The Music of Halacha: A Well Constructed Life – Part Two
We have been focusing on the first mention of ‘Building’ in the Bible; the formation of Eve. The Sages take us back even earlier when they teach: The construction – Binyan – of this material world began with the emanation of Chesed – Life Force, as in the verse, “The world is built on Chesed.” (Psalms 89:3)
We can actually go back even earlier in time: Rabbi Abahu taught that, “God created many worlds only to destroy them again.” (Bereishit Rabbah) The world He actually created was the one that corresponded most to His Will. Rabbi Abahu referred to the careful evaluation of all possible consequences of undertaking certain steps as Binyan – Building. (Shelah HaKodesh, Bereishit)
When one foresees that certain steps one takes would eventually have negative consequences and one desists from proceeding with such steps, Rabbi Abahu calls it Harisa or Soteir (The following of the 39 Melachot) – destruction.
We find these concepts in practical form in the laws of Binyan and Soteir on Shabbat:
It is prohibited to lay bricks or to arrange rocks to border a lawn or garden on Shabbat, because the person is setting a structure. (Rashi, Shabbat 102b) Maimonides (Laws of Shabbat 10:18) disagrees and lists this under Makeh B’Patish – the Final Hammer Blow.
It is also considered Boneh to put down decorative landscaping materials such as marble chips or pine nuggets. It is even considered Boneh to kick a single stone that came out of its place to return it to its landscaped area. People who have a special play area for their children should make sure not to kick wooden chips back into place on Shabbat.
A person may not break up a ring of stones in his garden, even with his feet, in order to rearrange them on Shabbat. That would be considered Soteir – Demolishing in order to build.
One may not nullify the use of a vessel on Shabbat – Mivateil kli mei’heichano: One cannot place a bowl near a dripping oil lamp or Menorah to catch the drops of oil because the bowl will become Muktza.