAL space of the bees, and a box, which is an area foreign to the flies.  His source for the idea that tzeida is only forbidden when trapping an animal in its natural location, is a gemara in Shabbat (106b), which claims that tzeida of a lion can only be violated by fastening it to its "garzaki" – its familiar cage. 


Why should tzeida demand placement in natural containers rather than merely confining ones?  Perhaps, the Beit Yosef adopts a definition of tzeida which demands not merely containing movement but imposing authority.  Merely capturing a lion will limit its movement, but the lion will not necessarily submit to human authority.  Returning it to its own cage will certainly impose that authority in greater measure. 


Similarly, trapping insects in a box will limit their movement but not change their behavior.  Trapping bees in a hive will change their BEHAVIOR because:


1.   It is a recognizable space

2.   They will begin to manufacture honey for human utility


These two factors determine that closing bees in a hive imposes authority and should be forbidden; capturing flies in a generic box may not.


Finally, the question of tzeida as imposing authority may explain a peculiar position adopted by the Yam Shel Shlomo in his comments to the first mishna in the third perek of Beitza.  The mishna had prohibited capturing fish on Yom Tov; although some animals MAY be captured under certain conditions, the prohibition of fish remains absolute.  Why is the capture of fish unconditionally forbidden, while there are exceptions with regard to other animals?  The Yam Shel Shlomo claims that removing fish from water constitutes kezira - detaching an item from its life source - and is therefore unilaterally forbidden. 


Did the Yam Shel Shlomo intend that IN ADDITION to tzeida, capturing fish entails a prohibition of kezira, accounting for the broad sweep of the prohibition, or did he intend that tzeida DOES NOT APPLY to capturing fish and ONLY kezira is relevant?  This is the basis of a machloket between the Magen Avraham (OC 497:6) and the Pri Megadim.  Logically, it remains difficult to eliminate the prohibition of tzeida from fish simply because a different prohibition happens to apply.  How might we justify the Magen Avraham's contention that according to the Yam Shel Shlomo kezira is violated but tzeida is not? 


Perhaps the logic discussed before underscores an exclusivity between kezira and tzeida.  As tzeida consists of the imposition of human authority upon an animal, it cannot possibly apply to fish, which die immediately after being removed form their source of life.  Even though the fish may live beyond the extraction from water, the act cannot be defined as imposition of authority since it is, in essence, the termination of life. By defining tzeida as creating an "existential" change in animals, we may find it incompatible with the act of fishing.


Interestingly, the question of tzeida as it applies to fish may be apparent in the case of the chilazon.  The gemara in Shabbat (75a) clearly states that capturing a chilazon violates tzeida, whereas Tosafot quote a Yerushalmi that no tzeida has been violated.  As a chilazon can live extensively out of water, it may be dissimilar to fish.  Extracting fish launches a process which will soon terminate in their death; as authority hasn't been imposed on a fish so that it will behave differently, no tzeida exists.  In contrast, capturing a chilazon DOES impose human authority, since it will continue to live and behave under the influence of human control.