shabbos candles

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 Toldos

Where did erasing take place in the Mishkan?

Erasing was one of the 39 melachos used in order to construct the Mishkan. The uniqueness of this melacha is that, together with a selected few other melachot, it is a destructive melacha in that it is not productive on its own. Although erasing is destructive, in the Mishkan it was utilized for constructive purposes: Chazal tell us that the beams of the Mishkan were numbered and if a wrong number was written on a beam, it would be erased in order to write the correct number. This is constructive erasing. Nowadays as well, in order for erasing to be a melacha doraisso it must be constructive.

How many letters must one erase in order to be liable to bring a korban?

The Melacha of writing 'kotev'  in the Mishkan was implemented in order to write on the beams. Consecutive numbers were written on the beams in order to remember the correct place for each beam. Hence the minimum requirement is the writing of two digits. [1] Since the melacha of erasing is the diametrical opposite of writing, it too consists of the erasing of two digits in order to replace the two errant digits. [2]

Does the melacha only take place when two digits (or two letters) are erased?

The Biur Halacha [3] says that the object of the melacha is to enable the writing of two letters and not the erasure per se of two letters. Consequently, erasing an ink blot, a smudge or basically anything large enough that occupies the space of two letters is an issur doraisso.

The Bach [4] holds that if an ink blot or wax falls onto letters obscuring them from sight and one erases the ink blot thus exposing the letters, he would be chayav on account of the melacha of writing. [5] It is likewise ossur to erase dirt pasted over even one letter or digit.

It seems that this was a practical problem. A scribe would sometimes write a sefer Torah by the light of a candle and occasionally wax would drip onto the sefer Torah. During the reading of the portion on Shabbos they would discover that some letters are covered in wax and are obscured from sight. Since it is a problem to read the Torah by heart they were obliged to remove the wax. The Bach holds, as mentioned, that it is a severe issur to do so. The Mishna Berura [6] rules that in such an event they must read those words by heart and not take out another sefer Torah.

Could this scenario be applicable in the home as well?

Yes, very easily. The Biur Halacha [7] writes that if two pages are stuck to each other where letters are located, either with wax, dirt or glue, then separating the pages would be a problem of erasing. As many of us have experienced, the pages of a bentcher stick together at the letters with dried food, wine or such. Separating them generates this problem.

If two letters in a sefer Torah are touching, may one erase the point where they touch?

Two letters touching in a sefer Torah, tefillin or mezuzos render it possul and the letters must be corrected. [8] The halachos in such an event are many and the manner of correction depends on where the letters are touching. In certain cases it suffices to erase the point of contact.

In such a case, even though one is not erasing two letters or even an ink blot the size of two letters, nevertheless it is equivalent to the melacha of writing because by erasing the point of contact one is correcting the sefer Torah.


[1] One digit, number or letter is also an issur doraisso of but a korban is only brought for writing two digits.

[2] Even though theoretically it would be sufficient to erase one wrong digit and write the correct one in its stead and thus have two correct digits or letters adjacent to each other. Nevertheless Chazal say that erasing cannot be more severe than the main melacha of writing, which is two letters.

[3] Simon 340:3 " .

[4] Mentioned in the MB 340:10.

[5] The Biur Halacha writes that the Shvus Yaakov argues on the Bach and holds that there is no issur to expose hidden letters in this manner, but many poskim agree with the Bach and rule that one must follow the Bach.

[6] Simon 340:10. There are more complicated cases that may occur, see the MB inside.

[7] " .

[8] If one finds letters touching in a sefer torah during the reading, whether on Shabbos or on a weekday, taking out another sefer torah will depend on the point of contact.

Food For Thought

May children play with a writing board, which is comprised of a plastic sheet which when lifted erases the letters?

Is there a problem eating cookies or cake with letters etched into them?

What about turning pages of a book with letters on the sides of the pages?

Is one permitted to draw shapes in a frosted window?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

Rashi explains that when Yitzchak Avinu heard Yaakov - the supposed Eisav utter the words Hashem happened to bring the animals to me he thought to himself that Eisav was not accustomed to mentioning Hashems name, and became suspicious.

The Ramban explains that Yitzchak justified Eisavs conduct of not mentioning Hashem because he was with animals in the fields and occasionally the situations were such that it was unfit to mention Hashems name. He therefore had accustomed himself, so Yitzchak Avinu presumed, not to mention Hashems name.

HaRav Sternbuch shlita points out that we see how careful one must be when mentioning Hashems name.

Uttering Hashems name must be accompanied with the commandment of 'Es Hashem Elokecha tira' , you shall fear Hashem, which includes uttering His name with respect and deference. This is true for davening, brachos and all other occasions one mentions Hashems name.


For a printed version, click here.


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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.