Do I say Yaaleh Veyavo, Retzei or both?

Since Rosh Chodesh falls on motza’ei Shabbos, I thought it appropriate to discuss:

Do I say Yaaleh Veyavo, Retzei or both?

Question #1: Is it Shabbos versus Rosh Chodesh?

“When Rosh Chodesh begins on motza’ei Shabbos, do I say Yaaleh Veyavo in bensching at seudah shelishis?”

Question #2: Why is this night of Chanukah different from all other nights?

“Chanukah begins this motza’ei Shabbos. If I finish seudah shelishis after nightfall, do I include Al Hanissim in bensching?”

Introduction

When we recite birchas hamazon on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim, we include special prayers to commemorate the holiday: on Shabbos, a passage beginning with the word Retzei; on Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed and Rosh Chodesh, the opening words are Yaaleh Veyavo; and on Chanukah and Purim, Al Hanissim.

In a different article, I discussed whether one recites these additions when one’s meal was divided between a holiday and a weekday – i.e., one ate part of his meal on the holiday and part before or after; or when the change of date transpired between the eating of the meal and the bensching. Does one recite the special addition to commemorate the holiday when this happens, or does one omit it? We discovered that there are several opinions as to what to do. These are the earliest opinions that I found:

  1. When one bensches

The Rosh rules that one recites the version of birchas hamazon appropriate to when one bensches, regardless as to when one ate the meal. In his opinion, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall does not recite Retzei. Similarly, one whose Purim seudah ends after Purim does not recite Al Hanissim. The Rosh also holds that someone who completed a meal before Rosh Chodesh and bensches after it is dark should recite Yaaleh Veyavo.

  1. The beginning of the meal

The Maharam, as understood by the Bach and the Aruch Hashulchan, maintains that the text of the bensching is established according to what was correct when the meal began. Therefore, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall recites Retzei, since his meal began on Shabbos. (There is an exception – if he did something to declare that Shabbos is over, such as reciting havdalah, davening maariv, or even simply answering borchu, he does not recite Retzei any more, as it is therefore inconsistent to mention Shabbos in bensching.)

  1. All of the above

The Maharam, as understood by the Taz, contends that one adds the special prayer if either the meal began on the holiday or one is bensching on the holiday. Thus, one who finished seudah shelishis after nightfall recites Retzei, and someone who completed a meal before Rosh Chodesh and bensches after it is dark should recite Yaaleh Veyavo.

The halachic conclusion

The halachic consensus regarding someone who began his meal on Shabbos or Purim and continued it into the night is that one recites Retzei or Al Hanissim, following the position of the Maharam and not the Rosh.

Conflicting prayers

The topic of our current article adds a new aspect to this question – what to do when Rosh Chodesh or Chanukah begins on motza’ei Shabbos, and seudah shelishis started on Shabbos and was completed on Rosh Chodesh or on Chanukah. According to the Rosh, one should recite Yaaleh Veyavo or Al Hanissim, whether or not one ate on Rosh Chodesh or on Chanukah. However, the consensus of halachic opinion is that the Maharam’s opinion is accepted, in this topic, over that of the Rosh. According to those who understand that the Maharam ruled that one should always recite the text of birchas hamazon appropriate to the beginning of the meal, one should recite Retzei. Yet, many authorities follow the second interpretation of the Maharam mentioned above, that one adds the special prayer if either the meal began on the holiday or one is bensching on the holiday. What complicates our question is that there may be a requirement to recite both Retzei and either Yaaleh Veyavo or Al Hanissim, yet mentioning both in the same bensching might be contradictory in this instance, since the holiday begins after Shabbos ends. As we will soon see, whether or not this is a problem is, itself, debated by the authorities.

The earliest authority that I found who discusses this predicament is the Bach (end of Orach Chayim, 188). Regarding what to recite when seudah shelishis continues into Rosh Chodesh, he concludes that one should say Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo, because the beginning of a meal determines the exact text of its birchas hamazon. As I mentioned above, this is precisely the way the Bach understands the Maharam’s position – that the proper bensching is always determined by the beginning of the meal. Since the halacha follows the Maharam’s position, the Bach comfortably rules according to his understanding of the Maharam, that one recites Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo.

The Magen Avraham (188:18; 419:1) analyzes the issue differently from the way the Bach does. First, he considers the possibility that one can recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. This is based on his understanding of the Maharam’s position that ending a meal on Rosh Chodesh or a different festival is reason to recite the holiday additions, even if the meal started on a weekday. However, the Magen Avraham concludes that one cannot recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo in this instance, because this is an inherent contradiction: If it is already Rosh Chodesh, it is no longer Shabbos, and if it is still Shabbos, it is not yet Rosh Chodesh. Since this is now a conundrum, the Magen Avraham concludes that one should follow the Rosh’s opinion, that one recites whatever is appropriate to be said at this moment, which means to recite only Yaaleh Veyavo. Magen Avraham contends that this practice is followed only when one ate bread on Rosh Chodesh. If he did not eat bread on Rosh Chodesh, then he should say only Retzei, following the Maharam’s opinion that the special prayers are determined by the beginning of the meal.

Chanukah on motza’ei Shabbos

The Magen Avraham also rules that there is a difference in halachah between Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah. When Chanukah begins on motza’ei Shabbos and seudah shelishis extended into the beginning of Chanukah, he rules that one should recite only Retzei and not Al Hanissim, even if he ate bread on Chanukah.

Why is Chanukah different from all other nights?

The Magen Avraham explains that, whereas when reciting Yaaleh Veyavo on a weekday Rosh Chodesh bensching is required, reciting Al Hanissim in bensching of a weekday Chanukah is technically not required, but optional. Therefore, when his meal began on Shabbos (which was as yet not Chanukah) and he is, therefore, required to recite Retzei, even if he continued the meal into Chanukah and ate bread then, the optional addition of Al Hanissim does not cancel the requirement to recite Retzei.

More opinions

Thus far, we have seen two opinions concerning what to do for the bensching of a seudah shelishis that extended into Rosh Chodesh that begins on motza’ei Shabbos:

(1) The Bach, that one should recite Retzei and not Yaaleh Veyavo.

(2) The Magen Avraham, that if he ate bread on motza’ei Shabbos he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo, but otherwise he should recite Retzei.

A third position is that, once it is Rosh Chodesh, one should recite Yaaleh Veyavo and not Retzei (Maharash of Lublin, quoted by Shelah and Taz 188:7). The Maharash maintains that since at the time he bensches it is Rosh Chodesh, the requirement to recite Yaaleh Veyavo is primary and preempts the requirement to recite Retzei, which he considers to be secondary, since it is no longer Shabbos.

Why not both?

The Taz (188:7) disagrees with all the above-mentioned positions, challenging the assumption that one cannot recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. He concludes that since Yaaleh Veyavo is recited after Retzei there is no contradiction, since Rosh Chodesh begins after Shabbos ends. Therefore, one who ate on Shabbos and is bensching on Rosh Chodesh should recite both additions.

To sum up, someone whose meal began on Shabbos and is bensching on Rosh Chodesh, should:

  • recite Yaaleh Veyavo, according to both the opinion of the Rosh and that of the Maharash,.
  • recite Retzei, according to the opinion shared by the Bach and the Aruch Hashulchan.
  • recite both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo, according to the conclusion of the Taz,.

According to the ruling of the Magen Avraham, if he ate bread after Rosh Chodesh arrived, he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo. If he did not, he should recite Retzei.

Rabbi, what should I do?

The Mishnah Berurah (188:33), when recording what to do, implies that one should follow the position of the Magen Avraham. He then mentions the Taz as an alternative approach – that one should say both Retzei and Yaaleh Veyavo. This is consistent with the Mishnah Berurah’s general approach of following the Magen Avraham, except when the latter’s position is opposed by most later authorities.

The Aruch Hashulchan, on the other hand, concludes neither as the Magen Avraham nor the Taz, but that what one recites is always determined by the beginning of the meal. Therefore, in this situation, he rules to recite Retzei and omit Yaaleh Veyavo, regardless of whether one ate on Rosh Chodesh.

Since there are many conflicting positions as to which additions to recite when Rosh Chodesh begins on motza’ei Shabbos, many people avoid eating bread after nightfall. They eat all the bread that they intend to eat towards the beginning of the meal, and upon completing the seudah, recite bensching including Retzei and omitting Yaaleh Veyavo. This approach follows the majority of halachic authorities (Bach, Magen Avraham, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishnah Berurah [according to his primary approach]), although it runs counter to the opinions of the Maharash and the Taz. Those who want to avoid any question recite birchas hamazon before the arrival of Rosh Chodesh.

Conclusion

In our daily lives, our hearts should be full with thanks to Hashem for all He does for us. Birchas hamazon provides a regular opportunity to elicit deep feelings of gratitude for what Hashem has done in the past and does in the present. All the more so should we should acknowledge Hashem’s help on special holidays.

 

 

Responsible Jews

Since parshas Netzavim alludes to the agreed covenant of one Jew being responsible for others, it is an appropriate time to discuss the laws and rules of what we call areivus.

Responsible Jews

Question #1: Making Kiddush Twice

When might I be required to recite the two brochos of the Friday night Kiddush a second time on Shabbos morning?

Question #2: A Halachic Conundrum

Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?

Introduction

Answering both of our opening questions requires that we spend some time understanding a halachic concept called areivus. In the midst of the discussion of the tochachah in parshas Bechukosai, the harsh admonition for not observing the mitzvos, the Torah mentions Vechoshlu ish be’achiv, “Each man will stumble over his friend” (Vayikra 26:37). Rashi suggests a different understanding of the letter beis – not “Each man will stumble over his friend,” but “Each man will stumble because of his friend.” A midrash that may have served as Rashi’s source reads more explicitly: “Vechoshlu ish be’achiv — Do not explain this as over his friend, but because of the sins of his friend.” The midrash continues: “From this we see the concept she’Yisroel areivin eilu la’eilu,that Jews are accountable for one another (Eichah Rabbah, Parashah 3). This idea is popularly referred to as kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh, an expression that I have not found in Chazal, although it is used frequently by rishonim and acharonim. The closest use I found in Chazal is in a passage of Gemara, where it says “Vechoshlu ish be’achivmelameid shekulan areivim zeh bazeh” (Sanhedrin 27b).

Different halachic ramifications

There are numerous halachic ramifications of this general concept, including:

(1) The mitzvah of tochachah, which requires that one Jew reprove another Jew who is disobeying the laws of the Torah (see Vayikra 19:17).

(2) The prohibition called chanufah, usually translated as “flattering,” that prohibits complimenting or honoring someone, either implicitly or explicitly, who violates the Torah (Sifrei, Bamidbar 35:33).

(3) A requirement to protest when we see someone breaching the Torah (see Shabbos 54b).

(4) A legal concept called areivus. Although we usually think of areivus as a social responsibility, it also includes a legal concept with very specific halachic ramifications.

We will leave the details of the first three mitzvos for another time. This article will explore some of the concepts of the fourth, the law of areivus.

Areivus explains why someone who has already fulfilled a mitzvah can perform it again to assist someone else fulfill their obligation. To understand this properly, I will first introduce an overview of how areivus works and what it accomplishes. We will then study some Talmudic passages that explain the principles of areivus.

How areivus operates

Here is a very common example of how areivus operates: Reuven has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush, but he is unable to read the text himself. There are people available who can recite Kiddush on Reuven’s behalf, but they have already fulfilled the mitzvah. Does Reuven fulfill the mitzvah if they recite Kiddush on his behalf?

The answer is that he does, because of the concept of areivus. Since Reuven is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah, and the other people are also commanded to observe it, they may recite Kiddush on his behalf, notwithstanding that they are not fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment. (The person performing the act of the mitzvah is called the motzi, because he is enabling someone else to fulfill the mitzvah. The word motzi can be used either as a noun, defining the person performing the mitzvah, or as a verb, when it describes the performance of a mitzvah on behalf of someone else. In the course of this article, I will be using the word both ways, so stay alert!)

The three requirements:

For areivus to work, three requirements must be met:

  1. The motzi must be obligated

The motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

As we mentioned above, the motzi does not need to be fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment — he may have fulfilled the mitzvah already, or, for that matter, plan to observe the mitzvah later.

  1. Have in mind to be motzi

The motzi must have in mind that he is performing the mitzvah on behalf of someone else, who will now be fulfilling the mitzvah. He can have in mind that whoever hears the words or sounds of the mitzvah, even if the motzi is unaware that the other person is listening, thereby fulfills the mitzvah.

  1. Have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah

The person for whom the motzi is performing the mitzvah must have in mind that by hearing the words or sounds of the mitzvah, he (or she) is fulfilling the mitzvah.

Some Talmudic background

Before we discuss some practical examples of these laws, we will explore some of the Talmudic sources that demonstrate these rules. The first passage we will study requires an introduction.

The Torah recognizes a halachic status called an eved kena’ani, a gentile slave, which is someone non-Jewish who is owned by a Jew. An eved is not required to observe all the mitzvos of a Jew – after all, he is not Jewish — yet he must observe many of the mitzvos. The eved accepts the obligation to fulfill these mitzvos in a procedure that is similar to that of geirus, conversion. After circumcision, he immerses in a mikveh and accepts the mitzvos that an eved is obligated to keep.

As just mentioned, an eved is not obligated to observe all the mitzvos. For example, he is exempt from such mitzvos as shofar, sukkah, tefillin, and studying Torah. However, when an eved is freed, he achieves the status of a Jew and becomes obligated to observe all the mitzvos, like any other Jew.

A blasting slave!

Since an eved is not obligated to observe the mitzvah of shofar, a Jew does not fulfill the mitzvah if an eved blows the shofar on the Jew’s behalf. As I mentioned above, the first rule of areivus is that the motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

The half slave

What happens if a slave was purchased by two people in equal partnership, and then one of the owners frees him? That owner can only free the half that he himself owns. That half of the slave is now free, which means that he is obligated to observe mitzvos. On the other hand, half is still owned by the other master. This means that the eved now has the nebulous status of being half-Jewish and half-eved. The halachah calls him very literally chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin, “half slave, half freedman.”

Here is where this half-slave now trods new halachic ground. His half that is free is duty-bound to observe all the mitzvos, whereas the other half is obliged to observe only those mitzvos compulsory for an eved. Regarding most mitzvos, this means that he now observes them. He will be obligated to observe, for example, the mitzvah of sukkah.

What does he do in regard to fulfilling the mitzvah of shofar, since half of him is obligated to observe the mitzvah, and the other half is not? Can he blow shofar to fulfill the mitzvah, or must he hear the shofar from someone else?

The Gemara quotes a beraisa that rules that a half-eved is required to hear shofar, but cannot blow shofar on behalf of other people, even on behalf of other half-eveds. The Gemara then explains that he does not fulfill the mitzvah if he blows shofar even to fulfill the mitzvah for himself. Why not? How can he be required to observe the mitzvah of shofar and not be able to fulfill it himself?

The answer is that his eved part is not required to observe the mitzvah, and his non-eved half cannot blow the shofar by itself. As a result, the shofar is being blown by someone who is not fully obligated in the mitzvah (Rosh Hashanah 29a). Even if the chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin happens to be a master blaster, he has no other way to fulfill the mitzvah other than to hear the shofar blown by someone else, that is, a Jewish adult male who is fully obligated in the mitzvah! (Since a fully freed man has the halachic status of a Jewish adult male, he can be motzi others in the mitzvah, including a chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin.) Thus, we have an anomalous situation — he is required to observe the mitzvah, yet someone else must be motzi him! We now have the answer to one of our opening questions: “Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?”

Areivus and brochos

The Gemara discusses whether areivus will allow someone to recite a brocha for you before you eat, even  when the one reciting the brocha is not eating. Why should this case be halachically any different from what we have already discussed? Allow me to explain.

Of the conditions mentioned above for areivus to work, one was that both the motzi and the person fulfilling the mitzvah must be required to observe the mitzvah. The reason for these requirements takes us back to our Biblical sources for the concept of areivus — one Jew is responsible for another. Since one Jew is responsible for the mitzvah observance of another, the inability of one Jew to fulfill a mitzvah devolves onto other Jews. They become required to fulfill his mitzvah for him.

However, this concept holds true only regarding a mitzvah that the motzi is required to perform. Since no one is required to eat specific foods or to smell pleasant fragrances, these brochos hanehenin, blessings of benefit, are not required unless one is, himself, benefiting. Consequently, the rule of areivus does not apply. The Gemara explains that although areivus allows a motzi to recite a birchas hamitzvah on behalf of someone else, one cannot recite a brocha of benefit, unless the motzi is also enjoying the benefit.

Exception

The Gemara subsequently concludes that there are two instances in which one may use areivus and recite the brocha, even though the motzi is not presently fulfilling the mitzvah. These two exceptions are the brocha of hamotzi, recited prior to eating matzoh at the Pesach seder, and the brocha of hagafen, recited as part of Kiddush. In these two instances, although the brocha appears to be a regular brocha of benefit, since one is required to partake in this benefit in order to fulfill these mitzvos, one is therefore required to recite these brochos. Consequently, they have the halachic status of birchos hamitzvah. Thus, in these two instances, one person can be motzi another in the brochos, although the motzi is not fulfilling the mitzvah.

King Yannai

A difference passage of Gemara (Brochos 48a) relates an interesting story that reflects a different context of the law of areivus. To quote the entire passage of Gemara:

King Yannai and his queen had concluded a banquet, and, since he had killed all the rabbis, there was no one to bensch on their behalf.

Yannai said to his wife, “Who will provide us with someone to recite the brochos for us?”

She answered him, “If you swear to me that you will not give him any trouble, I’ll bring you such a man.” He swore to her. She then brought her brother, Shimon ben Shetach, and had him sit between them at the head of the table. Yannai then said to Shimon ben Shetach, “See how much honor we give you!” to which Shimon ben Shetach responded, “It is not you who provide us with this honor, but the Torah.” Yannai then turned to his wife, “I see that he does not accept my rule.”

They then brought Shimon ben Shetach a cup of wine upon which to recite the brochos of bensching. He now wondered aloud. “How should I recite the zimun (since he had not eaten with them)? Should I say, ‘Blessed is He from Whose [bounty] Yannai and his friends have partaken’?” He then drank the cup of wine, because he held that this would require him to recite birchas hamazon (see Tosafos ad loc.). They then brought him another cup of wine, which he used for the bensching.

The Gemara concludes that Shimon ben Shetach followed his own opinion here, which is not accepted by the other authorities, in that he held that one could recite birchas hamazon to be motzi others, even if all that he had consumed was a cup of wine. The accepted halachah is that one must eat bread to recite birchas hamazon and to be motzi others in zimun.

There are several fascinating historical, sociological and halachic conclusions to be drawn from this passage of Gemara.

  1. Although King Yannai had assassinated almost all of the rabbonim and gedolei Yisrael, he was still interested in having birchas hamazon recited at his banquet.
  2. No member of King Yannai’s entourage knew birchas hamazon by heart, yet they wanted it to be said correctly.
  3. None of the assembled had a written copy of birchas hamazon. (Based on a passage of Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos [115b], this is probably accurate. However, we will leave this topic for a different article.) Alternatively, none of them knew how to read.
  4. Although Yannai’s wife suspected that, given the opportunity, Yannai would kill Shimon ben Shetach, she knew that if he swore an oath, he would abide by it. Thus, he was more concerned about violating his oath than eliminating someone whom he felt challenged his authority.
  5. Notwithstanding King Yannai’s personal history, Shimon ben Shetach was unafraid of talking to him in a direct, blunt way. (See a similar story about Shimon ben Shetach and King Yannai in Sanhedrin 19).
  6. Although Shimon ben Shetach was the head of the Sanhedrin (see Chagigah 16b), there are areas of halachah in which we do not rule as he does.
  7. Shimon ben Shetach assumed that the wine was kosher.

Women leading zimun

Another passage of Gemara (Brochos 20b) applies the above-quoted rules of areivus to a different situation. The Gemara there discusses whether the requirement that a woman recite birchas hamazon is min haTorah or only miderabbanan. The Gemara notes that a practical difference in halachah that will result is whether women may lead the bensching – what we call the zimun. In earlier days, the person who led the zimun also bensched on behalf of the assembled. Thus, a requirement is that he be someone obligated to fulfill the mitzvah on the same level as they are. Only someone who is required to bensch min haTorah may lead the zimun if it includes men, who are required to bensch min haTorah. Therefore, if women are required to bensch min haTorah, they may lead the bensching of a group that includes men. On the other hand, if women are not required, they may not lead such a bensching.

Since the question whether women are obligated to bensch min haTorah or not remains unresolved, women do not lead a zimun when men are part of the zimun. However, when there are only women in attendance, they may create their own zimun (Brochos 45b; Arachin 3).

Areivus in action!

Here are some less common applications of the mitzvah of areivus. Mr. Goldberg is, unfortunately, hospitalized, and no one else in his family is able to recite Kiddush. On his way home from shul, Mr. Berkowitz can stop off at the Goldberg house and recite Kiddush on their behalf, although he is not fulfilling the mitzvah now, but intends to fulfill the mitzvah only when he gets to his own home. This is because the Goldbergs are required to recite Kiddush, and the law of areivus allows another Jew obligated in the mitzvah to perform the mitzvah on their behalf. (According to some authorities, the ladies of the house should daven maariv before Mr. Berkowitz can recite Kiddush for them. This is a topic that we will leave for a future article.)

Havdalah and not Kiddush

One of my daughters was born when I was a rav in a small Jewish community. Since it has become common custom that one celebrates the birth of a daughter with a Kiddush, I was now faced with an interesting conundrum. Some of the people who would attend the Kiddush might drive on Shabbos to attend, so I could not consider the standard Kiddush as an option. My wife and I decided to avoid this problem by making a melaveh malkah on a Saturday night instead.

What does this have to do with areivus?

Although I had already made havdalah that night, at the melaveh malkah, I recited havdalah another time, on behalf of those individuals who had not yet performed the mitzvah. This could be done, because of the concept of areivus. Of course, this should be done only when there are individuals who have not as yet performed the mitzvah and would have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah of havdalah when it is performed for them.

Kiddush Shabbos morning

Sometimes, one has guests Shabbos morning who did not yet recite or hear the Friday night Kiddush. Since that Kiddush can be recited the entire Shabbos, these guests are required to hear both brochos of Kiddush during the daytime of Shabbos. Therefore, one should recite that Kiddush on their behalf at the Shabbos morning meal. However, bear in mind that, since they will be yotzei only if they intend to be, they must be sufficiently interested in Judaism to understand that they are thereby fulfilling a mitzvah. I suggest discussing this with your own rav or posek for guidance what to do.

Conclusion

The mitzvos of the Torah were given not to the Jewish people as individuals, but as a community, and to each individual Jew as a member of that community. This affects many areas of halachah, one of which is the mitzvah of areivus that we have just introduced. My fellow Jew’s obligation to observe mitzvos transfers to me in a way that I can now enable him to perform them.

 

Personal Supplications on Shabbos and Yom Tov

In Parshas Eikev, the Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for the Jewish people. Would he have been permitted to do this on Shabbos? And would he have been permitted to pray for the needs of an individual on Shabbos, or perhaps just for the entire community?

Personal Supplications on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Question # 1: Harachaman Hullabaloo

“I know that some people do not recite the harachamans at the end of bensching on Shabbos, but I was raised saying them. Am I doing something wrong?”

Question #2: The Monotonous Mishebeirach Mode

Iam Impatient calls me with the following question: “Can we do anything to reduce the number of mishebeirachs in our shul? It is taking longer and longer, and I find the delay quite disturbing.”

Question #3: Kibud Av versus Kavod Shabbos

Michal’s father asks her to arrange a minyan to daven on his behalf on Shabbos. May she?

Question #4: On Shabbos morning, Shlomoh asks the shul’s gabbai. “My father will be having surgery this week. Can we say a chapter of Tehillim on his behalf after davening when everyone is still in shul?”

Answer:

In several places, the Gemara mentions that one may not pray for individual needs on Shabbos (e.g., Taanis 19a; Bava Basra 91a; Yerushalmi, Shabbos, 15:3). At least two reasons are quoted for this prohibition. Some sources include it under what the Navi Yeshaya (58:13) commanded when he declared, Vechibadto mei’asos derachecha mimetzo cheftzecha vedabeir davar, “You shall honor the Shabbos by not performing your own matters, seeking out your own needs and speaking of them” (Vayikra Rabbah 34:16; Rashba, Shabbos 113a). This proscription is usually simply called dabeir davar.

A second opinion

Others prohibit praying for personal requests on Shabbos because it violates one’s oneg Shabbos. Praying for personal needs causes one to focus on what troubles him, which leads a person to be sorrowful (see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:12 and Ran, Shabbos, Rif page 5b). Shabbos is to be a day of joy.

According to both reasons, dabeir davar and oneg Shabbos, we now understand why, on Motza’ei Shabbos, we insert the passage atah chonantanu, which is a declaration of havdalah ending Shabbos, in the fourth brocha of shemoneh esrei, which is the first of the weekday brachos. The reason is that we may not recite the middle brachos of the shemoneh esrei until we have recited havdalah (Yerushalmi, Brachos end of 5:2; Shu”t HaRashba #739; Magen Avraham 294:1). Someone who forgot to recite atah chonantanu and realizes while in the middle of shemoneh esrei may continue the shemoneh esrei, but should not add any personal supplications to his prayer. The reason for this ruling will be explained shortly.

“Provide us, sustain us…”

If personal supplications are prohibited on Shabbos, how can we say in our bensching the personal requests to Hashem “Provide us, sustain us…”? The same question exists in many of the prayers that we recite on Shabbos, such as the Yehi ratzon prayer we recite at the end of the morning birchos hashachar. How are we permitted to recite this prayer on Shabbos?

This question is asked in the Gemara Yerushalmi, which I quote:

We learned: It is prohibited to pray for one’s needs on Shabbos. Rabbi Ze’eira asked Rabbi Chiya bar Abba, “When reciting the bensching, may one say ‘Tend to us, provide us with livelihood’ [re’einu, zuneinu, in the third brocha]?” Rabbi Chiya bar Abba answered him that this is permitted because this is the standard structure of the brocha (Yerushalmi, Shabbos 15:3).

Thus, the Yerushalmi introduces a new idea: that something that is a standard part of a tefillah or brocha may be recited on Shabbos, a concept called tofeis brocha. For this reason, we do not modify the words of bensching or the other brachos that we usually recite.

What is the logic behind permitting tofeis brocha? This is still a request that should be prohibited for one of the two reasons mentioned above.

I found three interpretations to explain why we may recite a prayer that is included in a tofeis brocha.

I. Distorted brachos

The Korban HaEidah, one of the primary commentaries on the Yerushalmi, explains that tofeis brocha is permitted because of concern that changing the wording on Shabbos might cause one to get confused and recite the entire brocha incorrectly.

II. Changing the nusach

The Rivash (Shu”t HaRivash #512) explains the reason for tofeis brocha is because one does not change a text established by Chazal. Thus, the prohibition against making personal requests on Shabbos never applied to standard texts. The Rivash then extends this idea even to selichos and piyutim – and it is for this reason that when we recite these passages on Shabbos that falls on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we recite the exact same text as we do when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall on a weekday.

III. Familiarity breeds content

Others provide yet a third reason to explain why one may recite a supplication that is incorporated in a tofeis brocha: something that one says regularly does not cause him suffering (Kuntrus Bakashos BeShabbos page 3, quoting Yafeh Mareh and Atares Paz 1:2:2). This approach assumes that the reason we may not pray for personal supplications on Shabbos is not because of the takkanah of dabeir davar but only because of the reason of oneg Shabbos.

Harachaman Hullabaloo

At this point, we can already discuss the first question raised above:

“I know that some people do not recite the harachamans at the end of bensching on Shabbos, but I was raised saying them. Am I doing something wrong?”

No, you are in good company, together with many well-respected poskim. The Mishnah Berurah (188:9) rules that one may recite the harachamans on Shabbos – they are also considered tofeis brachos.

Some authorities extend the lenience of tofeis brocha considerably, ruling that the prohibition against reciting supplications on Shabbos applies only to a prayer that one constructs oneself, but does not apply to any standardized prayer (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim, Orach Chayim 2:46).

Pikuach nefesh

Aside from the situation of tofeis brachos, there is another case when one may recite personal supplications on Shabbos, and that is when the situation is one of pikuach nefesh, life-threatening emergency. Just as saving lives supersedes Shabbos and most mitzvos of the Torah, so one is permitted to pray for deliverance when faced by an immediate life-threatening emergency. For example, the Mishnah (Taanis 19a) teaches that one prays on Shabbos that Hashem save the people when a city is surrounded by invaders, when a river overflows, or when a boat is floundering at sea.

The same is true for an individual.  Just as pikuach nefesh of an individual supersedes Shabbos, so, too, praying for an individual’s deliverance in a life-threatening circumstance supersedes Shabbos when it is a sakanas hayom – a circumstance that presents an immediate, life-threatening emergency (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 288:9, 10). Therefore, if someone is very seriously ill and his life is in immediate danger, we say Tehillim and pray on his behalf, even on Shabbos. However, if the person is seriously ill but not in immediate danger, we do not say Tehillim for him on Shabbos, but wait until after Shabbos. Thus, the Mishnah Berurah (288:28) rules that a woman giving birth or a woman who gave birth within the past week are both considered sakanas hayom, and one may pray for them on Shabbos.

Out-of-town ill

Is one permitted to daven on Shabbos for an ill person who is not in his city? Why does it make a difference where the ill person is?

Some authorities contend that since one does not know if his condition is a sakanas hayom, these prayers might be desecrating Shabbos unnecessarily (Maharil cited by Machatzis HaShekel 288:14). The accepted practice follows those who permit these prayers, considering them a safek pikuach nefesh (Nachalas Shivah).

Can I get rid of all those mishebeirachs?

At this point, let us examine a different one of our opening questions.

Iam Impatient asked: “Can we do anything to reduce the number of mishebeirachs in our shul? It is taking longer and longer, and I find the delay quite disturbing.”

I mentioned above the dispute as to whether the prohibition of personal supplications on Shabbos is because of the law of dabeir davar, meaning that one should not discuss this-worldly matters on Shabbos, or it is because of oneg Shabbos — praying for personal needs may cause one to become sorrowful. Is there any difference in halachah between the two reasons?

Indeed, there are some differences in halachah that result from this disagreement. One dispute that results is germane to whether one may recite a mishebeirach for an ill person on Shabbos. The standard text for this mishebeirach when recited on a weekday includes a short prayer that the ill person should have a complete recovery. Logically, it should be prohibited to recite this on Shabbos, since it is a private request. Yet, some early authorities rule that when the ill person is not nearby, one may recite these mishebeirachs on Shabbos, reasoning that one does not become sorrowful when reciting a mishebeirach for someone not present (responsum of Rav Yaakov Beirav, in Shu”t Avkas Rocheil #11). This line of reasoning assumes that the prohibition of praying for personal requests on Shabbos is because it causes suffering.

However, several other authorities prohibit reciting a mishebeirach for ill people on Shabbos, expressly stating that it is forbidden because of dabeir davar (She’ei’las Yaavetz #64; Gra”z, Orach Chayim 288:9). The She’ei’las Yaavetz prohibits reciting a mishebeirach for the ill on Shabbos except for a choleh who is in the category of sakanas hayom. He also prohibits reciting these mishebeirachs for an additional reason that will make Iam happy: Yaavetz contends that they are prohibited because they inconvenience the community by delaying the services (tircha de’tzibura).

A compromise position rules that one may recite a mishebeirach for ill people on Shabbos provided that one modifies the text, and instead of closing with a prayer for a swift recovery, one blesses the ill person, and then makes a statement that on Shabbos we are not permitted to cry out, but recovery is soon to come (Magen Avraham 288:14).

The prevalent custom in most places today follows the last approach, and that is why, in many shullen, mishebeirachs are recited for the ill even when it is not a sakanas hayom. Of course, this ruling, which is probably the practice in Iam’s shul, is what is upsetting Iam.

Some authorities add an additional factor in favor of the reciting of the mishebeirach: it is considered a special merit to pray for someone during, or immediately after, the reading of the Torah. To quote the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 335:12): “If one has a family member who is ill… the custom is to pray in shul during kerias haTorah for those who are sick, for then Divine Compassion is aroused.”

In answer to what is the best thing to do, I refer to a responsum of an earlier authority, the Rivash (Shu”t HaRivash #512) on a related topic: whether one should recite Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos of Rosh Hashanah, Shabbos Shuvah and Yom Kippur. After noting the different customs that he saw in several communities, and explaining the reasons why reciting Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos does or does not violate the prohibition against reciting personal requests on Shabbos, he concludes that one should follow the prevalent local custom. Similarly, regarding whether one recites a mishebeirach on Shabbos, he should follow established community or shul custom.

May I pray for personal spiritual requests?

The Mishnah Berurah (288:22) permits praying on Shabbos for spiritual help or for any other request that is not a result of difficult circumstances. It seems that this should be permitted according to both reasons mentioned above. According to the first reason, one should not pray on Shabbos about one’s own needs, but spiritual needs are Hashem’s realm. According to the second reason, most people do not become saddened regarding their spiritual failings and “troubles.”

Based on the above, on Shabbos one may recite the prayer of Rav Nechunia ben Hakanah requesting divine assistance for one’s Torah learning (Halichos Shlomoh, 14:11).

Yom Tov versus Shabbos

Does the prohibition against requesting personal supplications apply only on Shabbos, or does it apply equally on Yom Tov? This topic is discussed by the halachic authorities in a variety of places.

The Magen Avraham (128:70) notes that although the custom among Ashkenazim outside Eretz Yisroel is to duchen only on Yom Tov, some communities do not duchen when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos. He suggests the reason for this practice is because the members of the congregation recite the prayer for bad dreams when the kohanim duchen, and that, if the kohanim duchen on Shabbos, people will say this prayer on Shabbos, which violates the prohibition against reciting personal supplications. The Magen Avraham states that there is no concern with reciting this prayer on Yom Tov, notwithstanding the fact that it qualifies as a personal supplication. Although he certainly agrees that one may not recite personal supplications on Yom Tov, he rallies evidence that there is a difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos regarding the severity of this prohibition. After all, we omit reciting the prayer Avinu Malkeinu on Rosh Hashanah when it falls on Shabbos, yet we have no problem with reciting Avinu Malkeinu when Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekday. We could similarly demonstrate this difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos from the fact that we recite certain personal requests and the 13 midos of Hashem when we take out the sefer Torah on Yom Tov, but refrain from reciting these prayers when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos.

However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 576:12) implies that there is no difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos – that personal requests are prohibited equally on both days, a position reiterated by other later authorities (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim 2:46). It appears that Ashkenazim and Sefardim differ as to the accepted position. Ashkenazim follow the ruling of the Magen Avraham and are more lenient on Yom Tov, whereas Sefardim are stricter about reciting personal requests on Yom Tov.

Kibud Av versus Kavod Shabbos

At this point, I would like to address the third question asked above: “Michal’s father asks her to arrange a minyan to daven on his behalf on Shabbos. May she?”

To answer this question, I refer to a responsum on a related topic from Rav Moshe Feinstein.

On the last day of Pesach, someone who was seriously ill, but not a sakanas yom, requested that the members of a shul pray on his behalf. They then recited a few chapters of Tehillim on his behalf and recited the appropriate prayer. After Yom Tov, they were able to ask Rav Moshe whether they had done the correct thing.

Rav Moshe ruled that although this was not a sakanas yom, since the ill person himself had requested that they pray on his behalf, and he was in a situation of general pikuach nefesh, it was proper that they prayed on his behalf. Although ordinarily one may not pray on someone’s behalf if it is not a sakanas yom, in this situation we do pray on his behalf out of concern that he would become upset, which could aggravate his precarious condition. This concept is called shelo titrof daato, that the ill person should not become distressed, and is used in several different halachic contexts.

However, Rav Moshe notes, this ruling applies only when the ill person himself made the request. If family members ask that people pray on his behalf on Shabbos, one should not accede to their request, if it is not a case of sakanas yom (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:105).

At this point, I would like to refer to the last question I raised above: “On Shabbos morning, Shlomoh asks the shul’s gabbai. “My father will be having surgery this week. Can we say a chapter of Tehillim on his behalf after davening, when everyone is still in shul?”

The answer to the question is that since there is no sakanas hayom here and the ill person himself was not the source of the request, one should not say Tehillim and daven for him until after Shabbos.

Conclusion

The words of Yeshaya that include the words dabeir davar are read as part of the haftarah that we recite on Yom Kippur. There the Navi concludes “If you remove your internal yoke from yourself, pointing fingers at one another and evil speech… then Hashem will always guide you… if you refrain from doing your matters on My holy day… you honor it by not performing your own matters, seeking out your own needs and speaking of them. Then you will delight with Hashem and I will mount you on the highest places on Earth. I will feed you the heritage of your father Yaakov, for Hashem has spoken.”

 

Dishes, Detergent and Malachos

The Aseres Hadibros include the mitzvah of Shabbos, providing the opportunity to continue our discussion from parshas Pinchas.

Dishes, Detergent and Malachos

Question #1: Washing dishes

“Whenever I ask my son to help wash the dishes on Shabbos, he claims that it is prohibited. Is he pulling my leg in his attempt to avoid family responsibilities?”

Question #2: No detergent

“Is it prohibited to wash clothes on Shabbos if I do not use detergent?”

Question #3: Six in one!

Can six people consecutively launder a garment?

Three weeks ago, we began our discussion about the melacha of melabein. We learned that there is a dispute among rishonim whether this melacha should be defined as laundering or as bleaching, although in practical terms, the halachos remain the same either way, and it is prohibited min haTorah to launder or to bleach on Shabbos. We also discovered that there are numerous ways that one can violate this melacha, such as by soaking, scrubbing, wringing, or rinsing, and, according to some authorities,  even by brushing a garment. At this point, we will continue our discussion where we left off.

Washing dishes

There is no prohibition of melabein for soaking, scouring, or cleaning a hard substance such as wood or metal. This is because the grime lies on top of the material and is not absorbed inside or between the fibers. This is the reason why it is permitted to wash dishes on Shabbos, provided that one does not squeeze a cloth or something similar in the process.

One may explain the difference between fabrics, that are included in the melacha of melabein, and hard substances that are not, in the following way. All melachos involve changing an object to make it more useful for mankind. In the instance of most melachos, this involves some type of physical or chemical change to the object upon which the melacha is performed. Regarding some melachos, such as trapping, carrying and selecting, no real physical or chemical change occurs in the item, but there is a difference in utility. The undomesticated animal was useless to mankind, and trapping made it available for mankind. Prior to removing the bad part of the item, one could not eat or use this food, and selecting made it useful. In carrying, the most difficult of the melachos to explain conceptually, the item is made useful by changing its location.

By the way, if we remember the dispute between Rashi and the Rambam that I mentioned earlier, the approach of the Rambam allows an easier explanation why washing dishes is not included under the melacha. According to the Rambam, the av melacha is bleaching, or changing the color of the fiber or fabric. All laundering changes the inherent appearance of the cloth, and, in this way, the toladah, laundering, is similar to the av melacha, bleaching. However, dirt on top of a plate does not change the inherent appearance of the plate – one merely needs to scrape off the leftover food on its surface, and the plate is clean. This contrasts with laundering cloth, where the dirt is embedded in the fiber.

All or nothing?

Does one violate melabein only if one performs all of the above-prohibited activities (soaking, scrubbing, wringing, and rinsing), or even if one performs any one of them? A ramification of the second approach is that cleaning an item only a bit violates melabein, despite the fact that the garment is still dirty.

The halacha is that each of these stages constitutes infringements of melabein min haTorah, and this is true even if one does not add any detergent to the water. In other words, although one ordinarily uses detergent to launder clothes, and without detergent the clothes are usually not clean, since performing each of the above-mentioned laundering steps does clean the garment a little bit, that is sufficient to contravene the Torah law of melabein.

Six in one

Thus, theoretically six different people could each be doing a different activity to a garment or cloth, each one violating the melacha of melabein min haTorah! The first one brushes the garment, removing some of the dirt. The second one places the garment in a bucket to soak it. The third one scrubs the garment on a scouring board; the fourth squeezes water out of the garment; the fifth rinses the garment clean; and the sixth bleaches the now clean garment.

Cleaning versus cooking

Since the halacha is that each of the laundering stages constitutes a Torah violation of melabein, we are faced with an interesting contrast between the melacha of melabein and that of cooking. The halacha is that someone who began cooking food, but the food is not yet cooked to the point where it is edible, has not yet violated the melacha min haTorah, but only a rabbinic injunction. Violating the melacha min haTorah requires that the food is cooked enough to make it edible. Yet, soaking an item of clothing contravenes the prohibition of laundering, even though removing it from the water without any other cleaning process may still leave the garment too soiled to wear. Why is there a difference between laundering, which one violates even if the item is still not fully clean, and cooking, which one violates only when the item is cooked?

The answer appears to be that cooking an item to the point that it is still inedible does not benefit mankind, since no one will eat it. On the other hand, although most people do not enjoy wearing dirty clothing, it is more pleasant to wear clothes that are somewhat laundered than clothes that are completely filthy. In other words, although laundering something a little bit made the item cleaner, cooking it a little bit did not make it edible.

According to the Rambam’s approach in the dispute over the definition of melabein, the distinction between laundering and cooking is more easily understood. The av melacha, in his opinion, is bleaching, which means that the basic melacha is changing the coloring, not cleaning it. Laundering is a toladah because it changes the appearance of the cloth. Thus, each stage of melabein changes the appearance of the cloth, which is the nature of the melacha.

Wringing versus stirring

At this point, we should discuss the following interesting phenomenon. When discussing the prohibition of wringing laundry on Shabbos, the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 9:11) states the following: “One who wrings out a garment until he extracts the water that is absorbed inside it desecrates Shabbos for laundering, since wringing is necessary (mitzorchei) for laundering just as stirring is necessary (mitzorchei) for cooking.”

This is certainly an unusual statement. Why does the Rambam need to compare wringing water to stirring food in order to explain why it is prohibited on Shabbos? And, the Rambam uses a very interesting term to describe this relationship — the word mitzorchei, which he uses in only three contexts in his entire thirty chapters of the laws of Shabbos. Aside from using this term here to describe wringing laundry and stirring food, he uses it also in the context of meleches tofeir (Hilchos Shabbos 10:9 and Magid Mishnah, Kesef Mishneh, and Mirkeves Hamishneh ad locum; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 340 and Elyah Rabbah 340:14)  .

Perhaps one could say that since wringing out water looks different from other laundering acts, one might think that it is not prohibited under the heading of this melacha. However, this is probably not what was bothering the Rambam. My proof is that there are many other melacha activities that do not look like the av melacha under which they are listed. For example, weeding is prohibited min haTorah because it is an aspect of plowing, notwithstanding that weeding does not look at all like plowing. It violates plowing because weeding prepares the ground to allow growth, which is the same concept involved when plowing. Similarly, pruning trees is prohibited as a subheading of planting. Although pruning appears to be the exact opposite of planting, since it is a method of having vines and trees grow better it is included under planting. In these instances, a melacha is performed because the goals of pruning and weeding are respectively similar to planting and plowing. Thus, we see that melacha prohibitions are often categorized by their purpose.Yet, in these instances, the Rambam finds no need to compare weeding or pruning to stirring, nor does he use the word tzorchei to describe what they do.

A possible approach to explain the Rambam is that both wringing and stirring are done after the basic melacha has already been performed. If you are stirring a cooking pot, someone already placed a pot of food on a fire, thereby violating the melacha of cooking. The Rambam is pointing out that stirring a pot is a full violation of cooking on Shabbos – and that we do not mitigate liability for this act on the basis that someone else already performed the actions necessary to cook this food.

Similarly, a person can wring out clothes only when someone else already soaked them in water – which, in and of itself, constitutes laundering according to halacha. Thus, one might contend that the wringer did not violate the melacha (Nimla Tal, meleches melabein #18; meleches tofeir #26).

Separate melacha

Heretofore, we have been assuming that wringing out clothes, socheit, is a subcategory of melabein. Actually, there is a dispute among tana’im concerning this matter. Indeed, most tana’im, including the anonymous author of the Mishnah, consider squeezing to be not its own melacha but a toladah of one of the other 39 melachos listed in the seventh perek of mishnayos Shabbos. (According to most rishonim, this violates the melacha of laundering, whereas the Ramban [Shabbos 111a, as understood by the Magen Avraham end of chapter 302 and Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim #159:20] explains that it violates the melacha of dyeing; cf. Lechem Mishneh, Hilchos Shabbos 9:11, who understands that the Ramban agrees with the other rishonim that it is prohibited because of melabein.) However, the tanna, Rabbi Yishmael, the son of Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka, contends that squeezing is a completely separate av melacha (Yerushalmi, Shabbos 7:2), although it is not explained in halachic sources why he feels this way. (Nimla Tal Melabein #24 suggests some possible approaches.) The Gemara notes that the Mishnah disagrees with Rabbi Yishmael, the son of Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka, since, according to him, there are forty melachos, and the Mishnah counts only 39.

39 or 40?

But wait one moment! I thought there were 39 melachos. How can a tanna have 40 melachos?

The answer to this question lies in a passage of Gemara (Shabbos 49b) that says as follows:

What is the basis upon which it has been established that there are 39 melachos? …Rabbi Yehonasan, the son of Rabbi Elazar, told them, “This is what Rabbi Shimon, the son of Rabbi Yosi ben Lekunia, said: ‘They correspond to the thirty-nine times that the word melacha is written in the Torah!’” Rav Yosef then asked, “Is the pasuk (Bereishis 39:11, regarding Yosef), Vayavo habaysa laasos melachto, included in the count or not?” To this, Abayei replied, “Let us bring a sefer Torah and count how many times the word melacha is mentioned in the Torah.” Rav Yosef replied that Abayei had misunderstood his query. Rav Yosef knew that the word melacha shows up in the Torah a total of forty times. When the tanna’im use the word melacha to count melachos, they are counting only instances when the word melacha in the Torah actually refers to work being performed. Rav Yosef’s question was whether the count of the Shabbos melachos included the pasuk regarding Yosef (which may be using the word melacha in a borrowed sense), or whether that pasuk was not included in the count, but instead they were counting a different pasuk, the one that concludes the construction of the Mishkan, which reads, Vehamelacha hoyso dayom. In the latter pasuk, also, the word melacha does not really mean work, but means the materials assembled for the work of the Mishkan. The tanna of the Mishnah, who counts only 39 melachos, felt that one of these places should not be included in the count of the melachos regarding the laws of Shabbos. The Gemara there remains unresolved which of these two pesukim is included in that count and which not. However, it is quite clear that the tanna quoted in the Yerushalmi, Rabbi Yishmael, the son of Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka, counted both pesukim, thus reaching a total of 40 melachos.

At this point, let us return to our opening questions:

Question #1: Washing dishes

“Whenever I ask my son to help wash the dishes on Shabbos, he claims that it is prohibited. Is he pulling my leg in his attempt to avoid family responsibilities?”

Washing dishes on Shabbos is certainly permitted, as long as one does not use an item that might involve squeezing. (Details of that question we will leave for a different time.)  It is safe to assume that your son’s motivation here is not halacha but laziness.

Question #2: No detergent

“Is it prohibited to wash clothes on Shabbos if I do not use detergent?”

As we now know, one can violate the prohibition of melabein min haTorah without use of detergent.

Question #3: Six in one!

Can six people consecutively launder a garment?

The simple answer is, “Yes.”

In conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos, in order for it to be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melacha, activities or actions which bring purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation, by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11).

 

Bleaching or Laundering?

Parshas Pinchas is the only parsha that mentions specifically the korbanos offered on Shabbos, thus, providing a reason to discuss the laws of Shabbos.

 

Bleaching or Laundering?

 

Question #1: Bleaching or laundering?

 

“Is the name of the melacha bleaching or laundering?”

 

Question #2: Painting white

 

“If someone whitewashes his wall or paints something white, what melacha has he performed?”

 

Question #3: Threading a thread

 

“What could possibly be wrong with moistening a thread on Shabbos?”

 

Among the 39 melachos of Shabbos listed in the Mishnah is melabein, which I will translate and define shortly. It is the second of the thirteen melachos involved in manufacturing a garment, which is referred to as sidura debeged. In order, they are: Gozeiz (shearing), melabein, menapeitz (carding or untangling), tzovei’a (dyeing), toveh (spinning thread), meisach (warping, a step in preparing to weave), oseh batei nirim (creating a heddle, a further step in preparing to weave, oreig (weaving), potzei’a (undoing a weave), kosheir (tying), matir (untying), tofeir (sewing), and korei’a (tearing).

 

Bleaching or laundering?

 

The rishonim dispute what is the definition and the proper translation of melabein. According to Rashi (Shabbos 73a), the correct translation of the melacha is laundering. The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 9:10) disagrees, contending that the actual definition of the av melacha is bleaching, which means removing the color from a fabric or fiber. Although the Rambam agrees that laundering on Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah, in his opinion, laundering is a toladah, or subcategory, of the melacha of melabein, not the av melacha, or primary category.

 

A question that one would ask on this ruling of the Rambam is why bleaching is not considered the same melacha as tzovei’a, dyeing, which is also concerned with changing the color of a fiber. Since melabein is bleaching, which changes the color of an item, and tzovei’a is dyeing, which changes the color of an item, why are these two separate melachos?

 

The answer appears to be that whereas tzovei’a adds color to the fiber, bleaching removes color from the fiber. In the Rambam’s opinion, a distinction is made between adding color to an item, which constitutes tzovei’a, and bleaching it, which removes the color and constitutes melabein. Laundering, which removes impurities from the cloth that detract from its appearance, is therefore a toladah of melabein.

 

An advantage to the Rambam’s approach is that melabein shares its root with lavan, which means white. (As a curiosity, the Modern Hebrew word for bleaching is malbin, derived from the same root, lavan. The word malbin is used in the Mishnah [Nega’im 4:4], although there it has a different meaning from the modern word. In the Mishnah the word means turning white. [See a similar usage in Parah 2:5.]) Since Rashi understands that the av melacha melabein means laundering, it is strange that the Mishnah did not call the melacha mechabeis, which means laundering.

 

It should be noted that there is a rishon who appears to hold that bleaching is not included under melabein at all, but is forbidden because of tzovei’a (see Tosafos, Bava Kamma 93b s.v. ha). This approach follows Rashi that melabein means laundering, but restricts laundering to actions that clean, and does not extend it to those that change the material’s color. Any activities that change an item’s color are considered tzovei’a, according to this opinion.

 

Clean or color?

 

This dispute between Rashi and the Rambam reflects different ways of understanding the concept of the melacha. According to Rashi, the focus of the melacha is the cleaning of cloth, whereas the Rambam understands its focus to be changing the cloth’s appearance. Laundering is included, according to the Rambam, because it changes the appearance of the cloth, albeit by removing dirt rather than by removing color.

 

There are halachic differences that result from this dispute, although I am unaware of any that affect us today. When the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, bimheira biyameinu, there will be questions regarding offering korbanos chatos that will be affected by the dispute between Rashi and the Rambam.

 

Notwithstanding their dispute, both Rashi and the Rambam agree that all forms of laundering are prohibited on Shabbos. In the modern world, most laundering is performed by dropping clothes into a washing machine, adding detergent, and turning the machine on to its appropriate cycle. However, prior to the invention of the washing machine, mankind was familiar with the different stages involved when laundering clothing. There are numerous questions germane to the details of how one launders clothing that affect the halachic application of melabein.

 

Several stages

 

There are several stages involved in laundering. First, one soaks the clothing or fiber, which loosens the grime. Then, one scrubs the clothing or fiber, which separates the loosened grime from the fibers of the material. One then wrings out the water, which removes much of the dirt. Finally, one rinses out the material, which washes away the remaining dirt residue. Thus, the standard way of laundering clothes involves four different steps: soaking, scrubbing, wringing, and rinsing. Let us now understand some other halachic ramification of these steps.

 

Soaking

 

The Gemara teaches that throwing a kerchief into water violates Shabbos min haTorah as an act of laundering (Zevachim 94b). As we will see shortly, this is prohibited not only if one soaks the cloth, but even if one only moistens it (Rashi, Shabbos 142b).

 

The rishonim disagree as to whether one violates melabein if one soaks cloth that one is not trying to clean. There is also a dispute whether soaking or moistening cloth is prohibited if one does it in a way that one is soiling the cloth, such as by mopping up a spill with a piece of cloth or a rag on Shabbos. Because of space limitations, we will need to discuss these topics at a future time.

 

Rashi (Shabbos 142b) notes that pouring a small amount of water onto cloth similarly violates laundering. For this reason, one must always be careful not to place even a small amount of water or spittle on a stain on Shabbos. This is prohibited min haTorah even if one is concerned that the stain will set and ruin the garment.

 

Moistening a thread

 

The Yerushalmi (Shabbos 7:2) rules that moistening a thread in one’s mouth on Shabbos, such as what one would do to thread a needle, violates a Torah violation of soaking the thread. It is unclear whether the Yerushalmi considers any moistening of a thread, even with water, to be laundering, or if the concern is only because one is using saliva, which has a special ability to launder, something that was well-known in the days of Chazal (Mishnah, Niddah 9:6).

 

Here is an interesting ramification of this ruling. Someone sewed a button onto their garment shortly before Shabbos. On Shabbos, he noticed that there was extra thread dangling from the button of a garment. The logical, short-term solution for this problem is to moisten the offending extra thread and wrap it around under a button. However, halachically, doing this presents a serious problem. According to the above-quoted Yerushalmi, moistening the thread in order to facilitate this winding is prohibited min haTorah!

 

Squeezing

 

One of the steps in laundering clothing is that one wrings the dirty water out of the clothing. Wringing out cloth is a kind of squeezing. This sometimes creates confusion, because, the laws of Shabbos recognize two types of squeezing, what I will call (1) extracting and (2) wringing. The first type involves extracting juice or oil from fruit, such as grapes or olives, which is prohibited on Shabbos but has nothing to do with the laws of laundering. According to most rishonim, this type of squeezing is a violation of the melacha of dosh, threshing. The melacha of dosh is violated when one breaks the natural, physical connection between two items that are dissimilar in their use, thus creating a product that can be used easily. Further discussion of this type of squeezing, extracting, is beyond the scope of this article, whose topic is laundering.

 

Wringing

 

Wringing cloth to clean it is a different type of squeezing, and this is involved only when one squeezes out something that can be laundered, such as cloth or fabric. According to all opinions, it is forbidden min haTorah to squeeze water out of cloth. The rishonim debate whether this melacha is violated when one wrings out a cloth to remove absorbed wine, beer, oil or other liquids that are not customarily used for cleaning. Rabbeinu Tam contends that squeezing these liquids out of cloth is not prohibited min haTorah unless one wants to use the liquid (in which case it would be prohibited because it is considered extracting), whereas his nephew, Rabbeinu Yitzchok (whose name is usually abbreviated to R’Y), ruled that it is prohibited min haTorah (Tosafos, Kesubos 6a s.v. Hei, and other rishonim ad locum; Sefer Hayoshor #283; Tosafos, Shabbos 111a). Because of space considerations, further discussion on this subtopic will be left for a future article.

 

Brushing a garment

 

According to many authorities, one can violate melabein even without use of water by brushing out a garment, at least under certain circumstances (Rema, Orach Chayim 302:1; Bach, Elyah Rabbah, Mishnah Berurah, Biur Halacha). For this reason, one should refrain from brushing clothes on Shabbos. The Mishnah Berurah (302:6) rules that one should be careful on Shabbos to place his clothes in places where they will not fall into dust or dirt, so that he does not come to brush the clothes.

 

At this point, we can answer the three questions that we posed at the beginning of our article:

 

Bleaching or laundering?

 

“Is the name of the melacha bleaching or laundering?”

 

Actually, it is a dispute among rishonim whether the melacha should be defined as

 

bleaching or as laundering, although for our contemporary purposes there may not be a halacha lemaaseh difference.

 

Painting white

 

“If someone whitewashes his wall or paints something white, what melacha has he performed?”

 

The answer is that he violated the melacha of tzovei’a, dyeing, not of melabein.

 

Threading a thread

 

“What could possibly be wrong with moistening a thread on Shabbos?”

 

Indeed, it might be prohibited min haTorah to do so, because it is considered that one laundered the thread.

 

We will continue our discussion of meleches melabein in three weeks.

 

Blessing over the Candles

The beginning of parshas Behaalos’cha discusses the kindling of the menorah. This provides me with enough of an excuse to talk about a different kindling mitzvah.

Blessing over the Candles

Question #1: When Do I Kindle?

“What is the optimal way to recite the brochos and kindle the Shabbos lights?”

Question #2: Purchasing the Candlesticks

Is there a halachic basis for the custom that the chosson’s family purchases candlesticks for his bride?

Question #3: Who Kindles the Candles?

“My mother can no longer light the Shabbos candles herself, but instead has her non-Jewish caretaker kindle them, and then Mother recites the brocha. Should I tell Mom not to do this, since one cannot recite a brocha on a mitzvah performed by a gentile?”

Question #4: When Do We Kindle the Candles?

“My father-in-law insists that whoever kindles Shabbos lights in his house should recite the brocha before kindling, which is not my family’s custom. What should we do when we visit them?”

Introduction

The questions above concern reciting brochos prior to lighting the Shabbos candles. We are all aware that immediately prior to accepting Shabbos, women kindle the Shabbos candles or lamps, cover their eyes, recite the appropriate brocha and thereby usher in Shabbos. However, most of us do not realize that this is not a universal practice. As a matter of fact, the Gemara never even mentions reciting a brocha upon the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights, and the practice of reciting the brocha after kindling them was not exclusive practice, even among Ashkenazim, until relatively lately. As we will soon see, most Sefardim follow a slightly different procedure than what was described above.

Why do we light Shabbos candles?

Let us start with a basic understanding of the mitzvah of having Shabbos lights. The rishonim provide several reasons why we kindle lights before Shabbos.

(1) Respect the meal

The Shabbos seudah should be treated with the respect of a festive banquet. The venue of formal dinners is always well illuminated (Rashi, Shabbos 25b s.v.Chovah; see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:5).

(2) Enjoy the meal

When someone cannot see what he is eating, he does not enjoy the meal. Therefore, there must be enough light to see the Shabbos meal (She’iltos #63).

(3) Avoid unpleasant atmosphere

It is depressing to sit in the dark, which is contrary to the atmosphere appropriate for Shabbos (Rashi, Shabbos 23b s.v. Shalom).

(4) Avoid getting hurt

If the house is dark, someone might stumble or collide with something and hurt himself, which is certainly not conducive to the enjoyment of Shabbos (Rashi, Shabbos 25b s.v. Hadlakas).

Differences in halacha

The different reasons mentioned may result in dissimilar halachic repercussions. For example, the first two reasons, honoring the Shabbos meal and enjoying it, require light only in the room where the Shabbos meal will be eaten. On the other hand, the fourth reason, preventing a person from hurting himself, requires illumination in any part of the house through which one walks. Therefore, we should kindle lights in all areas of the house that may be used in the course of Shabbos (Magen Avraham 263:1, quoting Maharshal). Some authorities go further, contending that one should make sure that there are lights that burn all night in any such area (Kaf Hachayim). In earlier generations, this probably required a long-burning oil lamp; in today’s world, this is easy to accomplish with electric lighting.

Other authorities suggest that the halachic obligation might extend even further – that we are required to make sure any dark area that may be entered on Shabbos day, such as a walk-in closet, be properly illuminated for the entire Shabbos. The Ketzos Hashulchan (74:1), who discusses this issue, does not reach a conclusion whether this is indeed required or not.

Whose mitzvah is it?

Who is required to kindle the Shabbos lights? Most people are surprised to discover that the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights is incumbent upon every individual. To quote the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 5:1): “Everyone is required to have a lamp lit in his house on Shabbos.” Although usually the lady of the house kindles the Shabbos lights, she does so as the agent of the rest of the family and also for their guests (Levush, Orach Chayim 263:3; Graz, Kuntros Acharon 263:2). Therefore, if there is no lady of the house, or if she is away for Shabbos, someone else must kindle the lights, instead. A man or group of men together for Shabbos are obligated to kindle lights, and students in a dormitory, whether in a yeshiva or a seminary, are required to kindle Shabbos lights. The requirement is not that each individual kindle his own Shabbos lights — one person can function as an agent for the rest. Usually, this means that they have candles lit in a safe place, and that someone makes certain that there are electric lights burning in other places, as needed.

The Shabbos lights must be kindled by an adult. Although many have the custom that girls under bas mitzvah kindle their own Shabbos lights, this is always done in addition to an adult lighting.

When several women kindle Shabbos lights in one house, it is preferable that each light in a different place, so that each lamp provides illumination in a different area of the house.

Although the lady of the house usually is the one who does the actual kindling, her husband should participate in the mitzvah by preparing the lights for her (see Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s comments to the Mishnah, Shabbos 2:6; Mishnah Berurah 263:12, 264:28). The proper practice is that her husband prepares the lights and the wicks, or sets up the candles so that they are ready for her to light. Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (43:41) reports that he heard that this is the basis for the custom that the chosson purchases the candlesticks that his bride will be kindling after their marriage.

Rekindling lights

Assuming that, when Shabbos begins, the area is already illuminated with lighting that was turned on earlier in the day, is one required to extinguish the light and rekindle it for the sake of Shabbos? In other words: Is there a specific mitzvah to kindle lights, or is it sufficient to make sure that the area one plans to use is illuminated?

There actually appears to be a dispute among the rishonim regarding this question, and there are differences in halachic observance that result from those rulings. Some maintain that Chazal required only that one make certain that there is adequate illumination for Shabbos, but that it is sufficient to use lighting that was kindled earlier, not for the purpose of Shabbos (see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 5:1). Others maintain that Chazal required kindling lights especially for Shabbos. In their opinion, leaving lights already kindled does not fulfill the mitzvah that Chazal established (Tosafos, Shabbos 25b s.v. chovah).

Later authorities conclude that one needs to kindle only one light specifically in honor of Shabbos. Thus, if there are many lights kindled around the house, one is not required to extinguish all of them and rekindle them all for the sake of Shabbos, but one may leave most of the lights burning, provided one light is lit especially for Shabbos (see Ketzos Hashulchan 74:1). The brocha is recited on the light that is kindled in the area where one will be eating (see Rema, Orach Chayim 263:10; Mishnah Berurah 263:2).

Some contemporary authorities have pointed out the following: The main illumination in our houses is electric lighting, which was not turned on specifically for the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights. Often, the illumination provided by the Shabbos candles is so insignificant that one hardly notices their light. Thus, if the primary purpose of kindling Shabbos lights is to provide illumination, the Shabbos candles are not really fulfilling their role. For this reason, the Shabbos lights should be placed where they provide illumination. Alternatively, one should turn the electric lights off immediately prior to kindling the Shabbos lamps, turn them on again for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights, then kindle the Shabbos oil or candles and recite a brocha which now includes both the electric lights and the oil or candles. (This is assuming that one is following the practice of reciting the brocha after kindling the lights. The order would be modified for those who recite the brocha before kindling the lights. See ahead.)

When to light?

When is the optimal time to kindle the Shabbos lights? In this context, the Gemara recounts an interesting story (Shabbos 23b). Rav Yosef’s wife was accustomed to kindle the Shabbos lights immediately before Shabbos. She reasoned that it was a bigger honor for Shabbos if it was obvious that the kindling was being done for Shabbos (as explained by Ran). Rav Yosef corrected her, saying that it was better to kindle somewhat earlier in the day and not wait until right before sunset to light Shabbos candles.

Mrs. Yosef then thought that she should kindle much earlier, until an older scholar taught her that a beraisa (a halachic teaching dating back to the era of the Mishnah) teaches that it is best not to kindle the lights too early and not too late. Rashi explains that if one kindles the lights too early, it will not be noticeable that they are being kindled for Shabbos.

When is too early?

When is too early? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 263:4) rules that one should not kindle the lights earlier than plag hamincha, and that one should accept Shabbos shortly after one kindles the lights. The decision to accept Shabbos at the time of the kindling demonstrates that it was performed specifically for the sake of Shabbos.

Did I automatically accept Shabbos?

Does kindling the Shabbos lights always mean that one is now accepting Shabbos?

This involves a dispute among early authorities. One of the geonim, the Baal Halachos Gedolos, contends that kindling the lights for Shabbos indicates that one intends to accept Shabbos immediately afterwards. This kindling is the symbolic acceptance of Shabbos. Others disagree with the Baal Halachos Gedolos, contending that although one is required to kindle lights for Shabbos, this kindling does not constitute accepting Shabbos (Ramban, quoted by Ran Shabbos 10 in the standard edition of the Rif’s halachic code; Tosafos quoted by Tur Orach Chayim 263). The Ramban cites several reasons to support his approach: One reason is that since kindling the Shabbos lights is a forbidden melacha activity, how could performing a melacha be an act of accepting Shabbos? Furthermore, the Ramban contends that one might want to kindle the lights early, so that they are ready for Shabbos, and then take care of other Shabbos preparations that are more time consuming. This would be similar to someone setting up their Shabbos clocks on Friday morning in order to make sure that this task has been done. Could this possibly be considered an act of accepting Shabbos immediately?

Notwithstanding the Ramban’s objections, the Ran, who quotes both sides of the dispute, concludes in accordance with the Baal Halachos Gedolos, that kindling the lights is considered accepting Shabbos.

When does one recite the brocha?

The Rema, when he quotes these laws, mentions two practices:

  1. To recite the brocha before kindling.
  2. To kindle the lights first, which today is common Ashkenazi

Although one always recites the brocha on a mitzvah prior to performing it (see Pesachim 7b), in this instance, reciting the brocha is considered accepting Shabbos (Magen Avraham). If that is true, how can one kindle the lights after one has already accepted Shabbos?

Women who follow this approach kindle the lights and then place their hand in front of the lights. Upon completing the brocha, they remove the hand so that the brocha is recited immediately before benefitting from the lights. Alternatively, a woman closes her eyes until she completes the brocha, and then opens them immediately after reciting the brocha.

The Shulchan Aruch cites both opinions in the dispute between the Baal Halachos Gedolos and the Ramban. He then notes that those who follow the Baal Halachos Gedolos’ approach should recite the brocha, kindle the lights and then drop the match, but not shake it out. This is because kindling the last light is the actual acceptance of Shabbos. Thus, we see three different approaches:

  1. The Ramban, who contends that kindling the lights is not an acceptance of Shabbos.
  2. The standard Ashkenazi practice that reciting the brocha on the Shabbos lights accepts Shabbos.
  3. The custom mentioned by the Shulchan Aruch that kindling the last of the Shabbos lights is the act of accepting Shabbos.

Mincha before lighting

According to the opinions mentioned above that kindling the lights constitutes an acceptance of Shabbos, women should daven mincha prior to kindling the Shabbos lights. Once one has accepted Shabbos, one may no longer daven a weekday mincha.

When men kindle the Shabbos lights, they generally do not accept Shabbos immediately. This is because a man who must kindle the Shabbos lights has yet to go to shul to daven mincha, which he could not do if he had already accepted Shabbos.

There are extenuating circumstances in which a woman may not want to accept Shabbos immediately at the time that she kindles. The authorities conclude that it is preferable for a woman who does not want to accept Shabbos to verbalize, before she kindles the lights, that she is making a condition not to accept Shabbos this week when she recites the brocha on the lights.

In these situations, should an Ashkenazi woman recite the brocha before she kindles, or should she follow her usual practice of kindling the lights and then reciting the brocha? We find a dispute among later authorities as to which is the better procedure (see Bi’ur Halacha 263:5 s.v. Achar).

Brocha before kindling

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions: “My father-in-law insists that whoever kindles Shabbos lights in his house should recite the brocha before kindling, which is not my family’s custom. What should we do when we visit them?”

Most people refer to this as the difference between Ashkenazi and Sefardi customs. But, as we noted above, even the Rema, the primary halachic codifier of Ashkenazi practice, did not consider lighting before making the brocha to be a universal Ashkenazi custom. Furthermore, as we noted above, all authorities agree that, if one has a valid reason for not accepting Shabbos when kindling, one is not required to do so.

Consequently, it would seem to me that the goal of shalom bayis, in this instance maintaining peace in the house between the visiting married children and their father (father-in-law), is a valid enough reason that the married daughter should not accept Shabbos when she recites the brocha. Once she decided not to accept Shabbos with the reciting of the brocha, she has halachic basis to follow her father’s request and recite the brocha before kindling. (Please do not draw a conclusion that I agree with the father’s approach, either to halacha or to hachnasas orchim. I don’t.)

Having a gentile light

At this point, let us examine the last of our opening questions: “My mother can no longer light the Shabbos candles herself, but, instead, has her non-Jewish caretaker kindle them, and then Mother recites the brocha. Should I tell Mom not to do this, since one cannot recite a brocha on a mitzvah performed by a gentile?”

If I am unable to kindle the Shabbos lights myself, may I ask a non-Jew to kindle them for me? If the mitzvah is to kindle the lights, then I have not fulfilled a mitzvah this way, since a non-Jew cannot be my agent to fulfill a mitzvah. On the other hand, if the mitzvah is for the house to be illuminated, having a gentile kindle lights for me fulfills the mitzvah, since the house is now illuminated.

We usually assume that the mitzvah is indeed to kindle a light especially for Shabbos. Therefore, it would seem that I cannot have a non-Jew light for me, and this is indeed the conclusion of several authorities (Magen Avraham 263:11; Mishnah Berurah 263:21). However, there is an early authority who rules that one can have a gentile kindle the lights and the Jew may recite the brocha (Maharam, quoted by Magen Avraham 263:11). (Among the later authorities, Rabbi Akiva Eiger [ad locum] questions the Maharam’s suggestion, but Rav Pesach Frank [Shu”t Har Tzvi #141] justifies it. I suggest that this she’eilah  be discussed with one’s rav or posek.

In conclusion

The Gemara (Shabbos 23b) teaches that someone who kindles Shabbos lights regularly will merit having sons who are Torah scholars. It is for this reason that, immediately after kindling the Shabbos lights, women recite prayers asking that their children grow in this direction. Let us hope and pray that in the merit of observing these halachos correctly, we will have children and grandchildren who light up the world with their Torah!

 

 

The Unknown Melachos

Question #1: Carding

“If one of the melachos is carding, does that mean that one may not play cards on Shabbos?”

Question #2: Combing

“Someone told me that combing my hair on Shabbos violates the melachah of menapeitz? Is it prohibited to comb my hair on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Cloth

“Could you please explain the different melachos that involve the creation of cloth?”

Introduction:

Parshas Ki Sisa discusses the laws of Shabbos and of the yomim tovim. We are all aware that there are 39 melachos of Shabbos, and most of us are fairly familiar both with the concepts and with many of the details of such varied melachos as kosheir, tying knots, boreir, selecting, and hotza’ah, carrying. However, there are several melachos, for example, menapeitz, toveh, meisach, oseh batei nirin and potzei’a that are unfamiliar, and perhaps we could say virtually unknown, to most people. Since all of these melachos are involved in the manufacture of textiles, they all apply min haTorah on Shabbos and Yom Tov according to all opinions, which makes a wonderful incentive to study them. I will present these melachos in the order in which they appear in the list of the 39 melachos in the Mishnah in Shabbos (73a).

Menapeitz

Menapeitz is often translated as combing or carding, but neither term explains the melachah adequately. The origin of the word menapeitz means to break something in a way that it scatters (see Radak, Tehillim 2:9), as in the pasuk, ki’chli yotzeir tenapetzeim, “You will shatter them, like a vessel made by a potter.” We find the word conveying the same idea in Shoftim (7:19), venafotz hakadim asher biyadam, “They smashed the jugs that were in their hands,” and, again, in Yeshayahu (33:3), mei’romemusecha noftzu goyim, “From Your loftiness, nations have dispersed.”

The av melachah, or major category, menapeitz, is one of the stages involved in processing wool into a usable textile. The wool shorn from a sheep cannot be used immediately, because it is filthy and very tangled. Cleaning it involves the melachah of melabein, which we will not discuss in this article. Menapeitz includes untangling the wool.

While showering, many people use hair conditioner to facilitate combing the tangles and knots out of their hair. Realize how much more difficult this is for a sheep, whose hair is much curlier, and it has been quite a while since it last brushed its hair! (Wool and hair are essentially the same thing. The word “wool” is used when the hair is soft enough to be used as a textile fabric.) And yet, although the sheep does not care enough about its appearance to warrant using conditioner, combing out the tangles in the wool is absolutely necessary, if one is going to take wool of a sheep or any other animal and spin it into thread. Thus, the definition of the melachah is the separating or combing out of the strands of wool so that they they can be spun into wool (Aruch, eirech nefes; Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 170:2, 8, 9).

Sheep and other animals

Although the prohibition of shatnez applies exclusively to the hair of sheep and not to the wool of other animals, such as goats, camels, llamas and rabbits (see Kil’ayim 9:1), all opinions agree that menapeitz applies to the wool of all animals that may be used for clothing.

Silk

Although silk, unlike wool, is not hair, and is processed very differently, combing it out on Shabbos, so that it can be spun, also violates the melachah of menapeitz (Rashi, Shabbos 20b s.v. Gushkera).

Sinews

The halachah requires that Sifrei Torah and tefillin be sewn by a strong, very special type of “thread” made of sinew. The processing of these sinews so that they can be used as thread is also considered an act of menapeitz (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 9:15).

Linen and cotton

There is a dispute among rishonim whether the melachah of menapeitz applies min haTorah to textile materials that grow from the ground (vegetable-based), such as cotton, jute, or flax, which becomes linen. Rashi and several other early authorities contend that menapeitz applies only to materials that do not grow from the ground (Rashi, Chiddushei Ran and Meiri, all in their commentaries to Shabbos 73b; Tosafos, Shabbos 74a s.v. Af al gav), whereas the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 9:12) and the Semag rule that menapeitz applies to all materials. The Chayei Odom rules according to the Rambam that menapeitz does apply to vegetable-based textiles.

Cottonseed

According to several rishonim, combing out cotton, which removes the seeds, violates a different melachah, dosh, threshing, because it separates the usable textile material from the seeds, which are not usable for clothing (Rashi, Shabbos 73b, Ran and Meiri ad locum). The melachah of dosh is violated when one breaks the natural, physical connection between two items that are dissimilar in their use, thus creating a product that can be used easily. For example, threshing breaks the connection between the kernels and the chaff, thus making the kernels usable, and squeezing separates the juice or oil from the fruit. The Chayei Odom concludes that someone who combs out cotton or similar textiles, thus removing the seeds and, at the same time, preparing the fibers for cloth manufacture, violates two melachos, dosh and menapeitz. (However, see Semag who does not seem to agree.)

(Cottonseed is crushed for its oil. At the time of the Gemara, cottonseed oil was used as inferior kindling oil [see Rashi, Shabbos 21a s.v. Mish’cha]. Today, it is a source of cooking oil, used, for example, in the production of potato chips.)

Menapeitz times two

According to some authorities, one can violate the melachah of menapeitz twice on the same material. Certain methods of processing wool involve combing out the material and then soaking it in a special solution, so that it will absorb dye better. This soaking causes the wool to clump again and one needs to comb it out a second time. According to the Maasei Rokei’ach, if both of these actions were performed on Shabbos, this second combing would be a second Torah violation of the melachah of menapeitz (Hilchos Shabbos 9:12).

Carding

Before we go on to the next melachah, let us examine the first two of our opening questions: “If one of the melachos is carding, does that mean that one may not play cards on Shabbos?”

Although many halachic authorities prohibit playing cards on Shabbos (see commentaries to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 322:6), no one contends that it violates any melachos. As we now see, the melachah called menapeitz has nothing to do with playing cards. It is sometimes called carding because in Old French and Old English the word card means a brush used to disentangle fibers prior to spinning them.

Menapeitz and combing hair

“Someone told me that combing my hair on Shabbos violates the melachah of menapeitz? Is it prohibited to comb my hair on Shabbos?”

There are two questions here. The first is whether combing hair on Shabbos or Yom Tov is included under the melachah of menapeitz. The second is whether it is permitted to comb one’s hair on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Regarding the first question, the Avnei Neizer demonstrates very conclusively that combing (human) hair is not included under the melachah of menapeitz. The question is why this is true. He proposes that the melachah of menapeitz applies only to hair or wool that is no longer attached to its living source (Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim #171). According to this approach, there could be a prohibition of menapeitz when combing a wig. I will simply comment that, although I have seen many authorities prohibit combing wigs on Shabbos, none of these sources prohibit it because of menapeitz.

A simpler answer is that menapeitz means to prepare fiber so that it can be used as a textile, and that is not the purpose in combing hair (Nimla Tal, menapeitz #15).

Combing hair

Having established that combing your hair does not violate menapeitz, we will now discuss whether it is permitted on Shabbos. According to the Rivash, a rishon who was the av beis din of Algiers in the fourteenth century, it is forbidden to comb your hair on Shabbos. This is because when combing, one pulls out hair, which violates a different melachah of Shabbos, that of gozeiz, which means shearing (Shu”t Harivash #394). This melachah includes any activity that disconnects something connected to a living creature, including clipping nails, shaving, shearing wool, and removing cuticles. The Rivash’s ruling is cited by Shulchan Aruch and later authorities as accepted halachah (Orach Chayim 303:27).

Cloth

At this point, let us discuss the next of our opening questions: “Could you please explain the different melachos that involve the creation of cloth?” To explain them, we need to understand what happens to fiber after it is combed out, until it becomes finished cloth.

Toveh — Spinning

Toveh is the melachah that immediately follows after menapeitz. The definition of this melachah is taking combed fiber and making it ready to be used for the manufacture of clothing. Spinning combed fiber into thread is the most common application of this melachah, and comprises the av melachah.

Taking a thread and straightening it so that one can sew with it is also included under the melachah of toveh (Shabbos 75a, as explained by Rabbeinu Chananel). Similarly, twisting threads together to make a thicker thread, called shozeir in Hebrew, is also included under the melachah of toveh (Yerushalmi as quoted by Rokei’ach). This process is sometimes colloquially called cabling or plying, although the correct term for it is simply twisting or braiding. Twisting tzitzis threads around themselves, a requirement for the mitzvah, is included under the melachah of toveh and therefore prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov (Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos, Chapter 22). Similarly, twisting or braiding fibers into a wick is also included under the melachah of toveh (Shaar Hatziyun 514:52).

Felt

Textile fibers are not always spun into thread. An alternative way of manufacturing fiber into a usable textile is by pressing it — which makes it into what is called felt. According to the Rambam, the melachah of toveh includes not only spinning fiber into thread, but also pressing fiber into felt (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 9:15; cf. Ra’avad ad locum, who explains that manufacturing felt is included under the melachah of boneh and not toveh. Both agree that making felt on Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah). Felt is used as backing to reinforce the shoulder, underarm and neck areas of garments, but one can actually manufacture garments completely out of felt. I have seen blankets, coats, hats and even tents made out of felt.

Meisach

Although many of us have little personal experience with either menapeitz or toveh, we probably have even less experience with the remaining three melachos on our list for today, meisach, oseh batei nirin and potzei’a. Weaving cloth involves several different stages, each of which is its own melachah. Once one has thread, the next stage is creating a warp. This has nothing to do with the shape of a piece of wood. The warp is the “body” of the fabric. One way to create a warp is simply to place the threads onto a loom. One now has a warp through which one can weave threads in a perpendicular direction, thus creating cloth. Placing the threads onto the loom constitutes the melachah of meisach, and weaving other threads through them is the melachah of oreig, weaving.

Here is a second way of performing the melachah of meisach: A common child’s craft involves taking cloth loops and place them onto a specially-constructed metal frame about six or eight inches square. The child then manually weaves other pieces of cloth perpendicularly over and under the loops that are already on the frame. Finally, one crochets the edges and thereby removes the ends of the loops from the metal frame.

When finished, one has created a pretty potholder. In this particular craft, several melachah activities were performed. Placing the loops onto the metal frame creates a warp, and therefore constitutes the melachah of meisach. Weaving the second series of loops through those already on the frame is oreig. It is unclear which melachah activity is performed when the item is crocheted. It might be makeh bepatish, which can be explained as completing the final stages, or boneh, building.

By the way, meisach can also be performed without having any loom at all.

Oseh batei nirin

One of the 39 melachos is oseh batei nirin, which I will not translate, but rather, explain. When weaving with a loom, one needs to have a method whereby one raises some of the warp threads while keeping the other threads depressed. This creates what is called a shed through which one inserts the woof thread, thus weaving the material. The heddle is the name of the implement used to raise and lower the warp threads, and this is done by placing the warp threads through the eyes or loops of the heddle. (There are several excellent works that have pictures to explain this process. Among them are the Artscroll, Shabbos Chapter 13, and Ma’aseh Oreg by Dayan Yisroel Gukovitzki.)

Among the halachic authorities, we find three primary opinions defining oseh batei nirin. According to some opinions, creating these loops is the melachah of oseh batei nirin (Tosafos Rid, Shabbos 73b; Gra in Shenos Eliyahu; Lechem Misheh, Hilchos Shabbos 9:16; Tiferes Yisrael, Shabbos 7:18). A different opinion contends that placing the warp threads in the loops is the melachah (Rashi, Shabbos 73a). Yet a third opinion contends that oseh batei nirin is not a stage in weaving cloth, but rather it is a type of hand-weaving process in which the final product is like a netting, mesh or basket weave. According to this approach, the melachah of oseh batei nirin has nothing to do with using a loom.

Potzei’a

The last of the five melachos that we will study in this article is potzei’a. Potzei’a is unusual in that there is no Gemara that explains what the melachah is. I have seen four different opinions among the rishonim to define the melachah.

In the Rambam’s opinion, the melachah of potzei’a constitutes undoing the weave of cloth that has already been woven, for the purpose of forming one larger piece.  There are two ways to combine smaller pieces of fabric.  The more common way is to sew together their edges. Indeed, this involves a melachah, but not potzei’a. Sewing two items together is the melachah of tofeir, sewing. Potzei’a is involved when someone does not want to sew the edges of the cloth together, but instead wants to blend the weave together. This is done by undoing the weave at the edge of each of the two pieces of fabric and then reweaving them together so that they form one new, larger piece of fabric. In the Rambam’s opinion, doing this involves two different melachah activities. Undoing the weave is the malachah of potzei’a, and then, reweaving it is the melachah of oreig, weaving. In his opinion, potzei’a is the opposite of weaving, similar to the way building and razing (soseir) or kindling (mav’ir) and extinguishing (mechabeh) are opposite melachos.

A second opinion is that of the Ra’avad, who contends that potzei’a is the removal or disconnection of newly woven fabric from the loom. He feels that removing threads from the weave is not potzei’a but is included under the melachah of korei’a, tearing. Just as tearing something sewn together is korei’a, so is removing threads from the weave (Ra’avad, Hilchos Shabbos 9:20; Shenos Eliyahu, Shabbos chapter 7).

A third opinion, that of Rashi (Shabbos 73a s.v. Hapotzei’a), is that potzei’a is thinning a thread that has been already spun but is thicker than one needs to weave. The melachah is removing some of the fiber from the thread. One would violate this melachah min haTorah if one thins the thread to facilitate using it for weaving.

In conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos, in order for it to be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, activities or actions which bring purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation, by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11).

 

Various Kindling Kwestions

Question #1: Electric lights for Shabbos

“Unfortunately, I need to have a medical procedure performed which will require me to spend Shabbos in the hospital. Because of safety concerns, they will not allow me to kindle candles. Do I fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights if I light electric lights?”

Question #2: Rekindle for Shabbos?

“If lights are already burning Friday afternoon shortly before Shabbos, is there a mitzvah to extinguish and rekindle them for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights?”

Question #3: Unbelieving kindler

“My mother, who unfortunately does not believe in Judaism, kindles Shabbos candles every Friday evening, because ‘that is what Jews do.’ Do I fulfill the mitzvah when she lights?”

Answer:

All three of the above questions involve laws that result from understanding the rabbinic mitzvah to kindle lights before Shabbos. Several reasons are cited for this mitzvah:

Any place treated with pomp and ceremony is always suitably illuminated. Certainly, the area where the Shabbos is celebrated, which commemorates the fact that Hashem created the world, should have plenty of light.

People will not enjoy the Shabbos meal if they eat in the dark. Therefore, the Sages required that the place where one intends to eat the Shabbos repast be properly illuminated.

Some provide a different and highly practical reason to require illumination on Shabbos. We do not want anyone to hurt himself by stumbling over or bumping into something on Shabbos.

Difference in halachah

There is a difference in halachah among these different opinions. According to the first two opinions, the main halachic concern is that the place where one eats should be lit. According to the last opinion, one must be careful to illuminate all places in the house that a person may pass through on Shabbos, so that he does not hurt himself by bumping into or stumbling over something.

Chazal were concerned that one not remain in the dark on Shabbos. Did they simply require everyone to be certain that his house is illuminated, or did they establish a requirement to kindle a lamp? The Rishonim dispute this question, some holding that Chazal were satisfied that one make certain that he have adequate lighting for Shabbos, whereas others contend that we are required to kindle a light specifically for this purpose.

What difference does it make?

Several halachic differences result from the above-mentioned dispute:

Rekinding lights – keep those candles burning!

  1. If lights are already burning Friday afternoon shortly before Shabbos, is there a mitzvah to extinguish and rekindle them for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights? If the mitzvah is to make sure that there is illumination, then I am not required to rekindle lights, but may simply leave the lights burning on into Shabbos. However, if there is a special mitzvah requiring me to kindle the lights, then I must extinguish the burning lights and rekindle them!

The Rishonim dispute whether one is required to extinguish the lights and rekindle them or not. Those who contend that one may leave the candles burning maintain that it is sufficient if there is adequate illumination for Shabbos, and one has no responsibility to extinguish the light and rekindle it. Other Rishonim, however, maintain that Chazal required kindling lights especially for Shabbos. Thus, leaving lights kindled is insufficient, if I did not light them especially for Shabbos.[i] We rule according to the second approach.

Later authorities rule that we satisfy the requirement to kindle a special light in honor of Shabbos by kindling just one light. Thus, if there are many lights kindled around the house, one is not required to extinguish all of them and rekindle them all for the sake of Shabbos. It is sufficient to kindle one light for this purpose and leave the other lights burning.[ii] Similarly, if your house is situated in a way that street lighting illuminates your hallway, you are not required to leave lights on to provide additional illumination.

Reciting a brocha

  1. Does one recite a brocha on the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights?

A second dispute that results from our original inquiry (whether the mitzvah is to kindle lights or to have illumination) is whether one recites a brocha when kindling the Shabbos lights. According to those opinions that the mitzvah is simply to see that the house is illuminated, one would not recite a brocha when kindling Shabbos lights, even if he needs to kindle lamps before Shabbos. This is because, in their opinion, there is no special mitzvah to kindle lights.[iii] However, the conclusion of the poskim is that there is a mitzvah to kindle Shabbos lights, and that even if one has lights kindled already, one should extinguish and rekindle them.[iv]

Having a gentile light for me

  1. A third result of this dispute is whether I can fulfill the mitzvah by having a non-Jew kindle Shabbos lights for me. What happens if I am unable to kindle the Shabbos lights myself? May I ask a non-Jew to kindle them for me? If the mitzvah is to kindle the lights, then I have not fulfilled a mitzvah this way, since a non-Jew cannot be my agent to fulfill a mitzvah. On the other hand, if the mitzvah is for the house to be illuminated, having a gentile kindle lights for me fulfills the mitzvah, since the house is now illuminated.

Since we follow the second approach, I may not have a non-Jew light for me.

Electric lights?

In our modern houses, the candles or oil lamps provide very little lighting, and our main illumination is provided by the electric lights. In most houses, one does not even notice when the candles go out, so overshadowed are they by the electricity. May we fulfill the mitzvah with electric lights?

Indeed, most authorities contend that one fulfills the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights with electric lights (Shu”t Beis Yitzchok 1:120; Eidus Leyisrael, page 122). There are authorities who disagree, because they feel that the mitzvah requires kindling with a wick and a fuel source that is in front of you, both requirements that preclude using electric lights to fulfill the mitzvah (Shu”t Maharshag 2:107).

The consensus of most authorities is that, in an extenuating circumstance, one may fulfill the mitzvah with electric lights (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 5:24; Shu”t Kochavei Yitzchak 1:2). Therefore, someone who is hospitalized for Shabbos may recite a brocha on electric lights, since hospitals usually forbid lighting an open flame.

Electricity and then candles

Since we are, anyway, primarily using electric lighting to fulfill the mitzvah, it is therefore a good idea that, immediately prior to kindling the Shabbos lights, one turn off the electric lights in the dining room and then rekindle them for the purpose of Shabbos, then kindle the Shabbos candles or lamps, and then recite the brocha, having in mind that the brocha includes both the candles and the electric lighting. (This is following Ashkenazi practice. Sefardim, who recite the brocha first and then kindle the lights, can recite the brocha, and then turn on the electric lights and light the Shabbos candles.)

Lady of the house

Although long-established custom is that the lady of the house kindles the Shabbos lights (see Mishnah Shabbos 31b), in actuality, each person is responsible for fulfilling the mitzvah (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 5:1). This does not mean that everyone should start kindling his own lights. It means that when the lady of the house kindles the Shabbos lights, she does so as the agent of the entire household. Should there be no lady of the house who can perform the mitzvah, a different member of the household should kindle the lights.

Preparing the lights

Although the lady of the house is the one who actually kindles the lights, her husband should assume the responsibility of preparing the lights for her to kindle. This approach, mentioned in the Zohar, is also implied by the wording of the Mishnah (Tosafos Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Shabbos 2:6).

Unbelieving kindler

At this point, we are in a position to begin analyzing the third of our opening questions:

“My mother, who unfortunately does not believe in Judaism, kindles Shabbos lights every Friday evening, because ‘that is what Jews do.’ Do I fulfill the mitzvah when she lights?” Let us understand the basis for the question.

Someone who does not observe all the mitzvos of Judaism certainly can and should be encouraged to observe whatever mitzvos they are willing and able to. The question here is that we are told that her mother “does not believe in Judaism,” which I presume means that she has actively rejected the assumption that Hashem has commanded that we observe His mitzvos. A great late authority, the Sho’eil Umeishiv (2:1:51; 2:3:91) discusses whether someone who does not believe that Hashem commanded to observe mitzvos fulfills them, since this person rejects that there are commandments. The Sho’eil Umeishiv concludes that, indeed, someone who does not accept the basis of mitzvos does not fulfill them. He bases this principle on the statement of the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 8:11) that a gentile who observes mitzvos is considered a righteous gentile and is rewarded with olam haba, provided that he believes that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that the descendants of Noach are commanded to observe the mitzvos that apply to them.

According to the Sho’eil Umeishiv, someone who does not believe in Torah but kindles Friday night lights only because it is a Jewish practice, but without any belief that one is commanded to do so, does not fulfill any mitzvah. If this is so, then their kindling cannot function as an agent for someone else. This would mean that the daughter, who is observant, should also kindle Shabbos lights, and that she should recite a brocha when she does so, since she is the one fulfilling the mitzvah.

If she feels that this will offend her mother, she can turn on the dining room electric lights, which, as we noted above, fulfills the mitzvah. Based on what we have explained above, she could even recite a brocha on the electric lights.

In conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos in order that it be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, which implies activity with purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation, by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11).

The Gemara (Shabbos 23b) teaches that someone who kindles Shabbos lights regularly will merit having sons who are Torah scholars. Let us hope and pray that in the merit of observing these halachos correctly, we will have children and grandchildren who light up the world with their Torah!

 

[i] Tosafos, Shabbos 25b s.v. Chovah

[ii] See Ketzos HaShulchan 74:1

[iii] See Tosafos, Shabbos 25b s.v. Chovah

[iv] Tosafos, Shabbos 25b s.v. Chovah; Rambam 5:1; see Mordechai, Shabbos #294

The Basics of Techum Shabbos

Question #1: Camping sisters

“My sister’s family and ours are each spending Shavuos at nearby campsites. We were told that we could get together at a third spot between our two places for a Yom Tov barbecue. If we return on Yom Tov with the leftovers, must we keep track of who brought which food?”

Question #2: Bungalow bar mitzvah

“A friend is making a bar mitzvah in a nearby bungalow colony. How can I find out if his colony is within my techum Shabbos?”

Question #3: Eruv Techumin

“A lecturer will be speaking in the mountains not far from where I will be spending Shabbos. I was told that he will be just a bit beyond my techum Shabbos. Is there a way that I can go to hear him?”

Introduction:

In this week’s parsha, the Torah recounts the story of the manna, also including the unbecoming episode where some people attempted to gather it on Shabbos. In the words of the Torah:

And Moshe said, “Eat it (the manna that remained from Friday) today, for today is Shabbos to Hashem. Today you will not find it (the manna) in the field. Six days you shall gather it, and the seventh day is Shabbos – There will be none.”

And it was on the seventh day. Some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find any.

And Hashem said to Moshe: “For how long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings? See, Hashem gave you the Shabbos. For this reason, He provides you with a two-day supply of bread on the sixth day. Each person should remain where he is — no man should leave his place on the seventh day” (Shemos 16:25-29).

Staying in place

Although someone might interpret the words, Each person should remain where he is — no man should leave his place on the seventh day to mean that it is forbidden even to leave one’s home, this is not what the Torah intends. According to Rabbi Akiva (Shabbos 153b; Sotah 27b; Sanhedrin 66a), the Torah, here, is indeed prohibiting walking beyond your “place” on Shabbos, but this proscription prohibits walking only more than 2000 amos (approximately half to two-thirds of a mile*) beyond the “locale” where you are spending Shabbos. This border beyond which it is forbidden to walk is called techum Shabbos, quite literally, the Shabbos boundary. How do we determine where this boundary is, beyond which I may not walk on Shabbos?

There are some basic factors that determine the extent and boundaries of one’s techum Shabbos. The first is whether you are spending Shabbos within a residential area or not. I am going to present several options which will help explain how to determine someone’s techum Shabbos.

Our first case is someone spending Shabbos in a typical city, town or village where the houses are reasonably close together, meaning that the distance between the houses is 70 2/3 amos (about 105-120 feet*) or less. In this instance, one’s techum Shabbos is established by measuring the 2000 amos from the end of the city, town or village. The “end” of the city is determined, not by its municipal borders, but by where the houses are no longer within 70 2/3 amos of one another.

When two towns or cities are near one another, halachah will usually treat the two towns as one, provided that the houses of the two towns are within 141 1/3 amos of one another (Mishnah, Eruvin 57a). This is twice the distance of the 70 2/3 amos mentioned above. The details of the rules when and whether one combines two cities for determining techum Shabbos purposes will be left for another time.

Techum Shabbos in a bungalow colony

Until now, we have discussed the techum Shabbos of someone spending Shabbos in a city. How far is the techum Shabbos of someone spending Shabbos in a resort hotel, side-of-the-road motel, or bungalow colony?

One spending Shabbos in a bungalow colony will have a techum that is at least 2000 amos beyond the last house of the colony. If there are other houses or bungalows within 70 2/3 amos of the residences of your colony, those houses or bungalows are included within your “place.” Under certain circumstances (beyond the scope of this article), they can be included within your “place” even if the houses or bungalows are within 141 1/3 amos of one another.

If the house, hotel or motel in which one is spending Shabbos is outside a city and more than 70 2/3 amos from any other residential building, one measures the techum Shabbos from the external walls of the house.

Shabbos while hiking

Someone spending Shabbos in an open field is entitled to four amos (between 6 – 7.5 feet*) as his “place,” and the 2000 amos are measured from beyond these four amos.

Proper placement

We have now established that the definition of one’s “place” for techum Shabbos purposes depends substantively on whether one’s residence for Shabbos is indoors and on whether there are other residences nearby. We will now learn that although techum Shabbos is a boundary of 2000 amos, one usually has a greater distance in which one may walk. This is because techum Shabbos is always measured as a rectangular or square area. We take the four points that are the easternmost, the southernmost, the westernmost and the northernmost points of your “place,” and then draw an imaginery straight line that begins at 2000 amos beyond each of these points. In other words, we will measure 2000 amos east of the easternmost point and draw an imaginery north-south line at that point. We will similarly measure 2000 amos north of the northernmost point and draw there an imaginery east-west line. We repeat this for the other two directions of the compass. The result is a rectangle (or perhaps a square) whose four closest points are each 2000 amos distant from your “place.” Obviously, this means that the techum Shabbos area is significantly larger than 2000 amos beyond one’s “place.” This establishes the techum within which one is permitted to travel on Shabbos. By the way, all the rules of the laws of techum apply on Yom Tov.

Property placement

One of the interesting, and lesser-known, details of the laws of techum Shabbos is that possessions is also bound by the laws of techum Shabbos. This means that my possessions cannot be transported on Shabbos beyond the area in which I myself can walk. This halachah is not usually germane to the laws of Shabbos, since, in any instance, it is forbidden to carry on Shabbos outside of an enclosed area. The halachah is therefore more germane on Yom Tov, when one is permitted to carry. For this reason, the discussion of these laws is in mesechta Beitzah, whose subject matter is the laws of Yom Tov. This subject is one of the main points of the fifth chapter of the mesechta.

Camping sisters

At this point, we can discuss our opening question: “My sister’s family and ours are each spending Shavuos at nearby campsites. We were told that we could get together at a third spot between our two places for a Yom Tov barbecue. If we return on Yom Tov with the leftovers, must we keep track of who brought which food?”

These two families are spending Yom Tov in locations where they have different techumin, yet they are close enough that there is some overlapping area located within both of their techumin. Each family may walk on Yom Tov to this overlapping area, carrying the items necessary for the barbecue. Everyone must be careful not to walk beyond the area of his own techum. In addition, since the items used for the barbecue were owned by one or the other of the families when Yom Tov started, each item may not be removed beyond its owner’s techum until Yom Tov is over. Thus, if one sister brought the hotdogs or the paper plates, the other sister may not take those items back with her, if she will be removing them to a place beyond her sister’s techum.

Min hatorah or miderabbanan?

The rules of techumin that I have so far presented are held universally. However, there is a major dispute whether these rules are min hatorah or miderabbanan. There are three basic opinions. The tanna Rabbi Akiva, mentioned above, rules that the Torah forbade walking on Shabbos more than 2000 amos from one’s place, as we previously defined it. The Sages who disagreed with Rabbi Akiva contend that the prohibition of traveling 2000 amos is only miderabbanan. (Whether Rabbi Akiva held that techumin on Yom Tov [as opposed to Shabbos] are prohibited min hatorah or only miderabbanan is a dispute among rishonim; see Rashi, Tosafos, and Turei Even, Chagigah 17b.) However, there is a further dispute whether the Sages contend that there is no prohibition of techumin min hatorah at all, and the prohibition is always only miderabbanan, or whether the basis for the prohibition is min hatorah. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Eruvin 3:4), traveling more than 12 mil, which is the equivalent of 24,000 amos (approximately 6 – 8.5 miles*), is prohibited min hatorah. This last position is quoted by the Rif (end of the first chapter of Eruvin). Several rishonim rule according to this Yerushalmi (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 27:1 and Sefer Hamitzvos, Lo Saaseh #321; Semag (Lo Saaseh 36); Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah #24). On the other hand, many rishonim (e.g., Baal Hamaor, Milchemes Hashem, and Rosh, all at the end of the first chapter of Eruvin; Ramban’s notes to Sefer Hamitzvos, Lo Saaseh #321; Tosafos, Chagigah 17b s.v. Dichsiv) contend that the Bavli disagrees with this Yerushalmi and holds that the concept of techum Shabbos is completely miderabbanan, and that the halachah follows the Bavli, as it usually does.

A nice-sized place

Six miles sounds like a distance considerably more than I would walk on a Shabbos. From where did the Yerushalmi get this measurement?

The basis for this distance is the encampment of the Bnei Yisrael while in the Desert, which occupied an area that was 12 mil by 12 mil. Thus, when the Torah told each Israelite not to leave his “place,” it prohibited walking outside an area this size (Tosafos, Chagigah 17b s.v. Dichsiv). According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, no matter when and where one is spending Shabbos, one draws a square or rectangle 12 mil by 12 mil around one’s city, colony or campground and this area is considered your “place.” Beyond this area, the Torah prohibited you to walk, according to the Yerushalmi.

Although it is anyway prohibited to walk beyond one’s 2000 amos techum on Shabbos and Yom Tov because of the rabbinic ruling of techumin, there are some practical instances where the question of whether there is a Torah-forbidden techum of 12 mil becomes germane. For example, the Gemara (Eruvin 43a) discusses whether the prohibition of techumin applies when one is more than ten tefachim above ground level, called yesh techumin lemaalah miyud or ein techumin lemaalah miyud. An example of this case, quoted by the poskim, is a situation in which someone wants to walk quite a distance on Shabbos atop narrow stands or poles that are all more than ten tefachim above ground. If one rules that there is no law of techumin above ten tefachim, ein techumin lemaalah miyud, then it is permitted to travel this way on Shabbos, no matter how far one travels. On the other hand, if there is a law of techumin above ten tefachim, it is prohibited to travel this way.

This question is raised by the Gemara, which does not reach a definite conclusion (Eruvin 43a). Both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema (Orach Chayim 404:1) rule that one may travel lemaalah miyud for a distance greater than 2000 amos, because one may be lenient in a doubt regarding the rabbinic prohibition of techum shabbos. However, since traveling 12 mil is prohibited min hatorah according to those authorities who rule like the Yerushalmi, one should be stringent not to travel lemaalah miyud for a distance of 12 mil or farther. The Gra, however, rules that one may disregard the opinion of the Yerushalmi and the ruling of the Rambam, because the halachah follows the Bavli that there is no prohibition of techum at all min hatorah. Since the prohibition of techumin is always miderabbanan, one may be lenient to rule that ein techumin lamaaleh miyud. There could be contemporary applications if someone ended up on an airplane when Shabbos begins (for example, because of a life-threatening emergency), whether he is permitted, upon landing, to leave the airport terminal before Shabbos ends.

How do we rule?

Regarding the dispute between Rabbi Akiva and the Sages whether the requirement of remaining within a techum of 2000 amos is min hatorah or miderabbanan, it is universally accepted that we follow the opinion of the Sages that techum Shabbos of 2000 amos is miderabbanan. A result of this ruling is that if someone needs to use comfort facilities and there are none available within his techum, he is permitted to leave his techum for this purpose, because of the rule that kovod haberiyos, human dignity, supersedes a rabbinic prohibition (Berachos 19b).

Moving my techum Shabbos

“A lecturer will be speaking in the mountains not far from where I will be spending Shabbos. I was told that he will be just a bit beyond my techum Shabbos. Is there a way that I can go to hear him?”

The answer is that one certainly can, by creating an eruv techumin. This halachic entity allows me to move the “place” from where we measure the techum Shabbos. Ordinarily, my techum Shabbos is measured from where I am when Shabbos starts. However, when I make an eruv techumin, I move my “place” to the location of the eruv. If my eruv is placed such that both locations — where I am when Shabbos begins and where the speech will be delivered — are within its techum Shabbos, I may go hear the speaker.

But be careful. Creating an eruv techumin is not only a leniency, it also creates a stringency. Since I cannot be in two different “places,” if I use an eruv techumin, I have moved my techum Shabbos, not expanded it. Although I gain in the new direction, I lose the full techum I would have had in my actual location.

In this way, eruv techumin is different from the other two types of eruvin, eruv tavshillin made when Yom Tov falls on Friday, and eruv chatzeiros, which is made so that I can carry between two adjacent, enclosed properties that are owned by different people. The other two eruvin create leniencies but carry with them no attached stringencies. For this reason, the other two eruvin can be made for someone who does not know that the eruv is being made, since it provides him with benefits and no liabilities. However, since an eruv techumin includes liabilities, one cannot make an eruv techumin for someone who does not want it or who does not know about it (Mishnah, Eruvin 81; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 414:1).

Only for a mitzvah

There is another major difference between eruv techumin and the other two types of eruvin. One may use an eruv techumin only if there is a mitzvah reason to walk where it would otherwise be outside one’s techum (Eruvin 31a, 82a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 415:1). For example, someone who wants to hear a shiur or attend a sheva brachos may use an eruv techumin to do so. But one may not use an eruv techumin to attend a social gathering, where no mitzvah is accomplished (see Mishnah Berurah 415:5). On the other hand, one may make and use either an eruv tavshillin or an eruv chatzeiros even if there is no mitzvah reason to do so.

How do I make an eruv techumin?

To make an eruv techumin, one puts some food before Shabbos where you want your “place” for Shabbos to be. There must be enough food there so that each person who wants to use the eruv techumin could eat two meals. If one used a condiment for an eruv, one needs to have enough so that each person who wants to use the eruv would have enough condiment for two meals. One recites a brocha asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al mitzvas eruv, and then makes a declaration that this is his eruv to permit him to walk in this direction.

Since this food will basically be left exposed to the elements and animals, many people use a bucket of saltwater, which qualifies as an eruv techumin. Note that saltwater does not qualify for the other two types of eruv, eruv chatzeiros and eruv tavshillin.

Because there are many complicated laws about eruvin that are beyond the scope of this article, I suggest that someone who needs an eruv techumin consult with his rav or posek.

Who instituted eruv techumin?

The Gemara teaches that Shlomoh Hamelech instituted eruvin (Eruvin 21b). We find a dispute as to which type of eruv the Gemara is referring to. Rav Hai Gaon (Teshuvos Hageonim #44) explains that Shlomoh Hamelech instituted eruv techumin, whereas Rashi (Eruvin 21b) and the Rambam (Hilchos Eruvin 1:2) explain that he instituted eruv chatzeiros.

Conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. In this context, we can explain these mitzvos, created by Chazal to guarantee that the Jewish people remember the message of Shabbos.

* All measurements in this article are meant for illustration only. For exact figures, consult your rav or posek.

 

Would the Bnei Yisroel have been permitted to trap arov on Shabbos?

Trapping on Shabbos

Question #1: Non-kosher Trapping

“Is it prohibited min haTorah to trap a non-kosher animal on Shabbos?”

Question #2: Watch your Trap!

“Can someone violate the melachah of trapping by closing the door of his house?”

Question #3: Anesthesia

“Is it permitted to anesthetize an animal on Shabbos?”

 

Introduction:

One of the 39 melachos forbidden on Shabbos is tzad, trapping. Although it might seem that this is an easy melachah to define, we will see that it presents some interesting issues. For example, some instances that we would never call “trapping” in English violate the melachah of tzad, and many things that we might consider to be trapping do not. For example, if a deer happens to wander into your house, and you close the door so that it cannot get free, you have just violated the Torah prohibition of tzad. On the other hand, if you close the door of a large cage with a small bird inside, you have not violated the melachah of tzad min haTorah. Tzad requires that the animal or bird is now easily usable, which is not the case of a small bird in a big cage. How one violates the melachah of tzad min haTorah might even vary from species to species, depending on how easy it is to catch.

Not all melachos are created equal

Let us examine another curiosity about trapping. Tzad is not a typical melachah. Most melachah actions make some type of physical and/or chemical change on their object, such as what happens when one cooks, sews, plants, or builds. Yet, tzad does not cause any kind of chemical or physical change to the animal that is caught. It is therefore among the minority of melachos that do not create any physical change. There are only a few other melachos in this category. A similar melachah is hotza’ah, carrying, which involves changing an item’s location, but no alteration to the item itself.

On the other hand, tzad creates a functional change – one makes the animal accessible to humans, whenever one may need it. Since the purpose of trapping is to harness a living creature, so that mankind can now access it, tzad can be viewed as a type of “acquisition” that makes the animal “usable” (Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 189:7; however, see Biur Halachah 316:2 s.v. oh choleh, who may disagree).

Trapped species

The Torah prohibition of tzad is violated only when one traps a creature that is normally hunted by mankind (Shabbos 106b), meaning that people use its food or hide, or extract from it a medicine (Shabbos 107a) or dye (Shabbos 75a). An animal that meets these requirements is called bemino nitzod, literally, a species that is trapped. Catching an animal of a species that is not usually trapped or used by mankind, which is ein bemino nitzod, is not prohibited as a melachah min haTorah, but only because of rabbinic prohibition. Therefore, catching an animal whose species has no commercial value does not violate tzad min haTorah.

Non-kosher trapping

At this point, let us discuss the first of our opening questions: “Is it prohibited min haTorah to trap a non-kosher animal on Shabbos?”

If this is a type of animal whose hide is used, or from which either a dye or medicine is extracted, trapping it is prohibited min haTorah. According to the Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 50:4 at end), someone who catches an animal to become a pet also commits a Torah violation of tzad. In his opinion, this use qualifies as bemino nitzod. On the other hand, what is the halachah if an animal is non-kosher, but non-Jews trap it for food? Is bemino nitzad for food limited to whether Jews eat it or not?

This appears to be the subject of a dispute between the rishonim, since Rashi (Shabbos 106b s.v. Hagizin) implies that trapping an animal for food is prohibited min haTorah only when it is a kosher species. On the other hand, the Ritva (Shabbos 106b) states explicitly that trapping a non-kosher species on Shabbos because a gentile intends to eat it is prohibited min haTorah – the fact that gentiles consume the non-kosher species qualifies it as bemino nitzod.

Catching mice

Early halachic authorities prohibit setting up a mousetrap on Shabbos (see Piskei Tosafos, Shabbos 17b, #62;  Magen Avraham 316:9). However, this does not mean that catching mice on Shabbos violates a Torah prohibition – it might be prohibited only miderabbanan. This is because it is unclear whether mice are considered bemino nitzod. If they are considered bemino nitzod, then catching them could sometimes be prohibited min haTorah. If they are not considered bemino nitzod, catching mice is prohibited only because of a rabbinic ruling.

Why would mice or rats be considered bemino nitzod? Although cats catch mice and rats for food, people in the western world are not interested in mice or rats for their food, leather or any other purpose. And the fact that a cat considers it bemino nitzod should not affect halachah.

However, one major authority, the Chayei Odom (30:7), rules that rats are considered bemino nitzod, since the hide can be used for leather, albeit of poor quality. In addition, according to the above-mentioned opinion of the Ritva, in a country where people eat rats, they qualify as bemino nitzod. Therefore, in China, where barbecued rat is a delicacy, it is bemino nitzod, according to the Ritva.

Catching lions

We will now move our discussion from the minute to the massive, from mice to lions. A lion is certainly considered bemino nitzod, since the hide would definitely be used, and, therefore, someone who successfully trapped a lion would violate tzad. However, lions are fairly powerful, so one would violate tzad only if it was, indeed, caught. The Gemara teaches that if a lion wandered into your house, closing the door does not constitute a Torah violation of trapping, since the lion will be able to break free. It is not considered tzad because one has not completed trapping it. One violates tzad for trapping a lion only by catching it in a cage or something similar that can keep it restrained (Shabbos 106b). Presumably, anesthesizing it or any other animal involves a melachah activity of tzad, since it is now “captured,”  and one can move it into an appropriate enclosure while the animal is anesthesized.

Thus we can now address the third of our opening questions:

“Is it permitted to anesthesize an animal on Shabbos?”

It seems to me that, if the animal qualifies as bemino nitzod, this is prohibited min haTorah, and, if it does not, it is prohibited miderabbanan.

Catching bees and wasps

Having discussed both mice and lions, let us move from land creatures to flying ones. Catching bees on Shabbos is prohibited because of a rabbinic prohibition, but not min haTorah (Beitzah 36b), for an interesting reason. Most beekeeping businesses pay their bills either by renting the bees for pollination of crops or by selling the honey. In either way, bees are “used” commercially by allowing them to roam wild – thus, they are never really “trapped” for use by man (Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chaim #189:21).

In an article I wrote entitled “Wanted Dead or Alive,” I discussed whether on Shabbos one may catch creatures, such as wasps and mosquitoes, that most of us consider a nuisance.

Catching itself

The Gemara (Shabbos 107a) describes what seems to be a very strange case. If a bird flies into your sleeve or garment on Shabbos so that it is now effectively caught, one is not required to release it. In this instance, the bird is considered to have trapped itself, and there is no requirement to let it go. However, one must be careful not to move it directly on Shabbos, since it is muktzeh.

Not always caught

Sick animals

On the other hand, catching a deer or any other animal that is sick, lame or injured to the extent that it is unable to flee does not involve a Torah prohibition of tzad. Since the animal can be obtained with little effort, it is considered already caught and already available for man’s possession (Tosefta, Shabbos Chapter 13:4; Gemara Shabbos 106b; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 10:24). Similarly, it is not prohibited min haTorah to catch a newborn animal that is not yet strong enough to flee (Beitzah 24a). It is also not a Torah prohibition to catch a snail, since they are so slow that they are considered caught (Tosafos Rid, Chagigah 11a).

Domesticated animals

There is no melachah min haTorah involved in catching an animal that is already cultivated, such as domesticated chickens or geese (Shabbos 107a; Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 10:24). However, if the animal breaks free, catching it is prohibited miderabbanan. This is also germane to catching a caged pet that broke free. What can one do if one’s favorite parakeet escaped from its cage on Shabbos? Because of space considerations, we will need to leave the details of this topic for a different time (see Magen Avraham 316:26).

Locking the door

With this background, we can explain some of the following laws concerning meleches tzad. The Mishnah (Shabbos 106b) states that if a deer entered a house, it is prohibited min haTorah to close the door, because this traps the deer. Similarly, it is prohibited min haTorah to sit in the open doorway, because doing so also traps the deer (Mishnah Shabbos 106b). However, once someone is blocking the deer’s excape path, it is permitted for a second person to position himself in such a way that the deer will remain trapped even after the first person gets up (Shabbos 107a). To quote the Rambam, If the first person sat in a way that he closed off the deer’s exit, and then a second person sat next to him, even if the first one later gets up, the first person desecrated Shabbos and the second one did not do anything. He is permitted to remain in his place until Shabbos is over and then seize the deer (Hilchos Shabbos 10:23). The reason why this is permitted is because once the first person caught the deer, it is permitted to keep it captured (Mishnah Berurah 316:23, 24).

Similarly, if someone closed the door and thus caught the deer, a second person may now lock the door to make sure that no one mistakenly opens the door, which will free the deer (Rav, Shabbos 106b; Rema, Orach Chayim 316:5). These acts are permitted even miderabbanan.

Conclusion

Rav Hirsch (Shemos 35:2) explains that whereas other melachos demonstrate man’s mastery over the physical world, carrying demonstrates his mastery over the social sphere. Most melachos show man’s mastery over the world by the way man changes them. In the case of tzad, it is man’s showing mastery of the animal world by demonstrating his potential ownership. Rav Hirsch further notes (Shemos 20:10) that people assume that work is prohibited on Shabbos in order to make it a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melacha, which implies purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is a day on which we refrain from altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation, by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11). We thereby demonstrate and acknowledge the Creator of the world and all it contains.