Four Domains on Shabbos
3. What is defined as a "Reshus HaRabim" ("public domain") [into which,
and through which, one may not carry an object on Shabbos]? Streets and
marketplaces that are sixteen "amos" by sixteen "amos" (1), for this was
the width of the thoroughfares in the camp of the Levites in the desert
[from which these laws were derived]. Similarly, highways upon which
people travel from city to city, that are sixteen "amos" wide are
considered "Reshus HaRabim."
Things located in the "Reshus HaRabim that are less than three "tefachim"
(2) above the ground, including thorns or feces, that is, things people do
not walk on, are considered part of the ground and are thus governed by the
same laws as the "Reshus HaRabim." The same applies to a pit in "Reshus
HaRabim" which is less than three "tefachim" deep.
[The following rules apply to] holes in the walls which face the "Reshus
HaRabim" and don't extend all the way through to the "Reshus HaYochid"
("private domain"): If they are less than three "tefachim" above the
ground, they are considered part of the ground and are thus governed by the
same laws as the "Reshus HaRabim." If they are more than three "tefachim"
above the ground, the law is determined by their size: If they cover an
area of four "tefachim" by four "tefachim" and are less than ten "tefachim"
above the ground, they are considered a "Carmelis" (3). If the holes are
higher than ten "tefachim" above the ground, they are considered "Reshus
HaYochid" (4). If they are less than four "tefachim" by four "tefachim,"
they are considered a "Makom Patur" ("exempt area"), regardless of whether
they are above or below ten "tefachim" from the ground.
Alleys that lead into a "Reshus HaRabim" are sometimes regarded as "Reshus
HaRabim" and sometimes as a "Carmelis," but there are many detailed
criteria involved [which will not be discussed here].
There are authorities who maintain that unless 600,000 people pass through
an area each day, as was the case in the Israelite camp in the desert
[after the exodus from Egypt], it is considered a "Carmelis" and not a
"Reshus HaRabim" (5). According to this opinion, there is no "Reshus
HaRabim nowadays (6), however, anyone who is G-d fearing should follow the
more stringent view.
(1) Opinions among the authorities as to the exact length of an "Amoh"
("cubit") range from 21-24 inches (53-60cm)
(2) A 'tefach' ('handbreadth') is approximately 3 inches.
(3) A "Carmelis" will be defined in tomorrow's Halacha-Yomi 81:4. It is an
area which cannot be classified as either "Reshus HaYochid" or "Reshus
HaRabim" and there is a rabbinical enactment prohibiting (in certain
circumstances) carrying an object into it (from either a private or public
doman) or through it.
(4) As we saw in HY 81:2, any entity with a surface area of at least four
'tefachim' by four 'tefachim' and which is at least ten 'tefachim' high, is
considered a "Reshus HaYochid" ("private domain") even when it is standing
in "Reshus HaRabim."
(5) Some say that this rule only applies within a city, but that the major
inter-city highways are considered "Reshus HaRabim" even when there are not
600,000 people passing by each day.
(6) That statement was true 150 years ago when the "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch"
was written, however, nowadays, there are numerous areas within the large
cities, through which 600,000 people pass each day.