02. Melakhot Pertaining to Clothing


There are 13 melakhot involved in making clothes (m. Shabbat 7:2):

1) Gozez Tzemer (shearing wool; the laws pertaining to this activity will be explained below in 14:1): If plants are used to make the clothing, then one may not pick the plants on account of the prohibition of harvesting (below 19:6).

2) Melaben (laundering): This includes removing debris and oil from the wool (as explained below in sections 3-8).

3) Menapetz (combing wool): Combing through wool makes it easier to form the wool into threads. One who beats the sinews of an animal to make threads from them violates a tolada of this melakha.

4) Tzove’a (dyeing): This involves infusing wool with dye in order to make colored thread and clothing from it (below 18:5).

5) Toveh (spinning): This is forming threads from raw wool. Similarly, one who makes thread from raw materials like flax violates this melakha.

Now we arrive at the melakhot that pertain to turning individual threads into one weave. As a rule, cloth is made from threads that run lengthwise (the “warp”) and threads that run widthwise (the “weft”). The warp threads form the foundation of the cloth, while the weft threads are interwoven perpendicular to them. In the past, hand-operated looms were used for weaving. This process involved a few more melakhot:

6) Meisekh (warping): This involves setting up the warp threads on the loom.

7) Oseh Shtei Batei Nirin (making two loops): In order to integrate the weft threads with the warp threads, one must first prepare the loom. Vertical cords (“heddles”) containing loops are suspended from two frames (“shafts” or “harnesses”). First the odd-numbered warp threads are threaded through the heddles of one harness and between the heddles of the other. Then the process is repeated with the even-numbered warp threads. This allows the weft threads to slip under and over those of the warp. Some say that the prohibition is to form two loops to hold the warp threads (Tosafot Rid on Shabbat 73a). Others maintain that only one who places two warp threads into these loops transgresses this melakha (Rashi, ad loc.).

8) Oreg Shnei Ĥutin (weaving two threads): This is when one combines the weft threads with the warp threads, actually creating the weave.

9) Potze’a Shnei Ĥutin (separating two threads): This is fixing the material by removing threads when there is a tear or imperfection in the weave. The melakha of Potze’a includes the prohibition of unraveling the hem of a woven item of clothing or a bandage.

The general rubric of weaving also prohibits weaving a basket, net, or strainer, as well as weaving (“roping”) a rope bed. Each of these items is made with a crosshatch design, whether of thread, rope, or wicker (MT 9:16).

Nowadays weaving is done with more advanced machines that perform all the above melakhot at once. One who turns on such a machine on Shabbat transgresses all of these melakhot simultaneously.

Other melakhot connected to creating an item of clothing are:

10) Kosheir (tying a knot)

11) Matir (untying a knot): This is explained below in sections 13-15.

12) Tofer Shtei Tefirot (sewing two stitches)

13) Kore’a al Menat Litfor Shtei Tefirot (tearing in order to sew two stitches): This is explained below in sections 10-12.

The melakhot connected with tanning leather are also connected to making clothes, since leather is used not only to create parchment, but also to make clothes and shoes. These melakhot are Tzad (trapping), Shoĥet (slaughtering; below 20:6-9), Mafshit (skinning), Me’abed (tanning), Memaĥek (smoothing), Mesartet (marking; below 18:6), and Meĥatekh (cutting; below 15:10).

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