Question: May one place clothing in the dryer on Erev Shabbat when the clothes will continue to dry on Shabbat itself?
Answer: Last week, we discussed that a garment that was placed in the dryer on Erev Shabbat and was still wet at the onset of Shabbat and only becomes completely dry on Shabbat does not retain its Muktzeh status and may be taken out and worn on Shabbat. (Clearly, this applies only if opening the dryer entails no closing or opening of an electric circuit, such as if doing so turns on a light and the like.)
Let us now discuss the issue at hand which is whether or not one may turn on a dryer before Shabbat when one knows for certain that the drying will continue during the Shabbat itself.
This question is very similar to another issue we must discuss which is whether or not turning on a washing machine before the onset of Shabbat is permissible when one is certain the cycle will continue on Shabbat. We have, in the past, quoted the words of the Baraita (Shabbat 18a), “One may not place wheat into a water mill so that the wheat may be milled on Shabbat.” This means that one may not place wheat into a mill powered by a water-propelled wheel before Shabbat; although no actual forbidden work is being performed on Shabbat, nevertheless, since the mill makes a great deal of noise on Shabbat, this constitutes a disrespect for Shabbat. The Sages of the Talmud disagree whether the Halacha follows this Baraita. Some say that this Baraita is unanimous and it is therefore forbidden to begin a work on Erev Shabbat when a noise will be produced on Shabbat itself. Others, however, explain that this Baraita is contingent on a different dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel and according to Bet Hillel, there is no concern for such noise-making on Shabbat and one may place wheat into a mill before Shabbat in order for them to be milled on Shabbat.
Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 252) rules that one may place wheat into a water-mill slightly before the onset of Shabbat and we are not concerned that the noise will arouse the suspicion of others who may think this individual’s mill is operational on Shabbat. The Rama (chief halachic authority for Ashkenazi Jews) writes, “There are those who prohibit regarding a mill as well as anything that produces noise. This is the preferable custom. However, in a situation of financial loss, there is room for leniency.” Thus, according to Sephardic Jews who have accepted upon themselves the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, there is no concern for noise production on Shabbat. Even according to Ashkenazi tradition, in a situation of great financial loss or great need, such as soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces who return home for Shabbat on Friday afternoon and must return to their bases immediately on Motza’ei Shabbat, one need not be concerned with noise production. It is therefore halachically permissible to turn on a washing machine on Friday afternoon which will run through Shabbat, especially when there is a pressing need to do so. Even according to the Ashkenazim, there is room for leniency in this regard when there is no other time to do so, as we have explained.
Indeed, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules in his Responsa Yechave Da’at (Volume 3, Chapter 18) and Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat (Volume 1, page 146) that soldiers who must return to their bases immediately on Motza’ei Shabbat and would like to launder their clothing by placing it in the washing machine before Shabbat and allowing the cycle to continue on Shabbat may act leniently and do so in such a case of great need. Based on this, the same would apply to placing clothing in the dryer before the onset of Shabbat with the drying continuing on Shabbat itself and this is permissible, for according to the letter of the law, one need not be concerned with noise-production on Shabbat.
Nevertheless, this only applies to soldiers who have no other time to launder and dry their clothing. However, in situations where there is no such pressing need, it is preferable to act stringently and abstain from turning on a washing machine or dryer before the onset of Shabbat and letting it run on Shabbat, for this constitutes a lack of respect for the Shabbat, as well as several other issues. Thus, this lenient ruling applies only in cases of special need; however, whenever possible, one should use a washing machine or dryer on Erev Shabbat only when the cycle will end before the onset of Shabbat. This is indeed how Maran zt”l instructed us and told us that this was not an “across-the-board” leniency; rather, it is only meant for situations of great need, as we have established. However, if one can launder the clothing before the onset of Shabbat or on Motza’ei Shabbat, it is preferable to follow the Rama’s more stringent approach and not act leniently regarding washing machines and dryers.