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MBY 334:1-27 Laws relating to a fire that breaks out on Shabbos (abridged – part 1)
[Based heavily upon Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 85:1-10, “Metsudah” edition, with notes, translated and annotated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis]
1. If, heaven forbid, a fire breaks out on Shabbos, our Sages were concerned that the head of the household and his family who are in the vicinity of the fire, if they are occupied with rescuing their belongings, and are, then, hasty and panicky at the prospect of losing their valuables, may, as a result, forget that it is Shabbos, and extinguish the fire. They, therefore, forbade rescuing even objects that are normally permitted to be handled, even to move them to a place where it is permitted to carry. Only that which is needed for the day is permitted to be rescued. (Footnote #1: Some argue that this prohibition applies only where the salvaged objects are carried to your neighbor’s unroofed yard which borders a public domain, for there is concern that you may also carry into a public domain. But to your own yard or friend’s house you may salvage all the food and items you are able to. Shulchan Aruch 334:11. Mishnah Berura rules that you may be lenient since the prohibition involved is only Rabbinic. Shulchan Aruch Harav, however, rules that you must be stringent.) For instance: If a fire broke out on Shabbos eve before the Shabbos meal, you may rescue enough food for three meals, food fit for humans – for humans, food fit for animals – for animals. If the fire broke out in the morning, you may rescue food for two meals. If the fire broke out on Shabbos afternoon, you may rescue food for one meal. If one vessel contains much food (i.e. more than you need), for example, a basket full of breads, or a barrel full of wine, or something similar; since you can carry it out all at the same time, it is permissible, even though you are rescuing more than you need. Similarly, if you spread a sheet, or something similar, and gather into it everything you can remove, even large quantities of food or drink, and you remove it all at once, it is permissible. You may also remove all the utensils that you need to use on that day.

2. You may say to others: “Come and rescue something for yourselves.” (Footnote #6: It is essential to say “for yourselves” so that it be a valid renunciation of ownership. Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah) Now, each person may rescue the food that he needs, or a vessel that contains even a large amount of food, and it will belong to the rescuer… If the rescuer is a G-d-fearing person, and he returns to the original owner (after Shabbos) that which he rescued (because he knows that the owner did not willingly renounce ownership), he may receive payment for the rescue, and it is not considered Shabbos wages, since, legally, it is all his. (Footnote #8: It is, therefore, considered that the rescuer is selling that which is his, rather than receiving a fee for performing a service on Shabbos.)

3. All that was said above applies only when taken to a place to which it is permitted to carry things. But, to a place where it is forbidden to carry, it is forbidden to rescue anything. However, clothes that you can wear may be put on, and you may wrap everything you can around you and carry them out even to a public domain. Then, you may remove the clothing, return and again put on clothes and carry them out, event the entire day. (Footnote #9: The requirement of putting the clothing on – i.e. even to a place to which it is permitted to carry things - is to serve as a constant reminder not to extinguish the fire. Taz, Rashba Carrying the clothes – i.e. to a place to which it is permitted to carry things - is permitted for clothes needed for Shabbos, just as with food. Additional clothing must be worn, as stated. Mishnah Berura 334:18) With clothing too, you may also tell others: “Come and rescue for yourselves!”, and they too may rescue.

Please wait until the end of this siman to see what halacha has to say about a fire situation where there is potential danger to life…

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