Monday, October 15, 2007

פסיק רישיה ולא ימות

In our Hilchot Shabbat class, the theme of last week and this week is פסיק רישיה ולא ימות(literally "cut off its head, and it won't die?!").

Some background: Intentionally doing work (we'll leave aside the definition of "work" for now, since it's not relevant) on Shabbat is forbidden. However, דבר שאינו מתכוון (a thing that one doesn't intend) is permitted according to Rabbi Shim'on (or the stam's generalization of Rabbi Shim'on's opinions in various tannaitic sources dealing with specific situations) and forbidden according to Rabbi Yehudah (ditto).

Example: Rabbi Yehudah says you can't drag a bench across the ground on Shabbat, since it might make a furrow in the ground, and is thus too close to the forbidden labor of plowing. Rabbi Shim'on says it's ok, because you're not intending to plow, you're just intending to move the bench. (See discussion on Shabbat 29b.)

However, there's an exception: In a case where the forbidden work is an inevitable consequence of the action, then even Rabbi Shim'on agrees that the action is forbidden. The canonical example: Slaughtering an animal is forbidden on Shabbat. You cut off an animal's head, and you say that you weren't intending to kill it, you were just intending to cut its head off. In that case Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Shim'on would agree that cutting its head off is forbidden, since killing the animal is an inevitable consequence: "Cut off its head, and it won't die?!"

Anyway, that's just a long introduction to this video, which MJS has proposed as a literal example of פסיק רישיה ולא ימות (with no special punctuation at the end), starring the unmistakable voice of Adam Sandler:


  1. And then there's Mike the Headless Chicken." Lived 18 Months (hey, that's חי!) without a head. Puts a whole new spin of "בלי רשית!"

  2. Your definition of pesik reisha as being something that inevitably follows is itself something that should be question. It seems that the best reading of Amoraic and early stam sources is that we are dealing with two actions that are inextricably linked in their essence (i.e., the way you slaughter an animal is by cutting off its head, whereas the way you dig a furrow is not by dragging a bench. But that gets to the debate between Arukh and Rambam/Tosafot as to how this category works.

  3. Sorry about that. We got to the rishonim (and all the definitions) tonight. :)

    So yeah, I think what I said was on the Rambam/Tosafot side of the debate. But now I'm not taking a stance.

  4. the video has been taken down.