Daf Yomi Shabbos 91: Finding intention in objects

“Anyone who performs an action with an object with which he had dealings in the past, performs the action with the original intention in mind.”

Today we return to the recurring theme of intention that has been present since the start of this Daf Yomi cycle. We have been told over and over again that intention matters. Today’s Daf Yomi takes a different approach to the discussion and suggests that intention can reside within the essence of an object rather than with our present actions. It is as if we have been presented with the Talmudic version of Marie Kondo’s system of seeking joy in every object we own. And yes, like many others, I once sorted through my sock drawer by asking each one if it gave me joy.  If I am being honest, socks don’t give me joy, but I need socks.

We are provided with examples of objects that if carried into the public domain on Shabbat in any quantity are forbidden if the original intention of the action associated with the object is prohibited. An example is provided of seeds that may be absent-mindedly carried in one’s pocket with no intention of being planted; if planting was the original purpose, the act is disallowed. In other words, one is “liable for carrying out less than the measure that determines liability because he attributed significance to that measure.”

In this complicated exegesis, the past somehow lives in the ‘memory” of the object and determines present intention. If a single wheat seed becomes attached to the hem of one’s clothing, he will be liable if there was the intention to plant that seed at an earlier time. And since planting is prohibited on Shabbat, a single tiny, forgotten seed can create a liability. The text goes further and says that liability can be associated with the carrying of even “less’ than one seed.

We are presented with an example of liability that is carried from the thought of one person to another. If there is a certain object that is deemed to not be fit for storage and is not commonly stored – let’s envision it’s a discarded orange peel – then there is no liability if one decides to store the orange peel on Shabbat. But if one person – say someone’s cousin — decides that the orange peel is in fact worthy of storage, then it becomes a liability to store it through the “thought” of the relative. It is very theoretical to consider that the essence of liability for storing an object can be changed through the thought of another. The argument appears flawed to me because the person who wants to store the orange peel in the first place would deem it worthy by his intention, so why do you need a second opinion?

Attaching intention to objects brings to mind the stunt that our president pulled off earlier this week when he used force to disperse a peacefully protesting crowd so that he could stand in front of a boarded-up church with a bible that was carried by his daughter in her white purse. That bible had embedded within it the intention of prayer. The orange man stood in front of the church with the bible in his hand as if it was a weight that he was exercising above his head and seemingly with no awareness of its embedded intention. He missed the opportunity to take that moment to open the bible and say a prayer. And even if he had no intention to offer any kind of unity or kind words, he could have taken the moment nonetheless to connect with a country suffering from multiple afflictions. He could not give us even one moment of empathy, or healing words, or hope for the broken-hearted. We got nothing.
https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me/shabbos/shabbos-91

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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