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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beshalach, Shemos 16:23. Preparing the Mahn with Thought: BCI Update

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.  
את אשר תאפו אפו ואת אשר תבשלו בשלו

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.)

יאמר אליהם הוא אשר דבר ה', אמרו לו אימתי אמר להם מחר: את אשר תאפו אפו, ר' יהושע אומר מי שהוא רוצה אפוי היה מתאפה לו והרוצה מבושל היה מתבשל לו. ר' אלעזר המודעי אומר הרוצה לאכול דבר אפוי היה טועם בו כל אפויים שבעולם והרוצה לאכול דבר מבושל היה טועם בו כל בשולים שבעולם ר' אליעזר אומר על אפוי אפו ועל מבושל בשלו הא כיצד יום טוב שחל להיות ערב שבת מנין שאין רשאין לא לאפות ולא לבשל אלא אם כן עירבו ת"ל את אשר תאפו אפו אפו על אפוי ובשלו על מבושל:

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.

Having seen this Mechilta, and some other sources, it is time for an update.  Some of this material was briefly mentioned in the original post, but most of it is new, like the Mechilta.

Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank, in his pirush on Chumash here and in a teshuva, and the Mirkeves Hamishna and the Netziv in their peirushim on the Mechilta, note that our Mechilta shows that according to Rebbi Yehoshua, this form of melacha is assur on Shabbos; that it needed to be done before Shabbos, even though the cooking and baking would be effected by thought alone.

(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:

 אמרינן בסיפרי ועשו אותו עוגות וכוי, ותימה הא כתיב (שמות ט״ז כ״ג) את אשר תאפו אפו ואת אשר תבשלו בשלו ואת כל העודף אלמא היה נאפה ומתבשל ואין לומר לאו דווקא אפו אלא תחשבו עליו, ולדבר[יו] (ה)מתבשל למה היה אסור בשבת לחשוב עליו שיש בו טעם תבשיל, וי״ל [דכיון] דלא היה מתהפך אלא על פי דבורו לתבשיל חשוב תקון דהא אפילו הפרת נדרים לצורך שבת איבעיא לן בנדרים (ע״ז אי) ובסוף שבת (קנ׳׳ז אי) אי שרי בשבת, ואע״ג דהתם שרי הכא חשיב תקון
which means that he holds it is assur, although he says דבורו.

On the other hand, Tosfos in several places indicates that it would be muttar; Fact 1.Designating Truma on Shabbos is assur under Mesaken Manna, a toldah of Makkeh Be'Patish.  Fact 2. Although lechatchila one should not designate Truma with thought alone, if one does so it is effective.  Combining Fact 1 and 2, Tosfos in Gittin 31a DH Bemachshava, and in Chulin 7a DH Vedilma and Bechoros 59a DH Bemachshava says that to do so on Shabbos with thought alone would be muttar.  Also, the Shittah in Beitza 34b says this.  (It's easy to mis-read Tosfos, but what he's saying is that even though machshava would be effective and muttar as far as hilchos Shabbos are concerned, the possibility of doing it with machshava is not sufficient to be mattir a physical hafrasha.)

The Achiezer in 2:49:4 talks about our Tosfos, and mentions that he has several problems with Tosfos' Shittah which he does not answer.  But he says that even according to Tosfos, that it's muttar to be mafrish on Shabbos with thought alone, that's only because Tevel has inherent Truma potential, so you're only designating which part is Truma.  But by Hekdesh, where you're creating an entirely new status, and this status causes a transfer of ownership, such a machshava is like a maaseh and would be assur on Shabbos.  But he says that this is only because ownership transfers generate a concern that you might write, and so are assur miderabanan.  The implication is that a real melacha, if done with Machshava, would be muttar.

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:

סקירת השיטות שראינו, מהן ניתן להפיק שיטה הלכתית בנוגע ל-BCI:
א.    הגרשז"א – המחשבה כמעשה (בהלכות מסוימות) לענין שבת.
ב.    הרב רוזן – בדיקת התוצאות הסופיות של תהליכים (גם פנימיים) וקישורם למקורם.
ג.    עמדת ה'חומרא' של הכלי-חמדה – כשעשיית המלאכה נעשית כרגיל על ידי המחשבה, אזי זו איננה מנגנון של כ'לאחר-יד' גרידא.
ד.    עמדת ה'קולא' של הכלי-חמדה – פעולה המתבצעת על ידי מחשבה אינה מלאכה גמורה בגידרה, אלא 'רק' איסורא.
ה.    הקהילות יעקב – מעמד של 'עדיף מכלאחר-יד' לפעולה סגולית בהלכות שבת, שלא כדרכה.
ו.     הקהילות יעקב – דרכה של פעולה כזו היא תמיד ה'לא טבעית', לא גזרו חכמים בה.
ז.     הרב זאב לב (והגרשז"א) – החילוק בין החפצא לגברא באדם ובפעולותיו בעולם. זהו היחס המפורש ביותר לנושא, ובשילוב עם חילוק החפצא/גברא זהו פיתוח של מערך מחשבתי עם השלכות הלכתיות קונקרטיות.

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