May one unblock a blocked sink?
question is whether unblocking a blocked sink or toilet
involves the melacha of Boneh – constructing.
gemora in Kesubos 60a deals with cleaning a
gutter filled with dirt on Shabbos and the Rif learns
that it involves a biblical violation.
Zalman Auerbach ztz”l says
does not mean that a blocked sink shares the same status. We
can understand that the Rif (and gemora) refer
to a gutter dug into the surface of the ground, which when
blocked with weeds, dirt etc. requires to be dug again, and
until then it partially loses its status as a gutter.
pipe (drain) is a pipe that needs to be unblocked.
I don’t understand, but it needs to
but compare it to a blocked drinking-straw. You’re drinking
chocolate milk and a piece of cocoa gets stuck in the straw.
Would you say that forcing the cocoa out the straw is a
tikun – repairing? Rav
Shlomo Zalman Auerbach thought not, and added that even
though the pipes may be buried in the ground, which
compounds the problem,
a blocked pipe is sometimes unblocked by forcing water
through the pipe, which is a normal way to use a sink, and
therefore using a plunger to force the blockage is no
But still it cannot be used without
The Rav said that it should be compared to a dirty window.
One cannot see through a dirty window and yet cleaning it on
Shabbos (in a permitted manner) will not be Boneh,
being that the window is not broken.
What about a porch drain?
A porch drain that is hewed into the ground is different
because dirt and debris are batel to the drain,
similar to the natural gutter mentioned above. If the porch
drain is a pipe it may be unblocked. Some opinions say that
if the porch drain is blocked with sticky mud that must be
scraped to unblock the pipe, the pipe is ‘broken’ and is
forbidden to be unblocked on Shabbos.
blocked sink or toilet may be unblocked on Shabbos.
say that a blocked drain pipe from a porch blocked with
hard mud etc. may not be unblocked on Shabbos.
blocked drain pipe from a porch blocked with leaves and
food etc, may be unblocked on Shabbos.
Is this p’sak accepted by all?
No, it is not. Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l
discussed three situations.
1. A sink
that gets blocked regularly may be unblocked with a plunger
because it is not considered broken.
2. If the
sink does not get blocked often and water trickles though
the blockage, unblocking is a slight repair and a
plunger may not be used. It may be unblocked in an irregular
3. If a
sink is totally blocked it may not be unblocked on Shabbos,
as this is repairing, but when very necessary one may
instruct a gentile.
One should ask one’s rav for a final ruling.
Certain doors have locks that have
bolts that go into the floor. The hole is blocked and one
cannot lock the door, may one clean the hole?
A marble in the hole may be removed; sand and dirt in the
hole may not be removed. A marble or pebble is not a natural
part of the floor and its removal is not repairing the
floor. Sand and dirt is part of the floor and removing sand
is digging a hole.
May one remove storm windows at the
onset of summer?
Even though storm windows ride a railing and are not attached
to the frame, removing or replacing them is an issur
d’oraisso of Boneh, as they are regarded as part
of the building.
A picture fell off the wall, may
one put it back?
Firstly, expensive pictures are muktze and may not be
Secondly, we must decide whether it is considered adding to
the wall/building and is it boneh or not.
The Chazon Ish writes that something hung on the wall
that is easy to remove and is removed, may be hung on
Shabbos. A plain clock is not nailed to the wall and is
removed to change the battery and therefore one may place it
on a hook on the wall on Shabbos.
The same applies to a picture hung in a way that it can be
On the other hand, a rubber pipe attached to the tap above
the sink that fell off may not be reattached to the tap.
The rubber pipe is intended to be a permanent fixture and
attaching it to the tap is Boneh.