The 39 Melachot (Hebrew: ל״ט אבות מלאכה, lamed tet avot melakhah, "39 forms of work") are thirty-nine categories of activity which Jewish law identifies as being prohibited by biblical law on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions that permit carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances on holidays.
In addition to the 39 melachot, certain other activities are forbidden on Shabbat due to rabbinic law.
There are often disagreements between Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews or other non-Orthodox Jews as to the practical observance of Shabbat. It is of note that the (strict) observance of Shabbat is often seen as a benchmark for orthodoxy and indeed has legal bearing on the way a Jew is seen by an orthodox religious court regarding their affiliation to Judaism.
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work [melakha – מְלָאכָה] therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.'
Meaning of "work"
Though melakha is usually translated as "work" in English, the term does not correspond to the English definition of the term, as explained below.
The rabbis in ancient times had to explain exactly what the term meant, and what activity was prohibited to be done on the Sabbath. The rabbis noted Genesis 2:1–3:
- Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, God finished all the work [melakha] that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work [melakha] that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that God ceased from all the work [melakha] that he had been creating to function.
Specifically, the rabbis noted the symmetry between Genesis 2:1–3 and Exodus 31:1–11 – the same term melakha ["work"] is used in both places, and that in Genesis 2:1–3 what God was "ceasing from" was "creation" or "creating".
The rabbis noted further that the first part of Exodus 31:1–11 provides detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, and that it is immediately followed by a reminder to Moses about the importance of the Shabbat, quoted above. The rabbis note that in the provisions relating to the Tabernacle the word melakha is also used. The word is usually translated as "workmanship", which has a strong element of "creation" or "creativity".
From these common words (in the Hebrew original) and the juxtaposition of subject matter the rabbis of the Mishnah derive a meaning as to which activities are prohibited to be done on the Sabbath day.
Genesis 2 is not pushed aside by the commandments to construct the Tabernacle. The classical rabbinical definition of what constitutes "work" or "activity" that must not be done, on pain of death (when there was a Sanhedrin), is depicted by the thirty-nine categories of activity needed for the construction and use of the Tabernacle.
The thirty-nine melakhot are not so much activities as categories of activity. For example, while "winnowing" usually refers exclusively to the separation of chaff from grain, it refers in the Talmudic sense to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible. Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. (Gefilte fish is a traditional Ashkenazi solution to this problem.)
Many rabbinical scholars have pointed out that these regulations of labor have something in common – they prohibit any activity that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over one's environment.
The definitions presented in this article are only 'headings' for in-depth topics and without study of the relevant laws it would be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to properly keep the Sabbath according to Halacha/Jewish Law.
There are two main ways to divide the activities into groups, one is according to the work needed to make the Tabernacle, the other according to the work needed for the man himself.
- For the Tabernacle:
- Making the paint for the fabric coverings and curtains
- Making the coverings
- Making coverings from skin
- Making the Tabernacle itself
- For the man:
- Baking bread
- Making clothes
- Building a house
The thirty-nine creative activities
Transferring between domains (see below) and preparing food are permitted on Jewish holidays. These are the only exceptions to the rule that activities prohibited on the Sabbath are likewise prohibited on holidays.
Note: The thirty-nine prohibited activities are bolded.
The Order of Bread
Hebrew: זורע (Zorea)
Definition: Promotion of plant growth.
Not only planting is included in this category; other activities that promote plant growth are also prohibited. This includes watering, fertilizing, planting seeds, or planting grown plants.
Hebrew: חורש (Ḥoresh)
Definition: Promotion of substrate in readiness for plant growth, be it soil, water for hydroponics, etc.
Included in this prohibition is any preparation or improvement of land for agricultural use. This includes dragging chair legs in soft soil thereby unintentionally making furrows, or pouring water on arable land that is not saturated. Making a hole in the soil would also provide protection for a seed placed there from rain and runoff; even if no seed is ever placed there, the soil is now enhanced for the process of planting.
The Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) lists plowing after planting, although one must plow a field before planting. The Gemara asks why this order occurs and answers that the author of this Mishna was a Tanna living in the Land of Israel, where the ground is hard. Since the ground is so hard in Israel, it needed to be plowed both before planting and after planting. The Mishna lists plowing second, teaching that the second plowing (after planting) is [also] prohibited. (The plowing before the planting is also prohibited, if not biblically, certainly rabbinically). The Rambam lists plowing first, and planting second.
Hebrew: קוצר (Koṣer)
Definition: Severing a plant from its source of growth.
Removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth is reaping. Climbing a tree is rabbinically forbidden, for fear this may lead to one tearing off a branch. Riding an animal is also rabbinically forbidden, as one may unthinkingly detach a stick with which to hit the animal.
Hebrew: מעמר (Me'amer)
Definition: Initial gathering of earth-borne/organic material in its original place.
E.g. After picking strawberries, forming a pile or collecting them into one's pockets, or a basket. Collecting rock salt or any mineral (from a mine or from the Earth) and making a pile of the produce. This can only occur in the place where the gathering should take place. So, a bowl of apples that falls in a house can be gathered as 1) they do not grow in that environment and 2) they were already initially gathered in the orchard.
However, subsequent gathering, which improves the object(s) affected is included in this law. For example, stringing diamonds together to form a necklace is a significant improvement of their gathered status. This may well extend to pearls as well.
Hebrew: דש (Dosh)
Definition: Removal of an undesirable outer from a desirable inner.
This is a large topic of study. It refers to any productive extraction and includes juicing fruits and vegetables and wringing (desirable fluids) out of cloths, as the juice or water inside the fruit is considered 'desirable' for these purposes, while the pulp of the fruit would be the 'undesirable.' As such, squeezing (S'ḥita) is forbidden unless certain rules are applied. The wringing of undesirable water out of cloths may come under scouring/laundering. This activity could be viewed as extraction, while sorting (see below) is more akin to purification.
Hebrew: זורה (Zoreh)
Definition: Sorting undesirable from desirable via the force of air (Babylonian Talmud), or dispersal via the force of air (Jerusalem Talmud).
In the Babylonian Talmud this refers exclusively to an act of separation, for example, chaff from grain – i.e. to any separation of intermixed materials. Example: If one has a handful of peanuts, in their paper-thin brown skins, and one blows on the mixture of peanuts and skins, dispersing the unwanted skins from the peanuts, this would be an act of winnowing according to both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud.
The Jerusalem Talmud has a more inclusive and general definition of Zoreh. By this definition, use of the Venturi tube spray system and spray painting would come under this prohibition, while butane or propane propelled sprays (common in deodorants and air fresheners, etc.) are permissible to operate as the dispersal force generated isn't from air, rather from the propellant within the can. According to the Babylonian Talmud's definition, neither of the above spraying methods is involved in sorting undesirable from desirable and therefore not part of this heading.
Rabbi Moses Isserles (the Rema) holds that, unusually, the Jerusalem Talmud's definition should also be taken into account. As there's no argument between the Rema and the Beit Yosef on this point, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews do not disagree with the Rema's extended inclusion of the Jerusalem Talmud's definition in this case.
Hebrew: בורר (Borer)
Definition: Removal of undesirable from desirable from a mixture of types.
In the Talmudic sense usually refers exclusively to the separation of debris from grain – i.e. to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible. Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. (Gefilte fish is one solution to this problem.)
Sorting/purification differs from threshing/extraction as here there is a mixture of types, and sorting a mixture via the removal of undesirable elements leaves a purified, refined component. In contrast, threshing/extraction does not entail sorting or purification, just extraction of the inner from the unwanted housing or outer component, such as squeezing a grape for its juice. The juice and the pulp have not undergone sorting, the juice has been extracted from the pulp.
For example, if there is a bowl of mixed peanuts and raisins, and one desires the raisins and dislikes the peanuts: Removing (effectively sorting) the peanuts from the bowl, leaving a 'purified' pile of raisins free from unwanted peanuts, would be Sorting/purification as the peanuts are removed. However, removing the desirable raisins from the peanuts does not purify the mixture, as one is left with undesirable peanuts (hence unrefined) not a refined component as before, and is thus permissible. Note that in this case there has not been any extraction of material from either the peanuts or raisins (threshing/extraction), just the sorting of undesirable from desirable (sorting/purification).
- After threshing, a mixed collection of waste matter remained on the threshing floor together with the grain kernels. Included in this combination would be small pebbles and similar debris.
- These pebbles could not be separated by winnowing because they were too heavy to be carried by the wind. The pebbles and debris were therefore sorted and removed by hand. This process is sorting/purification.
- Any form of selecting from (or sorting of) an assorted mixture or combination can be borer. This includes removing undesired objects, or matter from a mixture or combination.
Borer with mixedfoods:
- Even though the classic form of borer as performed in the Mishkan involved the removal of pebbles and similar waste matter from the grain produce, sorting/purification is by no means limited to the removal of “useless” matter from food. In fact, any selective removal from a mixture can, indeed, be Sorting/purification, even if the mixture contains an assortment of foods. The criteria are types and desire, not intrinsic value. Therefore, removing any food or item from a mix of different types of foods simply because he does not desire the item at that time is considered Sorting/purification.
The three conditions of sorting/purification:
- Sorting/purification is permitted when three conditions are fulfilled simultaneously. It is absolutely imperative that all three conditions be present while sorting/purifying
- B’yad (By hand): The selection must be done by hand and not a utensil that aids in the selection.
- Oḥel Mitoḥ Psolet (Good from the bad): The desired objects must be selected from the undesired, and not the reverse.
- Miyad (Immediate use): The selection must be done immediately before the time of use and not for later use. There is no precise amount of time indicated by the concept of "immediate use" (miyad). The criteria used to define "immediate use" relate to the circumstances. For instance if a particular individual prepares food for a meal rather slowly, that individual may allow a more liberal amount of time in which to do so without having transgressed "borer."
Examples of Permissible and Prohibited Types of sorting/purification:
- Peeling fruits: Peeling fruits is permissible with the understanding that the fruit will be eaten right away.
- Sorting silverware: Sorting silverware is permitted when the sorter intends to eat the Sabbath meal immediately. Alternatively, if the sorter intends to set up the meal for a later point, it is prohibited.
- Removing items from a mixture: If the desired item is being removed from the mix then this is permissible. If the non-desired item is being removed, the person removing is committing a serious transgression according to the laws of the Sabbath.
Hebrew: טוחן (Toḥen)
Definition: Reducing an earth-borne thing's size for a productive purpose.
Dissection can arise in simply cutting into pieces fruits or vegetables for a salad. Very small pieces would involve dissection, therefore cutting into slightly larger than usual pieces would be permitted, thus avoiding cutting the pieces into their final, most usable, state.
All laws relating to the use of medicine on the Sabbath are a toldah, or sub-category, of this order, as most medicines require pulverization at some point and thus are dissected. The laws of medicine use on the Sabbath are complex; they are based around the kind of illness the patient is suffering from and the type of medication or procedure that is required. Generally, the more severe the illness (from a halaḥic perspective) the further into the list the patient's situation is classed. As a patient is classed as more ill there are fewer restrictions and greater leniencies available for treating the illness on the Sabbath. The list of definitions, from least to most severe, is as follows:
- מיחוש בעלמא / Mayḥush b'Alma / Minor Indisposition
- מקצת חולי / Mikṣat Ḥoli / Semi-illness
- צער גדול / Ṣa'ar Gadol / Severe Pain (Can in some cases be practically regarded as level 4)
- חולה כל גופו / Ḥoleh Kol Gufo / Debilitating Illness
- סכנת אבר / Sakanat Aiver / Threat to a Limb or Organ (Can in some cases be practically regarded as level 6)
- ספק פיקוח נפש / Sofek Pikuaḥ Nefesh / Possibly Life-Threatening (Practically treated as level 7)
- פיקוח נפש / Pikuaḥ Nefesh / Certainly Life-Threatening
For most practical applications the use of medicines on the Sabbath, there are primarily two categories of non-life-threatening (Pikuaḥ Nefesh) illnesses and maladies. They are either Mayḥush b'Alma or Ḥoleh Kol Gufo. In many or most practical applications for non-trained personnel, there are practically only three category levels (1, 4, & 7) as the line of distinction between them can often be difficult to ascertain for the untrained and it may prove dangerous to underestimate the condition.
Hebrew: מרקד (Merakaid)
Definition: Sorting desirable from undesirable by means of a utensil (designed for sifting or sorting).
This is essentially the same as sorting/purification (see above), but performed with a utensil specifically designed for the purpose of sorting, such as a sieve, strainer, or the like. As such, sorting/purifying with such a device, such as the netting of a tea bag, would be classed as an act of sifting.
Hebrew: לש (Losh)
Definition: Combining particles into a semi-solid or solid mass via liquid.
The accepted description of this category, translated to "kneading", is inaccurate. More precisely, the prohibited activity is amalgamation or combining solid and liquid together to form a paste or dough-like substance.
There are four categories of produced substances:
- Blilah Avah (a thick, dense mixture)
- Blilah Raḥa (a thinner, pourable mixture)
- Davar Nozel (a pourable liquid with a similar viscosity to water)
- Ḥatiḥot Gedolot (large pieces mixed with a liquid)
Only producing a Blilah Avah is biblically forbidden. A Blilah Raḥa mixture is rabbinically forbidden, but may be produced by using a shinui (unusual mode), such as the reversing the adding of the ingredients, or mixing in crisscross rather than circular motions. As Davar Nozel and Ḥatiḥot Gedolot are not really mixtures, even after adding the liquid to the solid, making them is permitted even without a shinui.
Hebrew: אופה/בישול (Bishul/Ofeh)
Definition for solids: Changing the properties of something via heat.
Definition for liquids: Bringing a liquid's temperature to the heat threshold. This threshold is known as yad soledet (lit. "A hand reflexively recoils [due to such heat]"). According to Igrot Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) this temperature is 43 °C (110 °F).
(Note, however, that cooking/baking is permitted on Jewish holidays. It is an exception to the rule that activities prohibited on the Sabbath are likewise prohibited on holidays.)
Any method of heating food to prepare for eating is included in this prohibition. This is different from "preparing". For example, a salad can be made because the form of the vegetables doesn't change, only the size. However, the vegetables may not be cooked to soften them for eating. Baking was performed in the Mishkan as showbreads were continually required. However, they were not required for the structure. Some opine baking is listed regarding the preparation of the dyes used for the tapestries.
The Order of Garments
Hebrew: גוזז (Gozez)
Definition: Severing/uprooting any body-part of a creature.
Hebrew: מלבן (Melaben)
Definition: Cleansing absorbent materials of absorbed/ingrained impurities.
Hebrew: מנפץ (Menapeitṣ)
Definition: Separating/disentangling fibers.
Hebrew: צובע (Ṣovea)
Definition: Coloring/enriching the color of any material or substance.
Merely enriching a color already present, such as applying clear gloss to wood or a fingernail, thus enriching is colour/appearance, would transgress the scriptural law. (This may also present issues of fine-tuning/perfecting, as well).
There may be an exemption for foods as they aren't considered permanent. However, aesthetically coloring foods for decoration, such as in a sugar sculpture, is included.
Hebrew: טווה (Toveh)
Definition: Twisting fibers into a thread or twining strands into a yarn.
Hebrew: מיסך (Maysaḥ)
Definition: Creating the first form for the purpose of weaving.
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25
Hebrew: עושה שתי בתי נירין (Oseh Sh'tei Batei Nirin)
Definition: Forming loops for the purpose of weaving. This is also the threading of two heddles on a loom to allow a shed for the shuttle to pass through. According to the Rambam, however, it is the making of net-like materials.
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25
Hebrew: אורג שני חוטין (Oreg)
Definition: Forming fabric (or a fabric item) by interlacing long threads passing in one direction with others at a right angle to them.
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25
Separating two threads
Hebrew: פוצע שני חוטין (Potze'ah)
Definition: Removing/cutting fibers from their frame, loom or place.
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 25
Hebrew: קושר (Koysher)
Definition: Binding two pliant objects skillfully or permanently via twisting.
Hebrew: מתיר (Matir)
Definition: The undoing of any tied (see Tying) or joined (see Tofer) binding.
Hebrew: תופר (Tofer)
Definition: Combining separate objects into a single entity, whether through sewing, gluing, stapling, welding, dry mounting, etc..
Hebrew: קורע (Kore'a)
Definition: Ripping an object in two or undoing any sewn (see Sewing) connection.
The Order of Hides
Hebrew: צד (Ṣod)
Definition: Forcible confinement of a living creature.
The Mishna does not just write "trapping"; rather, the Mishna says "trapping deer". According to at least one interpretation, this teaches that to violate the Torah's prohibition of Trapping, two conditions must be met:
- The trapped animal must be non-domesticated.
- The animal must not be legally confined. For example, closing one's front door, thereby confining insects in one's house is not considered trapping as no difference to the insect's 'trappable' status has occurred. I.e. it was as easy or difficult to trap it now as when the door was open.
This creates practical questions such as: "May a fly be trapped under a cup on the Sabbath?" The Meno Netziv says that an animal that is not normally trapped (e.g. a fly, or a lizard) is not covered under the Torah prohibition of trapping. It is however, a rabbinic prohibition to do so, therefore one is not allowed to trap the animal. However, if one is afraid of the animal because of its venomous nature or that it might have rabies, one may trap it. If life or limb is threatened, it may be trapped and even killed if absolutely necessary.
Animals which are considered too slow-moving to be 'free' are not included in this category, as trapping them does not change their legal status of being able to grab them in 'one hand swoop' (a term used by the Rambam to define this law). A snail, tortoise, etc. may therefore be confined as they can be grabbed just as easily whether they are in an enclosure or unhindered in the wild. For these purposes trapping them serves no change to their legal status regarding their 'ease of capture,' and they are termed legally pre-trapped due to their nature. Trapping is therefore seen not as a 'removal of liberty,' which caging even such a slow moving creature would be, but rather the confining of a creature to make it easier to capture in one's hand.
Laying traps violates a rabbinic prohibition regardless of what the trap is, as this is a normal method of trapping a creature.
Hebrew: שוחט (Shoḥet)
Definition: Ending a creature's life, whether through slaughter or any other method.
Hebrew: מפשט (Maphshit)
Definition: Removing the hide from the body of a dead animal.
(Removing skin from a live creature would fall under shearing.)
Hebrew: מעבד (Me'abaid); sometimes referred to as "Salting" מולח (Mole'aḥ)
Definition: Preserving any item to prevent spoiling for a long period of time.
The list of activities in the Mishna includes salting hides and curing as separate categories of activity; the Gemara (Tractate Shabbat 75b) amends this to consider them the same activity and to include "tracing lines", also involved in the production of leather, as the thirty-ninth category of activity.
This activity extends rabbinically to salting/pickling foods for non-immediate use on the Sabbath.
Hebrew: ממחק (Memaḥek)
Definition: Scraping/sanding a surface to achieve smoothness.
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 34–35
Hebrew: משרטט (Mesartet)
Definition: Scoring/drawing a cutting guideline.
See further: Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, Chapter "Klall Gadol", p. 52. tirone
Hebrew: מחתך (Meḥateḥ)
Definition: Cutting any object to a specific size.
The Order of Construction
Hebrew: כותב (Kotev)
Definition: Writing/forming a meaningful character or design.
Rabbinically, even writing with one's weaker hand is forbidden. The rabbis also forbade any commercial activities, which often lead to writing.
Hebrew: מוחק על מנת לכתוב שתי אותיות (Moḥek [al menat lichtov shtei otiyot])
Definition: Cleaning/preparing a surface to render it suitable for writing.
Erasing in order to write two or more letters is an example of erasing.
Hebrew: בונה (Boneh)
Definition: Contributing to the forming of any permanent structure.
Construction can take two forms. First, there was the action of actually joining the different pieces together to make the Mishkan. Inserting the handle of an ax into the socket is a derived form of this activity. It is held by some that the act of halaḥic "construction" is not actually performed (and therefore, the prohibition not violated) if the construction is not completed.
Also, making a protective covering (or a "tent") is forbidden. Therefore, umbrellas may not be opened (or closed), and a board may not be placed on crates to form a bench.
Either of these forms is only forbidden if done permanently, though not necessarily with permanent intent. For example, closing and locking a door is permitted, regardless of how long one intends to keep the door closed. Making a pop-up tent is considered permanent (since it can stay up for a long time), even if one intends to take it down soon afterwards.
Hebrew: סותר (Soter)
Definition: Demolishing for any constructive purpose.
For example, knocking down a wall in order to extend or repair the wall would be demolition for a constructive purpose. Combing a wig to set it correctly and pulling out hairs during the procedure with a metal toothed brush or comb would be constructive 'demolition', as each hair that is removed in the process of the wig (a utensil) is progressing its state towards a desired completion. Each hair's removal partially demolishes the wig (for these legal purposes) and is considered constructive when viewed in context of the desired goal.
Hebrew: מכבה (Meḥabeh)
Definition: Extinguishing a fire/flame, or diminishing its intensity.
Hebrew: מבעיר (Mav'ir)
Definition: Igniting, fueling or spreading a fire/flame.
This includes making, transferring or adding fuel to a fire. (Note, however, that transferring fire is permitted on Jewish holidays. It is an exception to the rule that activities prohibited on the Sabbath are likewise prohibited on holidays.) This is one of the few Sabbath prohibitions mentioned explicitly in the Torah (Exodus 35:3).
Judaism requires Sabbath candles to be lit before the Sabbath; it is forbidden to light them on the Sabbath.
Ignition is one of the Sabbath laws that has been cited to prohibit electricity on Shabbat.
Hebrew: מכה בפטיש (Makeh B'patish), literally, striking with a hammer.
Definition: Any initial act of completion.
This complex, and possibly most abstract section of Sabbath law, refers to activities completing an object and/or bringing it into its final useful form.
For example, if the pages of a newspaper were poorly separated, slicing them open would constitute the final act of completion of the pages.
Using a stapler involves transgressing final completion/fine-tuning/perfection in regard to the staple itself, (in addition to sewing affecting the papers being joined), which is brought into its final useful form by the base of the stapler forming the open staple into a curled clasp around the papers.
Adding hot water to a pre-made 'noodle-soup-pot' type cup (a dehydrated mixture of freeze-dried seasoning and noodles) would be the final act of completion for such a food as the manufacturer desired to make the product incomplete, awaiting the consumer to finish the cooking process at their convenience. This particular example would also violate Cooking/Baking as well if hot water from a kettle/urn was directly applied.
Musical instruments are Muktza, set aside for non-Sabbath use, as they are delicate and regularly require fixing and/or tuning as part of their regular use. Due to this, a Rabbinic restriction on handling musical instruments was enacted specifically because of Makeh B'patish. For example, if a guitar string is slightly out of tune, even though the whole instrument is not considered broken, the string requires tuning to bring the entire instrument to its desired state. As such, the corrective tuning renders an act of Makeh B'patish on the whole instrument. The guitar's said to be 'in tune', ready for usual use. This is considered a significant enough improvement to be an act of Makeh B'patish.
Transferring between domains
Hebrew: הוצאה (Hotza'ah)
Definition: Transferring something from one domain type to another domain type, or transferring within a public thoroughfare.
(Note, however, that Transferring between domains is permitted on Jewish holidays. It is an exception to the rule that activities prohibited on the Sabbath are likewise prohibited on holidays.)
All areas are divided into four categories: a private domain, a public thoroughfare, an open area (carmelit) and an exempt area. Transferring an object from a private domain to a public thoroughfare, or the reverse, is biblically forbidden. Transferring an object between an open area to a private domain or public thoroughfare is rabbinically prohibited. Transferring an object between an exempt area and any other domain is permissible. In addition, transferring an object for a distance of four cubits (or more) in a public thoroughfare or open area is forbidden.
For these purposes "transferring" means "removing and depositing". So carrying an article out of one domain type and returning to the same domain type, without setting it down in the interim in a different domain type, does not violate this activity. However, it is rabbinically prohibited.
The definition of an area as public thoroughfare or private domain is related to its degree of enclosure, not solely based on ownership.
This law is often referred to as carrying. This is a misnomer: carrying within a private domain is permitted; and carrying within an open area is biblically permitted (though rabbinically forbidden).
See further: Chayei Adam Shabbos 47–56.
Exception: Saving of human life
When human life is endangered, a Jew is not only allowed, but required, to violate any Sabbath law that stands in the way of saving that person. The concept of life being in danger is interpreted broadly; for example, it is mandated that one violate the Sabbath to take a woman in active labor to a hospital.
- Kehati, Pinchas (1994). "Shabbat". In Tomaschoff, Avner (ed.). Mishnayot Mevuarot [Commentary on the Mishna]. Seder Mo’ed vol. 1. Levin, Edward (translator). Jerusalem, Israel. pp. 1–2.
- Steinsaltz, Adin (2013). "Shabbat". Reference Guide to the Talmud. Koren. p. 260–263. ISBN 978-1-59264-312-7.
- "Does Borer apply to the sorting of food items as well or only to separating between waste and food?", Weekly Hilchos Shabbos Series.
- Some Laws Regarding Borer On Shabbat and Yom Tov, Rabbi Eli Mansour, DailyHalacha.com.
- borer.pdf, Rabbi Sedley
- 7 – Borer – Sorting (selecting, separating), The 39 Melachot Lamed-Tet Melachot, Torah Tots, Inc.
- Chapter 80:15 Some Activities Forbidden on Shabbos Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, Halacha-Yomi, Rabbi Ari Lobel and Project Genesis.
- Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 334.
- Ribiat, infra
- Ribiat, infra
- Ribiat, infra
- Mishna, Shabbat, chapters 1 and 11
- 8 saved during "Shabbat from hell" Archived January 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (January 17, 2010) in Israel 21c Innovation News Service Retrieved 2010–01–18
- ZAKA rescuemission to Haiti 'proudly desecrating Shabbat' Religious rescue team holds Shabbat prayer with members of international missions in Port au-Prince. Retrieved 2010–01–22
- Ribiat, Rabbi Dovid (1999). ספר ל״ט מלאכות The 39 Melochos. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers. ISBN 1-58330-368-5.