Mishnah: IF ONE CARRIES OUT FOOD AND PLACES IT ON THE THRESHOLD, WHETHER HE [HIMSELF] SUBSEQUENTLY CARRIES IT OUT [INTO THE STREET] OR ANOTHER DOES SO, HE IS NOT CULPABLE, BECAUSE THE [WHOLE] ACT WAS NOT PERFORMED AT ONCE.
That does not seem reasonable – isn’t the threshold simply part of either the public or the private domain? No, it belongs to a third category: karmelet (which we learned about on 6a).
Karmelet is a special space, not exactly private and not exactly public. It can be a little trafficked area in the public sphere, like the section off the main thoroughfare. Here, though, the threshold of a private home is considered this in-between, non-specific space.
[IF ONE CARRIES OUT] A BASKET WHICH IS FULL OF PRODUCE AND PLACES IT ON THE OUTER THRESHOLD, THOUGH MOST OF THE PRODUCE IS OUT (in the street), HE IS NOT CULPABLE UNLESS HE CARRIES OUT THE WHOLE BASKET.
What is fascinating is the nature of the basket – is that what ties the whole thing together?
Hezekiah said: They learnt this only of a basket full of cucumbers and gourds; but if it is full of mustard, he is culpable.
What’s different? Cucumbers and gourds, being long, can be in both spaces at once. Mustard, being small, is either in the private or the public – even if it is in the basket which is technically in both spaces. So the basket does not make it whole – it’s the object itself. Even in a transition space.
I find transitions fascinating. Jewish tradition likes to focus on categories of one or the other: kosher or not, Shabbat or weekday, public or private. That is where most of us live. But it is the space of transition – like havdalah – where the interesting things take place.