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Chapter 85:1
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 particular Shabbos.

FOOTNOTES:

(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 Rabbinical prohibition.

(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 Avraham 334:8).

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