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Chapter 83:3
Areas Enclosed by Partitions

3. [As we saw earlier] it is permitted to carry within an area that was fenced off for purposes other than regular dwelling, as long as the area is not larger than a "Bais So'sayim" (1). Should such an area be located next to a courtyard, it is permitted to carry objects that were in it when Shabbos began, into the courtyard, and to transfer articles from the courtyard into it, for they are considered a single domain (2).

[The area consisting of the courtyard and adjacent enclosure] is not, however, considered the same domain as the house, and objects that were in that area when Shabbos began, may not be taken into the house, nor may articles that were in the house when Shabbos began, be transferred into that area.


(1) A "Bais So'sayim" is approximately 5000 square "amos." Opinions among the authorities as to the exact length of an "amah" ("cubit") range between 48 and 60cm (20 to 24 inches).

(2) This halacha requires a little background. An area surrounded by valid partitions, no matter how large it is, has a Biblical status of a private domain, and, in terms of Biblical law, one may carry objects into it from a house, which is also a private domain. However, as we saw in HY 83:1-2, the Sages decreed that a fenced off area larger than a "Bais So'sayim", which was not enclosed for residential purposes, is given the status of a "carmelis," and hence one may not carry into it from a house, nor may one carry from it into the house; the reason for the decree is that since it is not used for regular dwelling purposes, it resembles a public domain, and people may mistakenly think that one may carry from a private to a public domain.

Now, as we see in today's halacha, even an area of "Bais So'sayim" or less, which was fenced off for non-residential purposes, and within which one may carry, is treated as a domain which is differentiated from a house (even though Biblically, they are identical), regarding objects that were in the house when Shabbos began. In contrast, areas other than houses which are defined Biblically as private domains, such as roofs, "Karfefs" (any non-residential area surrounded by partitions) , gardens and courtyards, are not differentiated from each other, regarding objects which were not in the house when Shabbos began. In other words, an object which was in the house when Shabbos began, may not be carried from the courtyard into any other of the private domains mentioned above (roofs, etc.). However, an object that was in the courtyard when Shabbos began, may be carried from the courtyard into any of the other private domains since they are all viewed as one domain.

Furthermore, in the days of the Talmud, it was common for a number of private homes to share one enclosed courtyard; a properly enclosed courtyard is defined as a private domain, and thus it would be Biblically permissible to carry from a private home into the shared courtyard. However, the Sages feared that if people would be allowed to carry from a home owned by one individual, into a courtyard shared by a number of individuals, then people may mistakenly believe that it is permitted to carry from a private domain into a public domain, and vice versa. Also, if one was permitted to carry within a shared courtyard, one may come to carry within a public domain.Therefore, the Sages prohibited carrying between a private home and the shared courtyard in which it is situated, and they even prohibited carrying within the courtyard itself. Now, in order to permit carrying between the houses and the courtyard, a loaf of bread has to be collected from each house in the courtyard, and then all the loaves have to be placed in one of the houses for the duration of Shabbos. This then symbolizes that all the contributing residents are legally residing in one dwelling (the house where they left their bread). In this way, the courtyard can be viewed as the province of only one dwelling, rather than several, and since the houses and the courtyard are both the property of a single consortium, there is no prohibition to carry from one to the other (because it can no longer be viewed as carrying from a private area to a "public" area, and the potential error which prompted the original rabbinical prohibition would not occur). This whole procedure is called "Eruv Chatzeros."

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