Halacha for Wednesday 3 Shevat 5780 January 29 2020

Writing on a Window on Shabbat

Question: In the winter when it is cold outside and there is condensation or frost on the window, may one use one’s finger to write or draw on the window?

Answer: One of the thirty-nine works forbidden by Torah law on Shabbat is writing. Nevertheless, our Sages teach us that the Torah prohibition of writing on Shabbat only applies when one writes something lasting, such as when one writes with a pen on paper, for such writing is certainly meant to last for a long time.

Nonetheless, the Mishnah (Shabbat 104b) and the Rishonim explain that our Sages prohibited writing even through a method that is not meant to last, such as writing with berry juice on a table and the like.

Thus, it is forbidden to write using one’s finger on sand or ash on Shabbat. It is likewise forbidden to write on a substance which is not meant to last for a long time, such as writing on an onion peel, which the Tosefta (Shabbat, Chapter 12) states is forbidden on Shabbat. Although according to Torah law, writing on an onion peel on Shabbat is permissible since the onion peel cannot last for a long time (as it will soon dry out and shrivel up), nevertheless, our Sages forbade even such writing on Shabbat.

Based on the above, one of the greatest Acharonim, the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, Chapter 340, Subsection 3) writes that one may not write letters with one’s finger on glass windows in the winter when there is condensation or frost on the window as a result of differences of the indoor and outdoor temperatures. Nevertheless, merely drawing a straight line on a frosty window is permissible on Shabbat, for this is not included in the kind of writing our Sages forbade. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 5, page 148.

Based on the above we can derive that the same applies to drawing, such as drawing a face or any other figure or picture one deliberately draws on the frosty window or on the glass of a dirty car window and the like is completely forbidden on Shabbat, for this is likewise included in the writing forbidden by the rabbinic enactment on Shabbat.

Nevertheless, wiping one’s finger across a completely clean and dry table or in the air in order to signal something to one’s friend is permissible on Shabbat, for this is not considered writing at all.

Summary: One may not write or draw on a window which has frost or condensation on it as a result of the cold outside. It is likewise forbidden to write or draw on a dirty glass window and the like.

8 Halachot Most Popular

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

The Pesach Seder-“Maror”, “Shulchan Orech”, and “Tzafun”

Maror Everyone is obligated to eat a Kezayit (olive’s volume, approx. 27 grams) of Maror on the night of Pesach. There are several kinds of vegetables that one may use for Maror, however, the predominant custom today, especially among Sephardic Jewry, is to use the leaves and stalks (spines) ......

Read Halacha

Magid-Motzi-Matzah

The order of the night of Pesach printed in Haggadot is as follows: Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rochtza, Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah. Magid Upon reaching the point of the Seder entitled “Magid,” the entire household shoul......

Read Halacha

Hallel on the Night of Pesach-The Laws Regarding Men and Women

The Tosefta (Chapter 3 of Sukkah) states: “There are eighteen days and one night throughout the year when the (complete) Hallel is recited, as follows: The eight days of the Sukkot holiday, the eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach as well as the first night of Pesach, and on the hol......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Koshering Vessels for Pesach

One may not use Chametz vessels on Pesach since vessels which have been used to cook in or have had hot Chametz placed in them have Chametz flavor absorbed in them. Thus, just as we separate between meat and dairy utensils all year long, we must likewise separate between the utensils we use all year......

Read Halacha

Arriving Late to or Skipping Some Portions of the Megillah Reading

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

In the previous Halacha we have briefly discussed the primary laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach. We have explained that according to all communities, legumes such as rice and chick peas are not actual Chametz, for only grain products can be considered Chametz. However, Ashkenazim cust......

Read Halacha

Koshering Sinks and Kitchen Countertops

We have previously discussed that just as one should designate vessels for milk and meat respectively, likewise, regarding the holiday of Pesach, one should not use one’s regular Chametz vessels that were used all year round; rather, one should designate special kosher for Pesach vessels. N......

Read Halacha