Question: May one knock on a door using a knocker (a metal item hanging on the door) on Shabbat? Similarly, may one give children toys which make noise on Shabbat?
Answer: The basis for this question lies in what we have already explained in the past that one may not produce a musical sound using any kind of instrument on Shabbat. It is therefore forbidden to play any musical instrument on Shabbat. We must therefore determine whether or not it is permissible to knock on a door on Shabbat using the metal ring hanging on the door and designated for this purpose. Similarly, is it permissible to give infants or toddlers toys specifically designated for noise-making, such as a rattle, on Shabbat?
The Agur (one of the great Rishonim who lived approximately eight-hundred years ago) quotes the Maharil that one may not knock on a door using an item designated for this which makes noise.
Maran Ha’Bet Yosef questions this and writes that a vessel meant only to make noise and not a musical tune was never prohibited for use on Shabbat. Thus, a ring attached to the door and meant to knock on it is certainly not designated for producing musical notes and was never prohibited for use on Shabbat. The Bet Yosef concludes though that according to the Maharil, since a door-knocker is designated for a noise-making purpose, we must be concerned that one who uses it may intend to make noise along to a certain beat which can be considered a musical tune. Some Acharonim therefore rule stringently on this matter, even according to the opinion of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef.
Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that we see from the source of the Maharil’s words (new Responsa of the Maharil, Chapter 38) that even according to the Maharil, this is not prohibited according to the letter of the law; rather, the custom is to act stringently regarding this matter. One should therefore not act leniently where the custom is to act stringently. However, in our countries, there is no stringent custom and there is therefore no prohibition to do so at all. Indeed, Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Sefer Tov Ayin that according to Maran, whose rulings we have accepted, this is permissible in any case.
After supporting his view with several sources, Maran Rabbeinu zt”l rules that one may use a door-knocker to knock on a door and this does not constitute the prohibition of making noise on Shabbat (Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 5, page 255).
Regarding toys intended for children which make noise, such as a rattle or a race car which drives using a spring which make some sort of noise, the Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata (Chapter 16, Section 3) rules that such toys may be given to young children on Shabbat, for a musical sound is not produced. This is similar to what we have written regarding a door-knocker, for since a musical tune is not produced, there is certainly no room for concern regarding young children who have not yet reached the age of Mitzvah education.
Indeed Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l (quoted in Ohr Le’Zion, Volume 2, Chapter 26) rules likewise. Furthermore, Maran Rabbeinu zt”l rules in his work on the laws of Shabbat (Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 5, page 259) that since children may play with such toys, adults may even pick them up and hand them to children and the prohibition of Muktzeh does not apply here.
Thus, halachically speaking, one may use a door-knocker attached to a door to knock on Shabbat. It is likewise permissible to give young children noise-making toys on Shabbat as long as the toy does not produce a musical tune. Clearly, our discussion pertains only to toys not powered by electricity (or batteries), for such toys may not be used on Shabbat and they are forbidden to be moved.