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The tractate primarily deals with laws relating to Shabbat (the weekly day of rest), and the activities prohibited on Shabbat (the 39 prohibitions) and distinguishes between Biblical prohibitions and Rabbinic prohibitions. It also discusses special Rabbinic decrees to reinforce the concept of rest on Sabbath (see muktzah, articles that may not be used or moved on Sabbath, chapters 3 and 17) and to enhance its sanctity, such as forbidding pursuit of business and discussing forbidden matters (chapter 23) and pursuing weekday activities.
Transferring between domains
A large portion of this tractate deals with the melachah of transferring from one domain to another, commonly called "carrying" (chapters 1 and 11). The tractate distinguishes four domains: private, public, semi-public and an exempt area. It holds that the transfer of an article from a private to a public domain is Biblically forbidden; transferring an article between a semi-public to a private or public domain is Rabbinically prohibited; transferring of an article between an exempt area and any other domain is permissible; carrying an article four amos may be forbidden in public or semi-public domain and permitted in a private domain or exempt area; and carrying inside a private domain or between private domains may be permissible (see Eruv). For these purposes "transferring" means "removing and depositing", so that carrying an article out of a domain and returning to the same domain with it does not constitute transferring. This may fall into the category of "wearing".
- Text of the Mishna: Masechet Shabbat; English translation with commentary by Rabbi Pinchas Kehati
- Talmudic Text: Masechet Shabbat; Rodkinson English translation