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Thought for the Day: Waiting at the Edge of T'chum Shabbos To Do Your Stuff

One of the earliest life lessons I remember being taught by my father, alav hashalom, was regarding hypothetical situations.  He had a cute expression to make his point.  As I got older the expression morphed into things less cute, but more "colorful"; yet that first is what made the deepest impression.  When I would ask, "but what if...", my dad would reply, "If a frog had six shooters and a ten gallon hat he would be a Texas ranger."  The implied "but he doesn't, so he isn't" was the answer to my question.  After many years, I did learn that lesson.  Torah, however, has a way of forcing one to unlearn previously learned lessons; sometimes to modify, sometimes to toss out completely.

Siman 306 (Shulchan Aruch, O.Ch.) discusses things you are an are not allowed to say on Shabbos.  (Even though, as R' Fuerst often notes, it's a free country; sometime that freedom means the freedom to just say no.)  As background, we need to review a bit about the requirement for your animal to also participate in Shabbos and how t'chumim work.  You are responsible to ensure that your animal also ceases to work on Shabbos.  For that reason, there are big problems with even renting an animal to an non-Jew if he is going to have it over the weekend.  As to t'chumim, you are not allowed to leave your area of residence -- 2000 amos in each direction from the city boundary -- on Shabbos.  All of the is based on the pasuk in Y'shaya "mimtzoh cheftzecha" -- refrain from your own activities that are not part of the Shabbos celebration.  Now to the main point.

You are not allowed to sneak out to the edge of the t'chum ("machshich al ha't'chum, for your lamdanim) and wait there so that as soon as Shabbos is over, you can run off to execute your nefarious plans.  The overarching principle is that if an activity is forbidden on Shabbos -- even those activities forbidden by our holy sages with HaShem's imprimatur, then it is also forbidden to machshich al ha'tchum for that activity.  (Mishna Brura sk 2.)  On the other hand, if your animal has wandered outside the t'chum, then you are allowed to machshich al ha't'chum in order to be able to run to save her as quickly as possible after Shabbos.  Ayy... (imagine me making two or three hitchhiking motions with my thumb)... you'll ask me, "But didn't you just say that that if an activity is forbidden even... then I can't machshich al ha't'chum!?"  Yes, but if there were little huts less than 70 amos apart stretching from the edge of the city to you animal, then your t'chum would be extended and you could walk straight to her.   Ayyy.... (you know the drill)... "But there aren't any huts!"  Right; but there could be.  And for mimtzo cheftzecha, says the Mishna Brura (sk 3), an activity is only included if there is no way it could be made permissible.  Since this could be permissible if there were huts, even though there aren't, it is.

Note, by the way, that ensuring that your animal ceases its work on Shabbos does not mean that you have to prevent the animal from doing any of the 39 m'lachos.  It is perfectly appropriate to allow you animal to graze on Shabbos, for example.  The prohibition is on you, not the animal.  Not allowing the animal to graze would be quite unpleasant for him, so of course you would let her do that.  The Reform Jewish Religion (a modern religion, akin to Christianity in having it's roots in Judaism, but more distant theologically) likes to celebrate their sabbath (aka Shobot) as a day of rest and relaxation.  Meaning to say, if it makes you feel happy and serene, it's an appropriate activity.  Cooking (bishul, lash, borer, etc), gardening (zorei'ah, kotzer, choresh, etc), taking a drive (hotza'ah, mavir, m'chabeh, etc) are all appropriate activities for them.  If we were animals, that would certainly be an appropriate way for us to enjoy Shabbos; but we aren't, so it isn't.

If you are suspicious that I wrote this TftD only to make that last point.  First of all, nuh-uh; I thought the idea that if it could be permissible, then that's enough for mimtzo cheftzecha.  Second of all, I am certainly not above suspicion.

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