Halacha for Monday 20 Cheshvan 5780 November 18 2019

Spraying Poisons and Pesticides on Shabbat- Animals Which Graze on Shabbat

Question: May one place or spray poisons against harmful insects or other pests on Shabbat?

Answer: The basis for the answer to this question depends on a related matter which we shall discuss in this Halacha. In the next Halacha, we will summarize the law regarding placing or spraying poisons against pests on Shabbat.

Allowing an Animal to Graze on Shabbat
One may allow one’s animal to graze in a place where there is grass. Although the animal is severing the blades of grass from the ground while eating, this is nevertheless completely permissible.

The Acharonim question this law based on another law brought down in the monetary law section of Shulchan Aruch:

Maran rules in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 394): “One who places an animal on another’s stalk is liable to pay what the animal has damaged.” This means that if one places an animal in a position where it can eat from another’s produce, the individual must pay for the damage that the animal caused by eating.

The question is: It seems from the law regarding Shabbat that the animal’s act of detaching the blades of grass from the ground is not attributed to the person who placed it there, however, with regards to the laws of damages, we attribute the damage caused by the animal to the person who placed it there. This is quite an apparent contradiction and an explanation needs to be offered as to the distinction between the laws of Shabbat and the laws of damages.

The Poskim offer two explanations:

The Answer of the Even Ha’Ozer
The Sefer Even Ha’Ozer (Chapter 328) writes that the difference is that regarding the laws of damages, the determining factor is the “damage,” i.e. the actual result of the action. Thus, since it is clear that when an animal stands on top of grass, it will eat it, the responsibility for this action rests on the person who placed it there and he is considered the “damaging party.” Regarding Shabbat, however, the determining factor is the individual’s intent when performing the action (for the Torah only prohibits a “calculated work”). Thus, since one placing an animal on grass has no intention of performing any forbidden work and one wishes only for the stomach of the animal to be filled, one cannot be held accountable for the animal’s actions.

The Answer of the Bet Meir
The Sefer Bet Meir offers another answer and writes that regarding the laws of Shabbat, the individual is not responsible for the actions of the animal, for we do not care about the outcome of the forbidden work (that grass was detached from the ground); rather, the Torah only is only concerned that the person should not perform the work. Any work performed on its own on Shabbat without intervention on the part of the individual is not forbidden. Thus, regarding damages, the individual is held accountable for the animal’s actions while regarding the laws of Shabbat, the person is not held accountable. (It is nevertheless forbidden to perform actual forbidden works with the use of an animal on Shabbat.)

Based on the above, according to the Even Ha’Ozer, the only determining factor regarding forbidden works on Shabbat is the individual’s intention and as one does not intend for the actual work to ensue, there is no prohibition to cause one’s animal to perform the work. On the other hand, according to the Bet Meir, the determining factor regarding liability for a forbidden work on Shabbat is one’s effort and involvement in the actual work; regarding the work, however, as long as it is not being done by a person’s actions and intent, it is not forbidden on Shabbat.

Thus, according to all opinions, one may allow an animal to eat grass which is attached to the ground. In the next Halacha, we shall, G-d-willing, discuss the connection between the above law and our question regarding placing or spraying poisons against pests on Shabbat.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av

----------------------------- By Popular Request: According to the Sephardic custom, it is permissible to shave, take a haircut, and do laundry immediately at the conclusion of the fast tonight. Ashkenazim customarily rule leniently in this regard. However, this year (5780), when the Tenth of Av fa......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. The Sephardic Custom Nevertheless, the Sephardic c......

Read Halacha


“One Who Finds a Wife Has Found Good”

The Gemara (Berachot 8a) states regarding the verse in Tehillim, “For this let every pious individual pray to you in a time when you may be found”: “Rabbi Chanina said: “In a time when you may be found” refers to one’s wife, as the verse in Mishlei states, ‘......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Tuesday night and Wednesday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. May Hashem soon switch it to a month of joy and celebration. The Jewish Nation’s Fortune During the Month of Av Although we customarily implement some mourning customs during the entire “Three Weeks” as we have......

Read Halacha

Tu Be’av

Today marks Tu Be’av, the Fifteenth of Av. The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) states: “Rabban Shimon ben Gamilel said: There were no better days for the Jewish nation than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, for on the Fifteenth of Av the young women of Jerusalem would go out we......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Erev Tisha Be’av

The Sefer Ha’Minhagim, authored by Rabbeinu Eizik Tirna, states that one should not leisurely stroll around on Erev Tisha Be’av. The Rama, some great Acharonim, and seemingly Maran Ha’Chida as well, rule accordingly. On Erev Tisha Be’av during the “Seuda Ha’Maf......

Read Halacha