13 – Melakhot Pertaining to Clothing

01. Introduction

Clothing is very important, as it covers the body and protects it from heat and cold. Adam and Eve originally had no need for clothing, but after they sinned they developed an awareness of their nakedness and thus clothing became necessary. As long as Adam and Eve were pure, the physical world did not exert too strong a pull on them, and they were able to appropriately emphasize the spiritual aspect of their existence. For them, the body served as a practical tool for revealing the essence of the soul. But after they sinned, the body was weakened and the evil inclination was strengthened. The “lower” functions of the body exerted a disproportionately strong pull, while the soul was neglected and man’s divine destiny was forgotten. This is the source of shame. A person’s dignity can be attributed primarily to his creation in God’s image. This dignity is revealed through his soul, and expresses itself via Torah study and the performance of mitzvot and good deeds. When one forgets his destiny and lets his physical desires control him, he loses this dignity. Clothes that cover us externally serve to modify our attraction to the physical world, and help repair the damage caused by the sin of Adam and Eve. Covering the body allows the soul to reach greater expression. We can then perfect the body and give it full expression, with holiness and joy, guiding it toward Torah and mitzvot. Therefore, a person’s clothing is his dignity.

Like every other good thing, clothing can be used correctly or incorrectly. Those who wear modest and pleasant clothes enjoy the true respect that results from emphasizing the spiritual. Those who wear immodest clothes emphasize the body and arouse the evil inclination. Instead of using clothes to emphasize the soul, they use them to further hide and conceal it. There is nothing more shameful than this.

The sin of Adam and Eve led to an additional change as well. Man was expelled from the Garden of Eden into this harsh world. The ability of the body to take care of itself was diminished. Thus clothing became necessary to protect the body from the cold during the winter and from the sun’s rays during the summer. In the wake of the sin the body was doubly damaged: It could no longer serve as the complete instrument of the soul without clothing, and it could not even protect itself from the elements.

Since clothing is a unique means of correction for man’s sin, clothes are not found in nature; rather, man must work and perform many activities in order to make them for himself. There are 13 melakhot involved in making cloth garments, and seven more in making leather garments.

As we have seen, the 39 melakhot are the same melakhot that were performed in building the Mishkan. The sources of the melakhot connected with clothing are the melakhot that were involved in making curtains for the Mishkan, which were meant both to honor and conceal the divine glory.

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).

03. Libun and Kibus

The melakha of Libun is cleaning wool or linen and whitening it before making it into clothes. Kibus, which refers to washing clothes, is a tolada of this melakha (MT 9:10-11).

There are three stages of Kibus: soaking, scrubbing, and wringing. Since in each stage some of the dirt in the clothing is removed, each stage is prohibited by Torah law. We will now describe these stages in detail.

First, Kibus is done by soaking an item of clothing in water. Soaking causes stains on the clothing to become lighter, and some of the dirt absorbed in the clothing is removed and transferred to the water. Therefore, it is prohibited by Torah law to soak dirty clothes in water. For example, one may not leave dirty baby clothes in water, even though he intends to do the primary washing after Shabbat, since the soaking begins the cleaning process.

The second stage is scrubbing the clothing while it is still wet. This is the main phase of Kibus, because through the scrubbing, the dirt that is stuck to the clothing is removed, disappearing into the water.

The third stage is wringing out the clothing and removing the water it absorbed. When the water is wrung out of clothing, the filth that was transferred to the water is removed as well. Since a little bit of dirt comes out with each wringing, it is prohibited by Torah law. Even if clothing got wet in the rain, one may not dry it by wringing it out, since this will definitely clean it somewhat as well. To ensure that one will not end up wringing anything out, the Sages forbade picking up clothing that is soaking wet. Despite this, one may continue wearing clothes that got wet in the rain. This permission even extends to a case where one had taken off the wet clothes; if he has nothing else to wear, he may put them back on. However, one may not move them around for no reason (SA 301:45-46).

Sometimes there is a fourth stage – drying the clothes with heat. After wringing out the wet clothes, they are often placed on or near a heat source to dry. This evaporates the remaining moisture together with any remaining dirt, leaving the clothing clean and bright. This used to be part of the way that raw wool was processed. After it was sheared and washed, it was whitened in an oven. This action is called Libun and is prohibited by Torah law. Therefore, one may not place a wet coat or a wet towel next to a heater if the temperature will reach yad soledet bo (SA 301:46; see above 10:4).

It is important to realize that it is not just laundering an entire garment that is forbidden. Even removing a single stain is prohibited by Torah law. This prohibition applies whether the stain is removed with water, spit, or any other cleaning agent, including kerosene or benzene. Similarly, if a greasy substance fell onto a garment on Shabbat, one may not spread talcum powder on it to prevent staining (SSK 15:27).

The Sages also prohibited things that might cause others to think that one violated a Torah prohibition and washed clothing on Shabbat. Therefore, clothes that got wet on Shabbat may not be hung on a clothesline or the like. Rather, they should be hung somewhere that people do not generally hang clothing after it is laundered, such as over a chair or on a hanger. Nevertheless, clothes that were hung to dry before Shabbat may be left on the line over Shabbat (SA 301:45).[1]

[1]. If a “dry clean-only” suit gets wet, it may be hung out on a clothesline, since no one will think that it was washed on Shabbat. Similarly, a hand towel that gets wet from normal use may be hung in its normal place. One may also hang out a plastic tablecloth, since it may be rinsed with water on Shabbat, as explained below in section 5. The general rule is that one may perform any action that will not lead people to suspect that he washed clothing on Shabbat. See SSK 15:13; Yalkut Yosef 302:79-82; Menuĥat Ahava 2:12:23.

04. Soaking Clothes in Liquid

As we saw above, the first stage in washing clothes is soaking them in water, since this soaking gets rid of some of the dirt. Even wetting a small part of an item of clothing is forbidden, because wetting cloth with water or another cleansing liquid is considered Kibus.

The Rishonim disagree whether the prohibition of soaking clothes in water applies even to clothing that is not dirty. According to many Rishonim, it is only forbidden to wet clothing if it is dirty; but if the clothing is clean, one may wet it. Others maintain that one may never wet clothing, because any wetting accomplishes some minimal cleaning. In practice, since this is a disagreement pertaining to a Torah law, many Aĥaronim follow the stringent position, maintaining that even clean clothing may not be wetted.[2]

However, one may wet clothing or any cloth item if this will make it dirty rather than clean. For example, one may use a towel to dry one’s hands, because the water from one’s hands does not clean the towel. On the contrary, it dirties it slightly. Some make a point of first air-drying their hands slightly and only afterward using the towel, so that the towel will absorb less water. In any case, the halakha is that one may wet a cloth in a way that dirties the cloth. This is true even if the towel is already dirty, as long as one’s intention is to dry his hands, not to remove stains (SA and Rema 320:10; BHL s.v. “de-lo”).

[2]. Zevaĥim 94b states: “‘Soaking an item of clothing constitutes washing it.’ Rava is being consistent, as he also states: ‘One who threw a scarf into water is liable.’” According to Sefer Ha-Teruma, Or Zaru’a, Rosh, Smag, and Smak, the prohibition applies only if the item of clothing is dirty. This would seem to be Rambam’s position as well. Rosh writes that even if the item of clothing is blackened because of hard usage, as long as there is no stain, one may soak it. However, if one soaks it for the purpose of cleaning it, then even those who would otherwise permit this concede that it is forbidden (MB 302:46). According to Rashbam, Yere’im, and Tur, it is always prohibited by Torah law to wet an item of clothing (this is implied by SA 302:9 as well). Many Aĥaronim rule stringently, since this is a doubt about a Torah law, as we see in BHL 302:9 s.v. “she-yesh” and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 302:74. In my humble opinion, if the item of clothing is fresh from the wash and completely clean, even those who are stringent would concede that the prohibition is only rabbinic. Thus one may wash such clothing if truly necessary, in accordance with the opinion of most Rishonim (see BHL 302:10 s.v. “de-lo”).

05. Cleaning Off the Table and Washing Dishes

If a little water spills on the table, one may use a towel to clean it, as wetting the towel in this case dirties it rather than cleans it. Similarly, if a little wine or juice spilled on the table, one may wipe it up with a towel or cloth. Although the cloth will absorb some of the color of the wine or juice, and one may not dye on Shabbat, this is permitted because one’s intent is to clean the table, not dye the cloth. Also, the dyeing is ineffective; it merely dirties the cloth.[3]

If a lot of water spills on the table or floor, it is rabbinically prohibited to soak it all up with a towel. This is due to the concern that once the towel absorbs a large quantity of water, one will wring it out, thus transgressing a Torah prohibition.[4] There are a few solutions to this problem:

1) Multiple towels may be used, so that each one absorbs only a little water. Thus, there is no concern about wringing them out.

2) A cloth that is not generally wrung out may be used, even if it absorbs a large quantity of water (MB 301:172). Thus, one may use a napkin or paper towel, since they are not wrung out but thrown away immediately.

3) If it is not possible to utilize either of the first two solutions, two people may work together to mop up the liquid. First, they should place a towel on the water; then they can pick it up and put it in a bucket or elsewhere. The rabbinic prohibition to pick up clothes saturated with water was limited to one person; two people may do so because if one of them forgets and starts to wring the clothing, his friend will remind him that it is Shabbat (SSK ch. 15 n. 55). (This does not follow the stringent opinion requiring ten people, as explained in Harĥavot. See below 15:9 regarding permissible ways to clean the floor.)

One may not use an ordinary sponge or scouring pad to wash dishes because it absorbs water and is then wrung out in the course of washing the dishes and afterward. However, one may use a plastic sponge if the fibers are not tightly packed and are not absorbent, and they cannot be wrung out. We will discuss the use of wipes below (14:6).

If a dishrag falls into the sink, one may turn on the water even though the rag will get wet, because this is not considered cleaning or washing. If there is a wet rag in the sink, some allow picking it up and removing it. Since people are not insistent on using only dry rags, there is no concern that one might wring it out (Orĥot Shabbat 13:48). On the other hand, in practice, people are accustomed to wring it out. Therefore if one wishes to remove the rag from the sink, it is proper to use a fork or knife to do so. This shinui will serve as a reminder to him that it is Shabbat, ensuring that he will not wring out the rag.

[3]. MB 302:55 states, based on Yere’im and SA 320:20, that if a colored drink spilled on a tablecloth and one wishes to clean it up, he should not drag the colored liquid over the tablecloth, because doing so will color additional parts of it. However, MB 302:59 adds that some are lenient because this coloring dirties the tablecloth. This is the opinion of Radbaz 4:131, Ĥakham Tzvi, Eliya Rabba, and others. On the other hand, Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Tetzaveh 6 is stringent. Nevertheless, in a time of need one may be lenient, since even according to those who are stringent this is a case of psik reisha de-lo niĥa lei as well as a double rabbinic prohibition (the coloring is done through a destructive action as well as a shinui). When such a combination of factors exists, we are lenient in cases of necessity. Livyat Ĥen §92 states something along these lines.[4]. We saw in section 3 that wringing is a stage of washing and is prohibited by Torah law. According to most poskim, the prohibition applies only to wringing out water, as is implied by SA 320:18. However, Ramban maintains that wringing out wine is prohibited as well, because wine can have a cleaning effect. Taz 320:12 maintains that there is no prohibition on wringing out red wine, in contrast to white wine. It is important to note that our discussion has only dealt with how wringing pertains to the prohibition of laundering. However, there is another possible issue here – the Torah prohibition of Dash, which applies to squeezing grapes and olives. Thus, if one squeezes liquid out of a towel, he may be transgressing the melakha of Dash. If one wants the squeezed-out liquid, Rishonim disagree whether this is prohibited rabbinically or by Torah law. In contrast, if one does not want the liquid, all agree that the prohibition is only rabbinic (as explained in 11:17 and in Harĥavot). If so, in our case, when one does not want the liquid he is wringing out of the towel, the prohibition would only be rabbinic. Furthermore, one may pick up the saturated towel, as we do not build fences around rabbinic prohibitions.

06. Removing Mud from Leather Clothing and Shoes

Leather clothes are different from normal clothes. Normal clothes made from threads of wool or linen and the like may not be soaked, because this cleans them. However, a leather item may be soaked in water. Only true washing, meaning vigorous scrubbing, is prohibited by the Torah for leather. The reason for this distinction is that unlike cloth garments, which absorb the water that permeates the threads and removes the dirt and stains, leather does not absorb water readily; since water does not permeate it, the water cannot remove the dirt absorbed in the leather. Although soaking leather in water might remove the dirt that is stuck on its surface, the dirt that is absorbed within it will not be removed. The only way to remove absorbed dirt from leather is by washing it – scrubbing it vigorously by rubbing the two sides together or by using a brush or the like. This constitutes the Torah prohibition of Kibus.

Accordingly, if something disgusting fell on a leather item, it may be rinsed off, because rinsing leather removes only what is on the surface. However, one may not rub the dirty spot, because that will remove the absorbed dirt.[5]

It is rabbinically forbidden to wring out a wet leather item. Wringing out cloth garments is forbidden by Torah law because the water is easily wrung out of them; since the wringing removes the dirt together with the water, this is considered a method of cleaning them. But leather garments are not normally wrung out during washing; it is difficult to do, and it is not a particularly good way to clean them. Therefore, wringing them out is only rabbinically prohibited (BHL 302:9, s.v. “asur”).

If leather shoes get dusty, one may remove the dust with one’s hand or a rag, because the dust is not absorbed into them, but merely sits on the surface. However, one may not polish them with a brush or rag in order to shine them (on account of Memaĥek, below 18:6; see AHS 327:4; SSK 15:40).

If clay or mud is stuck on a shoe or piece of clothing, removing it and crumbling it is transgressing a rabbinic prohibition pertaining to Toĥen. But if it is uncertain whether its removal will cause it to crumble to dust, it may be removed. When necessary, even if it is clear that it will crumble to dust, one may remove it with a shinui. For example, mud on a shoe can be removed by rubbing the shoes together, and clay on clothing can be removed by hitting it with the back of one’s hand (above 12:1 and n. 1).

[5]. Generally, a leather garment is soft, and the consensus is that scrubbing it vigorously on Shabbat is prohibited by Torah law. Gently scrubbing it while it is submerged in water is forbidden as well (MB 302:41; BHL s.v. “aval”; it is unclear whether this is prohibited rabbinically or by Torah law). Some maintain that very gentle scrubbing is permitted (as explained by Tzitz Eliezer 5:10). In the case of hard leather, BHL ad loc. provides a summary of the different positions. According to Rashi and Ran, there is no prohibition of Kibus at all, as hard leather is like wood. According to Rif, Rambam, and Rosh, vigorous scrubbing is rabbinically prohibited. According to She’iltot, vigorous scrubbing is prohibited by Torah law. In practice one should be stringent, as most poskim maintain that this activity is prohibited, whether rabbinically or by Torah law.

07. Nylon, Plastic, and Polyester Tablecloths and Clothing

The prohibition of Kibus applies to clothes and pieces of cloth that absorb dirt. However, wooden furniture and plastic items, which do not absorb dirt, may be cleaned with water to remove dirt that is stuck to them. Based on this, it would seem at first glance that one may clean plastic or nylon tablecloths. Since they are made from one piece of nonabsorbent material, they do not absorb dirt; thus Kibus would not be relevant to them. Indeed, R. Ben-Zion Abba Shaul rules this way in practice (Or Le-Tziyon 2:24:6). However, most poskim maintain that since these tablecloths function the same way as when they are made of cloth, one should be stringent and avoid vigorously scrubbing them as one does when washing clothing. However, since they do not absorb water, one may rinse them and even gently rub them (Igrot Moshe, YD 2:76; Tzitz Eliezer 5:10; Yalkut Yosef 302:22).

Another question arises regarding clothing, a tablecloth, or pantyhose made from synthetic material such as polyester. Everyone agrees that they may not be scrubbed or wrung out, because this would involve cleaning them in the way one normally washes clothing. The question is whether one may rinse them off or soak them in water. Some maintain that since the synthetic material itself does not absorb dirt or water, one may rinse clothing made of such material and even soak it. Soaking would only be forbidden if the clothing was made of natural fibers as well (SSK 15:7-8). Others maintain that even clothing that is fully synthetic may not be soaked; since dirt is absorbed between the threads, when the clothing is soaked or rinsed part of the dirt dissolves and disappears (Or Le-Tziyon 2:24:6). It would seem in practice that one may not soak clothing made from synthetics.

One may clean contact lenses, both hard and soft. The law is more lenient in the case of contact lenses, compared to nylon tablecloths, which may only be lightly scrubbed, because not only are they non-absorbent, they are also not considered clothing, and therefore scrubbing them does not resemble Kibus (see Harĥavot). Similarly, one may clean a pacifier or the nipple of a baby bottle, or scrub it to remove stuck-on dirt. Since they are made out of rubber, Kibus does not apply; and since they do not look like clothing, scrubbing them does not resemble Kibus.

08. Removing Stains and Dust

As we saw above (section 3), Kibus is generally accomplished using water or other cleaning agents. However, even when one does not use water, one may not remove stains from clothing via scrubbing the way one does when washing. One may, however, remove a stain using a shinui. There are two types of stains: mild stains and serious stains. Mild stains may be removed using a minor shinui. When necessary, serious stains may be removed using a major shinui. Let us explain.

A mild stain is one that would not prevent the clothing’s owner from wearing it in public. The Sages forbid removing such a stain by scrubbing it in the way one normally would when hand-washing it. However, one may remove this kind of stain by scrubbing it in an unusual way. Therefore, one may try to remove the stain by scratching it with a nail or a knife. After taking a brief break of a few seconds’ duration, he may scrape at it again. This is because as long as he stops between attempts, this does not resemble scrubbing clothing to wash it. Similarly, one may remove the stain with one rub of a dry rag or handkerchief. If necessary, after pausing for a few seconds one may rub the stain with the rag a second time. As long as the scrubbing is not constant, it is not considered the normal way to wash clothing.

If the stain is so severe that one would not wear the stained clothing publicly, the stain may not be removed by scraping it or rubbing it with a rag, because that is exactly how one would remove such a stain during the week. There are even Rishonim who maintain that doing so is prohibited by Torah law. If, however, a major shinui is used, the poskim disagree whether there is still a rabbinic prohibition to remove the stain. If necessary, we rely on the opinion of those who are lenient. Therefore, at a time of need, such a stain may be removed with a major shinui. For example, one could rub the stained clothing that he is wearing against a door, closet, or bed. Alternatively, if he is wearing the stained clothing, he may rub or scrape away the stain by taking the sleeve with the stain and using the other unstained sleeve to rub or scrape it off in a way that does not resemble normal scrubbing. If the stain is thick, most of it may be removed by scraping it with a nail or a knife, or by rubbing it with a rag, as long as the entire stain is not removed this way. The rest must be removed with a major shinui.

One whose clothing gets dusty may not remove the dust in the normal fashion by shaking out the clothing, hitting it, or rubbing it. However, one may flick the clothing with one’s finger, as this is a major shinui. When a couch is dusty, however, one may beat it to remove the dust. Since a couch is not considered clothing in which one is embarrassed to be seen, beating the dust out is not considered Kibus. However, one may not scrub the couch in the way one normally cleans it.

If something unwanted is resting on a garment but not attached to it in any way, it may be removed. Therefore, one may remove a feather, cotton, a thread, or the like from clothing (Rema 302:1; SSK 15:33).[6]

[6]. There are two pertinent halakhic discussions that inform this ruling. The first is found in Shabbat 141a: “R. Kahana said: ‘As for the clay on one’s clothing, one may rub it off from the inside but not from the outside.’” The prohibition is rabbinic because rubbing and scrubbing resemble washing. Shabbat 140a adds that one may not scrub a scarf in order to make it brighter. This is also the ruling of SA 302:5, 7. Aĥaronim disagree regarding a stain that needs to be scraped multiple times with a knife or a nail in order to remove all of it. Taz 302:6 maintains that scraping is not similar to Kibus and is permitted, while MB 302:36 and BHL 302:7 s.v. “de-havei” maintain that it is prohibited. This is the standard ruling. But if one pauses between each scrape, it is permitted, as this does not resemble Kibus.The second halakhic discussion involves a disagreement whether one may shake dust from a new black cloak, if the owner would not wear it outside in such a state. According to Tosafot, Rabbeinu Tam, Rosh, Magid Mishneh in the name of Rashba, Ran, Mordechai, and Raavad, one may shake the dust from the cloak, as there is no Torah prohibition of Kibus without a cleaning agent – water or a different substance. According to Behag, Rabbeinu Ĥananel, Rashi, Or Zaru’a, Yere’im, Sefer Ha-Teruma, and Shibolei Ha-leket, it is prohibited by Torah law. Since the dust disturbs the owner so much that he will not go outside wearing the clothing until it is cleaned, cleaning it is considered an act of Kibus. Since the normal way to remove dust from clothing is to shake it out, this is prohibited by Torah law. The same law applies to a stain that is so severe that one would not wear the garment outside. Removing the stain in the normal fashion would be prohibited by Torah law, according to the stringent position (see SHT 302:41 and BHL 302:1 s.v. “alei”). Indeed, the Gemara (Shabbat 147a) limits the prohibition on shaking to a new black item of clothing about which the owner is particular, and many rule this way in practice, including SAH 302:1 and Ketzot Ha-shulĥan §116, Badei Ha-shulĥan §3. However, BHL loc. cit. clarifies that everybody is assumed to be particular about a new black item of clothing; however, if the owner is particular about a different type of clothing, then even if it is not new and black, according to the stringent view it is forbidden by Torah law to clean such clothing. In practice, the position of SA 302:1 follows most Rishonim, who are lenient. This is the position of Yalkut Yosef 302:10 as well, except that in its opinion it is preferable to remove the dust with a shinui. Rema 302:1 writes that it is preferable to be stringent. According to Eliya Rabba, the halakha demands being stringent since many Rishonim are stringent, and furthermore it is a case of a doubt about a Torah law. This is also the opinion of MB 302:6; Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Vayeĥi 8; and SSK 15:26-30. However, Or Le-Tziyon 2:24:1 states that while it would be proper to defer to those who are stringent, since human dignity (kevod ha-briyot) is at stake here one can be lenient and remove dust or a stain using a shinui, which downgrades the disagreement to the level of a rabbinic prohibition. Accordingly, one may remove the dust from clothing using a shinui, such as flicking with one’s finger.

Let us return to the case of a stain that the owner is particular about. During the week, one would remove it by scraping. Therefore, according to the stringent position, this is prohibited by Torah law. Since this is a case of uncertainty about a matter of Torah law, we are stringent (see BHL loc. cit. citing Behag; SSK 15:27). However, if one uses a major shinui, such as rubbing the stained clothing that he is wearing against the door, then even those who are stringent would agree that the prohibition is now only rabbinic. According to those who are lenient, since this act of rubbing is not a normal act of Kibus, it is permitted. One may rely upon this ruling since it is the majority opinion, the disagreement concerns a rabbinic law, and it pertains to kevod ha-briyot. If one removes only part of the stain by scraping or wiping it once, which is not the normal way of cleaning a stain, he may afterward remove the rest of the stain using a major shinui.

09. Folding a Talit on Shabbat, and Additional Laws

The Sages forbade folding an item of clothing on Shabbat because folding helps it maintain its shape, ensures that it sits right on the body, and prevents wrinkling. Therefore, when one folds clothes it looks like one is fixing a kli (see below ch. 15). Only if one has a new white garment that he can fold by himself, and he plans to wear it on Shabbat because he has no other appropriate clothing, he may fold it on Shabbat (Shabbat 113a). Based on this, some prohibit folding a talit after prayer services; since it will not be worn again that Shabbat, folding it constitutes preparing on Shabbat for the weekday. Additionally, if the talit is not new, one may not fold it because this act of folding is more significant than folding a new item (Ĥayei Adam 44:24). Some who are meticulous follow this position.

In contrast, according to a minority position in the Rishonim (Orĥot Ĥayim), the type of folding that the Sages prohibited no longer exists. In the past, a clothes press operated by two people would be used to make the folds in clothing permanent. This is why the Sages only permitted folding a new white talit when the act is done by only one person. However, the type of folding we do nowadays is not so significant, and it does not look like “fixing” anything. Therefore, one may fold a talit along its original creases after services. Moreover, this is not considered preparing on Shabbat for the weekday. Just as a couch may be arranged on Shabbat even if no one is planning to sit on it, because its disarray detracts from the honor of Shabbat, so too a talit may be folded in order to honor Shabbat. Furthermore, doing so honors the talit as well; as an item used to fulfill a mitzva, it should not be left in an unfolded mess. Some prominent Aĥaronim follow this position and maintain that a talit may be folded normally on Shabbat. (See Kaf Ha-ĥayim 302:32 in the name of Yafeh La-lev; AHS 302:12; Or Le-Tziyon 2:24:3.)

The middle position, which most poskim follow, is that a talit may be folded on Shabbat as long as it is not folded along the lines of the original creases. The prohibition of folding clothes on Shabbat applies only when they are folded according to set folds; as long as the folding does not follow the ironed-in folds exactly, it is not similar to the melakha of Metaken Maneh and is not prohibited. This is the halakha (SA 302:3; MB 302:18; Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Vayeĥi 13; SSK 15:49; Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:40). It should be noted that in practice, today’s talitot are ironed in a way that makes them difficult to fold exactly as they were at the start. Therefore, one may fold his talit in the regular fashion after prayer services, since he is not folding on its ironed-in folds.

A hat that got misshapen may be reshaped or straightened out on Shabbat. This is because it is a very simple thing to do, and is not considered fixing a kli (SSK 15:50).

The poskim disagree whether one may fold paper into forms such as boats or airplanes, or to fold napkins into special shapes. One who is lenient has grounds for his leniency, and one who is stringent should be commended (as explained below in 15:7).

10. Tofer

The melakha of Tofer (sewing) refers to binding together curtains or material in a manner similar to the way the curtains were sewn for the Mishkan. The difference between Tofer and Boneh is that the former refers to joining soft objects together, while the latter refers to joining hard objects together.

One who sews two stitches in a way that the stitches will last transgresses the Torah prohibition of Tofer. If the stitches will only last temporarily, he transgresses a rabbinic prohibition (Shabbat 74b; MB 340:27).

Similarly, one may not tighten a thread that is starting to unravel. If this tightening will last, it is prohibited by Torah law; if it is temporary, the prohibition is rabbinic (Shabbat 75a; SA 340:6). Similarly, if a button comes loose, one may not pull its thread to tighten it (SSK 15:71).

One may join two parts of a garment together using buttons and buttonholes, zippers,[7] snaps, or Velcro. One may do so even if he intends to leave them closed for an extended period of time. These connections are made to open and shut, so the prohibitions of sewing and tearing do not apply to opening and shutting them, just as the prohibitions of building and destroying are not relevant to opening and shutting windows or doors (see below 15:3).

One may pull on a drawstring to tighten a hood or jacket, because this is not sewing but normal use of the clothing. Additionally, using the drawstring is different from sewing since it is generally threaded very loosely through its casing. One may also pull closed a drawstring that is threaded through loops at the waist (see SA 340:7).

One may connect two parts of an item of clothing with a safety pin, since this does not resemble sewing. Some are stringent about this, but the halakha follows the lenient position. One who is stringent and refrains from using a safety pin that he plans to leave in for an extended period of time should be commended. In contrast, a brooch may be attached to clothing, even for an extended period, because it does not connect two pieces of cloth.

Just as sewing is prohibited by Torah law, so is attaching one thing to another, which is a tolada of Tofer. Therefore, one may not attach papers or pieces of cloth to one another. If the attachment is long lasting, it is prohibited by Torah law, while if it is temporary the prohibition is rabbinic (see SHT 303:68).

Similarly, it is forbidden by Torah law to staple papers together. Since the staple connects the papers with two holes, this is like sewing two stitches. But one may hold papers together with a paper clip, since this is an external connector and does not really join them together at all.

[7]. One may not fix a broken zipper, because this would constitute fixing a kli. If it is not completely broken, and can be fixed by simply moving it up and down, this is permitted (SSK 15:78).

11. Kore’a

Fixing an item of clothing sometimes requires that it be torn in order to be re-sewn. This tearing constitutes the melakha of Kore’a. Tearing in order to sew is a violation of a Torah prohibition. In the Mishkan, worms would sometimes chew holes in the curtains. Mending the hole as is would leave the curtain rumpled. Therefore, the curtain needed to be torn apart and re-sewn.

Purposeful, constructive (“le-to’elet”) tearing is prohibited by Torah law. One example of this is taking down a hem in order to lengthen an item of clothing. Non-purposeful, destructive tearing is prohibited rabbinically.

Tearing plastic bags or plastic tablecloths from a roll in order to use them is prohibited by Torah law. Similarly, tearing toilet paper in order to use it is prohibited by Torah law. Some maintain that tearing along the perforations is also a transgression of the melakha of Meĥatekh. Tearing toilet paper with a shinui is a rabbinic transgression. At a time of need, such as in order to avoid serious embarrassment, the Sages permit violating their ordinances. Therefore, one who finds himself in a situation where he cannot wipe himself without tearing toilet paper may tear it in order to preserve his dignity. He should do so with a shinui, such as using his elbows to pull the paper from the roll. He should be careful not to tear along the perforations (SA 312:1; MB ad loc. 12; SSK 23:19; Orĥot Shabbat 11:40).

If a book has some uncut pages, it is forbidden by Torah law to cut them on Shabbat. If the pages were cut properly, but they became stuck together by a stray bit of glue, they may be separated; this is because they were stuck together accidentally, with no intent of permanent attachment (MA 340:18; MB ad loc. 45). One may not pull apart tissues that were not cut properly and thus are still partially joined together at some points.

Just as attaching papers or pieces of cloth is a tolada of Tofer, separating these attached items is a tolada of Kore’a. Therefore, one may not separate pages that were stapled together. Similarly, one may not tear out a page from a writing pad.

One may tear open a bag containing food, just as one may peel an orange in order to eat it. This is because the tearing or peeling is not for the sake of the bag or the peel, but in order to eat what is inside. Similarly, one may open the top of a bag of sugar that is glued shut. Some are stringent and do not allow this, but the lenient position is the primary one (below 15:12).

If one did not manage to remove the manufacturer’s tags from a new item of clothing before Shabbat, he may cut the plastic thread connecting it to the garment on Shabbat; the tags are only loosely attached to the clothing and thus are not considered sewn to it.[8]

[8]. According to BHL 314:8 s.v. “ĥotalot,” there is no prohibition here of tearing a thread, since it is only tearing in order to sew that is prohibited by Torah law. While the Sages prohibited even tearing that is not for the purpose of sewing, they did not prohibit tearing a thread that is impossible to sew. Nevertheless, one may not tear a thread that is attached to the edge of a garment, because doing so is considered applying the finishing touch on the clothing, a violation of Makeh Be-fatish. This follows the stringency found in Menuĥat Ahava 3:16:8, in contrast to the leniency found in Orĥot Shabbat ch. 11 n. 26.If a dry cleaner stapled a tag to a garment in such a way that the tag is not visible, then it should not be removed. If it is visible, and people normally would not go out with it visible, at a time of necessity one may rely on those who maintain that this is an impermanent type of sewing, and remove it. (See Rema 317:3; MB ad loc. 21; Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:24.)

Opening a letter: The poskim disagree whether one may open a sealed letter on Shabbat when there is a chance that its contents are relevant to Shabbat. According to Pri Ĥadash, Ĥayei Adam, and MB 340:41, this is forbidden because of Kore’a. However, according to Maharil, Taz, and MA, this is permitted because its seal was meant to be temporary. In a time of need, one may open such a letter as long as he makes a point of ripping it open and thus destroying the envelope (Ĥazon Ish and Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:24).

12. Diapers, Adhesive Bandages, and Sticky Notes

Diapers may be used on Shabbat just as they are used during the week. At first glance, one might think otherwise. Using a disposable diaper involves fastening tapes and then separating them. We saw earlier that one may not attach papers together on account of Tofer, and one may not separate them on account of Kore’a. However, since diapers are typically fastened using Velcro tapes that can be opened and closed multiple times, fastening them is comparable to buttoning and unbuttoning buttons, which is permitted. (One also does not need to worry about separating the Velcro when preparing the diaper for use, as explained in the note below.)

Even diapers that use adhesive tape (rather than Velcro) may be used. Since this tape is made for temporary use, many poskim maintain that just as there is no prohibition of Tofer when sewing something that will be used only for a short period of time, so too one may fasten a diaper. It is also possible that even those who prohibit sewing or attaching items for a short period of time would be lenient in the case of diapers, because the tape in a diaper is meant to be reusable, so that the diaper can be adjusted as needed. Therefore, fastening them should not be considered sewing, and detaching them should not be considered tearing. Rather, fastening them is comparable to joining items together using buttons or Velcro. However, one should be careful in one regard. During the week, when dirty diapers are thrown away, they are usually taped up using the tabs, in order to confine the contents. Since this taping is likely to last a long time, it is proper to refrain from doing so on Shabbat.[9]

Adhesive bandages (“Band-Aids”) may be used when needed, because sticking something onto the body is not considered sewing. If necessary, an adhesive bandage can also be used to hold a cloth bandage in place, because this is meant to last only a short time. (The laws pertaining to adhesive bandages and cloth bandages are explained below in 28:9.)

One may use sticky notes to mark one’s place in a book. Since they are repositionable and designed to be used dozens of times, using them is comparable to fastening and unfastening buttons or Velcro, where Tofer and Kore’a are not concerns.

[9]. When the diaper is closed using Velcro there is no problem at all, because Velcro is comparable to buttons. However, there are still diapers that are fastened with adhesive tapes, as was once standard. The law regarding diapers with these tapes hinges on a disagreement among Rishonim whether sewing and tearing is comparable to tying and untying. There is a principle in the laws of Kosheir that one may tie a knot if the knot will remain for a short time only, and one may untie such a knot as well. Some maintain that this permission pertains only to a knot that is designed to last under 24 hours, while others extend it to a knot that will last under a week (Rema 317:1). In a time of need, we follow this lenient position (BHL 317:4 s.v. “she-einam”). If it is a knot that will last until the item’s owner or buyer comes to retrieve it, Levush 317:3 explains that even if it ends up staying tied for more than a week, the knot is considered impermanent. Thus one may tie and untie it. This is the accepted ruling (see below, n. 10).According to Rabbeinu Yoel, Raavya, Rashbam, and others, this rule applies to sewing and tearing as well, and there is no prohibition of sewing when it will only last a short period of time. However, according to Rabbeinu Peretz and Mordechai, such sewing is rabbinically forbidden. R. Yosef Karo is stringent in SA 340:7, though it would seem that he is lenient in Beit Yosef 317:3. Tehila Le-David 340:6 resolves the discrepancy by explaining that R. Karo is stringent regarding Tofer but lenient regarding Kore’a; he also believes that this is the position of Rema. Others maintain that Rema is lenient regarding Tofer as well as Kore’a (SSK). Accordingly, following those who are lenient, one may fasten the tapes of a diaper and undo them, because this attaching is done for the short term, while for those who are stringent this is prohibited. Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:24 states, based on a number of Aĥaronim, that the halakha follows those who are lenient, and therefore one may use diapers with adhesive tapes. Another strong rationale for being lenient is that since the tapes are made so that they can be opened and closed multiple times, fastening them is not considered sewing. Rather, they are similar to buttons or Velcro, which may be used to connect and disconnect parts of an item of clothing (Orĥot Shabbat 11:36).

As far as opening the tapes initially so that one can then fasten the diaper, based on Levush and those who rule like him (as explained in n. 10), one may open them even though more than a week has gone by since they were taped shut in the factory. Additionally, the taping done in the factory is not considered attaching because the intention is not to connect two items, but rather to prevent the adhesive from drying out (SSK 35 n. 67; some are stringent and make sure to open the tapes before Shabbat).

After removing a dirty diaper, it is proper to avoid sealing it with the tapes, because this seal is intended to be permanent. Even so, I only wrote “it is proper” in the main text, because if we consider the tapes comparable to a button, there is no prohibition involved. Additionally, according to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (cited in SSK 35 n. 67), since one only cares that it stays closed while it is in his garbage pail, this is considered a short-term seal.

13. Kosheir and Matir

The melakha of Kosheir refers to binding things together by tying them, while Matir refers to separating things by undoing this connection. Unlike Tofer, which refers to joining together soft things and uniting them, and unlike Boneh, which refers to joining together hard things and uniting them, Kosheir refers to connecting things without actually joining and integrating them together as one.

As we have seen (9:2), all the melakhot that are forbidden on Shabbat have their roots in a melakha that was necessary to erect the Mishkan. This is true of Kosheir and Matir as well. It was necessary to tie the threads of the curtains that were cut during the weaving into knots. Additionally, it was necessary to tie knots in order to prepare nets for trapping snails. These snails provided tekhelet for dyeing the threads of the curtains. If a net was missing a strand, it was sometimes necessary to undo the knots from a different net and remove a strand from it (Shabbat 74b). (In y. Shabbat 15:1, Amora’im disagree whether tying the curtains of the Mishkan to the tent pegs was prohibited by Torah law.)

There are four types of knots:

1) A strong and durable knot that is not meant to ever be undone. Tying such a knot is prohibited by Torah law. Examples of this type of knot include the knots of tefilin and the knots of tzitzit. One should be careful to avoid tightening tzitzit knots on Shabbat.

2) A knot that has an element of permanence, like a knot that one plans to leave intact for a week. Tying such a knot is rabbinically prohibited. Similarly, a professional knot tied by a craftsman, even if it is meant to last less than a week, has an element of permanence, and the Sages prohibited tying it on Shabbat.

3) A temporary knot, which is meant to last for less than a week and is not a professional knot. One may tie such a knot on Shabbat.

4) Knots that are so weak that they are not even categorized as knots. Examples include a single knot and a bow knot (the type used to tie shoelaces). One may use such knots to tie things together even for an extended period of time.

The laws of untying knots are parallel to those of tying them. If tying a certain kind of knot is prohibited by Torah law, untying it is prohibited by Torah law as well; if tying it is rabbinically prohibited, so is untying it. If one may tie it, one may untie it as well. A knot that one may untie in principle but that in practice is difficult to undo, may be cut. However, one should not do so in front of an ignorant person, who may come to permit things that are prohibited (MB 317:7).[10]

[10]. The Mishna (Shabbat 111b) and Gemara (112a) describe three types of knots. The first type, which includes a camel driver’s knot and a sailor’s knot, is prohibited by Torah law. The second type of knot is rabbinically prohibited, and the third type is permitted. There are two positions among Rishonim regarding the definitions of these types of knots. The first position, advanced by Rashi, Rosh, Sefer Ha-Teruma, Smag, Smak, Roke’aĥ, Or Zaru’a, and others, maintains that a permanent knot is prohibited by Torah law. If it is meant to last for an intermediate amount of time, it is rabbinically prohibited; and if it is meant to last for a short period of time it is permitted. An intermediate amount of time, according to Mordechai and Tur, refers to a week or less. Kol Bo and Hagahot Maimoniyot insist that an intermediate amount of time is 24 hours, while less than that is a short period of time. A permanent knot, according to most poskim (including Shibolei Ha-leket, Yere’im, Rivash, Taz, SAH, and MB) is one that is intended to last forever. Virtually all poskim agree with this. (Rabbeinu Yeruĥam maintains that half a year is enough to be considered permanent, while Rabbeinu Peretz says that even eight days counts as permanent; see Menuĥat Ahava 3:14:4.)The second position, advanced by Rabbeinu Ĥananel, Rif, Rambam, Rivash, and SA 317:1, maintains that if a knot requires a craftsman to tie it and is permanent, it is prohibited by Torah law. If it is a craftsman’s knot but it is not permanent, or if it is permanent but can be done by a layman, it is rabbinically prohibited. If it is a layman’s knot and is impermanent, then even if one plans to leave it for an extended period of time it is permitted. This is how the second position is understood according to most Aĥaronim (Pri Megadim; Maĥatzit Ha-shekel; BHL s.v. “she-eino”). However, according to Shiltei Giborim and Tehila Le-David 317:1, if the knot is meant for an intermediate amount of time, even though it is not a craftsman’s knot, Rif and Rambam would agree that it is rabbinically forbidden.

The bottom line is that, since these are both important positions, it is proper to follow both of them even in a case of doubt about a rabbinic law. Therefore, I included both positions in the main text. However, if necessary, as long as the doubt is about a rabbinic law, one may be lenient. When there is an additional reason to be lenient, then one may be lenient even if it is not a time of need, and only those who are particularly meticulous would still be stringent.

There are two cases that are points of contention separating the two positions:

  1. a) A craftsman’s knot that is made to last only a short period of time (either less than 24 hours or less than a week). According to Rif and Rambam, this is prohibited rabbinically; while according to Rashi and Rosh, it is permitted. However, since we try to follow both positions, we are stringent in this case.
  2. b) A layman’s knot that will last for an intermediate amount of time. According to Rashi and Rosh, this is rabbinically prohibited; while according to Rif and Rambam (following the way that most understand them), it is permitted. Since in any case some maintain that up to a week is considered short term according to Rashi and Rosh, a layman’s knot meant to last less than a week can be permitted. However, if it is meant to last a week or longer it should not be permitted, as this is the opinion of most poskim. After all, according to Rashi and Rosh it is certainly forbidden, and some maintain that even according to Rif and Rambam it is forbidden (Shiltei Giborim; Tehila Le-David).

Based on the understanding of Levush 317:3, there is another leniency for knots. If a craftsman tied a layman’s knot intending for it to be temporary, but it was left for an extended period of time, it may be untied. For example, let us say that a shoemaker repairs a pair of shoes and ties them together to keep them paired until the owner comes to retrieve them, but the owner does not come for an extended period of time. Although the knot actually lasts an intermediate amount of time, according to Levush one may untie it. Taz and SAH, though, are stringent. It seems that SA 317:3 and MB ad loc. 21 would agree with Levush. This is because the temporary nature of the knot is absolutely clear. It is only because the owners did not come to reclaim the shoes that it has not yet been untied. It is not even being used to carry around the shoes. Besides, the whole disagreement between Taz and SAH on one hand and Levush on the other is relevant only to the position of Rashi and Rosh. In contrast, Rif and Rambam maintain that when a layman’s knot is made to last an intermediate amount of time, there is no prohibition of tying or untying it. The accepted ruling follows Levush, as SSK ch. 9 n. 60 states.

In practice, although the principles of Kosheir and Matir are well defined, uncertainties have arisen regarding many knots that are common nowadays. These include questions about whether certain knots should be considered craftsmen’s knots or laymen’s knots, and whether certain types of knots are considered knots at all, as explained in the next paragraph in the main text. In each case, the halakha is based on consideration of all opinions and uncertainties.

14. Prohibited Knots

One may not tie a double knot even if he plans to untie the knot on the same day. Since this is a strong knot that can remain intact for an extended period, it may be that it is comparable to the knot of a craftsman (Shiltei Giborim). According to some Rishonim (Rif and Rambam), tying such a knot for the short term is rabbinically forbidden. All this refers to a tight double knot, which one might use to tie his shoes or to close a garbage bag. But a woman may tie a head scarf this way, since the scarf is not pulled tight. Those who are especially meticulous are stringent and do not use a double knot to tie their head scarves.

If it happens that one’s shoes were tied with a double knot and this causes him anguish, he may undo the knot.[11]

One may not tie off the end of a thread even with a single knot, the way one does when sewing or when tying the end of a tzitzit string. Since this knot is strong, it might be considered a craftsman’s knot. According to some poskim, if it is meant to be temporary it is rabbinically prohibited, while if it is meant to be permanent it is prohibited by Torah law (Smag; Rema 317:1). Similarly, one may not use a tight knot to tie a plastic bag with food in it, but one may use a bow knot or tie the bag handles together with one tie.

[11]. According to Rashi and Rosh, any knot tied for a short period of time may be tied and untied. Accordingly, even a double knot that is generally tied for the short term may be untied. However, according to Rif and Rambam, who maintain that it is rabbinically prohibited to tie a craftsman’s knot for a short period of time, there is disagreement regarding a double knot. Shiltei Giborim states that we must take into account the possibility that a craftsman’s knot is defined by its strength; since a double knot is a strong knot, it should be prohibited as well. This is the position of Rema 317:1; Pri Ĥadash; Rav Pe’alim, OĤ 2:44. In contrast, AHS 317:3 and Ĥazon Ish 52:17 maintain that this constitutes a stringency, as a craftsman’s knot requires professionalism, while a double knot does not. Since many poskim who follow Rif and Rambam forbid a double knot, le-khatĥila one should avoid it. However, at a time of need, if one’s shoes were tied with a double knot he may undo them. According to Rashi and Rosh, one may do so because they were tied for only a short time; even according to Rif and Rambam, some are permissive. Furthermore, even according to those who prohibit this, the prohibition is rabbinic, so at a time of need one may rely on those who are lenient. All of this applies to a tight double knot, but untying the knot of a head scarf that is not pulled tight is not prohibited. (This is the approach of SSK ch. 15 n. 175; Menuĥat Ahava 3:14:5; see Orĥot Shabbat ch. 10 n. 16. However, Rav Pe’alim loc. cit. and Kitzur SA 80:45 are stringent.)

15. Bow Knots and Single Knots

A bow knot is not considered a knot because one pull undoes the whole thing. Even if one bow is tied on top of another, it is not considered a knot because both bows can be undone with one yank (SA 317:5; MB ad loc. 29). A single knot is not considered a knot either, since it does not last. Since bow knots and single knots are not considered knots, one may tie them even if one intends to keep them intact for a long time.

Some maintain that a single knot with a bow on top of it (which is how many people tie their shoes) retains the status of a single knot. Accordingly, it is not considered a knot, and may be tied without any worries. Others are stringent and maintain that since the two knots together are stronger than one, it should be considered a regular “layman’s knot.” Accordingly, one may tie it if one intends that it last for less than a week. However, if it is meant to last for a week or more, one may not tie it. It is appropriate to follow this position le-khatĥila. However, one may tie a gartel around a Torah scroll using a single knot with a bow on top of it, even if it is intended to remain that way for many months.

A single knot followed by a bow followed by a single knot, which people use when they wish to tie their shoes more tightly, is considered a regular knot. If it is meant to last less than a week, one may do so; if it is meant for a week or more, one may not do so. Some are meticulous and completely avoid tying such knots on Shabbat.[12]

If one ties and unties his necktie each time he wears it during the week, he may tie it on Shabbat as well. If one ties his necktie and leaves the knot intact for an extended period of time, he may not tie it on Shabbat. In a case of necessity, he may be lenient and tie it on Shabbat, as long as he intends to undo the knot on Saturday night.[13]

[12]. According to Agur, Rema 317:5, Levush, and the Vilna Gaon, a knot with a bow on top is not considered a knot at all, and may be tied even for an extended period of time. According to Mordechai, Taz, and MA, it is considered a layman’s knot, which, according to Rashi and Rosh, should not be tied for an intermediate amount of time. Many take this position into account and write that one may not leave one’s shoes tied for more than one day (MB 317:29; SSK 15:56). But it would seem that this is excessively stringent. In practice, one may tie such a knot with the intent to leave it intact for up to a week, because this is a case of a rabbinic rule with multiple doubts: a) If the halakha follows Rif and Rambam, since this is a layman’s knot that is not meant to be permanent, there is no prohibition according to the majority of poskim; b) according to Rema, it is not considered a knot at all, and may be tied even for an extended period of time; c) according to Mordechai and Tur, up to a week is considered short term. Therefore, even Rashi and Rosh would agree that there is no prohibition on tying this knot (and BHL 317:4 s.v. “she-einam” agrees that at a time of need one can be lenient). Even for those who are stringent, it is only a rabbinic prohibition. Therefore it is sufficient that we are stringent in avoiding tying a knot with a bow on top for more than a week.Regarding a Torah scroll, the custom is to be lenient and tie a knot with a bow on top, even for an intermediate amount of time. While some poskim are stringent even in this case if the knot is meant to last more than a day or a week (Minĥat Shabbat 80:155; SSK 15:56; Brit Olam, Ha-kosheir U-matir §4; Orĥot Shabbat 10:28), nevertheless, the lenient position is correct because this is another case of a rabbinic rule with multiple doubts: a) For those who follow Rif and Rambam here, there is no prohibition at all; b) even according to Rashi and Rosh, there is a disagreement whether there is a prohibition, and Rema maintains that this is not considered a knot at all; c) even according to those who are stringent, the prohibition is rabbinic. Rif, Rambam, and Tur rule that for the sake of a mitzva, the Sages permitted tying a knot that is rabbinically prohibited (SA 317:1; MB ad loc. 13). This is also the position of Tzitz Eliezer 7:29.

Regarding a single knot followed by a bow followed by a single knot, the rule is the same as for a regular knot. Some are inclined to be stringent and consider it the equivalent of a double knot, which one may not tie even for a single day. However, many are lenient even regarding a double knot, and there is even more reason to be lenient here, where one good yank can undo the whole thing. Therefore, it should be considered a regular knot, and it may be tied for less than a week (see SSK 10:14-15 and Harĥavot 13:13:5).

[13]. It is impossible to transgress a Torah prohibition with a necktie, because it certainly is not a craftsman’s knot and it is not meant to last forever. However, it would seem that if a necktie is tied for an intermediate amount of time, one transgresses a rabbinic prohibition according to Rashi and Rosh. Even though one yank can undo it, since it looks like a knot and can last for an extended period of time, it is considered a type of knot. However, be-di’avad it would seem that even one who usually ties his necktie for an intermediate amount of time may be lenient, as long as he plans to untie it on Saturday night. According to Rif and Rambam, since it is not a craftsman’s knot and is not intended to last forever, it is not prohibited at all. Even according to Rashi and Rosh, it may be that since one intends to undo it on Saturday night (as many people always do anyway) this is considered short term and is not forbidden (see SSK 15:62).

16. Miscellaneous Laws

One who twists fibers together to form a rope transgresses the prohibition of Kosheir, and one who pulls apart the strands of a rope transgresses Matir (MT 10:8).[14]

One may not string pearls on Shabbat, because one may come to tie a knot at the end of the string. Similarly, if a pearl necklace snaps, one should not restring the pearls, because one may come to tie the string in a knot (MB 317:20). However, children may string beads that come in children’s craft sets and are not meant to last, since the knots of such necklaces are not permanent (SSK 16:22).

Some maintain that one may not insert shoelaces into new shoes because this makes the shoe wearable, thus transgressing the prohibition of fixing a kli (Ketzot Ha-shulĥan §146, Badei Ha-shulĥan §3). Others maintain that one may not insert new laces even into old shoes (MB 317:18; SSK 15:64). Still others maintain that nowadays one may insert laces into new shoes, because the eyelets in modern shoes are wide, so inserting shoelaces in is easy and is not considered a melakha (Yabi’a Omer 9:108:162). In order to comply with all the positions, it is proper to insert the laces in an unusual way. For example, one can either skip some of the eyelets or lace only the top ones. This will ensure that on Saturday night he will need to re-lace the shoes in the normal way and therefore has not fixed a kli on Shabbat (SSK 15:64).

One may thread a belt through the belt loops of a new pair of pants, since the belt is not meant to remain there forever. Similarly, one may insert a pillow into a pillowcase. However, one may not insert a tie or strap into a new dress or pair of pants if it is meant to remain there permanently, because doing so is fixing the item of clothing by making it wearable (MB 317:16; SSK 15:66).

[14]. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was stringent and forbade closing a bag of food with a twist tie for more than 24 hours; since the twist tie will remain in its position, it is considered a knot (SSK ch. 15 n. 174). This is also cited in the name of R. Elyashiv in Orĥot Shabbat 10:30. However, it would seem that this should not be considered Kosheir; since it is not the act of twisting that keeps it in its position but the strength of the twist tie itself; twisting it is comparable to opening and closing a button, which is permitted. Indeed, a similar approach appears in Rivevot Ephraim 3:552; Shevet Ha-Levi 7:55; and Orĥot Shabbat loc. cit. in the name of R. Nissim Karelitz. In any case, since one does not intend to leave the twist tie closed forever and it is not a craftsman’s knot, there is certainly no Torah prohibition; and when there is a doubt about a rabbinic mitzva, we are lenient.