Shabbat 106 – Trapping Animals
Why the distinction? Again we enter the world of connected action – if actually hunting a wild animal or physically capturing it would be a clear violation, then an act that has the same practical effect, like trapping the animal in a small enclosed space which makes killing it later a relatively simple task, should have similar consequences. We might think today of someone who doesn’t use a gun before hunting season but herds the deer he wants into an enclosed pen – this is clearly violating the spirit and the point of the law defining hunting season from the rest of the year.
Thus one is prohibited from fishing in an aquarium, or even closing the door if a deer enters the house, thus trapping it. Catching a blind or sleeping deer is a violation, since either would try to run away and escape; but a lame or sick (i.e. exhausted) deer can be caught since they do not. A contradiction between traditions, where one would allow catching animals from a vivarin on a yom tov [festival, literally “good day” or “holy day” like our “holiday”] and another would not, is harmonized by claiming one referred to a small vivarin with few places to hide or escape while the other meant a large one.
In the end, there is a limitation on exertions on Shabbat in this area – one may catch an animal from a vivarin on a festival because the work has already been done, and by the same principle one may not trap an animal in the same on Shabbat because that would be work. In an era when the refrigerated supermarket meat counter has enabled us to be far removed from the process of meat procurement, this vivid reality of what would be necessary to obtain fresh meat in Talmud times on any day of the week is a good reminder of that reality of life.
Rabbi Adam Chalom