Fire Breaking out on Shabbos
1. The Sages feared that if, Heaven forbid, a fire broke out on Shabbos,
and the members of the household [were allowed] to save their property,
they would panic over their belongings, and might forget that it is Shabbos
and extinguish the fire. Therefore, they prohibited saving even articles
which may be moved [on Shabbos], and even to remove them to a place into
which it is permitted to carry them. They permitted saving only those
articles that one requires for that particular Shabbos (1).
For instance: if a fire broke out on Friday night before the Shabbos meal
has been eaten, one may save enough food for three meals (2); food fit for
human consumption should be saved for humans, and animal food for animals
(3). If [the fire broke out] in the morning, one may save enough for two
meals, and if it broke out in the afternoon, one may save enough for one meal.
If there is a container which holds many foods, for example, a bread basket
with many loaves or a barrel full of wine (4), and the like, one is
permitted to remove it, since one removes the entire quantity at
once. Similarly, it is permitted to spread out a sheet and collect a large
quantity of different types of food to take out in one go (5).
It is also permitted to take out all utensils that one will need for that
(1) Some argue that this prohibition applies only where the salvaged
objects are carried into an unroofed courtyard or alley, connected to a
public domain; since these areas are similar to a public domain, one might
end up carrying into the public domain itself. However, if one is moving
the objects to any other area into which one is permitted to carry, one may
save as many items as one can (as long as they are not "Muktza," that is,
they are objects which may be moved on Shabbos). Although the stated reason
for the prohibition was a concern that one may extinguish the fire, and not
that one may end up carrying into the public domain, this opinion holds
that the prohibition only applies in situations where one might mistakenly
carrying into the public domain. The Mishna Berura (334:29) rules that one
may rely on the lenient ruling because we are dealing here with a
(2) Three meals for each member of the household (Biur Halacha 334:1).
(3) Because one may not eat before feeding one's animals.
(4) One may rescue enough regular drinks for the entire day (Ibid.).
(5) Some say that this leniency only applies to "loose" food, but if the
food is in a container, each container is considered separately (Magen