Definitions

indesirable

Activities prohibited on Shabbat

The commandment to keep Shabbat as a day of rest is repeated many times in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. (See for example quoted below.) The commandment is usually expressed in English in terms of refraining from the doing of work on Shabbat, but the Hebrew term used in the Bible is melakha (מְלָאכָה - plural melakhot), which has a slightly different connotation.

Jewish law (halakha), especially the Talmud Tractate Shabbat (Ch7, Mishna 2), identifies thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat (or thirty-nine melakhot; Hebrew: ל״ט אבות מלאכות, lamed tet avot melakhot), and clarifies many questions surrounding the application of the biblical prohibitions. Many rabbinical scholars have pointed out that these regulations of labor have something in common - they prohibit any activity that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over one's environment.

Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions permitting carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances.

It should be noted that a large majority of Jews throughout the world do not practice Shomer Shabbat and that many in the Conservative and Reconstructionist Streams interpret the commandment differently, often adapting the general ideas to modern day life.

The Commandment

The commandment to keep Shabbat as a day of rest is repeated many times in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Its importance is also stressed in :

And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying: Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work (melakha - מְלָאכָה) therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.'

Meaning of "work"

Though melakha is usually translated as "work" in English, the term does not correspond to the English definition of the term, as explained shortly.

The Rabbis in ancient times had to explain exactly what the term meant, and what activity was prohibited to be done on the Sabbath. The Rabbis noted :

Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, God finished all the work (melakha) that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work (melakha) that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that God ceased from all the work (melakha) that he had been creating to function.

Specifically, the Rabbis noted the symmetry between Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 31:1-11 - the same term melakha ("work") is used in both places, and that in Genesis 2:1-3 what God was "ceasing from" was "creation" or "creating".

The Rabbis noted further that the first part of provides detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, and that it is immediately followed a reminder to Moses about the importance of the Jewish Sabbath, quoted above. The Rabbis note that in the provisions relating to the Tabernacle the word melakha is also used. The word is usually translated as "workmanship", which has a strong element of "creation" or "creativity".

From these common words (in the Hebrew original) and the juxtaposition of subject matter the rabbis of the Mishna derive a meaning as to which activities are prohibited to be done on the Sabbath day. is not pushed aside by the commandments to construct the Tabernacle. The classical rabbinical definition of what constitutes "work" or "activity" that must not be done, on pain of death (when there was a Sanhedrin), is depicted by the thirty-nine categories of activity needed for the construction and use of the Tabernacle.

What are they?

The thirty-nine melakhot are not so much activities as categories of activity. For example, while "winnowing" usually refers exclusively to the separation of chaff from grain, it refers in the Talmudic sense to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible. Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. (Gefilte fish is a traditional Ashkenazi solution to this problem.)

Many rabbinical scholars have pointed out that these regulations of labor have something in common - they prohibit any activity that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over one's environment.

Groups

The thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat can be divided into four groups.

  • The first 11 categories are activities required to bake bread (סידורא דפת).
  • The next 13 categories are activities required to make a garment (סידורא דבגד).
  • The next 9 categories are activities required to make leather.
  • The final 6 categories are activities required to build a house.

The thirty-nine activities

The thirty-nine activities are based on the Mishna Shabbat 7:2.

Planting

Hebrew: זורע

Just as planting is to cause the plant to grow, so to all activities that promote plant growth is included in this category. This includes watering, fertilizing, planting seeds, or planting grown plants.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:2, 21:5; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 336; Chayei Adam Shabbos 11

Plowing

Hebrew: חורש Included in this prohibition is any preparation or improvement of land for agricultural use.

The Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) lists plowing after planting, although one must plow a field before planting. The Gemara asks why this order occurs and answers that the author of this Mishna was a Tanna living in Israel, where the ground is hard. Since the ground is so hard in Israel, it needed to be plowed both before planting and after planting. The Mishna lists plowing second, teaching that the second plowing (after planting) is [also] prohibited. (The plowing before the planting is also prohibited, if not by the Torah, certainly Rabbincally). The Rambam lists plowing first, and planting second.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 7:3, 8:1, 21:2-4; Chayei Adam Shabbos 10

Reaping

Hebrew: קוצר Removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth is reaping.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:3-5, 21:6-10;Chayei Adam Shabbos 12

Binding sheaves

Hebrew: מעמר

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:5, 21:11; Chayei Adam Shabbos 13

Threshing

Hebrew: דש

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:7-10, 21:12-16;Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 319-321; Chayei Adam Shabbos 14

Winnowing

"Winnowing" (Hebrew: זורה) in the Talmudic sense usually refers exclusively to the separation of chaff from grain - i.e. to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible.

It also refers to separating things that are desirable from indesirable ones e.g. separating things into piles.

See further: Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 219:7; Chayei Adam Shabbos 15.

Selecting

"Selecting" (Hebrew: בורר) in the Talmudic sense usually refers exclusively to the separation of debris from grain - i.e. to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible.

Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. (Gefilte fish is one solution to this problem.)

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:11-13, 21:17; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 319; Chayei Adam Shabbos 16 This is one of the most complicated melakhot. Many of its details are excepted, if the thing being sorted is going to be used immediately after the sorting.

Grinding

Hebrew: טוחן

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:15, 21:18-31; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 321; Chayei Adam Shabbos 17

Sifting

Hebrew: מרקד

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:14, 21:32; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 321, 324; Chayei Adam Shabbos 18

Kneading

Hebrew: לש

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 8:16, 21:33-36; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 321,324; Chayei Adam Shabbos 19

Baking

Hebrew: אופה Baking, cooking, frying, or any method of applying heat to food to prepare for eating is included in this prohibition.

This is different from "preparing". For example, one can make a salad because the form of the vegetables doesn't change, only the size. However one cannot COOK the vegetables to soften them for eating.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 22:1-10; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 318; Chayei Adam Shabbos 22

Shearing wool

Hebrew: גוזז צמר

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 9:179, 22:13-14; Chayei Adam Shabbos 21

Washing wool

Hebrew: מלבנו

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 0:10-11 22:15-20; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 301-302; Chayei Adam Shabbos 22

Beating wool

Hebrew: מנפצו

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 9:12; Chayei Adam Shabbos 23

Dyeing

Hebrew: צובע

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 9:13-14, 22:23; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 320; Chayei Adam Shabbos 24

Spinning

Hebrew: טווה

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 15; Chayei Adam Shabbos 25

Weaving

Hebrew: מיסך

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25

Making two loops

Hebrew: עושה שני בתי נירין

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25

Weaving at least two threads

Hebrew: אורג שני חוטין

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25

Separating two threads

Hebrew: פוצע שני חוטין

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25

Tying

Hebrew: קושר

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:1-6; Chayei Adam Shabbos 26

Untying

Hebrew: מתיר

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:1-6; Chayei Adam Shabbos 27

Sewing at least two stitches

Hebrew: תופר שתי תפירות

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:9, 11; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 340; Chayei Adam Shabbos 28

Tearing for the purpose of sewing

Hebrew: קורע על מנת לתפור שתי תפירות

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:10; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 340; Chayei Adam Shabbos 29

Trapping

Hebrew: צד צבי

The Mishna does not just write "trapping"; rather, the Mishna says "trapping deer". According to at least one interpretation, this teaches that to violate the Torah's prohibition of Trapping, two conditions must be met.

  1. The animal being trapped must be a wild animal. This means that one may put a pet in a cage.
  2. The "trapping" action must seriously confine the animal. For example, closing the gate to a large yard on Shabbat cannot be trapping, even if there is a wild animal in the yard.

This creates questions in practical Halakha such as: "May one trap a fly under a cup on Shabbat?" The Meno Netziv says that an animal that is not normally trapped (e.g. a fly, a bee, or a lizard) is not covered under the Torah prohibition of trapping. It is however, a Rabbinic prohibition, so one is not allowed to trap the animal. However, if one is afraid of the animal, one may trap it.

Laying traps violates a Rabbinic prohibition.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:15; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 317; Chayei Adam Shabbos 30

Slaughtering

Hebrew: שוחט

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 11:1-4; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 316; Chayei Adam Shabbos 31

Flaying

Hebrew: מפשט

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 11:5-6, 22:1-10; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 321, 327; Chayei Adam Shabbos 32

Salting meat

Hebrew: מולח

The list of activities in the Mishna includes salting hides and curing as separate categories of activity; the Gemara (Tractate Shabbat 75b) amends this to consider them the same activity and to include "tracing lines", also involved in the production of leather, as the thirty-ninth category of activity.

See further: Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 321, 327; Chayei Adam Shabbos 33

Curing hide

Hebrew: מעבד

The list of activities in the Mishna includes salting hides and curing as separate categories of activity; the Gemara (Tractate Shabbat 75b) amends this to consider them the same activity and to include "tracing lines", also involved in the production of leather, as the thirty-ninth category of activity.

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 32-33

Scraping hide

Hebrew: ממחק

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 34-35

Cutting hide into pieces

Hebrew: מחתך

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 11:7; Chayei Adam Shabbos 36

Writing two or more letters

Hebrew: כותב שתי אותות

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 11:9-17, 23:12-19; Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 340; Chayei Adam Shabbos 36

Erasing

Erasing in order to write two or more letters. Hebrew: מוחק על מנת לכתוב שתי אותות

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 11:17; Chayei Adam Shabbos 38

Building

Hebrew: בונה

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:12-14 22:25-33; Chayei Adam Shabbos 39-44

Building was the action of actually joining the different pieces together to make the mishcan. Inserting the handle of an axe into the socket is a derived form this melakha. It is held by some that the act of Halakhic "building" is not actually performed (and therefore, the prohibition not violated) if the construction is not completed. From this, some authorities derive that it is prohibited to use electricity since, by turning on a switch, a circuit is completed and thus "built." (See "igniting a fire" below.)

Tearing something down

Hebrew: סותר

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:15; Chayei Adam Shabbos 39, 43

Extinguishing a fire

Hebrew: מכבה

While extinguishing a fire is forbidden even when great property damage will result, in the event of any life-threatening fire one is required to extinguish the flames.

See further: Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 334; Chayei Adam Shabbos 45

Igniting a fire

Hebrew: מבעיר

This includes making, transferring or adding fuel to a fire. (Note, however, that transferring fire is permitted on Jewish holidays. It is one of the exceptions to the rule that activities prohibited on Shabbat are likewise prohibited on Yom Tov.) This is one of the few Shabbat prohibitions mentioned explicitly in the Torah . Many poskim ground their prohibition of operating electrical appliances in this melakha.

Note that Judaism requires that at least one light (ordinarily candle or oil) be lit in honor of Shabbat immediately before its start.

This prohibition also was (and in many circles, still is) commonly understood to disallow operating electrical switches. When actuating electromechanical switches that carry a live current, there is always the possibility that a small electric spark will be generated. This spark is classified as a kind of fire. However, as science became more advanced, and the properties of fire and electricity became better understood, this reasoning broke down: fire is a chemical reaction involving the release of energy; the flow of an electric current is a physical reaction. Therefore, some hold that the proper reason it is forbidden to complete electric circuits is because it involves construction or building (i.e., the building and completion of an electric circuit -- see above). Some Conservative authorities, on the other hand, reject these arguments and permit the use of electricity.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 12:1; Chayei Adam Shabbos 46

Applying the finishing touch

Hebrew: מכה בפטיש (literally, striking with a hammer).

This melakha refers to an act of completing an object and bringing it into its final useful form. For example, if the pages of a newspaper were poorly separated, slicing them open would constitute "applying the finishing touch". Ribiat, infra. Using a stapler involves transgressing "applying the finishing touch" in regard to the staple, which is brought into its final useful form by the act. Ribiat, infra.

See further: Mishneh Torah Shabbos 10:16-18, 23:4-9; Chayei Adam Shabbos 44

Transferring between domains

Hebrew: מוציא מרשות לרשות

Chapters 1 and 11 of Talmud tractate Shabbat deals with the melakha of transferring from one domain to another, commonly called "carrying". The tractate distinguishes four domains: private, public, semi-public and an exempt area. It holds that the transfer of an article from a private to a public domain is Biblically forbidden; transferring an article between a semi-public to a private or public domain is Rabbinically prohibited; transferring of an article between an exempt area and any other domain is permissible; carrying an article four amos (about 1.7 m) may be forbidden in a public or semi-public domain and permitted in a private domain or exempt area; and carrying inside a private domain or between private domains may be permissible (see Eruv). For these purposes "transferring" means "removing and depositing", so that carrying an article out of a domain and returning to the same domain with it does not constitute transferring. This may fall into the category of "wearing".

The definition of public and private domain is related to its relative amount of enclosures, not on strict ownership.

According to traditional Jewish commentators, this category of melakha (work) is mentioned in :

"Let no man leave (go out) his place on the seventh day"

Likewise according to the Talmud, the account of the man who was executed for gathering wood in was because he violated this prohibition.

Also, Jeremiah explicitly mentions this prohibition.

See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 47-56. See also: Eruv for carrying.

References

See also

Bibliography

Ribiat, Rabbi Dovid (1999). ספר ל״ט מלאכות The 39 Melochos. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers.

External links


Search another word or see indesirableon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature