Thursday, December 17, 2009

basar m'ikara azlinan and neiros chanukah (II)

In Part I we saw Tosfos’ distinction between the case of dropping an object and the case of shooting an arrow at an object with respect to the issue of basar m’ikara azlinan. The Ketzos (390:1) claims that not all Rishonim agree, and one of his proofs comes from a very famous question of the Nimukei Yosef.

The gemara (B.K. 22) quotes R’ Yochanan’s view that damage caused by fire is similar to damage caused by shooting an arrow (isho m’shum chitzo): the person who starts the fire or shoots the arrow has no control over what subsequently happens, but is still responsible for the result. If I shoot an arrow and five minutes later it hits and destroys and object, even though I may be sitting under a tree when the damage occurs, it is as if I took a hammer at that moment and smashed the object; the same is true if I light a fire and it later burns down a house. The Nimukei Yosef asks: if so, how am I allowed to light Shabbos candles? Even though when the candles are burning I am sitting and enjoying my seudah, just like the archer sitting under a tree is viewed as if he at that moment smashed whatever the arrow hit, so too, I should be viewed as if I were engaged in the act of kindling for the duration of the candle’s burn!

The way the Ketzos interprets the Nimukei Yosef’s answer takes us back (see part I) to the case of an object dropped from the roof (disclaimer: it is by no means it clear that this is actually what the N.Y. meant). The reason the person who dropped the object is liable for breaking it and not the person who swings at it and smashes it on its way down is because basar m’ikara azlinan, we view the object as if it was broken from the second it was dropped, even before it actually hits the ground. So too, the person who shoots an arrow or lights a fire is not chayav because he is considered to be causing damage later when the arrow hits or the fire rages, but rather he is chayav because basar m’ikara azlinan, we anticipate the damage which will occur and consider it done already from the moment the arrow leaves the bow or the fire is lit.

Why are you allowed to light Shabbos candles? Because the principle of basar m'ikara azlinan tells as that the burning which occurs later is considered to have already happened the moment the candle was lit.

But didn’t Tosfos tell us that this sevara of basar m’ikara applies only when you act directly on an object, like dropping it off a roof, not when you indirectly cause damage, like shooting an arrow at it? QED, says the Ketzos, the Nimukei Yosef disagrees with Tosfos.

This is the context which (in my opinion) is needed to appreciate the question posed to R' Tzvi Pesach Frank. Here we go: I understand that I am allowed to light Shabbos candles because the candles which burn as I eat my meal are treated halachically -- basar m'ikara azlinan -- as if their burning was done already before Shabbos even started. However, this Friday I also have to light Chanukah candles, and those candles must burn after dark for me to fulfill my mitzvah. If I light those candles before Shabbos starts, and based on the N.Y. I treat the burning of the candle in the future as a fait accompli from that moment it is lit, how am I yotzei the mitzvah of lighting neiros Chanukah after dark? The lighting and burning finished their job before Shabbos started, while it was still light out!

I think there is more than one way to skin this cat. Bl"n I'll follow up with R' T.P. Frank's answer.


  1. The Nimukei Yosef is very difficult to understand. Who says there is an issur of shooting an arrow before shabbos and causing it to do melacha on shabbos, even if this is your action?

    You did not act to be mechallel shabbos on shabbos. It's like faxing America from Eretz Yisroel after shabbos when it is still shabbos in America, which according to Rb Y. Frand, is fine.

    pc :-)

  2. The N.Y. in his kashe understands that the reason you are chayav for lighting a fire is because when the the fire causes the damage (on Shabbos) it is as if you did an act of hezek at that moment; when the arrow hits it is as if you did an act of hezek at that moment.

    The fax case may be different for a few reasons, the first being even when the fax is received, in your time zone it is not Shabbos. Who says you need to look at things relative to the time zone it is received in?

  3. OK, so the Nimukei Yosef is saying le'mai naphka minah if you start the fire before Shabbos or on Shabbos.

    Either way the reason you are chayava is because of the time whenthe fire burns the object and not becuase of the fact that you lit the fire.

    The main problem I have over here is the sevara - you see as if it all burnt when you lit it.

    Fine, if that was only applied to Shabbos I could live with it, it would mean that when we consider your chiyuv for burning something on Shabbos, in order to simplify our understanding of your action we compress time and say everything that extrapolated from your action was considered to have happened when you performed the action.

    But how could anyone think this has anything to do with Chanuka? If this had anything to do with Chanuka then it should also be a problem with Shabbos lights? How can you be yotze Shabbos lights by lighting before Shabbos, ay they all burnt before Shabbos? The answer is that Shabbos lights are lit to make light in the house, is there light in the house on Shabbos becuase you lit the lights before Shabbos? Yes. The same applies to Chanuka, we light the lights for pirsumei nisah. Is there pirsumei nisah through these lights that are now burning after dark becuase you lit them before dark? Yes. So you did the mitzva.

    I am very bothered by the extrapolation of the Nimukei Yisef's sevara into an area where it is obviously meaningless.


    pc :-)

  4. By Shabbos candles there is no specific shiur to the candles. By ner chanukah you need a chefzta of a ner, not just pirsum hanes. (Proof: if you use a ner that is not kosher, e.g. one that has 2 wicks, or an electric menorah, you have pirsum but no shem ner and are not yotzei.) If the candle is considered completely consumed before the correct time hits, you have a problem.

  5. Why does this only apply to lighting on erev shabbos. If I light during the week, as soon as I set light to the wick I have destroyed the cheftza of the ner, so I do not have a cheftza of a ner burning for half an hour?

  6. All you need is a shiur for it to burn for the zman, but kavsa ain zakuk lah, you are not responsible for how long it actually lasts.

  7. kavsa ain zakuk lah is only if it was extinguished accidentally but when you lit it it should have burnt for 1/2 hr, but if you light it in a place where it will definitely blow out you are not yotze.

    pc :-)

  8. First of all, not all posking agree with that -- see the discussion in the Minchas Shlomo by R' S Z Auerbach.
    In any case, I'm just using kavsa ain zakuk lah to show that the chiyuv is just to light with the proper shiur, not to have a menorah burn for the proper shiur. If you deliberately extinguish it maybe that shows that there was a chisaron in your original hadlakah.

  9. This is a very tortuous path, pashtus there is no problem - I light a menora - it burns for half an hour - I can see that the menora I lit is burning.

    The problem is if I light it on erev shabbos to burn on shabbos - how am I yotze? I did not light it on Shabbos. Lighting it after plag is not because this is considered the next day but rather becuase shraga betiura mai ahani - the light is not nikar in the middle of the day.

    We could say the mitzva is not to light the menora but rather to have it burning - similar to building a ma'ake. Then as long as you ensure that it is burning you did the mitzva.

    The question is, if shabbos is the first day of chanuka and you light on Friday, how did you do the mitzva? You did not even light on Chanuka?

    It seems the mitzva is not to light the menora on Chanuka, but rather to light the menora. Chanuka is a prat in the mitzva. i.e. there is always a mitzva to light the menora, therefore if you lit it on erev shabbos although it was not chanuka, as long as you ensure through this lighting that it will burn on shabbos you can make a beracha.

    pc :-)

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