Halacha for Wednesday 9 Iyar 5781 April 21 2021

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a result of a rabbinic enactment somewhat more stringent than Torah law.

As we have explained, it is forbidden by Torah law to tie a “permanent knot” which is defined as a knot that is not meant to be untied in the near future. Similarly, the knot must be made “professionally”, i.e. if tying the knot requires some skill. It is therefore a Torah prohibition to tie the knot on a camel’s nose since this is a “professional” knot and is not meant to be untied.

Knots Forbidden by Rabbinic Enactment: Permanent or Professional Knots
Our Sages enacted that even if a knot is not tied in a professional manner, it is forbidden to be tied on Shabbat if it is permanent. This means that even if this knot can be tied by anyone and requires no special skill, nevertheless, if it is a permanent knot, one may not tie it. (Shulchan Aruch Chapter 317, Section 1)

An example of such a knot would be the knot tied to the pail hanging at the top of a well. Since the knot tied to the pail is never undone, although tying such a knot requires no specific skill, it is forbidden to tie it on Shabbat by rabbinic law.

Similarly, regarding a knot tied to a bit around an animal’s mouth, although no special skill is required to tie the bit, it is forbidden to tie such a knot on Shabbat if one never intends to untie it.

Additionally, if a knot is “professionally done” and requires some skill to tie it, although it is not permanent, one may not tie such a knot on Shabbat as a result of a rabbinic enactment.

Knots Permitted to be Tied on Shabbat
A knot which is neither professional nor permanent may indeed be tied on Shabbat, for our Sages only decreed not to tie a knot which fits either one of the Torah’s two criteria to forbid tying a knot on Shabbat, i.e. either it is a professional knot or a permanent one. However, a knot which is neither professional nor permanent may be tied on Shabbat. We shall discuss this matter further in the following Halacha.

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