QUESTION: On Shabbos [or Yom Tov], is it permitted to discuss
purchases, e.g., to
ask someone where he bought a particular item such as a suit or a painting?
DISCUSSION: If the questioner is interested in buying a similar
item, then it is
forbidden for him to ask the question and it is forbidden to answer him.
however, the question is being asked as part of a theoretical discussion
intent to act upon the topic being discussed, it is permitted.
The same halachah applies if the questioner wants to know how much
item cost. If the question is being asked because he is contemplating
similar item, it is forbidden to talk about that on Shabbos. If, however,
he has no
interest in buying such an item but is just asking out of curiosity, it is
Please note that while this type of conversation is not
halachically forbidden on
Shabbos, it is still considered "idle talk." Shulchan Aruch expressly
urges us to
minimize idle talk on Shabbos.(2)
QUESTION: Before Shabbos [or Yom Tov] a hostess may prepare a menu,
a guest list or
a seating plan in order to remember which foods to serve, how to seat the
etc. Is it permitted to use such lists on Shabbos?
DISCUSSION: In general, it is Rabbinically forbidden to read all
kinds of documents
or lists on Shabbos. Initially, the basic prohibition included only
documents such as contracts and invoices; informal household "documents"
such as a
guest list or a menu were permitted. Eventually, though, Chazal determined
people were blurring the distinction between business and non-business
allowing themselves to read business documents on Shabbos. Chazal were
therefore, to expand the original edict and prohibit the reading of
non-business-related "documents" as well.(3) In addition, Chazal were
last-minute changes are often made in menus or guest lists, and they were
that one might inadvertently erase or alter the list as he reviews it on
Thus they banned reading all types of lists and menus on Shabbos. It
therefore, that hostesses should not rely on these type of lists on
Shabbos [and Yom
Still, if a woman feels that serving family or guests on Shabbos
without such lists
will cause her anxiety or distress, she may prepare and read a menu or a
list,(5) but only in the following manner:
Ask another household member, e.g., her husband or daughter, to read
the menu or
list to her.(6) Alternatively, another household member should read the
guest list along with her.(7)
She should not read the list aloud or even mouth the words; she
should merely scan
it with her eyes.(8)
QUESTION: Is it halachically permitted to read newspapers like the
Yated on Shabbos
[and Yom Tov]?
DISCUSSION: It depends which section of the paper one wishes to
Business and classified advertisements, business news which bears on
finances or shopping needs or plans, consumer columns, gardening and
advice, recipes and cooking instructions - are all strictly forbidden to
be read on
Stories of personal or public tragedies, death notices or eulogies
bring a person to tears, holocaust stories that sadden a person and
detract from his
oneg Shabbos - may not be read on Shabbos.(10)
Divrei Torah - including all articles pertaining to Torah learning,
essays on the
weekly Parashah, Halachah, Mussar, Hashkafah, stories and pictures of
Yisrael, stories of chizuk ha-Torah, middos tovos and yira'as shamayim -
these are permitted to be read on Shabbos, provided that one makes a
effort not to read the forbidden parts of the newspaper.(11)
General news - including news, politics or stories of general
advertisement or business news that have no bearing on the finances or
needs or plans of the reader, are a subject of dispute among the poskim.
three basic opinions:
1. Many hold that reading this type of material is included in the
against reading non-business documents and is forbidden to be read.(12)
2. Others hold that if one enjoys reading these type of articles
then it is
permitted to do so. These poskim maintain that the Rabbinical edict
non-business documents does not include enjoyable reading material.(13)
Berurah, however, does not support this position.(14)
3. Some poskim hold that while it may be permitted to read certain
parts of the
newspaper, reading a newspaper should be strongly discouraged since it is
difficult to avoid the advertisements or other parts of the paper which are
forbidden to be read.(15) But other poskim, however, permit the reading of
newspaper as long as one makes a conscious effort to avoid the forbidden
The following is a free translation of guidelines given by Harav N.
this subject: "While a ben Torah and his family should avoid reading a
Shabbos altogether, we do not object to those who are lenient and read the
permissible parts of the newspaper. This is especially true with regard to
children and those who do not engage in the study of Torah [who require a
alternative so that they will not come to engage in idle or forbidden talk
worse]; we definitely should not object to their reading the permissible
One should consult his halachic authority for guidance as to how he should
himself in this matter.
QUESTION: Is it permitted to read secular books on Shabbos [and Yom
DISCUSSION: It depends on the type of book one wishes to read:(18)
Biographies of gedolei Yisrael or Orthodox community leaders, Jewish
that serve to strengthen one's yira'as shamayim, emunas chachamim or
are permitted, including works of fiction (novels and mysteries) which are
by G-d fearing Jews and are written for these purposes.
Books [or encyclopedias] on science, math, medicine, geography,
architecture are permitted,(19) except if one is reading them for the sake
business or profession,(20) or only because he needs to study for a test.
Cookbooks should be avoided.(22)
Secular books which do not contain halachically objectionable
material, but were
not written by G-d fearing Jews for the purpose of strengthening one's
shamayim, emunas chachamim or middos tovos, should not be read on Shabbos.
(23) We do
not, however, object to women, children or those who are not engaged in
the study of
Torah reading books of this nature on Shabbos.(24)
Books about personal or public tragedies, or holocaust stories that
sadden a person
and detract from his oneg Shabbos - may not be read on Shabbos.(25)
Any written work that may have a bearing on the reader's finances is
be read on Shabbos.
1 Mishnah Berurah 307:27, quoting Rambam.
2 O.C. 307:1.
3 Mishnah Berurah 307:52.
4 Mishnah Berurah 307:47.
5 There are several grounds for leniency in this case: 1) A
can be considered a seudas mitzvah, in which case the edict against
reading household documents is suspended. 2) Avoiding a stressful
situation is considered tzarchei ha-guf, in which case the edict against
reading household documents is also suspended.
6 Since we are only concerned that the person in charge of the
meals - in
this case, the hostess - may alter or erase the the menu or list.
7 When two or more people read the list together, the likelihood
will forget that it is Shabbos is virtually nil; based on O.C. 275:2. See
Shulchan Shelomo 307:16.
8 Based on Mishnah Berurah 307:54; see Shulchan Shelomo, addendum to
vol. 1, pg. 66.
11 See Avnei Yashfei 1:76-3, quoting Harav S.Z. Auerbach; Az Nidberu
12 Many poskim, based on O.C. 307:16. See Minchas Shabbos 90:22.
13 See Magen Avraham 301:4 and Peri Megadim; Ya'avatz 1:162;
Shabbos 33; Tehillah l'David 301:1; Da'as Torah 307:15.
14 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 301:7.
15 Mishnah Berurah 307:63.
16 See Da'as Torah 307:16, Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 29:46. See
Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-3 who writes that business newspapers should not
17 Ayil Meshulash on Shitrei Hedyotos, pg. 79, 83 and 210, and in
Menuchah Shleimah, 2.
18 Although this discussion follows the same basic principles
concerning newspapers, there are several reasons why there is greater
leniency regarding the reading of books than of newspapers: 1) Books do
not contain advertisements or financial news; 2) The Rabbinic ban against
reading non-business related items, which became necessary due to the
confusion between different type of documents, may not apply to books
since there is a clear distinction between unbound business documents and
bound books; see Pischei She'arim on Sha'arei Efrayim 10:33.
19 Mishnah Berurah 307:65 and 308:164.
20 Shulchan Shelomo 307:25.
21 See Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 28, note 206, where Harav S.Z.
Auerbach remains undecided on this issue.
22 Harav M. Feinstein and Harav N. Karelitz quoted in Ayil
41. Others are more leninet; see Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 29, note
116 and Avnei Yashfei 1:76.
23 O.C. 307:16.
24 Ruling of Harav N. Karelitz (quoted in Ayil Meshulash on Shitrei
Hedyotos, pg. 209, and in Menuchah Shleimah, 2).