Last week, in Parshas Vayakhel, in passuk 35:33, the words מלאכת מחשבת, Me'leches Machashaves appeared. These words are understood by Chazal as the fundamental definition of what sort of work is prohibited on Shabbos. Mesorah's translation is "craft of design." Most often, the way Chazal interpret this phrase is to limit the legal definition of 'work,' in Hilchos Shabbos, to cases of specific intent.
The next section is divided into two parts. Option One is for people without experience in Hilchos Shabbos. Option Two is for people who prefer straight yeshivishe talk.
In tort law, Specific Intent is defined as follows:
Thus, in Hilchos Shabbos, מלאכת מחשבת means that two elements must be present for a finding of transgression of Shabbos: intention to do the specific prohibited act, and intention for a particular result. If a person intended to do one prohibited melacha but did another, he didn't have intention to do that act, and it's not מלאכת מחשבת. If a person intended to do a prohibited act, but was doing it for a purpose other than the usual purpose of the melacha, then he lacks the intent to achieve the prohibited result, and it's not מלאכת מחשבת. In both cases, מלאכת מחשבת teaches us that this person is not legally culpable for the what he did.
In Yeshivish, we would say that Chillul Shabbos requires two things:
כוונה for a מעשה and כוונה for a תוצאה : intent to do a specific act, and intent to generate a specific result. The תוצאה has to be the purpose for which the Melacha was done in the building of the Mishkan. Classic application: if a person digs a hole, he can be said to be creating a pit, or building a pit. If he is digging because he wants sand, then even if he digs a perfect hole, it is not Meleches Machsheves. He is lacking the specific intent required for a melacha of building.
Generally, מלאכת מחשבת narrows the cases that are called Melacha of chillul Shabbos. But מלאכת מחשבת can also be used to include cases that would otherwise be excluded. For example: If a person throws wheat and chaff up into the air, and the wind blows away the chaff and allows the wheat to fall to the ground, it is considered his act, because he is intentionally using existing forces to complete the act that he began and he intended (Aruch Hashulchan 242:24. I don't know why the Aruch Hashulachan says it as if it were a chidush. It is an open Rashi in Bava Kamma 60a. and the Rosh there and the Rach in Shabbos 120b argue and say the svara is because that is the classic definition of the melacha, so the concept is limited to Zoreh. Similarly, the Gemara says that nursing a child is technically a melacha, but of course it is muttar. But why is it a melacha? The woman is just putting the child to her breast, and the child nurses! The child is doing the melacha, not the woman. The answer is that because children naturally nurse, if you put a child to a breast with the intention that the child nurse, then the result is called your מלאכת מחשבת. The same ought to be true by putting a leech on someone's skin, and just like Zoreh is a machlokes Rashi and the Rosh/Rach, this too is a machlokes between the Magen Avraham, who holds it's a grama even when you put grain into an active mill and certainly when you put a leech on skin, against the Even Ha'Ozer who holds it's a perfect melacha gmura, at the end of 328. Another example of this is in Tosfos Shabbos 73b. For further discussion, see Totzos Chaim 8:3)
So now, here is a new question.
There is a nascent technology called BCI, Brain Computer Interface. This enables a person to control a computer via his thoughts, or, more correctly, it trains a person to generate brain activity that controls a computer. The computer doesn't read your mind. As with Voice Recognition software, the computer and the person work together to create a lexicon of commands. Brain activity A (visualize Netanyahu) means that the cursor moves the right, Brain activity B (visualize Shulamit Aloni) means left, and Brain activity C (think of smelling a bowl of hot cholent) means stop, and so forth. See, for example, here. (This is not what Stephen Hawking uses. His devices respond to small muscle movements.)
At the moment, this infant technology is barely crawling. It will soon become enormously efficient and popular. One can easily imagine an earphone that functions as an inductive coil- or a yarmulkeh with a sensor- sensitive enough to distinguish between various brain activities, which could be used to control a computer. One could do anything, from turning on a light to starting a war, by means of his brain activity. All it will take is an Israeli with some spare time and a soldering gun.
Would this be called melacha on Shabbos? You are not lifting a finger. You are not moving or even talking. You are not "doing" any act at all.
My opinion is that the centrality of kavana in the din of מלאכת מחשבת would make this a melacha de'oraysa. Both the melacha and the result are intended. The result is proximate and definite and immediate. This is a melacha gemura.
It goes without saying that Reb Moshe, who prohibited the use of Shabbos clocks for anything but heat and light, would prohibit this at least on a Derabanan level. But I'm not talking about Derabanans and Kavod Shabbos here, I'm talking about a De'oraysa.
This is not at all related to issues of voice controlled computers or microphones or hearing aids. In all of those cases, the problem is the sound wave you generated impinging upon the receiver. And please do not confuse this with infrared motion detectors, or computer controlled motion detectors. In those cases, your action results in melacha being done, no less than if there were a string attached to you that pulled a switch when you moved. You are basically pulling the switch. In our case, you are doing absolutely no physical act.
This is not at all related to issues of whether the use of electrical mechanisms is assur or why it is assur. I'm talking about a one hundred percent melacha de'oraysa- igniting a fire that cooks a pot of meat- that was done by sending a signal via my brain activity to a computer to do it.
Over the last two days, I spoke about this to several Talmidei Chachamim.
- One said that it is not a melacha at all and muttar mid'oraysa. Melacha requires a physical act on my part. This person is a highly respected posek. He also holds that Rav Elyashiv's issur to walk where motion activated cameras will turn on is completely wrong, as does Rav Wosner.
- One said that it is melacha gemura and assur mid'oraysa. Interesting svara offered by the second person: He said, a melacha was done. The question is, to whom to be meyacheis the melacha. So, if a person tells a goy to do a melacha, the melacha is mis'yacheis to the goy. But if I make the computer do the melacha, it's mis'yacheis to me. great unknown says that this svara is contradicted by Reb Akiva Eiger in the Teshuvos #8 where he argues on the Nesivos regarding mis'asek.
- Another talmid chacham said that it is no different than the brain telling the hand to light a fire. The hand's action is my action. The computer here becomes my hand, and the melacha is a ma'aseh be'yadayim.
An excellent and helpful comment posted by the antipodean bar nash pc directs us to the Gemara in Sanhedrin 101a. The Gemara says that it is muttar to 'paralyze' an animal via a lechisha/incantation, even though it essentially traps the animal, and trapping is an Av Melacha. He said that the reason for this hetter is the absence of an act of Tzeidah. This is highly debatable, as will soon discuss. But Reb Chaim Kanievsky assumes that is the pshat in Rashi in the following paragraph. (And the tzushtell is notable for another reason, as well- he wants to be machria the issue of whether מלאכת מחשב is called מלאכת מחשבת from a case of מלאכת מכשף.)
(I do not have a copy of the sefer. I copied this from an online citation, and made several minor changes. It is not complete, as indicated by the ellipses, and I cannot vouch for its accuracy.)
According to his second teretz, Shabbos and the whole Torah are the same, and l'chisha would be muttar in all cases because it does not involve a human action. The Torah only prohibits a human action, not thoughts that result in action. If so, a BCI ma'aseh would be muttar in kol hatorah kulah.
Let me point out that Reb Chaim Kanievsky's point that speech is neither action nor legally actionable is not contrary to the generally accepted issur on talking into a microphone or using voice recognition software to write or control a computer on Shabbos. The difference is as follows:
Tosfos in Gittin 31a DH B'machshava says that a melacha that is done with intent alone (Tosfos is talking about being mafrish Truma with machshava and the issur of mesakein) is assur on Shabbos. The Chida in his Pnei David on Beshalach 16:23 brings a raya from Tosfos to the Maharsh Primo who said that since the Mahn that fell in the Midbar could be changed into whatever form you desired by intent alone- you could make it into baked, or cooked, or broiled simply by desiring that it be so- it was assur to make this change on Shabbos. The Teshuvos Har Tzvi (OC I 174) says that this really is clear in the passuk אֵת אֲשֶׁר תֹּאפוּ אֵפוּ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר תְּבַשְּׁלוּ בַּשֵּׁלוּ , because the Mechilta says it means that the Mahn actually cooked/baked/broiled itself according to the owner's intent, and it's clear in the passuk that this change had to be done before Shabbos began. (It's not clear to me, though, because according to Reb Akiva Eiger's pshat in the Rambam 9 Shabbos 3 onהמבשל על האור ... דבר שאינו צריך בישול כלל פטורbishul of the Mahn could not be de'oraysa. It's a great kashe on the Rambam, but irrelevant to the halacha.)
However, the Chida, in his sefer Yosef Ometz (92:2) brings that Tosfos in Menachos 55 says the opposite, that if the hafrasha is done with thought alone, it is muttar on Shabbos. The Chida's resolution of this stira, and a discussion on the topic as a whole, can be found in the Sefer Sdei Tzofim on Menachos, page 402 (page 408 on Hebrewbooks.org , or if that doesn't work, then go here and then go to page 408).
I know that some people are going to point out Reb Akiva Eiger's Teshuva in 159 about making a kinyan before Shabbos that will be chall on Shabbos. I say it's irrelevant. I'm too lazy to discuss it, and just wrote this so nobody should say "Ha! You forgot Reb Akiva Eiger's teshuva!" I didn't.
Lastly, let me point out that the Rashi in Sanhedrin 101 is not at all clear as to why it is muttar, as indicated in Reb Chaim's two teirutzim. Concordant with Reb Chaim's first pshat, the Levush and the Mishna Berura (328 SK 143) learn that Rashi was mattir either because it's not the normal derech or because it's supernatural. According to both the Levush and the MB, we have no proof that Rashi would be mattir machshava. In fact, it is very likely that if Rashi held that machshava is bichlal not a ma'aseh melacha, he (or the people who read into him) wouldn't have to come up with other hetteirim like shinui or not derech hateva. Since he (they) did, it proves that machshava can be considered melacha. Therefore, according to these pshatim in Rashi, our case, which is natural and will soon be common, might be assur gamur:
What we end up having is the following:
- A stirah in Tosfos, Gittin 31 (Assur) and Menachos 55 (Muttar). UPDATE: This is not correct. Both are mattir.
- An ambiguous Rashi (that Rav Kanievsky in his second pshat reads to mean Muttar for sure on Shabbos, and possibly in all isurim; but according to his first pshat, and according to the Levush (OC 328) that Rashi was mattir because it's not the normal derech of Tzeidah, and the Mishna Berura in 328 SK 143 that Rashi was mattir because it's not derech hateva, we have no proof that Rashi would be mattir machshava, and most likely a proof that Rashi would asser.
- The shittos of the Maharash Primo and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Assur).
- The Magen Avraham that holds that putting wheat into a mill that is already turning is called a grama, despite the intent and immediate result. It’s possible that according to the Magen Avraham, machshava cannot make something that is not called your ma’aseh into your ma’aseh.
- Assur: Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank.
- Muttar: Rav Kanievsky in his second pshat in Rashi.
- Most likely Assur in Rashi and L'halacha: Levush, Mishna Berurah, and Reb Chaim Kanievsky in his first pshat in Rashi.
- Probably Muttar: the Magen Avraham.
It could be that Shabbos is unique, that Meleches Machseves results in a chumra that makes it assur, as the Aruch Hashulchan (quoted above) says. In fact, while not very much like the mleches hamishkan, this would be a nice match with the type of melacha involved in the creation of the world. What the halacha would be in other issurim besides Shabbos remains unanswered, outside of the universal hetter of Reb Chaim Kanievsky's second pshat in Rashi, which, we have seen, is contrary to the Levush and the Mishna Berura.
I posted on this again in 2013, in Parshas Beshalach, here. I'm also pasting the newer post here. I normally would just erase both and make a new one, but I hate to eliminate the comments, and I don't have the time to put them into the post.
A double portion of the Mahn came down on Friday, because people would not be allowed to carry it to their houses on Shabbos. This way, they had their Shabbos food in their houses before Shabbos. They were also told be sure to cook or bake the Mahn before Shabbos began.
There is a discussion in the Mechilta here about exactly how the Mahn was prepared. Rebbi Yehoshua holds that the mere thought of baking would miraculously transform the Mahn into a baked preparation, and the thought of cooking would render the Mahn cooked. Rebbi Elazar HaModa'i says that it would taste as if it were prepared the way you wanted, but there was no physical change. (I suppose this is what underlies the machlokes Reb Ami and Reb Asi in Yoma 74b whether the tribulation of the Mahn was not having food in the pantry or not seeing the food you're tasting.)
Two years ago, I posted a discussion about BCI technology, with which a person can control a computer via thought patterns. Absolutely no movement is involved; sensors detect and analyze variations in brain wave activity and the program responds to this variation. Once you can move and click a cursor with brain activity, you can do every single one of the thirty nine melachos of Shabbos without lifting a finger.
BCI stands for brain–computer interface (BCI). Other terms used are mind-machine interface (MMI), and direct neural interface, and brain–machine interface (BMI), For the latest on BCI, go here.
(Please note that this Mechilta is completely incomprehensible- to me- if we're going to read it literally from a halachic standpoint. Even if thought would make it cooked, the thought did not cook it. I'm not talking about the Bishul b'chama/Bishul b'eish issue, I'm talking about no bishul at all happening. It turned it into a food that was identical with something that had been cooked. It was נתהפך to become a thing that is Mevushal, but there is no event of בישול taking place. What we have here is like a thought that takes an object that was in a Reshus Hayachid and makes it re-appear in a Reshus Harabbim. There was no akira, there was no ha'avara, there was no hanacha. Before it was there, now it's here. We have the shiur of a melacha, and we have the effect of a melacha, but the melacha wasn't done. There's a consequence without a sequence. Bishlema by netilas neshama, causing death is the melacha, and however you do it it's assur. Here, it's the act of bishul that is assur and the fact that the food gets cooked is for the chiyuv on a shiur of the melacha. It's like Zorei'ah, planting: the issur is the planting, and the fact that the seed sprouts is just a test of whether your act of planting was a melacha. Here, it's impossible that such a thing would be bishul. Maybe it would be makeh b'patish, but that doesn't make sense either, since it was perfectly good even without the machshava. But I don't care that this is shver. The Achronim see the Mechilta as a raya to this question, so I'm going with that. I guess the problem is not bishul, but Mesaken Manna, like the next source says.)
The Moshav Zkeinim in Bamidbar (11:8) says the following:
Along the same lines, see Reb Akiva Eiger brought in the Shaar Tziyun in 633 sk 14, regarding a too-tall sukkah that has a pile of dirt in middle, and before yomtov you weren't mevateil the dirt, that he is not sure if if it is muttar to be mentally mevateil the dirt to the ground, because it would make the Sukka kasher and therefore be mesaken manna/makeh b'patish. I cannot find this RAE anywhere except this Shaar Tziyun. Anyway, from this RAE is appears that he's mesupak regarding the issue of mesaken manna with machshava.
And the best part- Reb Meir Don Plotzki (Kli Chemda) in Beshalach proposes that there is a difference between Shabbos and Yomtov. On Shabbos, which is an eternal and immutable commemoration of Hashem's Shvisa creating the world through His Machshava, the issur includes melacha that is done with machshava. But Yomtov, whose kedusha is created by Beis Din, by humans, the issur is only on melacha that is done with an act, the human sort of melacha. Wouldn't that be interesting, to be mattir BCI melacha on Yomtov but not on Shabbos?
I found a nice article on this topic. He cites most, if not all, of my references, here. Here's his summation: