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Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


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



Questions for the Week of Parshas Beha'aloscha


Is permanency a criterion with Hilchos Shabbos?

For a melacha do be considered a melacha d'oraisso it must have some durability. The general rule for most melachos is that a melacha that has permanence is ossur mid'oraisso, a melacha that is not permanent is ossur mid'rabanan and one that has no permanence at all, is permitted.

Can you please provide examples?

It is biblically prohibited to write with ink or a pencil on paper, because both leave permanent impressions. It is a rabbinical prohibition to write letters or draw pictures on a frosted window. It is not biblical because it is not permanent and will disappear after a short time. [1] One may "draw" letters in plain air using one's finger etc. because nothing is being done. [2]

One should not decide on one's own what is permanent and what is not, because as we will see, permanence can be for a short while as well.

How long is permanent?

The Mishna in Shabbos 102b states: Whoever performs a melacha and his melacha lasts, on Shabbos, is chayav (violated a biblical prohibition).

Rashi [3] understands that the words "on Shabbos" refer to the person doing the action, thus the Mishna would read: Whoever performs a melacha on Shabbos and his melacha lasts..." implying that for the melacha to be biblically liable it must last indefinitely or at least for a long time.

The Rambam [4] discusses the issur of painting on Shabbos and writes that one is only liable if the paint is durable. He concludes the halacha saying and if his melacha does not last for the Shabbos one is not chayavוכל שאין מלאכתו מתקיימת בשבת פטור. Many authorities [5] learn that the Rambam does not require the melacha to last longer than the Shabbos. [6] The Rambam would understand the words 'on Shabbos' in the Mishna to refer to the melacha, thus the Mishna would read: Whoever performs a melacha, and his melacha lasts on Shabbos, is chayav.

The Rambam requires much understanding, because we know for example that for a knot to be permanent it must last for a very long time, if not indefinitely. We will not deal with this issue in this capacity, but you may further investigate at your discretion.

Several examples

  •      One may not scribble or write on an eraser board – the type where one writes and lifts the top sheet to erase the letters, because until one raises the top sheet the letters are permanent. [7] Writing on such a pad would be an issur d'oraisso.

  •      One may not fashion a toothpick by breaking a cocktail stick in half, even though it will be used once and discarded. It is ossur mid'oraisso on account of makeh b’patish.

  •      One may tie a bow (without a single knot beneath it) for an indefinite amount of time, because a bow has no permanence whatsoever.

Permanent Constructions

The melacha of Construction – בונה is divided into three parts, permanent, temporary and time limited. [8]

  1. A permanent structure, such as a building, a large cupboard, a wall or tent are all acts of boneh d'oraisso. The definition is construction of a structure that will remain standing for a very long period.
  2. A temporary structure such as a flimsy tent or a wall comprised of stones without cement that will not last very long, is ossur mid'rabanan. Chazal instituted a g'zeira prohibiting temporary construction lest one inadvertently constructs a permanent structure.
  3. A time limited construction is defined as one that could last for a long period but that is not the intention.

There are various degrees of time-limited construction, where some cases are ossur mid'oraisso, some are ossur mid'rabanan and some are permitted.

The Chasam Sofer and Tiferes Yisrael learn that a construction deemed for demolition that same day is not boneh, whereas Nodah Bihuda and Ohr Sameach learn that such a construction is Boneh. [9]

The major poskim held a dispute over the temporary nature of an umbrella, as to whether it is boneh or not.

It is interesting to note that we learn the 39 melachos from the construction of the Mishkan, which was often constructed and demolished that very day. To complicate matters, the Mishkan was never intended to be permanent, because they were constantly told by Hashem to demolish the Mishkan and move on.

We can either say that a time limited binyan is boneh and bring perfect proof from the Mishkan. We can also say that they were not told in advance when the Mishkan needed to be demolished and thus it is not "time-limited" and is a permanent construction.

Yerushalmi Shabbos 7:2.

The Yerushalmi (7:2) begins by saying that constructing the Mishkan was not לשעה (time-limited). R' Yossi says it was permanent because their travels were according to the words of Hashem. R' Yossi bar Bon says it was time-limited because Hashem promised them entry to the Holy land. [10]

[1] There might be other explanations to this phenomenon.

[2] See simon 340:4 and M"B 14.

[3] Rashi Shabbos 102b ד"ה בשבת.

[4] Shabbos 9:13.

[5] See Tikunim Umiluim page 10 footnote 53.

[6] A difficult point to understand is whether it must last 24 hours or suffice if the melacha was done, let's say, 12 o' clock midday and it will last till after Shabbos.

[7] Heard from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l.

[8] For a comprehensive understanding of this melacha, one should learn the sefer Binyan Shabbos. This particular issue can be found in Binyan Shabbos on page ו'.

[9] We are not issuing a ruling, merely pointing at the complexity of the matter.

[10] It is worthwhile looking it up. It can be found at the end of halacha ב'.


Vort on the Parsha

The possuk tells us that when we go to war with our enemies we will blow the trumpets (10:9). In the Sifri it states that the enemy referred to is Gog and Magog, because it says in the possuk that you will be saved from your enemies and the ultimate salvation, without any more wars, is after Gog and Magog.

The Meshch Chochma explains that Sifri understands this from the words the trumpets, when it could have said trumpets. Obviously it is referring to the trumpets crafted by Moshe Rabeinu, which Rashi says were hidden to be used in the future. So the possuk is referring to the specific trumpets that are to be blown in the final war. [1]

[1] See the Meshech Chochma Kuperman edition where he points out a kushya on this p'shat.



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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.