Halacha for Monday 2 Kislev 5778 November 20 2017

Turning on Sprinklers Before Shabbat

Question: Is it halachically permissible to turn on the hose which waters one’s garden before the onset of Shabbat when one knows that the water will continue to run on Shabbat? Additionally, is it permissible to turn off the running hose on Shabbat itself?

Answer: We have previously explained that included in the forbidden work of planting on Shabbat is anything that aids in a plant’s growth such as planting, watering, fertilizing, and the like. It is therefore understood that the root of our question lies in the forbidden work of planting on Shabbat.

Lighting Candles and Watering on Erev Shabbat
Clearly, the Torah only prohibited performing forbidden work on Shabbat; however, a forbidden work that was started before the onset of Shabbat is permitted. We therefore customarily light Shabbat candles on Erev Shabbat based on the edict of our Sages in order for these candles to provide light for us on Shabbat itself. It is obvious that that this does not pose any sort of prohibition since the actual lighting is not done on Shabbat itself. (The Karraites who denied the validity of the Oral Torah distorted the meaning of the verse, “You shall not ignite a fire in any of your dwellings on the day of Shabbat” to mean that a Jew may not have light in his house on Shabbat as the verse states, “The wicked shall be silenced in the darkness.” Rav Sa’adia Gaon battled against them fiercely, for a large number of people were swayed by them. This is evident from the fact that the chapter in Shulchan Aruch which deals with lighting the Shabbat candles is Chapter 263 which is the numerical value of רס"ג and is an acronym for Rav Sa’adia Gaon.) Based on this we can infer that it is halachically permissible to turn on one’s sprinkler before the onset of Shabbat in order for it to continue to water the garden/lawn on Shabbat itself, for there is no forbidden work taking place on Shabbat itself. (There are, nevertheless, some works that may not be performed on Erev Shabbat, as we shall discuss soon.)

Turning Off the Hose on Shabbat
Similarly, it seems that one may be lenient and turn off the hose on Shabbat, for there is no prohibition to stop watering on Shabbat. Thus, this is also permissible.

After ruling that it is permissible to turn on sprinklers before the onset of Shabbat, Hagaon Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l quotes an important halachic ruling in his Responsa Tzitz Eliezer in the name of Hagaon Chazon Ish that if one has several pipes or hoses that one uses to water one’s garden, when turning them off on Shabbat, one should not turn them off one by one; rather, one should close the main pipe which supplies water to all the hoses and only then may one turn off the various hoses one by one. His reason for this is because at the time that one shuts off one hose, this causes the water pressure in the other hoses to increase; if so, one is causing an increased watering of a part of the garden on Shabbat and this constitutes the forbidden work of watering on Shabbat.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rejects this ruling completely and writes that there is no prohibition to turn off the hoses one by one, for at the time one is shutting off the hoses, the garden has already been sufficiently watered and it makes sense to say that the garden will not benefit from the excess water which will result from the increased water pressure. If so, this does not constitute the forbidden work of watering on Shabbat, for the Torah only prohibits the kind of watering that will benefit plant growth. However, if one waters a garden that has already been watered sufficiently, this is not prohibited.

Thus, regarding a garden upon which much rain has fallen in a way that additional water will not benefit the plants, it is no longer prohibited to water such a garden on Shabbat. He proceeds to list other reasons to defend his view. Therefore, there is no need to follow this stringency and according to the letter of the law, as long as the garden is already sufficiently watered, one may shut off all of the hoses that are watering it on Shabbat as one would on weekdays and this does not constitute any prohibition.

Summary: One may turn on a sprinkler before the onset of Shabbat so that the water will continue to water the garden/lawn on Shabbat itself. When the watering is finished, one may turn off the sprinklers on Shabbat as usual.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating and Washing One’s Self Yom Kippur

Some Laws of Yom Kippur All are obligated to fast on Yom Kippur, including pregnant and nursing women. Any woman whose health is at risk due to the fast should consult a prominent Torah scholar who is well-versed in these laws and he should render his ruling whether or not she must fast. One whose ......

Read Halacha

Laws of the Sechach (Roof) of the Sukkah and Decorations Hung from the Sechach

The Mitzvah to Beautify the Sukkah It is a great Mitzvah to beautify the Sukkah and decorate it as much as possible by adorning it with beautiful vessels and illuminating it with fine lights. The Mekubalim write that by honoring the Sukkah with fine lighting, one’s soul will merit resting pea......

Read Halacha

The Ten Days of Repentance

“Seek Hashem When He is Present” Our Sages teach us (Rosh Hashanah 18a) teach us that the words of the verse “Seek out Hashem when He is present, call Him when He is near,” refers to the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Hashem is considered to be closer and mor......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur

Adding From the Mundane Onto the Holiness One must add some of the mundane weekday onto the holiness of Yom Kippur upon its exit, i.e. one should not end this holy day immediately with nightfall; rather, one should wait another few minutes. Thus, it is prohibited to eat or perform work on Motza&rsq......

Read Halacha


The Obligation to Eat in the Sukkah-The Days Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot

The days between Yom Kippur and the Sukkot holiday are indeed holy ones during which we are involved with the building of the Sukkah in order to go from strength to strength. Our Sages teach us that the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are treated as sanctified days and are similar to the day......

Read Halacha

Rosh Hashanah-Judgment Day

On both nights of Rosh Hashanah, we customarily eat certain symbolic foods that serve as a good omen for the upcoming year. The details and order of this custom can be found in the Halacha regarding the Order of Rosh Hashanah. Our Sages, in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (16a), have disclosed an invaluab......

Read Halacha

The Ten Days of Repentance

Important Note: Those who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and the like, should already seek the guidance of a G-d-fearing doctor and then consult with an expert halachic authority regarding how to prepare for Yom Kippur in terms of fasting since many times, due to proper preparation,......

Read Halacha

Lighting Candles on the Days of Rosh Hashanah

Lighting Candles on Erev Rosh Hashanah On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to light candles in honor of the holiday before sunset as we do on Erev Shabbat. If candles were not lit before sunset, candles may be lit on Yom Tov as well in the permissible manner, i.e. by transferring a......

Read Halacha