Halacha for Sunday 29 Tevet 5780 January 26 2020

The Forbidden Work of Dyeing On Shabbat

The Basis of the Forbidden Work of Dyeing
One of the thirty-nine works forbidden by Torah law on Shabbat is the forbidden work of dyeing. The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) states likewise.

We have previously discussed that any work which was performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was prohibited by the Torah to perform on Shabbat. One of the works commonly performed in the Mishkan was dyeing. This manifested itself in the dyeing of hides with various colors, marking animals with colors, and using the Techelet (blue) dye derived from the Chilazon.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbat 51b and commentaries ibid.) states that although the Jewish nation was in the desert, there were dyes that they brought with them from Egypt, such as the Techelet dye. Indeed, the Gemara states that there were salesmen who came to where the Jewish nation was in the desert in order to sell them merchandise. It is in this manner that the Jewish nation was able to engage in dying in the Mishkan in the desert and it is therefore one of the forbidden works on Shabbat.   

Color/Dye which is not Permanent
The Torah only forbids coloring on Shabbat using permanent dye, such as ink on paper which stays there for a prolonged amount of time; however, the Torah does not prohibit coloring using non-permanent dye. Nevertheless, our Sages have decreed that it is forbidden to color on Shabbat using even non-permanent dye.

Polishing Shoes or Painting One’s House on Shabbat
Included in the forbidden work of dyeing is one who paints the walls of his house with plaster or paint on Shabbat. This is certainly a Torah prohibition, for this is a permanent kind of coloring.

Similarly, one may not polish his shoes on Shabbat with shoe polish, for this constitutes a Torah prohibition of dyeing on Shabbat (even if one polishes over a place that had already been colored or polished). If one smears the polish onto the shoe, some say that he has transgressed an additional prohibition of “smearing” on Shabbat. Even if the consistency of the polish is very thin and watery and thus does not constitute the Torah prohibition of smearing, there is nevertheless a rabbinic edict forbidding the smearing of any cream or polish on Shabbat, even if it is thin and easily-smeared by hand. (See Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 4, Chapter 28.)

Summary: It is forbidden to color on Shabbat using either a permanent or non-permanent dye. For this reason, it is forbidden to paint one’s house or polish one’s shoes on Shabbat. It is likewise forbidden to color on paper and the like on Shabbat.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Some Details Regarding the Prayers of the Days of Awe

Anyone who appreciates the loftiness of the Days of Awe customarily tries to recite all prayers of these days with much precision and care. There are many Machzorim on the market containing several versions for various texts, some which can be relied upon and others which cannot be relied upon at al......

Read Halacha

Lighting Candles on Rosh Hashanah and the Issue this Year

The Laws of Candle-Lighting on Rosh Hashanah On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we customarily light Yom Tov candles before the onset of Yom Tov similar to the way we light them on Erev Shabbat. If the candles were not lit before the onset of Yom Tov, a woman may even light the candles on Yom Tov i......

Read Halacha

Should One Cry on Rosh Hashanah?

Question: What is the proper way to behave during the prayers of Rosh Hashanah: Should one arouse himself to cry during the prayers in order for Hashem to pity us and grant us all of our requests or should one pray amid great joy? Answer: The Mitzvah to be Glad on Rosh Hashanah The Poskim deli......

Read Halacha


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

The Custom of Kaparot and the Custom of Maran zt”l

Question: Should one fulfill the custom of Kaparot specifically using chickens or should one merely use money? Answer: It is customary among all Jewish communities to perform Kaparot on Erev Yom Kippur by slaughtering chickens for every member of one’s household. It is customary to use a ro......

Read Halacha

Preparing for the Day of Judgment

During the days preceding Rosh Hashanah, every single member of the Jewish nation must contemplate his/her actions and perform some sort of self-introspection in order to ascertain how one can improve one’s actions and Mitzvah observance so as to guarantee one’s self powerful defenders o......

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