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

Making Toast on a Hotplate on Shabbat

Question: May one place a pita or a slice of bread on a hotplate on Shabbat in order to turn it into hard and crunchy toast? Answer: There are two prohibitions we must discuss with regards to our question of making toast on Shabbat out of bread that was already baked before Shabbat. The first ......

Read Halacha

Sitting on Food Items

Question: Is it correct that one may not sit on top of a box containing food or beverages? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (50b) states that it is forbidden to act in a degrading manner towards food. Thus, one may not, for instance, use a piece of cake to wipe up a drink that spilled on t......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding a Woman Who Forgets to Recite the Blessings of the Torah

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one forgets to recites the Blessings of the Torah and only realizes this after one has concluded Shacharit prayers, one may no longer recite these blessings, for one has already fulfilled his obligation with the “Ahavat Olam” blessing rec......

Read Halacha

The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha


The Law Regarding One Who Forgets to Recite the Morning Blessings

The Morning Blessings (“Birkot Ha’Shachar”) are the blessings recited every morning beginning from the “Elohai Neshama” blessing until the end of the Blessings of the Torah. Both men and women must recite these blessings, as we have discussed in the laws of the Morning ......

Read Halacha

Salting Cucumbers on Shabbat

Question: Is it correct that one may not put salt on cucumbers on Shabbat? Answer: The root of this question lies in the fact that with regards to many Torah laws, we rule that “pickling is tantamount to cooking” meaning that a pickled food is considered like a cooked food. Thus, just......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes on Shabbat Night and Pouring Water on Dirty Dishes

Question: Upon the conclusion of the Shabbat night meal, may one immediately wash the dishes for the Shabbat day meal or should this only be done during the day closer to the start of the meal? Also, is it permissible to pour water onto soiled dishes (which one no longer needs for Shabbat) so that i......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes On Shabbat When Other Dishes Are Available

Question: May one wash dishes which are necessary for use on Shabbat even if one has other dishes to be used for the remaining Shabbat meals? Answer: Nowadays, most people own enough dishes to use for at least two meals, if not more. Based on this the above question arises: Will it be permissible......

Read Halacha