Halacha for Thursday 8 Tammuz 5779 July 11 2019

Opening a Faucet and Soaking Seeds in Water on Shabbat

Soaking Seeds on Shabbat
We have been asked regarding people who have a pet parrot at home and they must soak different kinds of seeds in order to feed them to the parrot. Is this permissible on Shabbat or not?

At first glance, it would seem that this should be prohibited based on what the Rambam writes (Chapter 8 of Hilchot Shabbat) that if one soaks wheat or barley kernels on Shabbat, he is liable for transgressing the forbidden work of planting. Nevertheless, in truth, this is only prohibited when one soaks the seeds for several hours until they are soft and ready for planting. However, if one soaks them for only an hour or two and immediately places them before the birds, this is not prohibited. Maran zt”l rules likewise in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4, page 17. We have written this several years ago in the Halacha Yomit.

Nevertheless, we must add that in general, the owners of parrots and other birds usually intend for the seeds to sprout completely in which case all Poskim agree this is forbidden. Additionally, this only applies to wheat or barley seeds; however, regarding sesame or flax seeds which immediately upon becoming wet stick to one another, it is forbidden to soak them in water on Shabbat because of the prohibition of kneading (see Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 340, Section 12). In general, seed mixes meant for parrots and other exotic birds include seeds that stick together like flax seeds and there is a Torah prohibition of soaking them in water on Shabbat.

Opening a Faucet When the Water Will Eventually Flow to the Garden
The Poskim discuss a scenario where there is a sink where people wash their hands and the water that enters the drain flows through a pipe and eventually spills out onto a patch of earth where plants are growing. Is one permitted to use such a sink on Shabbat or does this constitute the forbidden work of “planting”?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l addresses this issue in several places (Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 5, Chapter 27, Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 1, page 135, and Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4, page 10) and concludes that according to the letter of the law, one may act leniently and use such a sink on Shabbat when one intends to wash one’s hands and not to water the plants.

His reason for this leniency is because the pouring of the water is not being done directly by the individual; rather, this is being done in an indirect fashion, for the water is first poured into the sink and it then flows on its own until it reaches the ground. This cannot be considered a direct watering like one who waters plants with a hose and aims the water directly towards the ground. Since the individual’s intention is not to water plants at all and only wishes to wash his hands, at the very worst, this only constitutes a rabbinic prohibition and when one does not have in mind to perform the forbidden action at all, this does not constitute any prohibition whatsoever. Maran zt”l quotes many sources to support his opinion and writes that the Chatam Sofer and other great Poskim rule likewise.

Nevertheless, clearly, one may only be lenient to use such a sink when one has no intention of watering the garden and is only using it to wash one’s hands and the like. However, if one is doing so in order to water one’s garden, this will be prohibited on Shabbat.

Summary: Regarding a sink whose pipes lead the water poured into it onto earth where plants are growing, one may use such a sink on Shabbat as long as one intends only to wash one’s hands and not to water the plants.

One may not soak seeds in water on Shabbat unless one is doing so for a short period of time, such as for an hour or two, in order to feed them to a bird or animal in one’s possession. Nevertheless, seeds which stick together immediately upon becoming wet, such as sesame or flax seeds, may not be soaked in water at all.

8 Halachot Most Popular

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Similar Types of Fruit

In the previous Halacha, we have established that one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges, which are not so readily available throughout the year. When one merits eating from these fruits the first time during the year and the fruits......

Read Halacha

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Grafted Fruits

Question: May one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing the first time during the year one eats citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges? Answer: We must first preface this discussion with the law that when one eats a new fruit that one has not yet partaken of that year, after recit......

Read Halacha

The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on a New Garment

Question: When is the appropriate time to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a new garment, at the time of purchase or the first time one wears it? Similarly, must one recite this blessing for every new piece of clothing one purchases? Answer: The Mishnah (Berachot 54a) teaches us ......

Read Halacha

Reciting The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Fragrant Objects

Question: Should one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a fragrant object which renews itself yearly? Answer: The root of this question is based on what we rule that regarding any fruit which renews itself yearly, such as berries and pomegranates, before partaking of that fruit for......

Read Halacha


Measuring for the Purpose of a Mitzvah

In the previous Halacha we have mentioned that our Sages have prohibited any kind of measuring on Shabbat or Yom Tov. For instance, one may not weigh various foods items or beverages on Shabbat. Although the scale is mechanical and not electronic, this is likewise a rabbinic prohibition. Measurin......

Read Halacha

Walking on Grass and Climbing a Tree on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one of the works forbidden on Shabbat is reaping. Included in this prohibition is detaching anything that grows from the ground, whether with regards to wheat and barley or anything else which grows from the earth. The Prohibition to Climb a Tree on ......

Read Halacha

Measuring on Shabbat and Yom Tov

Question: On Yom Tov when cooking is permissible, may one use a mechanical scale (not an electronic one) to weigh the ingredients one needs for cooking? Answer: Our Sages prohibited measuring on Shabbat or Yom Tov, for this is considered a “mundane act”, i.e. an action performed speci......

Read Halacha

Question: May one set an alarm clock to go off on Shabbat?

Answer: It would seem to be prohibited to set an alarm clock to go off on Shabbat based on the Baraita (Shabbat 18a) which states, “One may not place wheat into a water-operated mill (before Shabbat) in order for the wheat to be ground on Shabbat.” Although no forbidden work is being per......

Read Halacha