QUESTION: Which activities are prohibited on Shabbos because of the
of the Thirty-Nine Forbidden Labors, Choresh - Plowing? Does the
prohibition of Choresh have any non-farming applications?
DISCUSSION: The Shabbos Labor of Choresh prohibits one from doing
any activity which either prepares or improves the ground for planting.
most people are not farmers who would understand or appreciate the various
aspects of this Labor, we shall give a partial, brief and general list of
agricultural activities that prepare or improve the soil for planting:
loosening the soil, digging holes or making furrows in the soil, leveling
the soil so that one is planting on an even surface, fertilizing, weeding,
removing stones, watering the soil, etc.
QUESTION: May children dig in a sandbox on Shabbos?
DISCUSSION: It is permitted to play in a sandbox if the sand is dry
any holes dug in it will immediately collapse; this type of "digging" is
not considered Choresh. If, however, the sand is damp and clumpy and the
holes that are dug will retain their shape for a while, it may be a
violation of Choresh to dig such holes.(1)
[It is only permitted to play with dry "play" sand in a sand box.
Industrial sand which is designated for building purposes is considered
severe muktzeh and may not be moved on Shabbos for any reason.]
QUESTION: Which additional activities did Chazal prohibit so that
not come to violate Choresh min ha-Torah?
DISCUSSION: As in all of the forbidden Shabbos Labors, the Rabbis
prohibited other, related activities because they were concerned that
performing them might lead one to transgress the Biblical prohibition
itself. Depending on the case, sometimes the restriction applies only to
the ground outdoors, while other times Chazal felt that the restriction
should include indoor flooring as well. The following is a partial list of
activities which are restricted because of Choresh mi-deRabanan:
* Pulling or dragging heavy items across the ground - since the weight of
the objects will inevitably make a furrow in the ground. Pulling or
dragging lightweight items which will not inevitably make a furrow in the
ground is permitted. Pushing a heavy baby carriage or a wheelchair is also
* Playing games which require a ball (or nuts) to be rolled on the ground,
such as marbles, soccer, kickball, hockey and golf. Playing these games
can easily result in the player leveling the playing field. It is
forbidden to play these games even on a paved court.(3)
* Securing a table or a bench to the ground - since it may lead one to
level the ground so that the table or bench will stand straight and firm.
* Sweeping a paved or unpaved outdoor courtyard - since it may result in
leveling the ground. Sweeping the floor inside the house, however, is
permitted nowadays, since all of our homes are floored and there is no
issue of leveling the ground.(5)
QUESTION: We have established that nowadays it is permitted to
floor indoors. Is there a permissible method of washing an indoor floor on
DISCUSSION: The normal method of washing a dirty floor - using a
or sponge - is strictly forbidden on Shabbos because one will definitely
transgress the Shabbos Labor of Sechitah, squeezing the mop or the rag.
There are, however, some other methods of washing a floor which do
not entail "Squeezing." Pouring a pail of water on the floor and then
pushing the water down the drain or out the door with a plastic or nylon
squeegee, or turning on a hose and spraying the dirty area (in commercial
or institutional kitchens), are some of the methods where sechitah is not
a factor. It is, however, still Rabbincally forbidden to wash an upaved
floor with the squeegee or the hose as well, because doing so may result
in leveling the ground.
It is commonly accepted that even nowadays, when none of our homes
have dirt floors - and sweeping indoors is permitted - it is still
prohibited to wash the floors inside the home.(6) Still, under extenuating
circumstances, e.g., the floor is extremely dirty, smelly or dangerously
slippery, etc., many poskim permit washing the floor as long as no
transgression of Sechitah is involved.(7)
QUESTION: If a boy or girl under bar/bas mitzvah age damages
person's property, is he or she obligated to make up the loss?
DISCUSSION: According to the strict letter of the law, a minor is
responsible for his actions and is not required to pay for any damage that
he caused. The same holds true for a minor who stole - he is not required
to repay the money or replace the stolen object (if the stolen object is
no longer around). The parents, too, are halachically exempt from paying
for damage or theft by their minor children. Still, the poskim recommend
(8) that upon reaching adulthood, a person should compensate for any
damage or theft he was responsible for when he was a minor.(9)
QUESTION: Does an onen wash his hands and recite al netilas yadayim
DISCUSSION: An onen, the term given to a mourner during the period
between the death of a close relative and his burial, is exempt from all
of the positive mitzvos (mitzvos asei), both Biblical and Rabbinic. He is,
therefore, exempt10 from davening and reciting Kerias Shema, saying
berachos, bentsching, putting on tallis and tefillin, and learning
The onen, however, is not exempt from washing his hands before
eating bread. Since it is prohibited to eat bread without washing, the
onen is obligated to wash like everyone else. He will not, however, be
able to recite the blessing of al netilas yadayim over his washing.(11) If
he did not know the halachah and recited the blessing by mistake, Amen
should not be answered.(12)
The same holds true after using the bathroom. He should clean and
wash his hands, but should not recite Asher yatzar.(13)
1 See Mishnah Berurah 498:73, 89. In addition, playing with wet sand may
be a violation of Lishah, Kneading; Mishnah Berurah 321:50.
2 This is permitted because the depressions caused by wheels on the ground
are not considered furrows. No soil is being dug out; it is merely being
pressed into the ground. See Shemiras Shabbos k'Hilchasah 28:42.
3 Mishnah Berurah 338:20. Other poskim permit playing these games on a
paved court; see The Weekly Halachah Discussion on Parashas Ki Savo.
4 Mishnah Berurah 337:20
5 O.C. 337:2 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. v'yeish.
6 Mishnah Berurah 337:17.
7 See Shemiras Shabbos k'Hilchasah 23:6 and Orchos Shabbos, 18, note 76,
for an elaboration.
8 Lifnim mishuras ha-din.
9 Entire Discussion based on ruling of Mishnah Berurah 343:9. See Pischei
Teshuvah, C.M. 349:1.
10 Since he is exempt, he may not choose to be stringent and perform these
mitzvos anyway, as it is considered "degrading" to the honor of the
11 Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 341:1; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 640:48.
12 Minchas Shelomo 1:91-5.
13 Aruch ha-Shulchan, Y.D. 341:10.
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Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.