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April 27, 2014 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Emor

This coming week’s Torah portion discusses Pesach and other holidays (Lev. 23).  In an afternoon Talmud class, my shul’s rabbi (a fairly liberal modern Orthodox rabbi) discussed a rabbinic doctrine that is little known among secular Jews-the idea of mutzkeh: that Jews should not carry anything that has no practical value on Shabbat or Yom Tov.  This doctrine was invented by the ancient rabbis as a fence around the Torah: they reasoned that if the most common use of object X violates Shabbat, if people are allowed to carry X there is a high chance they will use it for that prohibited purpose.  For example, the most common use of a farm animal was to make it work in the fields or to kill it for food- both acts prohibited on Shabbat.  So the rabbis decreed that animals are mutzkeh. 

The rabbi was asked: what about a pet?  Can you touch it?  Carry it? Walk it?  His view was that a pet is ordinary mutzkeh and thus cannot be carried, but that the pet can be petted (since that doesn’t involve moving the animal).  What about walking a dog?  This is a somewhat more complex issue.  He said that if the leash is tight it is fine, but a long leash is problematic because there’s a risk that you might be carrying the leash (for more of an explanation go here).

My pets have always been caged pets that just stayed in their cage over Shabbat; however, my nieces have a dog so it is of some practical relevance to me.



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