The gemara is discussing the notion of yado shel adam being considered a makom of 4 tefachim by 4 tefachim. In his chiddushim on shas there, the Ramban raises the question: Why is it necessary for the hand to be considered 4 by 4, when in the case of throwing food to a dog (and other cases), the man is chayav, since he fulfilled his intention of feeding the dog, thereby making it as if the food had landed in a makom of 4 by 4?
The Ramban dismisses this question by describing the notion of intent. It seems that he says that in the case of the dog, the man is intending to feed it. Since he does, the accomplishment of this act renders his action a melocho, even though it would not be otherwise (no hanocho on a makom of 4 by 4). However, in the case of the oni giving something to the ba'al ha'bayis, his intention is to place the object in his hand, and he does so!! So why is that not a melocho as well? His intention was to do hanocho on a place less than 4 by 4, but he accomplished it. Shouldn't the fact that he accomplished his intention make it a "makom" of 4 by 4, despite the fact that his intention wasn't a melocho (since he intended to put it on a place less than 4 by 4, and so there would be no melocho)? The dog's mouth is certainly less than 4 by 4. Is the Ramban's reasoning that in the case of the dog, it is not so much the act of hanocho that is important there, but the act of feeding!?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
David Peto, Toronto, Canada
You understood well. The Ramban says that we cannot invoke the rule of "Machshavto..." when his intent is to do something which is not a Melachah. He compares this to one who has intent to do Hotza'ah she'Lo k'Derech. Therefore, when his intent was something else entirely (i.e. feeding the dog), his intent to feed constitutes a Melachah. However, when his intent is Hanachah, but it is Hanachah which is not a Melachah since the place is not big enough, his intent has been accomplished, but it is not a Melachah.