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Thought for the Day: When Action Precedes Realization, and Realization Creates the M'lacha

Catchy title, eh?  So here's the deal.  To transgress Shabbos on a Torah level requires "m'leches machsheves".  That is, the action that constitutes the malacha was done with intent for the result of that action and acting on the intended items.  If an action was performed in that manner by a Jew, then the result of that malacha is forbidden forever (at least) to that Jew and anyone he specifically intended to benefit with said action.

As it turns out, most malachos change the object upon which they are acting.  Baking/cooking, sewing, building, etc effect a change in the object under consideration.  What that kind of malacha is done on Shabbos the result of the malacha, as far as possible, needs to be undone.  If a garment was sewn on Shabbos, for example, that would need to be undone (after Shabbos).  If seeds were planted, they would need to be dug up.

Some malachos, though, affect only the environment of the object, but have no effect on the object itself at all.  Three come to mind immediately: hotza'ah (transferring from/to public domain to/from private domain), borer (selecting), and tzod (trapping).  In these cases "maleches machsheves" is much more than a technicality -- it defines whether an action is mutar l'chatchila or assur m'di'oraisa.

Suppose, for example, that flies are bothering you in your Sukkah on Shabbos.  Flies are not normally trapped for themselves, so setting up a fly trap is no problem (OC 316:7).  You aren't trapping them for an experiment (hey!  I was in eighth grade and it was science fair and I was a bit of a nerd), so this we seem to be a classic "m'lacha sh'ein tzricha l'gufa" -- an action that results in a malacha being done, but I don't care about that result.  I don't want the flies, I just don't want them buzzing around me and my food.  This is even better, though, because tzod/trapping means to restrict the domain of an animal so you can take control of it.  Here, I don't want control of the flies, I just don't want them in my domain (anti-trapping, if you will).  Therefore even the Rambam, who forbids m'lacha sh'ein tzricha l'gufa, would allow this kind of trapping.

Another case: you close the door on a small building (on Shabbos) and are then informed that there is a deer in there.  You have just trapped a deer!  B'shogeg, to be sure, but trapping none the less.  Opening the door, however, while it will free the deer, it does not undo the fact that a ma'aseh trapping occurred.  The Biur Halacha, conludes, though that you don't even need to open the door because "tzida kadma l'machshava" -- the trapping happened before you had any thoght about.  That means that the door was closed b'heter; so since the deer was unchanged, you are good to go.

Here's a scenario that is more likely to happen in your home that still uses the priniciple of "malacha kadma l'machshava".  You select peas from carrots -- ochel min ha'p'soles, b'yad and for the meal to which you are about to sit down; 100% mutar.  Then you decide, "Hey... I don't feel like peas for lunch, so I'll jus save them for shalosh s'udos."  Now you only have ochel min ha'psoles and b'yad; so it is now the malacha of borer.  Since, however, it only retroactively became borer, the Mishna Brura (in the Sha'ar Tzion, 319:5) says you may use the peas... but don't let me catch you doing that again.


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