Shabbat Scenarios: Kotev & Mochek Demonstrations

9 03 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

Kotev and Mochek Demonstrations, Part 2

·Can you play Scrabble on Shabbat? The Chayei Adam’s view is that any game that requires keeping score and would normally involve writing should not be played on Shabbat.  The standard Scrabble games which is simply bringing together and distancing letters without affixing them to a permanent surface do not pose a problem with Kotev. However the deluxe editions, where the pieces are affixed to a groove, constitute writing according to Rav Moshe. He also ruled that the game was muktzah.

·Developing X-Ray films creates an image and is prohibited on Shabbat.

·Can you open and close a book that has writing on the side? The Rema rules leniently and permits it. He explains that one is not actually writing or erasing, one is simply bringing together and separating letters. Others add that it is similar to opening and closing a door or window in that it is part of the functionality of the book. However the Levush disagrees and argues that it may be a d’orayta prohibition. The Chazon Ish also rules stringently. Therefore one should avoid doing this if possible. If there is no alternative, one can follow the accepted lenient view held by the Mishne Berura. Random designs on the side of a book do not pose a problem.

Shabbat Scenarios: Sewing Science-Tofer/Koreah Part II

22 02 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

Sewing Science: Tofer/Korei'a Demonstrations part 3In order to violate the Torah prohibition of Koreah, tearing, one must do so for the sake of Tofer, sewing. This law is derived from the times of the Mishkan. Moths would eat circular holes into the curtains. These holes were hard to mend. They needed to be torn into a kind of line to be sewn up. This is an example of destructive action that is transformed into constructive action. Most poskim agree that tearing for a constructive purpose, although not for the sake of Tofer, is still a Torah prohibition of Koreah.

·Tearing open the sewn-up pocket of a new garment is prohibited on Shabbat.

·According to the Mishna Berura, one may not slit a sealed envelope open on Shabbat.

·Ripping paper towels, garbage bags, or toilet paper from a roll involves not only Tofer, but also Mechatech, cutting to a specific size. The accepted custom is to use pre-cut bags and tissues on Shabbat. In a situation involving human dignity, rabbinic prohibitions are waived. Therefore, tearing toilet paper with a shinui (in an unusual manner), is permissible when there are no other options, as long as it is not torn on the perforated lines.

·Opening food packages in a destructive way (being careful not to tear any printed letters) is permitted on Shabbat.

·Opening the tab on a closed cereal box is both Mechatech and Koreah. The box should be opened at the side or from another area which does not involve ungluing or tearing the perforation. The best solution would be to open it before Shabbat.

·One may not separate the pages of a new book on Shabbat. This involves Koreah in addition to Makeh B’patish.

Shabbat Scenarios: Sewing Situations – Tofer

16 02 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

The Prohibition of Tofer/ Sewing: Tofer Demonstrations

·The Mishna Berura notes that inserting a safety pin once into a garment is permitted, but making two “stitches,” i.e. sticking the pin into the cloth twice, is prohibited. This is based on the Korban Netanel who rules that a pin has the same halachic status as thread. Rav Moshe differs and maintains that a safety pin is not much different than a button and is permitted, if it will be temporary and is clearly noticeable.

·Brooches are normally inserted once and are therefore permitted according to both opinions.

·Gluing or sticking two pieces of paper together is similar in effect to sewing. Therefore, it is prohibited on Shabbos in the category of sewing.

·Diapers with adhesive tape should be opened before Shabbat. Taping the diaper onto a baby is permitted, as it is meant to be temporary. You should be careful when removing a soiled diaper not to close the tabs around the diaper, since they will remain that way permanently in the garbage. Diapers with velcro tabs are permitted because velcro achieves its stickiness by hooking, not by gluing. Today, most diapers are manufactured with a combination of velcro and adhesive tabs. Therefore, l’chatchila, one should be careful to open them before Shabbat and not re-stick the tabs when disposing.

·Stickers and Post-It notes should not be used on Shabbat.

·Magnets do not pose a problem of tofer, but may be a violation of kotev, writing.

·Suction cups have a medium of permanence and may be a violation of boneh, fixing something to a structure.

·Tightening or loosening the waistline belt of a skirt or pants is permitted.

Shabbat Scenarios: The Prohibition of Tofer-Sewing

8 02 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson

The Prohibition of Tofer/ Sewing: Tofer Demonstrations

The Torah prohibition of Tofer involves binding two items together in a permanent way. The classic example is sewing two stitches and then making a final knot to hold the stitches in place.


·      Opening and closing a button, zipper, or Velcro tab is    permitted because it is not a permanent binding.

·      Pulling a loose thread tighter on a button is prohibited.

·      Stapling and taping may not be done on Shabbat.

·      Most authorities rule that human stitches fall under the prohibition of tofer. In life threatening situations, however, it is permitted.

·      There is a disagreement among the poskim whether one may pull the tabs off a band-aid on Shabbat. Rav Shlomo Z. Auerbach rules that it is permitted because it was not meant to stay there permanently. Sticking the band-aid on a wound is a temporary act and may be done if it will be taken off within 24 hours. If it will stay for more than that time, there are poskim who rule leniently and permit it. When one takes off the band-aid, one should open it and not slip it off like a ring. In addition, one should avoid pulling a band-aid off skin where hair grows to avoid tearing hair on Shabbat.

Adding to Shabbat

14 01 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Adding to Shabbat

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah tells us, “Six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall rest.” When does the seventh day actually begin? Can one accept Shabbat early? The earliest time when one can voluntary accept Shabbat is plag mincha, approximately one and half hours before sunset.  It has become accepted in many communities to have an early minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat, especially during the long summer days when nightfall is very late. If the Torah specifically says that Shabbat begins on the seventh day, and since in Jewish law the next day is only counted from nightfall, how can one accept Shabbat when it is still day?


The origin of accepting Shabbat early is a verse in Parshat Emor that relates to Yom Kippur. “V’initem et nafshoteichem… You shall afflict your soul on the ninth of the month in the evening.” The Gemara asks, if Yom Kippur begins on the ninth day at night then shouldn’t the Torah refer to it as the tenth day. Why mention the ninth? The Gemara answers, “Mosifin m’chol al kodesh. The weekday is added to the holy day.” We begin fasting while it is still day. Indeed, most shuls commence Kol Nidrei before sunset. The Gemara adds that all holy days during which we refrain from work fall under the category of mosifin, we begin early and end late.


The Rambam, however, records this law with regard to Yom Kippur only and does not mention it in relation to Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Kesef Mishna explains that the Rambam held that tosefet Shabbat was neither a d’oraita nor a d’rabanan obligation.  The Radvaz disagrees and explains that the Rambam did hold that this law applied to Shabbat. He only mentions it in relation to Yom Kippur because it is implicit that since Shabbat is holier than Yom Kippur it would most certainly apply to Shabbat. L’halacha, there are significant opinions that hold that one should add on to Shabbat and one may certainly do so if one wants to.


The Maharshal asks, if one davened Maariv on Friday night while it was still daylight, can one still count the Omer? He answers that something related to Shabbat can be done after accepting Shabbat even though it is still daylight. However, something dependent on actual nightfall like Sefirat Haomer, must be done after tzeit hakochavim.  Similarly, if one davened Maariv while it was still day, he is obligated to repeat Shema after nightfall.


The Maharshal rules that one should not accept Shemini Atzeret early, since the two competing days would raise a problem of whether to recite a bracha before eating in the Sukkah.


The general consensus among many poskim is not to accept Shavuot early as the verse specifically states, “sheva shabotot temimot,” seven complete weeks. However, the Taz disagrees and counters that once one accepts the Yom Tov it automatically becomes seven complete weeks.


There is a disagreement among the Baalei Hatosfot if one can accept Pesach while it is still day. One opinion allows it. Others disagree based on the verse, “V’yochlu et hapesach b’layla hazeh.” The sacrifice must be eaten at night. Since matzot and marror have the same halacha as korban Pesach it must be eaten after dark. Can one still accept Pesach early if he argues that it will take untill nightfall to eat the matzot and marror? According to the Terumat Hadeshen anything unique to Pesach must be performed in the evening. This would include Kiddush and the four cups of wine. Technically, one can daven earlier, but the Seder must begin when it is definitely nightfall. Similarly, one cannot accept Sukkot early because the Gemara draws a correlation between the first night of Sukkot and Pesach.


The Taz notes that the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat is derived from the verse that repeats the word hayom, this day, three times. The question then arises, does tosefet Shabbat allow a person to eat the Shabbat meal when it is still day, or does it only permit one to pray the Shabbat davening? Some opinions hold that one can eat the meal and others disagree. The Mishna Berura suggests that one extend the meal into the night and eat a kzayit after dark.


To summarize, one can accept kedushat Shabbat and Yom Tov earlier, as tosefet Shabbat has the power to transform a mundane weekday into a sanctified day. However, it does not transform the astronomical aspect of the day and therefore, any mitzva that is connected to nightfall must be performed after the stars emerge.

Parshat Eikev: Mind and Heart United

28 07 2010

Based on a class by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

In Parshat Eikev, we read, “Vayaha eikav tishmaun..”- If you will listen to my laws, then I, Hashem will keep the promise I gave to the Avot to bring you blessing. The word “eikev” seems extraneous. The Shem Mishmuel brings a Midrash- one who assembles a light fixture on Shabbat is obligated to bring a Chatas sacrifice. Keeping Shabbat earns a Jew reward in this world. In contrast, the reward for other mitzvoth will be “eikev”-at the end of time. The Shem Mishmuel follows with another Midrash about a King who gave his Queen two beautiful stones and then straightaway two more.

What does the jeweled crown represent? Hashem gifted us with a heart and mind so that we could perfect our intellect and emotions to serve Hashem. Both are equally essential in developing an intellectual and emotional relationship with Hashem and the Torah. Avraham taught the Jewish people, tzedakah u’mishpat-mind and heart. Tzedakah means giving from the heart without judgement. Mishpat employs the mind and the strict letter of the law. In return, Hashem gave us, chesed v’rachamim. Chesed is kindness beyond what the recipient deserves. Rachamim is a fusion of chesed and din, kindness beyond what is necessary, but in a certain sense deserved. When we sinned and perverted tzedakah u’mishpat, Hashem responded by taking away chesed v’rachmim. However, l’assid lovo-in the future, the Jewsh people will repent and will restore tzedakah u’mishpat out of their own efforts. Hashem will then bring back chesed v’rachmim. Our spiritual struggles are continuous and our staunchest ally is Hashem who never leaves us even when we sin. So too, Hashem credits our repentance for His return to us. These are the four jewels that create the final crown of Israel.

The Shem MiShmuel explains, “Ki ner mitzvah v’Torah Ohr, the the lamp in the Midrash corresponds to Mitzvoth and the Torah is light. A lamp contains light and both are purposeless without the other. This symbolizes the indivisibility of Torah and Mitzvoth and the mind and heart. During the week, a Jew struggles to unite mind and heart to serve Hashem. On Shabbat, the lamp comes together on its own, we don’t build it. This signifies the sense of completion and cessation of struggle that is the gift of Shabbat. Varying people have different size lamps on Shabbat. Their size is determined by how much effort we invested during the week in the mind/heart struggle. We can experience pleasure and true eternal reward for keeping Shabbat because Shabbat is on a kind of Olam Habah plane. The reward for other mitzvoth can only be “eikev”-at the end of time because our weekday world is too defiled to be able to feel that otherworldly connection to Hashem. Therefore it says, “Vahaya eikev tishmaun..” There is one mitzvah that is olam habah and olam hazeh combined. Our struggle finds completion on Shabbat. Let us merit to attain complete unification of mind and heart so that we can merit to truly experience Shabbat, a foretaste of Yom Shekulo Shabbat-the great Shabbat of Olam Habah.

Hilchot Shabbat Come Alive!

9 11 2009

Hilchot Shabbat

Rabbi Shimon Isaacson provides users with an in-depth study of the Laws of Shabbat, focusing on both the Halachik underpinnings and reasoning behind the laws, and the practical details of their execution.

One student writes in about the class Candle Lighting as Kabbalat Shabbat

‘Brilliant Shiur! Thank you so much!! This is what I have needed for years!!’ -Anoymous