Halacha for Tuesday 8 Tevet 5778 December 26 2017

Walking on Insects on Shabbat

Question: May one walk in a place where there are ants on Shabbat?

Answer: One of the forbidden works on Shabbat is “killing a live creature”. For instance, if one slaughters a chicken on Shabbat, one has transgressed the Torah prohibition of killing on Shabbat.

It is therefore forbidden to kill any insect on Shabbat, such as an ant, for they too are living creatures. Indeed, the Sefer Issur Ve’Heter (Chapter 59) rules that one may not kill ants or other insects as one is walking on Shabbat. In places where such insects are found, one must be careful not to step on them. Several Acharonim, including Rabbeinu Yosef Haim in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Va’era), rule likewise.

Nevertheless, we must discuss this point. We have already explained in several places that performing a forbidden work which is not necessary for its own purpose is only forbidden on Shabbat as a result of a rabbinical enactment and is not forbidden according to the Torah. For instance, if one digs a ditch on Shabbat (which is a Torah prohibition of ploughing) but does not require the actual ditch and merely requires the dirt which he has dug out, one is not liable for a Torah transgression, for the Torah only prohibits performing a forbidden work on Shabbat which is necessary when one requires the actual result of the forbidden work. However, a forbidden work performed for another purpose only constitutes a rabbinical prohibition.

Based on this, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that since the prohibition here is only rabbinic (since one does not require the insects to be dead) and one is not intending to perform the forbidden work, this can be considered a situation where one performs an action whereby the forbidden work will certainly ensue; however, since one does not care that the forbidden work is being performed and the forbidden work is only rabbinic to begin with, this will be permissible. There is therefore no prohibition to walk on insects on Shabbat when one does not intend to kill them.

It is nevertheless preferable not walk on insects on Shabbat, as Maran zt”l writes in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 5, page 124: “One may not step on insects, such as ants, on Shabbat even if one does not intend to kill them, for they will surely die when one steps on them. One should be cautious of this in places where they are present. However, if one has no other way to walk, this is permissible.”

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Vows and Oaths

Question: Is it forbidden to make vows even when one intends to fulfill them? Answer: We must first explain what the Torah meant by “vows.” The Gemara (Nedarim 13a) explains that the primary vow referred to by the Torah is when one attributes a prohibition to the specific object one i......

Read Halacha

Is One Obligated to Wear a Tallit Katan (Small Four-Cornered Garment) at all times in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzit?

The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (113b) states that there are seven kinds of individuals that are excommunicated in Heaven and among them is one who does not don Tefillin on his arm and head, tie Tzitzit to his garment, and place a Mezuzah on his doorpost. The Tosafot (ibid.) write that it seems that......

Read Halacha

More Customs Observed During the Omer Counting Period

Some have the custom that during the Omer counting period (until the 34th day of the Omer), one does not wear a new garment which requires the recitation of the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (i.e. a new garment which causes the wearer joy, such as a new shirt and the like; however, a new garme......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Inserting “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo”

Today, Sunday, the Thirtieth of Nissan, is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Tomorrow, Monday, the First of Iyar, is the second day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Inserting “Ya’aleh Ve’Yavo” into the Rosh Chodesh Prayers Our Sages instituted that one add the “Ya’ale......

Read Halacha

Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha

The Omer Counting Period

The period of the counting of the Omer is exalted indeed and filled with sanctity, as the Ramban writes in his commentary on Parashat Emor that the days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot, i.e. the Omer counting period, retain the sanctity of Chol Ha’Moed and are not days of national t......

Read Halacha

Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the IDF- Maran zt”l’s Following the Yom Kippur War

Today is Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Last year, we had mentioned the words of Maran zt”l with regards to the deaths of the soldiers of the IDF where he quoted the Gemara (Baba Batra 10b) regarding the Martyrs of Lod, about whom the Gemara states that no o......

Read Halacha