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 Vayeitzei

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

The Mishna in Shabbos 104b specifies the foundation for the melacha of writing. The two main fundamentals of the melacha are that one write with long-lasting ink and that the letters are written on a durable surface. These two features coupled with the required amount of letters written, obligate the writer to bring a korban for violating an issur doraisso a biblical commandment.

The Mishna says that were one to write with say fruit juice on a durable surface or with ink on a non-durable surface, one would be absolved of an issur doraisso.  Nevertheless, midrabanan one is prohibited from doing so.

We must add that it is not imperative that ink be used to be liable for the issur doraisso because engraving or etching is equal to writing with ink, provided that it is done on a surface which leaves an imprint, thus fulfilling two of the requisites of the melacha. [1]

Based on the above, a delegation from Hachovesh, (the emergency service of Har Nof, Yerushalayim) approached Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztzl and asked whether the writing board with the plastic sheet could be used on Shabbos for writing by the emergency dispatcher. (They were obviously aware that normally it would at least be ossur midrabanan to use such a board, however the question was whether it was better than writing with ink on paper).

Rav Shlomo Zalman answered that one has not gained anything by writing on such a board, because although one normally erases everything etched onto the board, but until it is erased it is considered permanent writing and therefore a doraisso.

Therefore, to answer the question, writing or drawing on such a board on Shabbos is ossur midoraisso.

Is one permitted to draw shapes in a frosted window?

Drawing shapes or writing on a frosted window is ossur midrabanan on Shabbos. Although the writing is not permanent, nevertheless Chazal prohibited writing or drawing that is non-permanent. Accordingly therefore, one may not write by tracing ones finger in sand, or write in a film of liquid on a table, or draw a picture in the dust on a table. [2]

What about writing in the air?

There is no issur to imaginarily draw shapes or write letters in the air because one is not leaving a mark anywhere. [3] For the same reason one may trace letters with a dry finger on the table or on paper because one is not leaving an impression.

Is there a problem eating cookies or cake with letters formed on them?

The Mordechai [4] in the 7th perek of Shabbos cites a question posed to the Maharam. The custom was that on Yom Tov (probably Shavuos) children would eat cake with letters formed on the cake and the problem is that they were erasing the letters. The Maharam answered that although it is not an issur doraisso because for erasing to be an issur doraisso it must be with intention of replacing the erasure or for some other positive benefit. Notwithstanding, it is ossur midrabanan, but since it involves children and adults are not handing them an issur, [5] it is permitted for them to eat the cake. The Rama [6] quotes this as the halacha.

The Mishna Berura [7] however quotes the Nodah Biyhuda [8] who argues and is lenient. He says that the case of the Maharam was where the writing was purposely intended to be eaten by the children as a a spiritual enhancement to Torah (on Shavuos) and therefore he only permitted it for children, but in regular cases everyone may eat such cake.

The Mishna Berura rules that one may rely on the lenient opinion when biting into the letter with ones teeth, but he does not permit cutting the letters.

The Mishna Berura [9] adds that the entire debate revolves around letters formed on cake or cookies, such as icing, but when the writing is of the same substance as the cookie, i.e. it is etched into the cookie, there is no problem to break or cut the cookie. [10]

[1] There are other conditions, e.g. writing two letters that are readable together; writing in the normal fashion and others.

[2] Simon 340:4 and MB 18 - 19.

[3] The Rama in simon 340:4

[4] ' - A relative of the Rosh, son-in-law of R Yechiel of Paris, brother-in-law and student of the Maharam

MRotenberg and a student of Rabbeinu Peretz. Died with wife and five children in the Rindfleisch Massacres.

[5] This either means that the children were taking the cake by themselves, or more probably it means that parents were handing them the cake to eat and by the way the letters were erased, and that is not called being handed an issur by the adults as the adults' focus is on the eating, ".

[6] Simon 340:3.

[7] MB simon 340:17.

[8] See the .

[9] MB simon 340:15.

[10] The Chazon Ish argues on many of the conclusions of the MB and is not lenient.

Vort on the Parsha

I was fortunate to accompany " HaRav Shlomo Zalman during the week of parshas Vayeitzeh to visit a child after a car accident. In order to cheer him up, the Rav asked him the following question. The possuk says that Yaakov Avinu saw in his dream that angels were ascending to the heavens and descending . Since the angels responsibility was to accompany Yaakov, if the angels of Eretz Yisrael ascended before the angels of Chutz Laaretz descended they would leave him on his own, so should the angels of chutz laaretz  not have first descended before the local angels ascend?

The Rav offered two answers: one of them was that the gemora quotes two psukim regarding the town called Timna. Once it says that Shimshon went down to Timna and once it says that he went up to Timna. Where was Timna, at the top of the mountain or at the bottom? One of the answers of the gemora is that it depends on purpose of his going to Timna. When it was for something beneficial it was called going up and for something unfavorable it was called going down. The rav said that accompanying Yaakov Avinu was a spiritual uplift and therefore indeed the angels of Chutz Laaretz descended before the angels of Eretz Yisrael ascended, and when the possuk says it means that the Chutz Laaretz angels were descending to be with Yaakov Avinu which was called going up. The angels of Eretz Yisrael that were leaving Yaakov Avinu were considered 'yordim'. So indeed he was not left on his own, the angels descending were going up and the angels descending were going down.


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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.