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 Vayeishev

Does the issur doraisso of writing apply to lashon hakodesh only or does it encompass other languages as well?

The Mishna in Shabbos 103a says that one is chayav for writing two letters in any language 'bechol lashon'. The Biur Halacha [1] writes that except for the Ohr Zarua, [2] all the Rishonim concur that writing in any language is a violation of an issur doraisso.

What is the halacha if one writes a single letter in one place and another letter somewhere else - is it an issur doraisso?

We must first state that writing one letter is an issur doraisso but in order for the violator to be liable for bringing a korban chatas  two letters must have been written.

Another interesting halacha is that for two letters to be considered a proper melacha they must be written in such a way that they could be read together.

The source for this halacha is the Mishna in Shabbos 104b, which says the following: One who writes a single letter on the ceiling and a single letter on the floor is pottur (not liable) for bringing a korban. The Mishna continues, if one writes on two different walls (not adjacent to each other in the corner) one is pottur because they cannot be read together.

If however one would write a single letter on two separate pieces of paper one would be chayav because the two pieces can be held next to each other and read as one.

Is there an issur to write with ones mouth?


A          An issur drabanan there certainly is, but it is not an issur doraisso because it is a deviation from the normal way of writing. It is interesting to note that the halacha is that one must write a sefer torah, tefilin and mezuzos in the normal writing manner, and if a right-handed person writes with his left hand they are not kosher. [3] The Mishna Berura brings a case [4] where someone in Egypt wrote with his mouth and the poskim ruled that it was not kosher being that it was a deviation from the normal manner of writing.

What is the status of drawing figures or pictures on Shabbos?

The Rambam writes [5] that one is chayav for drawing a picture, being that it is a Toladah of the melacha of 'kosev' writing. The Biur Halacha [6] understands from the Yerushalmi (the Rambams source) that one would be chayav for drawing a single picture, [7] unlike letters where the liability to bring a korban is for writing two letters. The reason is probably because in the Mishkan it required two symbols (letters, numbers etc.) in order to make a relationship between two letters written on the planks, but a drawing or picture stands on its own and does not require a partner.

Accordingly, when tearing a wrapper in the permitted manner one must take precaution that letters or drawings are not torn, [8] because in effect one is erasing the letters and drawings.

Would it not be similar to the halacha mentioned in the Rama (cited in the previous shiur) where he holds that one may open a book with writing on the edge?

First of all we mentioned that many poskim argue on the Rama and therefore when there is an option one should lchatchila not open such a book. However, one could differentiate between the two cases. A book is made to be opened and closed and therefore the Rama does not see the letters as being erased, whereas a wrapper is permanently ripped or torn and the erasing of the letters is permanent.

Would tearing between the letters be a problem?

No, tearing between letters is not called erasing [9] even though a word is erased. The reason is because placing a piece of paper with a letter written on it next to a similar piece of paper is not called writing even though one has joined two letters, so too the separation of such letters would not be called erasing. [10]

[1] Biur Halacha simon 306:11 " .

[2] Cited in the Rama 306:11.

[3] Simon 32:5 (18).

[4] MB simon 32:19.

[5] Rambam Shabbos 11:17.

[6] Simon 340:4 towards the end of " .

[7] A picture is worth a thousand words?

[8] SSK 9:12 based on the MB 340:41.

[9] SSK 9 footnote 48 citing Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

[10] See the ibid.

Food For Thought

May one play with word games on Shabbos, such as Scrabble?

Is one permitted to make a line in a book with ones fingernail in order to remember where one left off?

May one fold over a page corner to mark ones place when it makes a crease in the page?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

The possuk says 'Vayehsev Yakkov' which Rashi explains to mean that Yaakov Avinu wished to have a peaceful life. Hashem thought otherwise saying that the peace they have in the World To Come is sufficient, and immediately began the saga of Yosef.

Yaakovs life was full of unrest Eisav, Lavan, Dinah - the diametrical opposite of peace and tranquility - why is that?

Rav Sternbuch relates that a bochur before marriage approached his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shneider, asking for a brocho. The Rosh yeshiva asked him whether he had anything particular in mind. The bochur replied that he would like a brocho that everything in his life should be glatt go smoothly. The Rosh yeshiva replied that that is not a brocho, rather he blessed him that he should be able to overcome all his trials and tribulations in life.

Rav Sternbuch enlightens this saying that this world is one of trials and hardships and therefore Yaakov could not have peace in this world because it is through trial that one elevates oneself to higher spiritual levels. Peace and reward is in the next world.

For a printed version, click here.


One may receive and distribute these weekly shiurim by calling or writing: Office 99 Rechov Bayit Vegan, Yerushalayim,
Phone Numbers:U.S. and Canada 732-370-3344 Israel 972-3-616-6340
 South Africa 2711-728-4275 England 44161-792-2492 Australia 61-296835626 Switzerland 01141430288
e-mail:, or, weekly sponsorships are available as well. 

If you would like to send a question to Rav Ostroff, you can write to him at

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.