In this shiur we worked through some of the basic sugyot dealing with the elusive and some times slippery concept of melacha she-eina tzricha l’gufa. We began with a process of triage in an attempt to drill down to a sugya that isolates our concept. We noted that in a sugya in which the debate between R. Yehuda and R. Shimon is quoted to answer an apparent contradiction, we will not find definitions. The gemara is there bringing the concept and assuming that we know what it means (see 105b, tearing in anger and 11b, the zav with his pouch).
In addition there are several sugyot in which the concept of mekalkel is lurking behind the position of R. Yehuda. All the gemarot that deal with digging the hole for the dirt (hagiga 10a/b, shabbat 73b & beitza 8a) can be read as really about mekalkel (as Rashi and Rabbenu Channanel in fact do). The sugya on shabbat 31b that deals with extinguishing the fire for the sake of the:lamp, the wick or the oil also ultimately shifts into the question of destructive activity based on Rashi’s read of Ulla.
The headquarters of this concept seems to be located on 93a/b dealing with the question of carrying out a:corpse, sefer torah or a hoe. Here we have key amoraim attempting to define the cases in which R. Shimon would and would not apply the heter. R. Yochanan and R. Lakish make it clear that when the carrying is done for the sake of the object (cheftza) R. Shimon would still be lenient. Rava states that when the carrying is done for the sake of the person (gavra) that R. Shimon would be machmir. It remains unclear as to what R. Yochanan and Reish Lakish would say in Rava’s case.
The Gemara then takes the concept that is developed in the sugya on 94a/b and applies to many different cases (107b – catching snakes, popping pimples; 121b, catching dangerous animals). Then on 42a we learn that Shmuel splits his psak between eino mitkavein and melacha she-eina tzricha l’gufa – he is meikel like R. Shimon in eino mitkavein and machmir like R. Yehuda in melacha she-eina tzricha l’gufa. This position of Shmuel seems to be the source for the pask of the Rambam in these two areas as well.
We then looked at Rashi, Ramban and Tosafot regarding their definitions of the concept. Rashi has two components to his definition that may or may not be related – that the activity is for removal and that the melacha is a coping mechanism. Ramban removes the coping aspect of the definition and limits it to productive acticity. Both Rashi and Ramban seem to read the words of R. Shimon is a more limited fashion (Rashba, Ritva and Ran all read like Ramban, while the Ba’al ha-Maor takes it even further). Tosafot, by introducing the mishkan as the “guf” of every melacha adds an additional layer to the conversation.
There are three mekorot sheets that I created:
The first is simply a list of the key sugyot along with Rashi (link).
The second presents the main Rishonim (link).
The third presented some summary charts on these sugyot (link).