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The Shabbos Weekly
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Based on the Shiurim Given by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

developed from the Chabura of the
Pirchei Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Project

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita


Questions for the Week of Parshas Vayeira

May I pluck a hair that is bothering me, from my head on Shabbos?

Cutting hair on Shabbos falls under the umbrella of the melacha of 'gozez' – shearing. The Shulchan Aruch [1] teaches us that it is prohibited to cut or pluck hair, whether one uses an instrument, such as scissors, or one’s fingers.

There is a difference though as to the severity of the action: one is only chayav (biblically prohibited) when cutting hair with an instrument and rabbinically prohibited when pulling out hair with one’s fingers, in view of the fact that it is not the normal manner for removing hair. [2]

Another crucial issue is the number of hairs that need to be cut. For one to violate an issur d’oraisso (biblical prohibition) and be liable for the biblical punishment, one would need to cut at least two [3] hairs. Although cutting a single hair is also an issur d’oraisso [4] one is not subject to the punishment prescribed by the Torah.

Consequently, pulling out even a single hair is an issur d’rabanan (pulled out as opposed to cut) and it may not be done on Shabbos.

Is the cutting of two hairs always a melacha d’oraisso?

We find a machlokes between the Tosefos and the Rivash in this matter. [5] We must not forget that the source of this melacha is shearing sheep, and hence Tosefos says that in the Mishkan the sheep were sheared for their wool. Therefore, cutting hair for a purpose other than for the purpose of acquiring the hair itself, renders the cutting a melacha she’eina tsricha l’gufa – meaning that it is done for a motive other than that of the Mishkan. According to the halacha it would then only be an issur d’rabanan.

The Rivash, on the other hand, learns that this melacha was also practiced in the Mishkan for the purpose of cleaning the skins of hair. The hair was not used or wanted and nevertheless it is a melacha. Consequently, cutting hair for appearance sake will be a regular melacha d’oraisso.

Does it make a difference whether it is a white hair from black and that I am a male?

It does indeed make a difference. If we said that the basis of the melacha is two hairs, when removing a single white hair from amongst black or vice versa, one accomplishes a complete goal and is chayav on account of that single hair. [6] The Bi’ur Halacha says that some are of the opinion that one is chayav for pulling out such a hair, as it is normal to do so.

Being male compounds the problem because it is prohibited for a male to pluck a black hair from white or vice versa during the week as well, since it is an act of beautification, typical of women. This is the implementation of the issur of lo yilbosh gever simlas isha which includes beautifying oneself as women do.7] There are extenuating circumstances where this is permitted, and one must ask one’s rav when this is.

What about picking at fingernails on Shabbos?

Cutting a fingernail is also part of gozez. Cutting fingernails with an instrument is an issur d’oraisso [8] and picking them is an issur d’rabanan. A person who habitually picks or bites fingernails is in danger of violating the Shabbos, because he will most likely continue with his (bad) habit on Shabbos as well.

Is there a problem to remove ‘feather remnants’ from a chicken in my plate?

Removing feathers from a dead chicken is an issur d’oraisso. [9] Yet we find a machlokes haposkim as to whether it applies to a cooked chicken as well.

The Sh’miras Shabbos Kehilchasa [10] cites poskim who hold that it is ossur, but also cites lenient opinions. Rav Moshe Feinstein [11] is of the opinion that it is totally permitted.

[1] Simon 340:1.

[2] M”B simon 340:2.

[3] Mechaber ibid.

[4] M”B simon 340:3. It complies with the rule of çöé ůéňĺř ŕńĺř îď äúĺřä.

[5] See the Bi’ur Halacha ă"ä ĺçééá.

[6] Mechaber ibid. The Bi’ur Halacha discusses this issue according to the opinions who learn that the melacha is only when one needs the cut hair, as it seems that it should not be prohibited to any further extent when it is a white from black.

[7] Mechaber ibid and M”B 340:7.

[8] According to the Rivash mentioned above.

[9] M”B simon 340:5, towards the end.

[10] Chapter 3 comment on page 48 and footnote 83.

[11] Iggros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. IV page 141

Food For Thought

May one clean dirty fingernails on Shabbos?

A fingernail has partially separated from the nail, may it be removed?

Is one permitted to peel a scab on Shabbos?

 What about removing dead skin or cutting a wart?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

The Possuk says "rak ein yiras Elokim b'mkom hazeh v'harguni al davar ishti" (20:10), which can be understood to mean that everything else can be found in the city of G’rar, but due to the lack of the “fear of heaven” they are capable of murder. What does this mean?

R’ Elchonon Wasserman was in Germany in the year ’35 when he spoke at the Rabbinical Seminar in Berlin. He said that we see from this possuk that many fine things such as art, literature, music could be found in G’rar, but one could not find any Yir’as Shomayim and without that all the fineries are worthless. A person might be a gentleman and murder at the drop of a hat.

R’Elchonon Hy'd foresaw all this and knew that so-called culture does not make a better person.

A famous story took place with R’ Yonasan Eibshitz ztz”l who was challenged by the local minister saying that he can train animals to act like humans. R’ Yonasan argued that it is only the Torah that can transform a person. They agreed upon a time to meet where the minister would prove his case.

R’ Yonasan was invited one evening to witness the remarkable event. He arrived at a large hall where many people were seated waiting for the meal to be brought in. They did not have to wait long before cats, dressed in the waiter’s garb, standing upright brought in trays of food.

The minister looked contemptuously towards R’ Yonasan with a winning jeer. R’ Yonansan waited a minute longer and pulled out a small box from his pocket where he had placed a small mouse. He had barely opened the box when the cats through down their trays with the steaming food and chased the mouse.

Only the Torah can transform a person’s traits…


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.