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Posted on July 5, 2019 By Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:

C. Times – Zemanim

“In the third book I will include all the commandments that apply at specific times, such as the sabbath and festivals. And I have called this book the Book of Times”.

12. The Sabbath – Shabbos

a) Sabbath Work

We are commanded to rest on the seventh day of the week, as it says “And on the seventh day you shall rest”1; and we are forbidden to work then, as it says “You shall not do any work”.2 One who publicly violates the sabbath is like an idolator since the sabbath is an eternal sign between G-d and Israel.3,a Even our animals must rest on the sabbath, as it says “You and your son and your daughter and your slave and your maidservant and your animal”.2 In particular our animals must not carry loads on the sabbath, as it says “In order that your ox and ass may rest”.1,b

It is rabbinically forbidden to ask a non-Jew even before the sabbath to do work for us on the sabbath; but one may hire a non-Jew for a fixed task or for a long period of time even though he works on the sabbath, provided it is not obvious that he is doing work for a Jew on the sabbath.c It is permitted to ask a non-Jew to do work on the sabbath for a sick person even if there is no danger to life; if there is such danger one may violate the sabbath oneself.d In certain cases it is also permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform acts on the sabbath that are forbidden to a Jew only rabbinically.e

It is permitted to initiate a process before the sabbath that involves work even though it continues by itself on the sabbath. For example, one may light a fire before the sabbath and derive benefit from its light on the sabbath, or one may put food on the fire before the sabbath and eat it on the sabbath after it has cooked, provided there is no likelihood that one will need to adjust the fire on the sabbath.f

b) Categories of Work

There are 39 categories of forbidden work:g

  1. “Plowing”: digging in or improving the ground.
  2. “Sowing”: promoting the growth of plants.
  3. “Reaping”: detaching something from its place of growth. Making any use of a growing plant or live animal is rabbinically forbidden since it may lead to “reaping”.
  4. “Making sheaves”: gathering food together and making a single object out of it.
  5. “Threshing”: separating [food from its natural container]; includes squeezing fruit for its juice, milking, and drawing blood.
  6. 7. & 9. “Winnowing”, “Separating”, “Sifting”: separating food from inedible matter or solids from liquids or one food from another (except to eat immediately).
  7. “Grinding”: dividing an object into many small parts. Many medical treatments are rabbinically forbidden to one who is not sick since they may lead to “grinding” (drugs).
  8. “Kneading”: [mixing a finely divided solid with liquid until it becomes a single object].
  9. “Baking”: cooking (hardening or softening) an object or heating a liquid using heat originating from a fire; with heat from other sources it is rabbinically forbidden. Bathing in hot water is rabbinically forbidden since it may lead to heating water. Salting and pickling are rabbinically forbidden since they resemble cooking.
  10. “Shearing”: detaching hair, feathers, or nails from skin.
  11. “Whitening”: washing materials or clothes (or rabbinically, spreading them to dry or folding them).
  12. “Carding”: separating an object into fibers.
  13. “Dyeing”: permanently coloring an object or liquid.
  14. “Spinning”: making fibers into thread or felt.
  15. to 19. “Weaving”: making threads into cloth (includes basket-weaving, plaiting, and the like).
  16. “Unweaving”.
  17. “Tying”: making permanent knots (includes twisting rope).
  18. “Untying”.
  19. “Sewing”: includes pasting together.
  20. “Tearing”.
  21. “Building”: putting parts together and making a single object; includes making floors, walls, or roofs, making utensils, and making cheese. If the structure is not permanent the prohibition is at most rabbinical.
  22. “Tearing down”.
  23. “Hitting with a hammer : finishing part of a structure or utensil. It is rabbinically forbidden to play music since it may lead to making or repairing a musical instrument; to swim, since it may lead to making a life preserver; or to wash utensils if they are not needed for the sabbath.
  24. “Hunting”: capturing a creature that is normally hunted.
  25. “Slaughtering”: taking life.
  26. “Skinning”: [removing a layer from an object].
  27. “Tanning”: [softening] something other than food.
  28. “Smoothing”.
  29. “Cutting”: something other than food to a desired size.
  30. “Writing”. All business transactions, acts of court, and related calculations or measurements are rabbinically forbidden since they may lead to writing.
  31. “Erasing”.
  32. “Marking”: in preparation for cutting or writing.
  33. “Burning”: making a fire or adding fuel to it; includes heating metal. It is rabbinically forbidden to handle a fire or to make use of it in cases where this may lead to adjusting it.
  34. “Extinguishing”: or removing fuel; includes tempering metal. One is allowed to rescue only a limited amount from a fire since otherwise one may come to extinguish it.
  35. “Taking from one domain to another” (i.e., from a private to a public domain or vice versa) by carrying or throwing; includes moving objects four cubits or more in a public domain. Public domains include marketplaces and roads that are at least 16 cubits wide and are not roofed over. A private domain must be at least four handsbreadths square and must be surrounded by a wall at least ten handsbreadths high or must be at least ten handsbreadths higher or lower than its surroundings. It is rabbinically forbidden to move objects four cubits or more even in a karmelis (a domain at least four handsbreadths square that [is adjacent to a public domain and] is separated from it by a wall, height, or depth of between three and ten handsbreadths) or to take anything from a karmelis to either a public or private domain or vice versa. If a private domain is not primarily for dwelling and is more than 70 cubits square it is also forbidden to move objects four cubits or more in it.

c) Other Sabbath Prohibitions

The courts may not administer punishment on the sabbath, as it says “You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the sabbath day.4,h

It is forbidden on the sabbath to leave the vicinity of one’s city or the vicinity of the place where one was when the sabbath began, as it says “Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day”.5 The sages defined “vicinity” as a distance of up to 2000 cubits. If the place is a private domain the 2000 cubits are measured beyond its borders even if it is very large.i

In order to distinguish the sabbath from ordinary days, certain acts are rabbinically forbidden on the sabbath even though they do not resemble work and do not lead to work, as it says “If you withhold your foot on the sabbath from doing your business on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, Ha-Shem‘s holy one honored, and honor it by not pursuing your affairs, seeking your desires or speaking things”.6 One should therefore not inspect his property or discuss business on the sabbath, or start out toward a place where he will do work after the sabbath.j

It is rabbinically forbidden on the sabbath to handle objects other than food and utensils, or objects that were not fit for use (e.g., whose use was forbidden) when the sabbath began, or utensils that are used for forbidden work unless they are needed for a permissible purpose.k Removal of dirt and the like is permitted, as is care of the dead.l

d) Sanctifying the Sabbath

We are commanded to recite benedictions at the beginning and end of the sabbath, as it says “Remember the sabbath day to sanctify it”.7 The sages ordained that these benedictions be made over wine (the first can also be made over bread) and that wine also be drunk before the sabbath morning meal. Benedictions over fragrances and fire were also instituted at the end of the sabbath.m

One should honor the sabbath by washing and putting on clean clothes (which should be distinctive), setting one’s house in order, setting the table, and lighting a candle.n One should make the sabbath enjoyable by preparing choice foods and eating three meals — one in the evening, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon; at each meal two loaves of bread should be used.o It is forbidden to fast or pray for one’s wants on the sabbath except in emergencies.p


Sources in the Bible / Tanach Sources in the Mishneh Torah for the 39 Categories of Forbidden Work
1. Ex. 23:12; 34:21 1) 7:2; 8:1
2. Ex. 20:10; compare Deut. 5:14 2) 7:3; 8:2
3. See Ex. 31:13,17 3) 7:4; 8:3; 21:6,9
4. Ex. 35:3 4) 8:5-6
5. Ex. 16:29 5) 8:7,10
6. Isaiah 58:13 6,7,9) 8:11ff; 21:20
7. Ex. 20:8; compare Deut. 5:12 8) 7:5; 8:15
Sources in the Mishneh Torah 10) 8:16
a. 1:1, 30:15 11) 9:1-3,6; 22:2,10
b. 20:1-2 12) 9:7-8
c. 6:1,12-13 13) 9:10-11; 22:20,22
d. 2:10,1,3 14) 9:12
e. 6:9 15) 9:13-14
f. 3:1-3,19; 5:8 16) 9:15
g. 7:1 17-19) 9:16-19
h. 24:7 20) 9:20
i. 27:1,4,9 21) 10:1
j. 24:1-2 22) 10:7
k. 25:3,6,10,19; 26:14 23) 10:9,11
l. 26:13,20 24) 10:10
m. 29:1,6,9,10,24 25) 7:6; 10:12-14; 22:26-27
n. 30:2-3,5; 5:1 26) 10:15; 25:23
o. 30:7,9 27) 10:16,18; 23:4-5,7
p. 30:12 28) 10:19
29) 11:1
30-32) 11:5-6
33) 11:7-8
34-35) 11:9; 23:12-14,18
36) 11:17
37) 12:1-2; 5:2; see also (f)
38) 12:2; 23:20
39) 12:8,10; 14:1,4,11-3; 16:1,6