shabbos candles

Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

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 Mattos/Massei


          Is one permitted to peel a scab on Shabbos?

The Shulchan Aruch says that one may peel scabs on Shabbos. The [1] explains that since scabs eventually fall off the skin, they are in a better halachic position than skin peelings (cuticles), and therefore they may be removed even when they do not cause distress. One must not remove or peel scabs when it will cause bleeding because that is prohibited. [2]

What about removing or cutting a wart?

Warts are part of ones skin and may therefore not be removed or cut from ones body on Shabbos. [3] Warts share the same rule as regular pieces of skin that may not be pulled or yanked off ones skin.

May a girl braid her hair on Shabbos?

Aside from the issue of pulling out hair on Shabbos, which is a problem of , there is a problem of making plaits. Chazal tell us that making plaits or braiding hair on Shabbos is associated with Boneh. Chazal learnt this from the fact that Hashem presented Chava to Adam Harishon with her hair in plaits, because it says He built the Tzela. A girl may also not unravel plaits because that would be a problem of dismantling Soter. Nevertheless it is only an issur drabanan as it only appears like Boneh. [4]

Where did erasing take place in the Mishkan?

Erasing was one of the 39 melachos used to construct the Mishkan. The uniqueness of this melacha is that, together with a selected few other melachot, it is a destructive melacha in that it is not productive on its own. Although erasing is destructive, in the Mishkan it was utilized for constructive purposes: Chazal tell us that the beams of the Mishkan were numbered, and if a wrong number was written on a beam, it would be erased to write the correct number. This is constructive erasing. Nowadays as well, in order for erasing to be a melacha doraisso it must be constructive.

How many letters must one erase in order to be liable to bring a korban?

The Melacha of writing in the Mishkan was implemented to write on the beams. Consecutive numbers were written on the beams in order to remember the correct place for each beam. Hence the minimum requirement is writing two digits. [5] Since the melacha of erasing is the diametrical opposite of writing, it too consists of erasing two digits to replace the two errant digits. [6]

Does the melacha only take place when two digits (or two letters) are erased?

The Biur Halacha [7] says that the object of the melacha is to enable the writing of two letters and not the erasure per se of two letters. Consequently, erasing an ink blot, a smudge or basically anything large enough that occupies the space of two letters is an issur doraisso.

The Bach [8] holds that if an ink blot or wax falls onto letters obscuring them from sight and one erases the ink blot thus exposing the letters, one would be chayav on account of the melacha of writing. [9] It is likewise ossur to erase dirt pasted over even one letter or digit.

It seems that this was a practical problem. A scribe would sometimes write a sefer Torah by the light of a candle and occasionally wax would drip onto the sefer Torah. During the reading of the portion on Shabbos they would discover that some letters are covered in wax and are obscured from sight. Since it is a problem to read the Torah by heart they were obligated to remove the wax. The Bach holds, as mentioned, that it is a severe issur to do so. The Mishna Berura [10] rules that in such an event they must read those words by heart and not take out another sefer Torah.

Could this scenario be applicable in the home as well?

Yes, very easily. The Biur Halacha [11] writes that if two pages are stuck to each other where letters are located, either with wax, dirt or glue, separating the pages would be a problem of erasing. As many of us have experienced, the pages of a bentcher stick together at the letters with dried food, wine or such. Separating them generates this problem.

If two letters in a sefer Torah are touching, may one erase the point where they touch?

Two letters touching in a sefer Torah, tefillin or mezuza render it possul and the letters must be corrected. [12] The halachos in such an event are many and the manner of correction depends on where the letters are touching. In certain cases it suffices to erase the point of contact.

In such a case, even though one is not erasing two letters or even an ink blot the size of two letters, nevertheless it is equivalent to the melacha of writing because by erasing the point of contact one is correcting the sefer Torah.

[1] R Chaim Naeh, ' " " " ".

[2] SSK 35:31.

[3] Siman 340:2.

[4] Siman 303:26 and SSK 14:52.

[5] One digit, number or letter is also an issur doraisso of but a korban is only brought for writing two digits.

[6] Even though theoretically it would be sufficient to erase one wrong digit and write the correct one in its stead and thus have two correct digits or letters adjacent to each other. Nevertheless Chazal say that erasing cannot be more severe than the main melacha of writing, which is two letters.

[7] Siman 340:3 " .

[8] Mentioned in the MB 340:10.

[9] The Biur Halacha writes that the Shvus Yaakov argues on the Bach and holds that there is no issur to expose hidden letters in this manner, but many poskim agree with the Bach and rule that one must follow the Bach.

[10] Siman 340:10. There are more complicated cases that may occur, see the MB inside.

[11] " .

[12] If one finds letters touching in a sefer torah during the reading, whether on Shabbos or on a weekday, taking out another sefer torah will depend on the point of contact.



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
078 1655 242 England 44-020-8731-6666 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.