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Gemoro Shabbos 139b speaks about cases of הערמה translated below as “artifice” or maybe “cheating”.

The scholars said to R. Ashi: See, sir, a Rabbinical disciple. whose name is R. Huna b. Hiwan — others state, R. Huna b. Hilwon — who took peel of garlic,13 placed it in the bung hole of a barrel, and asserted, 'My intention is to put it away [here].'14 He also went and dozed in a ferry and thus crossed to the other side and looked after his fruit, asserting, 'My intention was to sleep.' Said he to them, You speak of an artifice: it is an artifice [in connection with] a Rabbinical [interdict].15 and a disciple of the Rabbis will not come to do this at the very outset.16

Notes:

  1. Jast. R. Han.: a head of garlic.

  2. But actually it was to prevent the wine from running out, and thus he repaired the barrel, as it were.

  3. For even if he did these without an artifice he would only violate a Rabbinical, not a Scriptural interdict.

  4. Without an artifice — hence he does nothing wrong

It seems that הערמה consists in allowing a rabbinically forbidden action with an excuse. It is allowed where we can trust that the person who does it will not come to transgress the forbidden action without the excuse.

Why should a הערמה be allowed and what are the guidelines?

  • I would gratefully accept improvements in the phrasing of this question! – Avrohom Yitzchok Oct 22 '18 at 21:28
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    Maaser sheni 4:4 describes הערמה on a deoraisa. – Heshy Oct 22 '18 at 22:58
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    @Heshy also Temura 5:1 – Double AA Oct 22 '18 at 23:08
  • The case of Maaser Sheini and Temura are to avoid rabbinic decrees associated with the Dioraisa. But one may not bring produce through a roof to avoid Maaser (usually). See the article linked below. – Benyomin Walters Oct 23 '18 at 0:06
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R. Hershel Schachter in his Be'Ikvei HaTzon cites Bekhorot 3b as proof that one is not allowed to exempt himself from a mitzvah:

רב מרי בר רחל הו"ל ההיא חיותא, הוה מקנה לאודנייהו לעובד כוכבים ואסר להו בגיזה ועבודה ויהיב להו לכהנים, וכלאי חיותא דרב מרי בר רחל, וכו' משום דמפקע להו מקדושתייהו

R. Mari b. Rahel possessed a herd of animals. He used to transfer [to a heathen] possession of the ears [of the firstlings while still in the womb]... The herd of R. Mari b. Rahel died... Because he deprived them of their holiness.

However, others note that this case may be different because:

1) One is subverting the sanctity of the animal, not only exempting oneself from a mitzvah; perhaps only subversion of sanctity is problematic.

2) According to one opinion in the Gemara, R. Mari was only punished because others who were ignorant of the relevant laws would learn from his example, but otherwise one would be allowed to exempt himself from a mitzvah (see R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, Har Tzvi al HaTorah, Ki Tisa; compare Maharsha cited above). It would seem reasonable that this question is also related to the Gemara in Menachot 41a (and indeed R. Schachter cites this Gemara as well).

Another passage that relates to this question is Berakhot 35b:

ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי יהודה ברבי אלעאי: בא וראה שלא כדורות הראשונים דורות האחרונים; דורות הראשונים היו מכניסין פירותיהן דרך טרקסמון - כדי לחייבן במעשר, דורות האחרונים מכניסין פירותיהן דרך גגות דרך חצרות דרך קרפיפות - כדי לפטרן מן המעשר; דאמר רבי ינאי: אין הטבל מתחייב במעשר עד שיראה פני הבית

Rabbah b. Bar Hanah further said in the name of R. Johanan reporting R. Judah b. Ila'i: Observe the difference between the earlier and the later generations. The earlier generations used to bring in their produce by way of the kitchen-garden purposely in order to make it liable to tithe, whereas the later generations bring in their produce by way of roofs or courtyards or enclosures in order to make it exempt from tithe. For R. Jannai has said: Untithed produce is not subject to tithing until it has come within sight of the house, since it says. I have put away the hallowed things out of my house. R. Johanan, however, says that even [sight of] a courtyard imposes the obligation, as it says, That they may eat within thy gates and be satisfied.

This Gemara seems to imply that it is a discredit to the later generations that they avoided the obligation. R. Kook in his Ein Ayah (on the Gemara in Berakhot) comments:

ההבדל שיש בין המכיר ערך המצות ותכליתן הנשגבה וחפץ בהן באמת ובין מי שעבודתו היא רק מצות אנשים מלומדה הוכן להיות יוצא אל הפועל בהרבה מצות מן התורה, שנמצאו בהם דרכים ע"פ דין תורה להפקיע החיוב מעצמו. אמנם רק בזה יוודע שלימות העובד מאהבה, בהיות לאל ידו לפטור עצמו ובהיותו מכיר את ערך המצוה וקדושתה הוא נכנס להתחייב בה. ע"כ במצות מעשרות, שהיא המצוה הראשית המחזקת את כל אושר הכלל כולו, בהיותה לברית בין המיוחדים לעבודת ד' שבט הלוי ובין כל העם כולו, דאגה החכמה האלהית ביותר שתהי' נעשיח ע"פ רוח נדיבה המכרת את ערכה הגדול. ע"כ נתנה מקום להחלץ ממנה [ע"י] הכנסה דרך גגות חצירו' וקרפיפות, למען שתגיע הרגשת העושה לעשות המצוה מיקרת רוח ונפש נדיבה, שבזה תצא אל הפועל תכליתה להשלים את הכלל כולו כחפץ האדון השם יתברך.

See also here for a discussion of הערמה; and see Pesachim 48b: אמר רב יוסף הני נשי דידן נהוג למיפא קפיזא קפיזא [רש"י: שלשת לוגין לחומרא לשומרו מן החימוץ] לפיסחא. א"ל אביי מאי דעתיך לחומרא? חומרא דאתי לידי קולא הוא, דקא מפקע לה מחלה

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Our Sages teach a general principle in Mishnah Eruvin 10:15

רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר, מְקוֹם שֶׁהִתִּירוּ לְךָ חֲכָמִים, מִשֶּׁלְּךָ נָתְנוּ לְךָ

Rabbi Shimon says, "[Whatever] the Sages permitted, they [only] gave you [permission to do] what is yours [not forbidden by the Torah]

For example, the Sages forbid carrying in a karmalis (such as a field or forest) because it appears similar to public property. Then, they give a "heter" to allow carrying there if an Eiruv is erected. Basically, a qualified scholar marks the area to make an abstract distinction concrete for the unlearned.

As a general rule (and there are certainly exceptions) a mature scholar who understands the true halachic distinction may use "tricks" or "excuses" to permit something that is truly permitted anyway. In other words, these may only be used to avoid rabbinic prohibitions that stem from a concern for appearance.

In addition, the general public is sometimes advised to use a haaramah where the Sages are concerned that without a heter they will come to transgress.

On the other hand, one may not use a loophole to avoid a true obligation, even when such a loophole might be effective.

For a detailed discussion with examples see this article.

  • Is Eruv really a Haaramah? I wouldn't have called it that. – Double AA Oct 22 '18 at 22:24
  • Eruv isn't a Haaramah, but it's the type of rabbinic decree where we allow a Haaramah. For example, many poskim would allow Haaramah to carry in a karmalis. – Benyomin Walters Oct 22 '18 at 23:16
  • how can you carry behaarama? – Double AA Oct 22 '18 at 23:17
  • פריפה isn't a bird. It's a cloak fastener. – Heshy Oct 23 '18 at 0:16
  • @Heshy Thanks.שבת זה ע"ב Using a nut as a button to bring to child to eat, or wearing many layers of clothing to save from fire. – Benyomin Walters Oct 23 '18 at 2:30

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