By All Means Rescue!
‘If One Removes A Fish From The Sea’
Among the 39 forbidden melachos of Shabbos are shocheit (slaughtering) and tzeidah (trapping). As we know, under certain circumstances, a single action can make one liable for several melachos. The Orchos Shabbos (ch. 14, footnote 3) asks if hunting deer might not be an example of this. If a person catches a live deer, he violates tzeidah. If he slaughters a deer in his possession, he violates shocheit. How about if he shot a deer in the forest on Shabbos? At one and the same time, he killed the deer (thus apparently violating shocheit) and brought it under his control (thus apparently violating tzeidah).
Is Killing Trapping?
This question begs examination of the precise definition of tzeidah. Does trapping consist only in bringing a live animal under one’s control, or does any impediment to the free movement of an animal constitute tzeidah? This question was presented to Rabbi Elyashiv, zt”l, who responded by citing a proof from our sugya. The Gemara rules that if a person takes a fish out of water and a portion of its skin the size of a sela-coin dries out, he has violated meleches shocheit since the fish will most certainly die. Rashi, Tosafos, and the Rambam all explain that our Gemara discusses the death of a fish that was already caught before Shabbos.
What led them to draw this conclusion? Apparently, they wished to emphasize that if the animal had previously been free, and a person pulled it out of the water on Shabbos, he would have violated meleches tzeidah as well. We see, therefore, that pulling a free-swimming fish out of water on Shabbos is a violation of both tzeidah and shocheit.
Presumably, the same should apply to shooting a deer. On further consideration, however, this proof is not conclusive. When a fish is taken out of the water, it is trapped but not dead yet. The deer, in our example, however, died the same second it was trapped.
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, explains that tzeidah does not apply to domestic animals, as we find in our daf. Even if they are released, they willingly return home. Therefore, they are considered “trapped” wherever they go, and there is no prohibition in trapping them again.
The same is true of human beings who willingly seek out each other’s company. There is no prohibition against trapping people because they are already trapped by society, so to speak. Furthermore, even if trapping would apply to humankind, it would only apply to people trying to escape their pursuers. Thus, there is no prohibition in pulling a drowning man out of the water, for example – even if there is a prohibition in pulling fish out of the water – because a drowning man is not trying to escape his rescuers. Quite the contrary. (See Kobetz on Rambam, Shabbos 10:22 who disagrees. See also Teshuvos Avnei Nezer, O.C. 189.)