By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
WASHING DISHES ON SHABBOS
As part of an overall strategy to minimize unnecessary work on Shabbos and
to enhance the Shabbos day as a day of rest from all weekday chores and
activities, the rabbis forbade washing dirty dishes on Shabbos unless those
dishes are needed for that very Shabbos.(1) It is obvious, therefore, that
all dishes that are to be used on Shabbos should be washed before Shabbos
begins. One should not wait for Shabbos to begin to wash dirty dishes from
WHICH DISHES MAY BE WASHED ON SHABBOS AND WHICH MAY NOT?
It is permitted to wash dishes after the Friday night meal if they will be
used for the Shabbos morning or afternoon meal. But it is forbidden to wash
the Friday night dishes if they will not be used for any of the Shabbos day
It is permitted to wash the breakfast or lunch dishes if they will be needed
for the third meal or for snacks that will be served later on in the day. It
is also permitted to wash all types of dishes which are commonly used
throughout the day, such as glasses, teaspoons and fruit plates, etc, unless
one is sure that they will not be needed again.(3)
It is permitted to wash all the dirty dishes that have accumulated even
though only some of them will be needed later. Even if one plate or cup will
be needed, it is permitted to wash all the plates or cups that are dirty.(4)
Several poskim debate whether it is permitted to wash dirty dishes for
Shabbos use even if there are other clean dishes readily available. Some
forbid it,(5) others discourage it,(6) while yet others permit it.(7) While
it is customary to be lenient,(8) many poskim recommend that it is
appropriate to be stringent when possible.(9)
In the case of a family simchah, for example, when used dishes may pile up
and create a dirty, unsightly mess, it is permitted to wash the dishes since
they are being washed for the sake of Shabbos and not for a weekday
Dishes that may not be washed on Shabbos may still be stacked in the
dishwasher(11). One may not sort the dishes before placing them in the
dishwasher; as one loads them in, however, each dish may be placed in its
designated slot.(12) If the dishes were improperly placed, they may not be
rearranged according to size and type. The dishwasher may not be operated on
Shabbos, even if it was preset by a time clock.(13) It is also strictly
forbidden to instruct a non-Jew - on or before Shabbos - to operate a
dishwasher on Shabbos.(14)
IS IT PERMITTED TO RINSE OR SOAK DISHES THAT MAY NOT BE WASHED ON SHABBOS?
Just as it is forbidden to wash dishes that are not needed for Shabbos, so
is it forbidden to rinse them(15) in preparation for washing them after
Shabbos. Soaking dishes in preparation for washing them after Shabbos is
also prohibited. [Note: "soaking" is only prohibited when it entails a
specific, additional act, such as filling a dirty pot with water to soak it,
or filling a dishpan with water on Shabbos and then placing the dirty dishes
in it. If, however, a dishpan was filled before Shabbos and the dishes are
merely removed from the table and deposited therein, that is permitted.]
There are, however, a number of specific cases when rinsing or soaking is
allowed. It is permitted, for instance, to rinse or soak dirty dishes which
will otherwise become permanently stained, will attract insects or flies, or
will emit a foul odor.(16)
In addition, some poskim permit soaking dishes or pots to prevent leftover
grease or soft food particles from hardening and becoming difficult to wash
after Shabbos.(17) Other poskim do not agree with this leniency(18). All
poskim agree that once the residue has hardened and formed a crust, it is
forbidden to rinse or soak dishes or pots to prepare them for washing after
WHEN WASHING DISHES ON SHABBOS IT IS PROHIBITED . . .
to turn on the hot water tap.(20) On Friday night, when the tank and the
water it contains is still hot, it is strictly prohibited to turn on the hot
water tap even if the boiler was turned off before Shabbos, since the tank
and/or the hot water in the tank will cook the cold water which flows into
to use a sponge, a wet cloth, a paper towel or any implement made of any
other absorbent material.(22)
to use steel wool or synthetic scouring pads which trap water between their
to use bar soap.(23)
WHEN WASHING DISHES ON SHABBOS IT IS PERMITTED . . .
to use hot or warm water that was heated before Shabbos. Hot water should
not be poured directly over globs of fat in order to dissolve them.(24)
to use liquid detergent.(25) It is preferable to add water to the liquid
soap in order to dilute it before Shabbos.(26)
to use synthetic scouring pads whose fibers are widely spaced and cannot
to use a nylon bottle brush.(28)
to wear rubber or plastic gloves.
to plug the sink drain with a stopper.(29)
to empty the refuse which accumulates in the drain into a garbage can.(30)
under extenuating circumstances, to plunge a blocked drain with a rubber
1 O.C. 323:6 based on the Talmud, Shabbos 118a. Rashi and Ra'avad (Hilchos
Shabbos 23:7) explain that the basic concept behind this rabbinic decree is
to avoid "unnecessary toil for weekday purposes." This may be the Rambam's
opinion as well; see Magid Mishneh, ibid. [Based on this explanation, some
poskim hold that if the dishes are washed in order to be used next Shabbos
and they will not be used during the week, it is permitted to wash them
(Salmas Chayim 1:75). But other poskim do not agree (Tehillah l'David
302:10), and the custom follows their opinion.]
2 See Machatzis ha-Shekel 302:6.
3 Mishnah Berurah 326:28, 29; Ketzos ha-Shulchan 146:16.
4 Mishnah Berurah 323:26; Aruch ha-Shulchan 326:7; Ketzos ha-Shulchan
5 See Be'er Moshe 6:82 quoting Ohel Moed who permits washing dishes only
when there are no other dishes available.
6 Tosfos Shabbos 323:8; Minchas Shabbos 80:254; Aruch ha-Shulchan 323:7.
7 Harav Y. Kamenetsky (oral ruling quoted in Emes L'Yaakov O.C. 323:6); Bris
Olam (Ofeh 90).
8 Shevet ha-Levi 5:39.
9 B'tzeil ha-Chachmah 4:130; Shevet ha-Levi 6:42; Machazeh Eliyahu 62-3.
10 Tzitz Eliezer 14:37, quoting Teshuvos M'harshag O.C. 1:61, based on
Mishnah Berurah 302:19. See also Da'as Torah O.C. 444:1 (s.v. v'im).
11 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74 (rechitzah 4).
12 Beiur Halachah 319:3 (s.v. hayu).
13 Minchas Shelomo 2:20; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:35. See also Igros
Moshe O.C.4:60 who prohibits operating any appliance on a time clock on
14 O.C. 307:2. A dishwasher may not be operated in one's home even if the
non-Jew offers to operate the dishwasher without being told to do so; see
The Monthly Halachah Discussion, pgs. 264-268 for more details.
15 When dishes are stacked in an empty sink, the routine use of the sink for
washing hands or food etc. is permitted, even though the dishes in the sink
will inadvertantly be rinsed off; see Mishnah Berurah 321:21.
16 She'arim Metzuyanim B'halachah 80:27; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:2;
Machazeh Eliyahu 55:5. [In the unlikely event that soaking or rinsing will
not remedy these conditions, then washing is permitted as well.]
17 Minchas Shelomo 2:35-12; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:3; Machazeh
18 See Me'or ha-Shabbos, vol. 1, pg. 115 quoting Harav Y.Y. Fisher; Nishmas
Shabbos (O.C. 323:361).
19 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:3.
20 If the hot water tap was turned on inadvertantly, it should be turned off
as quicly as possible; see Nishmas Shabbos 318:73-2. See also Shulchan
21 Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:33; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 1:39.
22 O.C. 320:17.
23 Based on Mishnah Berurah 326:30. See dissenting opinion in Yabia Omer
24 Mishnah Berurah 253:100; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos
25 Aruch ha-Shulchan 326:11; Kaf ha-Chayim 326:43; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv
(quoted in Shalmei Yehudah 9:3).
26 To satisfy the view of Igros Moshe O.C. 1:113 who discourages the use of
liquid soap on Shabbos; see Az Nidberu 10:16.
27 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:15). See also Yabia
28 Be'er Moshe 1:43.
29 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 12:16.
30 O.C. 308:34.
31 While many poskim allow unclogging a blocked sink or stuffed toilet with
a plunger, there are those who do not, maintaining that this may constitute
"fixing" the drain, which may be a violation of Makeh B'patish; see the
various opinions in Igros Moshe O.C. 4:40-9; Minchas Yitzchak 5:75; Shemiras
Shabbos K'hilchasah 12, note 50; Yabia Omer 5:33.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben
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