1) "MELACHAH SHE'EINAH TZERICHAH L'GUFAH"
OPINIONS: A fundamental argument concerning the liability of one who performs Melachah on Shabbos involves a Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah, a Melachah "that is not needed for itself." Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon argue whether one is Chayav for performing a Melachah that is "not needed for itself." Rebbi Yehudah says that one is Chayav, while Rebbi Shimon says that one is Patur. What exactly is the definition of a Melachah "that is not needed for itself"?
(a) TOSFOS (94a, DH Rebbi Shimon Poter) quotes RASHI as saying that a Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah is any Melachah that one does in order to prevent something else from happening, or in order to rectify a wrong that was already done. For example, when a person carries a dead body out of a house on Shabbos, his primary intention is to correct an uncomfortable situation (the dead body being in his house); he does not specifically intend to transport the dead body to Reshus ha'Rabim. He would have preferred that no dead body enter his house in the first place.
Tosfos, however, refutes this explanation. In the case of a curtain that has a wormhole and a person tears the curtain some more above the hole and below the hole in order to mend it neatly, he is Chayav (this is the Melachah of Kore'a, Shabbos 75a). According to Rashi, one should be Patur in such a case. The person tears the curtain only in order to prevent further damage, and he would have preferred that the wormhole not be there in the first place!
(b) TOSFOS (ibid.) defines a Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah as any Melachah that is not performed for the same reason for which that Melachah was performed in the Mishkan.
(c) The RAMBAN (94b) and BA'AL HA'ME'OR (106a) write that a Melachah must be performed with the objective for which that activity is normally performed. If one does the Melachah for a purpose other than its normal objective, the act is a Melachah she'Einah Tzerichah l'Gufah. For example, digging a pit in order to use the dirt is a Melachah that is not needed for itself, because, normally, the objective of digging is in order to have a pit, and not to use the dirt, which is a secondary outcome of the digging. In addition, a Melachah performed in order to prevent damage from happening, such as capturing a snake in order to prevent it from causing harm to people, is considered a Melachah that is not needed for itself, because the normal objective of the act of capturing an animal is to use the animal. The same applies to carrying an object into Reshus ha'Rabim in order to keep oneself from becoming soiled. This may be Rashi's opinion as well, unlike Tosfos understanding of Rashi (as mentioned in (a) above). This is why tearing a curtain to repair a wormhole is considered an actual Melachah; the person who tears the curtain is primarily interested in having the curtain torn (the primary effect of the Melachah) and not in a secondary outcome of the tearing.
2) ASKING THE ANGELS TO HELP
QUESTION: The Gemara implies that a person should pray in a language which the Mal'achim understand so that they will advocate on his behalf. Does this Gemara support the custom to recite prayers such as "Machnisei Rachamim" (that some say in Selichos) in which we request that the Mal'achim advocate our cause before Hash-m?
ANSWER: The Acharonim assert that this Gemara does not support the custom of reciting prayers such as "Machnisei Rachamim." Even though it is true that the Mal'achim help our prayers find favor before Hash-m, we are not permitted to ask them for their involvement. We must speak only to Hash-m directly; the Mal'achim are Hash-m's emissaries, not ours. The Gemara here is saying that we merely may make it easier for the Mal'achim to fulfill their mission by using a language which they understand.
Those who have the custom to say the prayer "Machnisei Rachamim," however, are not in error. They are not making requests of the Mal'achim, but rather they are acknowledging to themselves that the Mal'achim are helping their prayers. They find support and encouragement in the knowledge that the Mal'achim are advocating on their behalf.
3) PRAYING IN ARAMAIC
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the Mal'achim do not understand Aramaic. TOSFOS (DH she'Ein Mal'achei ha'Shares) asks how the Gemara can say that the Mal'achim do not understand Aramaic when we know that they understand man's thoughts. If they understand the thoughts of man, then certainly they understand the words that he uses to articulate those thoughts, even if those words are said in Aramaic!
How does Tosfos know that Mal'achim are aware of our thoughts? There seem to be a number of sources that indicate, to the contrary, that Mal'achim do not know our thoughts. First, the MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (Berachos 2:6) points out that the verse says, "You [Hash-m] alone know the thoughts of man" (Divrei Ha'Yamim II 6:30), and, "Who knows [the thoughts in the hearts of men]? I, Hash-m, probe thoughts..." (Yirmeyahu 17:9-10). Second, the SEFAS EMES points out that the Zohar (I:101b, Parshas Vayera) explicitly states that the Mal'achim asked Avraham where Sarah was because they only know that which Hash-m lets them know. From where, then, does Tosfos know that the Mal'achim know man's thoughts?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON (in BI'UR HA'GRA to SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 101:11) suggests a source for Tosfos' assertion. The Gemara in Berachos (55a) states that "Iyun Tefilah" causes one's sins to be reviewed in heaven. The Gemara explains that "Iyun Tefilah" is when a person prays and expects that his prayers will be answered as a result of his concentration in prayer. The Mal'achim see the person's self-confidence in his righteousness and they ask Hash-m to review whether or not he is really righteous, causing all of his sins to be examined (Rashi ibid.). This implies that the Mal'achim know his thoughts, because it is only his thoughts that cause the Mal'achim to review his sins. It must be that the Mal'achim assigned to Tefilah are given the ability to understand thoughts in order to appropriately advocate for or against the fulfillment of one's prayers, because part of their advocacy depends on what the person thinks while he prays.
However, if, as Tosfos writes, the Mal'achim understand man's thoughts, then how are we to understand the Gemara here? Why do the Mal'achim not understand words spoken in Aramaic if they understand man's thought?
1. Perhaps Tosfos' assertion that Mal'achim know man's thoughts is incorrect, and they indeed do not know man's thoughts, as many Acharonim maintain (as mentioned above).
2. The RA'AVAD (in TAMIM DE'IM, cited by the Gilyon ha'Shas) suggests that even though the Mal'achim understand thoughts and, therefore, they understand prayers recited in Aramaic, Hash-m does not want the Mal'achim to advocate for prayers that were recited in Aramaic, lest the people start using that language for their prayers instead of using Lashon ha'Kodesh. (According to the Ra'avad's explanation, this concern should apply to prayers recited in any language other than Lashon ha'Kodesh. However, if a person is unable to pray in Lashon ha'Kodesh, then the Mal'achim nevertheless are given the ability to advocate on his behalf, since he is not rejecting Lashon ha'Kodesh by choice.)
3. The ROSH (Berachos 2:2) and Ra'avad (ibid.) suggest that the Mal'achim do understand Aramaic, since they understand thoughts, but it is a repulsive language to them because it is a perversion of Lashon ha'Kodesh, the holy language. They therefore do not advocate on behalf of one who prays in Aramaic.
4. The Rosh and Ra'avad mention another explanation. The Mal'achim listen only to Lashon ha'Kodesh and no other language. The Gemara mentions Aramaic because one might have thought that the Mal'achim do listen to prayers recited in Aramaic because it closely resembles Lashon ha'Kodesh. Therefore, the Gemara says that the Mal'achim do not listen even to Aramaic.
4) THE PROHIBITION AGAINST READING BY THE LIGHT OF A FLAME ON SHABBOS
QUESTION: The Mishnayos mention many enactments that the Rabanan made in order to protect the sanctity of Shabbos. In many cases, the Mishnah mentions the reason for the enactment (for example, "A tailor should not go out with a needle, lest he forget..."). Why does the Mishnah (11a) not mention the reason for the prohibition against reading by the light of a flame on Shabbos? (P'NEI YEHOSHUA)
ANSWER: The Tana of the Mishnah does not include the reason for this enactment in the Mishnah because he wants to teach that even where the reason does not seem to apply, the prohibition remains in force. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (21b) says that the reasons for the Mitzvos and prohibitions in the Torah were not revealed so that people would not say that the reason does not apply to them and permit for themselves that which the Torah forbids. Similarly, the Chachamim did not reveal the reason for the prohibition against reading by the light of a flame, because they did not want a person to think that the enactment does not apply to him if he will be especially careful not to tip the lamp (and, as a result, he will inadvertently tip the lamp and desecrate Shabbos).
This is what Rebbi Yishmael ben Elisha means when he says, "How great are the words of the Chachamim who said, "One should not read by the light of a candle!" -- that is, how great is the wisdom of the Chachamim who taught the Halachah but did not continue and teach the reason, "lest he tip the lamp" -- so that no one should say that the reason does not apply to him and inadvertently sin! (MAHARATZ CHAYOS in the name of the VILNA GA'ON)