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By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt | Series: | Level:

QUESTION: After using the bathroom at any time during the day or night, is one required to wash his hands three times with a vessel like he does upon arising in the morning (negel vasser)?

DISCUSSION: The consensus of the poskim is that one is not required to wash his hands three times with a vessel after using the bathroom. The ruach ra’ah (evil spirit) which adheres to one’s hands after using the bathroom is different from the ruach ra’ah which adheres to one’s hands upon arising and does not require the stricter procedure of washing three times with a vessel.(1) But since there are poskim who disagree and hold that there is no distinction between these different “evil spirits,” it is praiseworthy for one to be meticulous and wash his hands alternately three times with a vessel after using the bathroom(2) – but it is not mandatory.

QUESTION: Are pets muktzeh on Shabbos and Yom Tov?

DISCUSSION: The Talmud(3) states that it is forbidden to move animals on Shabbos. In Halachic terms, animals are considered like sticks and stones which have no permissible Shabbos use and are muktzeh machmas gufo, severe muktzeh, which may not be moved for any reason. This ruling is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch(4) and most of the later poskim and no distinction is drawn between farm animals and households pets; all are considered severe muktzeh. Some poskim expressly include “playful animals” in this prohibition.(5)

There are, however, other poskim who do distinguish between farm animals and household pets. In their opinion, a pet is considered like a household item, similar to a toy or a picture, and is not classified as muktzeh at all.(6) While it is advisable to follow the majority opinion and not carry or move pets on Shabbos,(7) those who are lenient have a halachic authority upon whom to rely.(8) Certainly, if the pet is in distress, one may be lenient and move it or carry it.(9)

All opinions agree that it is permitted to touch (without moving) or feed one’s pets on Shabbos. It is also permitted to hold onto a leash and walk a dog in an area which is enclosed by an eiruv.(10) It is permitted to place a leash on a dog on Shabbos.(11)

QUESTION: If a shoelace snaps on Shabbos or Yom Tov, may a new shoelace be inserted into the eyelets of the shoe or sneaker?

DISCUSSION: Shulchan Aruch rules that inserting a new shoelace into the eyelets of a shoe on Shabbos or Yom Tov is a violation of meskaen mana, Making a Vessel, which is a toladah of Makeh Bepatish.(12) Because a tie- shoe that is missing its shoelace is unsafe and uncomfortable to wear, inserting a lace [which will remain there for an extended period of time] “makes” the shoe into a wearable shoe, thus “creating” the shoe. Although a minority opinion suggests that this concern applied only in the olden times when a professional shoemaker was required to insert the lace, and does not apply in modern times when inserting a shoelace is a routine matter,(13) the vast majority of poskim disagree and make no distinction between old-style and modern shoes. It is, therefore, forbidden min ha- Torah to insert a new or a used shoelace into the eyelets of a shoe on Shabbos or Yom Tov.(14)

What may be done when a shoelace snaps and one needs to wear that shoe on Shabbos or Yom Tov? There are several available options:

* A new shoelace may be inserted into some – but not to all – of the eyelets of the shoe. This is permitted because after Shabbos, the lace will be removed and re-inserted in the proper manner; it will not remain in the shoe for an extended period of time.(15)

* The torn half of the snapped shoelace may be re-inserted into the eyelets of the shoe.(16)

* The torn halves of the shoelace could be tied together with a bow and re- inserted into the eyelets.(17)

* It is permitted to insert a shoelace of a starkly contrasting color into the eyelets of the shoe, e.g., a red or a yellow shoelace into a black shoe. This is permitted because such a shoelace will not be left in the shoe for an extended period of time.(18)

QUESTION: How may a garbage bag be tied on Shabbos or Yom Tov?

DISCUSSION: One must be extremely careful about how garbage bags are tied on Shabbos and Yom Tov, since once a garbage bag is tied up, the knot is generally left as is until the bag is picked up by the garbage department days later. A knot left for that length of time may be considered a permanent knot and tying it on Shabbos may be strictly prohibited.(19) Thus the common practice of bunching and twisting the top of the garbage bag, making a loop, pulling the ends of the bag through the loop and tightening the loop to form a knot – is forbidden. It is also forbidden to extend the two top corners of the bag, tie them together and make a bow [as if tying a shoelace], or to tuck in the corners of the bag under the knot to strengthen the knot. The only permissible knots that could be made on a garbage bag are a slip knot – a loop which is not completely pulled through and does not form a knot at the top of the bag; or a single knot, which is like the first stage of tying a shoelace. Such knots can be tied with a bow or another knot on Motzaei Shabbos.

An alternate solution for sealing garbage bags which totally avoids any forbidden Shabbos Labors is to use a rubber band instead of tying a knot. Rubber bands keep bags as tightly sealed as a knot or a twister.

QUESTION: May a safety pin be used on Shabbos and Yom Tov?

DISCUSSION: This issue is widely debated by the poskim. A minority opinion maintains that using a safety pin [or a straight pin] to connect fragments of a torn garment, to pin up a loose hem or to fasten a shank button to a garment, should be avoided on Shabbos and Yom Tov. In their opinion, pinning is included in the Shabbos Labor of Sewing, since the safety pin binds two [or more] previously disconnected or torn parts of a garment, just as Sewing does.(20)

But the vast majority of the poskim disagree and maintain that it is permitted to use a safety pin on Shabbos without restriction. They explain that using a pin is not considered Sewing at all, since no thread or other bonding agent is being used. In addition, Sewing is defined as connecting two pieces of material into a single solid piece; an entity that could only be separated by the process of tearing or cutting.(21) Using a safety pin to connect two pieces of fabric is similar to buttoning a shirt or zipping a zipper, which is not considered Sewing at all.(22)

The basic halachah follows the lenient opinion.(23) Still, when possible, it is recommended that one or more of the following be done in order to satisfy the more stringent opinion:

* Insert the safety pin only one time into each section of the materials being connected.(24)

* After Shabbos, remove the safety pin and separate the pinned-together pieces.(25)

* Avoid using small, less noticeable safety pins, since they are more likely to be left in place for an extended period of time.

* Use a straight pin rather than a safety pin, since a straight pin is less likely to be left in a garment for an extended period of time.

QUESTION: May a a boy under the age of thirteen or a girl under the age of twelve be given the task of performing tevilas keilim?

DISCUSSION: Technically speaking, yes. As mentioned earlier, even utensils which fell into the mikveh inadvertently are considered immersed; surely then, if they were immersed by a child the tevilah is valid. But practically speaking, if an adult did not supervise the tevilah, we have no assurance that the utensil was immersed properly. Merely relying on the child’s say-so, even a child who is generally responsible and trustworthy, is not always halachically sufficient, especially in cases where the obligation of tevilah is Min ha-Torah. The following rules apply:

* Utensils made of gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead, which require tevilah min ha-Torah, may not be immersed by a minor(26) unless an adult supervises the tevilah.(27) If an adult failed to supervise the tevilah, then it must be repeated by an adult. The blessing, however, should not be repeated.(28)

* Utensils which must be immersed mi-derabanan, such as those made of aluminum,(29) glass(30) (including, pyrex, duralex and corelle), glazed earthenware, lead-coated earthenware, china, corningware or porcelain enamel,(31) l’chatchilah should also be immersed by an an adult.(32) But if an adult is not available, they may be given to a responsible and trustworthy minor for tevilah.(33) The minor then recites the blessing over the tevilah.(34)


1 See O.C. 165:1; Mishnah Berurah 4:39; Aruch ha-Shulchan 4:21; Minchas Yitzchak 5:96.

2 See Ben Ish Chai (Toldos 16); Kaf ha-Chayim 4:61; Emes L’yaakov O.C. 4, note 11; Halichos Shelomo, Tefillah 20:25-26.

3 See Shabbos 128b.

4 O.C. 308:39

5 See Tosfos, Shabbos 45b s.v. hachah; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 308:78; Da’as Torah 308:39; Kaf ha-Chayim 308:235.

6 Minchas Shabbos 88:10, quoting Nezer Yisrael and Halachos Ketanos; Az Nidberu 8:36.

7 Minchas Shabbos, ibid; Yabia Omer 5:26.

8 Harav S.Z. Auerbach; see Shulchan Shelomo O.C. 308:74-4; B’tzeil ha- Chachmah 5:33-34. There are conflicting sources concerning Harav M. Feinstein’s opinion on this subject; see Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 119 and Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22-21.

9 See Mishnah Berurah 305:70 and Chazon Ish O.C. 52:16.

10 Under certain, very specific conditions, it is even permitted to walk a dog with a leash in a public domain; see O.C. 305:16 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 5.

11 O.C. 305:1, 8, 10.

12 O.C. 317:2 and Mishnah Berurah 18.

13 Be’er Moshe 2:20.

14 See Shulchan Shelomo 317:7; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 15, note 197; Az Nidberu 3:31; Btzeil ha-Chachmah 4:159.

15 Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 15:60.

16 Only a new shoelace, or a shoelace from a different shoe, cannot be inserted into the eyelets of a shoe on Shabbos.

17 Ayil Meshulash, Kosher U’matir 10:6-2.

18 Ketzos ha-Shulchan 146:3.

19 See Tikunim U’miluim 35, note 63 and Ayil Meshulash, Kosher U’matir, pg. 136.

20 Mishnah Berurah 340:27, quoting Korban Nesanel.

21 See Aruch ha-Shulchan 317:18.

22 Aishel Avraham O.C. 526; Chazon Ish O.C. 156; Igros Moshe O.C. 2:84; Be’er Moshe 2:29; Tzitz Eliezer 13:43. See Binyan Shabbos, Tofer, 10:2.

23 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 15, note 244).

24 Minchas Yitzchak 2:19; Shevet ha-Levi 4:35.

25 Based on Sha’arei Teshuvah 340:3.

26 Some poskim hold that merely being over bar or bas mitzvah age is insufficient – to perform tevilas keilim one must display signs of puberty; see Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 120:14.

27 Rama, Y.D. 120:14. If an adult is supervising, then even l’chatchilah a minor may immerse the utensils and recite the blessing; Levush Y.D. 120:14.

28 Based on the view of Beiur ha-Gra Y.D. 127:32 that a minor can be trusted when it is beyado lesaken. See also Chochmas Adam 72:16.

29 Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:22.

30 Mishnah Berurah 509:30

31 Binas Adam 73:65. See also Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos, O.C. 451:31

32 Since Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos 451:6, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 120:14 remains doubtful if a minor can be trusted in cases of ischazek isura.

33 Rav Akiva Eiger Y.D. 120:14; Chachmas Adam 73:21. See also Mishnah Berurah 437:17 and Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 19 who rules that minors may be trusted in mi-derabanan cases of ischazek isura.

34 Darkei Teshuvah Y.D. 120:105.

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Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at [email protected]