Question: Nowadays when almost every home has a washing machine and dryer,
does Ezra’s takanah of not doing laundry on Friday still apply?
Discussion: Contemporary poskim debate whether or not Ezra’s takanah of not
doing laundry on Friday is applicable nowadays as well, since doing laundry
today is not nearly as time consuming or strenuous as it was in earlier
times. Some argue that regardless of the change in circumstances, the idea
behind the takanah was to reserve the precious hours of erev Shabbos for the
immediate Shabbos needs that cannot be attended to earlier in the week.
Since laundry can be done earlier in the week, no laundry should be done
on Friday. According to this opinion, even if the laundry is being done by a
non-Jewish maid, it should still not be done on Friday. Most other
poskim, however, argue that it all depends on the time factor, and if one
can find the time to do laundry while also properly preparing for Shabbos,
he may do so even l’chatchilah. Practically speaking, while it is
preferable and praiseworthy to do the laundry before Friday (especially
in the short winter months), it is not a must. Certainly, one who failed to
do his laundry before Friday for whatever reason is permitted to do laundry
Implied in Ezra’s takanah against doing laundry in Friday is the
understanding that one should wear freshly laundered clothing in honor of
Shabbos. Thus Mishnah Berurah rules that one should not wear the same
garment a number of Shabbosos in a row without laundering it, so as to not
violate Ezra’s takanah. Obviously, Mishnah Berurah is referring to garments
such as a shirt or undergarments which become soiled or sweaty when worn.
Suits or pants which can be worn repeatedly without becoming dirty are not
required to be cleaned on a weekly basis.
Question: Is one allowed to schedule non-emergency surgery for the latter
part of the week, since one might need to desecrate the Shabbos during the
Discussion: While this issue is not raised explicitly in Shulchan Aruch,
some contemporary poskim base their ruling on this question on the principle
established in this siman concerning embarking on a sea voyage before
Shabbos: In the olden times, it was permitted to embark upon a sea voyage in
the beginning of the week, even though it was likely that by the time
Shabbos arrived one would find himself in a “dangerous” (pikuach nefesh)
situation and be forced to desecrate the Shabbos in order to save his
life. From Wednesday onward, however, it was forbidden to set sail.
This is because the three days before Shabbos are associated with the coming
Shabbos; during those days one must avoid any situation that could cause him
to desecrate the coming Shabbos. Setting sail within these days is,
therefore, like setting oneself up for Shabbos desecration. If, however, one
was travelling for the purpose of performing a mitzvah, such as visiting
Eretz Yisrael, it was permitted to begin travelling even at the end of the
week, even if in all likelihood a pikuach nefesh situation would arise and
chilull Shabbos would result from it.
Based on this Halachah, some poskim infer that from Wednesday onward, one
should not engage in any activity that will result in a situation of pikuach
nefesh and will require chillul Shabbos to save one’s life. Whenever
possible, therefore, a non-emergency procedure that could possibly result in
chillul Shabbos during the recuperation or post-operative period should not
be scheduled from Wednesday until Friday of any given week. Still, if the
doctor most skilled at the procedure is available only at the end of the
week, or if the patient is in pain and does not wish to delay the procedure,
it is permitted to schedule the procedure even at the end of the week.
In the event that, contrary to Halachah, one underwent a procedure at the
end of the week and now finds himself in a state of pikuach nefesh, he is
treated like any other person whose life is in danger and may do whatever is
necessary to save his life.
Even if the procedure in question will not necessarily cause chillul Shabbos
during the recuperation period, it is still recommended to schedule all
elective surgeries and procedures for the beginning of the week whenever
possible, This is based on the view of the Rif and Rambam, quoted by
Shulchan Aruch, that one may not deliberately place himself in circumstances
where he will be in pain on Shabbos and thereby diminish his oneg Shabbos.
So if, for example, one has the option of scheduling non-emergency oral
surgery for the beginning of the week, it is recommended that he do so.
An issue related to the above discussion is whether or not a doctor who does
not live within walking distance of the hospital where he works is obligated
to stay in the hospital over Shabbos, or whether he may go home and wait to
be called in case he is needed for an emergency, thereby leaving himself
open to possible chillul Shabbos. Debatable as well is the question of
whether a medical student is required to enroll in a Shomer Shabbos
residency program or not. There are many details and issues, far beyond the
scope of this article, that need to be explored before one can rule on these
questions, and each doctor or medical student must discuss his individual
case with an halachic authority.
1. Some poskim recommend that laundry be done specifically on
Thursday, since that makes it clear that the laundry is being done for the
sake of Shabbos. Many other poskim, however, are not particular about this;
See Shemiras Shabbos k’Hilchasah 42, note 13, quoting Rav S.Z. Auerbach and
Chazon Ovadyah, Shabbos, vol. 1, pg. 23.
2. Chut Shani 3:1. See also Piskei Teshuvos, vol. 3, pg. 255.
6. According to Shulchan Aruch, this is permitted even when a pikuach
nefesh situation will certainly occur. Mishnah Berurah and Aruch ha-Shulchan
rule, however, that even in the beginning of the week it is only permitted
to travel when it is likely that a pikuach nefesh situation will arise, but
not when it is certain that this would be the case.
7. Tuesday night is considered like Wednesday. Note that some poskim rule
that this prohibition begins on Thursday (Wednesday night).