QUESTION: Which activities are prohibited on Shabbos because of the
of the Thirty-Nine Forbidden Labors, Choresh - Plowing? Does the
prohibition of choresh have any non-farming applications?
DISCUSSION: The Shabbos Labor of Choresh prohibits one from doing
activity which either prepares or improves the ground for planting. Since
most people are not farmers who would understand or appreciate the various
aspects of this Labor, we shall give a partial, brief, general list of
agricultural activities that prepare or improve the soil for planting:
Loosening the soil, digging holes or making furrows in the soil, leveling
the soil so that one is planting on an even surface, fertilizing, weeding,
removing stones, watering the soil, etc.
QUESTION: May children dig in a sandbox on Shabbos?
DISCUSSION: It is permitted to play in a sandbox if the sand is dry
any holes dug in it will immediately collapse; this type of "digging" is
not considered choresh. If, however, the sand is damp and clumpy and the
holes that are dug will retain their shape for a while, it may be a
violation of choresh to dig such holes.(1)
But it is only permitted to play with dry play sand in a sand box.
Industrial sand which is designated for building purposes is considered
severe muktzeh and may not be moved on Shabbos for any reason.
QUESTION: Which additional activities did Chazal prohibit so that
not come to violate choresh min ha-Torah?
DISCUSSION: As in all of the forbidden Shabbos Labors, the Rabbis
prohibited other, related activities because they were concerned that
performing them may lead one to transgress the Biblical prohibition
itself. Depending on the case, sometimes the restriction applies only to
the ground outdoors, while other times Chazal felt that the restriction
should include indoor flooring as well. The following is a partial list of
activities which are restricted because of choresh mi-derabanan:
1. Pulling or dragging heavy items across the ground - since the weight of
the objects will inevitably make a furrow in the ground. Pulling or
dragging lightweight items which will not inevitably make a furrow in the
ground is permitted. Pushing a heavy baby carriage or a wheel chair is
2. Playing games which require a ball [or nuts] to be rolled on the
ground, such as marbles, soccer, kickball, hockey and golf. Playing these
games can easily result in the player leveling the playing field. It is
forbidden to play these games even on a paved court.(3)
3. Securing a table or a bench to the ground - since it may lead one to
level the ground so that the table or bench will stand straight and firm.
4. Sweeping a paved or unpaved outdoor courtyard - since it may result in
leveling the ground. Sweeping the floor inside the house, however, is
permitted nowadays, since all of our homes are floored and there is no
issue of leveling the ground.(5)
QUESTION: We have established that nowadays it is permitted to
floor indoors. Is there a permissible method of washing an indoor floor
indoors on Shabbos?
DISCUSSION: The normal method of washing a dirty floor, using a
or sponge, is strictly forbidden on Shabbos because one will definitely
transgress the Shabbos Labor of Sechitah, squeezing the mop or the rag.
There are, though, some other methods of washing a floor which do
not entail "Squeezing." Pouring a pail of water on the floor and then
pushing the water down the drain with a plastic or nylon squeegee, or
turning on a hose and spraying the dirty area (in commercial or
institutional kitchens), are some of the methods where sechitah is not
employed. It is, however, still Rabbincally forbidden to wash the floor
with the squeegee or the hose as well, because doing so may result in
leveling the ground.
It is commonly accepted that even nowadays, when none of our homes
have dirt floors - and sweeping indoors is permitted - it is still
prohibited to wash the floors inside the home.(6) Still, under extenuating
circumstances, e.g., the floor is extremely dirty, smelly or dangerously
slippery, etc., many poskim permit washing the floor as long as no
transgression of sechitah is involved.(7)
QUESTION: Does an onen wash his hands and recite al netilas yadayim
DISCUSSION: An onen, the term given to a mourner during the period
between the death of a relative and his burial, is exempt from all of the
positive mitzvos (mitzvos asei) of the Torah, both min ha-Torah and mi-
derabanan. He is, therefore, exempt from davening and Kerias Shema,
reciting berachos, benching, putting on tefillin and tzitzis, and learning
The onen, however, is not exempt from washing his hands before eating
bread. Since it is prohibited to eat bread without washing, the onen is
obligated to wash like everyone else. He will not, however, be able to
recite the berahcha of al netilas yadayim over his washing, since he is
exempt from reciting berachos.(8) If he did not know the halachah and
recited the berachah by mistake, amen should not be answered to his
The same holds true after using the bathroom. He should clean and
wash his hands, but should not recite the berachah of Asher yatzar.(10)
QUESTION: What is the correct Halachic procedure to follow before
Israeli-grown produce, e.g., Jaffa oranges, Carmel tomatoes or Arava
peppers sold in stores in the Unites States?
DISCUSSION: Israeli-grown produce sold in the U.S. is generally -
specifically marked otherwise - considered safek tevel, which means that
we are unsure whether or not terumos and ma'asors were separated from it.
Although today, for technical reasons, we no longer give our terumos and
ma'asros to the kohanim, the leviim or the poor, as prescribed by the
Torah, we are still required mi-derabanan to separate terumah and ma'aser
from all Israeli produce. Since, as stated, we do not know whether or not
terumah or ma'aser was separated, we must do so ourselves before we are
allowed to eat it.
QUESTION: How, exactly, do we separate terumah and ma'aser from
produce bought in the U.S.?
DISCUSSION: One should follow this step-by-sep process:
* Place all of the fruits and vegetables that need to be tithed in one
place and cut or break off a little more than one percent of the entire
lot. If there is more than one type of fruit or vegetable that requires
tithing, a little more than one percent of each type must be separated.
* Place a coin - worth a nickel or more - near [or with] the separated
produce. If more than one type of produce is being tithed, at least a
nickel is required for each type.
* Recite the appropriate hafrashas terumos uma'asros text which is found
in many siddurim and sefarim, but do not recite the berachah - unless you
are absolutely sure that no terumah and ma'aser was ever taken from this
food (vadai tevel). If one does not have the text readily available, he
may declare the following [or similar]: The terumos and ma'asros being
separated here should be valid according to the text which is written in
the siddur or the sefer which is in my possession elsewhere.
* Wrap up the separated fruit or vegetable in a bag or a piece of plastic
and discard. The coin, too, must be disposed of in such a manner that it
would never be used again.(11) The produce is now permitted to be eaten.
QUESTION: Is it permitted to separate terumah and ma'aser on
DISCUSSION: No, it is not. Since it is forbidden to eat Israeli-
produce before it was tithed, tithing it on Shabbos appears as if one
is "fixing" something which was previously "broken."(12) If, however, one
did not know this halachah and tithed on Shabbos, it is permitted to eat
1 See Mishnah Berurah 498:73; 89. In addition, playing with wet sand may
be a violation of Lishah, Kneading; Mishnah Berurah 321:50.
2 This is permitted because the depressions caused by wheels on the ground
are not considered furrows; no soil is being dug out; it is merely being
pressed into the ground; see Shemtras Shabbos K'hilchasah 28:42.
3 Mishnah Berurah 338:20. Other poskim permit playing these games on a
paved court; see The Weekly Halachah Discussion, pg. 518.
4 Mishnah Berurah 337:20
5 O.C. 337:2 and Beiur Halachah s.v. v'yeish.
6 Mishnah Berurah 337:17.
7 See Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 23:6 and Orchos Shabbos, 18, note 76,
for an elaboration.