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The mishna on Shabbat 92a says that one is prohibited from carrying in his right or left hand, in his lap, or on his shoulder, because that's how the mishkan was carried, but he can carry in an unusual way such as in his mouth, in his shoe, between his belt and his body, and several others that are listed. The g'mara clarifies that we are talking about what is unusual in one's community; specifically it first says carrying on your head isn't ok because that's what the Huzalites do, and then says "we should pasken by the Huzalites? for them it's forbidden but not for us" (I'm paraphrasing). So from this g'mara it seems like carrying is defined by local conventions.

This answer and its comments on a question about chewing gum seem to say that even carrying in an unusual way is rabbinically forbidden, presmably for everybody. (That's kind of a tangent to that question, as the mouth would be the usual place for chewing gum so it's not unusual.) If I'm understanding that discussion correctly, it would be rabbinically forbidden for me to, say, carry my house key in my shoe (sans eiruv), and that's why people make special belt buckles and necklaces.

My question is about how we got from the g'mara to the present rule. On what is the prohibition based? I realize that the g'mara isn't the final word on halacha, but since it's part of our received tradition I assume this one was considered and rejected, so I'm curious about what took precedence.

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Daf yomi challenge. – Monica Cellio Jan 3 '13 at 16:04
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Mesechtas Shabbos 3a Shmuel says that every time it says Patur (exempt) by the laws of Shabbos it means Patur Avol Assur (exempt [from Korban/death], but still forbidden [rabbinically]) besides for 3 cases which are listed there. Rashi explains that means that it is 100% not permitted M'Drabanan.

The carrying Gemara in the question says Patur.

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"...but still forbidden [rabbinically]": Incidentally, this may only apply to halachic aspects that are unique to Shabbos. Chatzi shiur of melacha on Shabbos, while patur, is nevertheless a Torah prohibition according to some opinions. – Fred Jan 3 '13 at 19:51
@Fred, clarifying: the Torah prohibited creative labor done in a normal fashion, for normal purposes. So carrying something in your mouth wasn't covered - hence the rabbinic prohibition. However if you carry something in a normal fashion, for normal purposes, you just didn't carry very much of it, you still violated the Biblical "don't carry" - you just aren't subject to the same punishment. (Much like someone who takes little sips on Yom Kippur.) A third category is where the measure defines the act - a safety pin is permissible as it's not "sewing" at all - "sewing" is defined as 2 stitches – Shalom Jan 3 '13 at 23:25
@Shalom It's interesting that you chose hotza'ah as your example; it may be the least straightforward application of chatzi shiur among all the melachos. See, for example, the discussion in Shu"t Be'er Yitzchak (OC 15:6), who argues that carrying less then a grogeres birshus harabim is only rabbinic, unlike chatzi shiur for other melachos (which is might still be d'oraysa). Still a helpful comment, though. +1. – Fred Jan 3 '13 at 23:50

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