Vayeira: Carrying between Two Private Domains

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20 Oct 2010

Last week (read that as “Two weeks ago”) we gave Rav Natan of Breslav’s explanation of the Torah prohibition to move objects from public to private domain or the opposite.

The private domain, “domain of the One”, represents the realm of holiness and unity; the public domain, “domain of the many”, represents the imperfect material world which is under the influence of destructive forces which are far from holiness, as well as sparks of holiness which need to be brought “inside”. The melakhah of “taking out” represents the responsibility which even a holy person has to sometimes occupy himself with mundane concerns in order to express the holiness which is found in material pursuits; that of “bringing in” represents the responsibility which the worldly person has to seek the spiritual refuge of Torah and the influence of righteous people. However, Shabbat is a day of perfection, and so we refrain from this kind of clarification. (Likutei Halakhot Shabbat 7:30.)

The Sages tell us that King Shlomo added a new decree: he forbade carrying even between two separate private domains, unless they are joined by an eruv, meaning that they share a physical border (what we call today an eruv) as well as a symbolic partnership (through jointly owned means for a Shabbat meal, which is what Chazal generally refer to as an eruv). (Shabbat 14b.)

Rav Natan explains this as follows: Beyond the clarification and rectification of venturing out beyond the realm of holiness into the realm of division and ambiguity, there is a further rectification in which even righteous individuals learn from each other. This is symbolized by carrying from one private domain to another. This is an important part of our process of self-perfection; each individual has unique traits and ability that are worthy of emulation by others.

However, we have to know that there is a limit to this process. One day a week, the Shabbat, it is forbidden to engage in this kind of transfer.
Each person has to acknowledge and appreciate his own uniqueness; even if our neighbor prays with greater intention, perhaps this aspect of God’s service is beyond our abilities and trying to emulate it would only lead to discouragement. Or conversely maybe our neighbor has no trouble maintaining his devotion to mitzvot even in an unusually trying environment, but if we were to venture into his pursuits we would suffer a loss of deveikut, of clinging to holiness.

However, this caution can be dispensed with when we make an eruv. When two individuals completely break down the barriers between them, by creating a joint enclosure and sharing their Shabbat meal, this guarantees that the interaction between them will be without the jealousy and self-doubt which lead to counterfeit imitation, as opposed to sincere and modest emulation which knows what traits are appropriate to share.

“Then there will be a joining of domains, that [interaction] between him and his fellow will be only for good and not for bad, God forbid; that they will join together and come near one to the other in love and peace, that each will learn from the other for good, to draw close to the Holy One, blessed be He, and not God forbid to distance himself through this.” (Likutei Halakhot Shabbat 7:74)

Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.