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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 Beha'aloscha


If the flowers fell out of the vase on Shabbos may one return them?

            One may not return flowers to water on Shabbos even if they fell out on Shabbos. [1] On the other hand, one may return branches without flowers to water on Shabbos. [2] The difference is that flowers bloom in water and returning them causes the flowers to bloom, which is similar to planting. It is unclear what the halacha is when the flowers are already blooming and are open, ", Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 26 footnote 91.

            May one add water to the flower vase on Shabbos?

            Chazal did not permit us to add water to a vase on Shabbos and were even more stringent with regards to changing the water. Both these actions are prohibited on Shabbos on account of exerting oneself unnecessarily on Shabbos. Therefore, if the vase is nearly empty or it has a dirty color one may not add water or change it. [3] One may add water to a vase on Yom Tov. [4]

            A guest arrives on Shabbos (there is an eiruv) or on Yom Tov with a bunch of flowers, may you put them in water?

            As mentioned, flowers may never be placed in water on Shabbos or Yom Tov due to their blooming. If however the guests arrive with fragrant branches and the like which do not have flowers, the halacha is that one may not put them in water on Shabbos and Yom Tov. One may instruct a gentile to put them in a vase that has water prepared before Shabbos. [5]



Return flowers

Return branches

Put flowers or branches

Add water

Change water







Yom Tov






            May one remove an avocado pit from water on Shabbos?

            It is common to place an avocado pit into a jar filled with water and watch it grow. It is forbidden to remove the avocado pit from the water for the following reasons: if the pit has already sprung roots, the pit is considered as planted in the water and removing it would involve the melacha of reaping; if roots have not as yet sprung forth, because it was placed in the water in order to grow, it is considered planted and may not be removed from the water.

            What difference does it make whether there was intention to plant it or not, isnt it enough that it is in water to prohibit its removal?

            We find in the Shulchan Aruch [6] a case where people were accustomed to deposit fragrant leaves in soil a day before Shabbos in order to keep them fresh, with the intention of removing them on Shabbos.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that they may be removed if 1) they have not yet sprung roots and 2) if there was no intention to plant them. The Mishna Berura [7] explains that when one intended to plant them and then decides to remove them from the soil, one might not realize that they have already sprung roots. Therefore Chazal prohibited the removal of leaves, grains etc. from soil (or water) when there was an intention to plant them, even though they have not yet sprung roots.

            The kitchen sink is blocked! Is one permitted to use a plunger to unblock it?

            There are two ways to view this problem. One way is to say that an entirely blocked drain or sink is considered broken and therefore unblocking it will be repairing, which is forbidden on Shabbos. Another way is to say that it is not considered broken as the pipes are merely blocked and unblocking the drain is not called repairing the pipes.

Harav Moshe Feinstein ztzl [8] is of the opinion that a (totally) blocked pipe is comparable to not having a pipe at all and unblocking it is like making a new opening. It is therefore ossur to unblock. One may however instruct a gentile to unblock it when very necessary.

Several other poskim share the same view as Rav Moshe.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztzl [9] is of the opinion that we cannot say that the pipe is non-existent, and therefore unblocking a blocked pipe is not considered as repairing anything.

Being that it is a machlokes, one must ask for rabbinical guidance in such an event.

            May I pluck a hair that is bothering me, from my head on Shabbos?

            Cutting hair on Shabbos falls under the umbrella of the melacha of shearing. The Shulchan Aruch [10] teaches us that it is prohibited to cut or pluck hair, whether one uses an instrument, such as scissors, or ones fingers.

There is a difference though as to the severity of the action: one is only chayav (biblically prohibited) when cutting hair with an instrument and rabbinically prohibited when pulling out hair with ones fingers, in view of the fact that it is not the normal manner for removing hair. [11]

Another crucial issue is the number of hairs that need to be cut. For one to violate an issur doraisso (biblical prohibition) and be liable for the biblical punishment, one would need to cut at least two [12] hairs. Although cutting a single hair is also an issur doraisso [13] one is not subject to the punishment prescribed by the Torah.

Consequently, pulling out even a single hair is an issur drabanan (pulled out as opposed to cut) and it may not be done on Shabbos.

[1] Rama and MB siman 336:54.

[2] MB ibid.

[3] MB ibid. it is based on the Shulchan Aruch in siman 654, Hilchos lulav.

[4] SSK 26:26, based on siman 654.

[5] This is because some poskim hold that even a Jew may put branches in a vase that has water in it before Shabbos (see Shaar Hatsiun 48). Although we do not rely on that opinion for ourselves but to instruct a gentile we may rely on it.

[6] Siman 336:6.

[7] Siman 336:40.

[8] " " ' ' '.

[9] A letter from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach quoted in the " ' ". It can be found in the Binyan Shabbos page 303.

[10] Siman 340:1.

[11] MB siman 340:2.

[12] Mechaber ibid.

[13] MB siman 340:3. It complies with the rule of .


Orchos Chaim LaRosh

' Trust in Hashem with all your heart and believe that He is guiding you constantly. How should we bring Hashem into our lives? How do we make it real? Rabeinu Yonah in his peirush on Mishlei writes that before attempting to do anything one must ask Hashem for siyata dishmaya, even for trivial things such as going to the store and getting on a bus. After one has been successful one must thank Hashem and not attribute the success to ones own talents. When seeking Hashems guidance before and after, one incorporates Hashem in ones life.

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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.