Halacha for Thursday 8 Tammuz 5779 July 11 2019

Opening a Faucet and Soaking Seeds in Water on Shabbat

Soaking Seeds on Shabbat
We have been asked regarding people who have a pet parrot at home and they must soak different kinds of seeds in order to feed them to the parrot. Is this permissible on Shabbat or not?

At first glance, it would seem that this should be prohibited based on what the Rambam writes (Chapter 8 of Hilchot Shabbat) that if one soaks wheat or barley kernels on Shabbat, he is liable for transgressing the forbidden work of planting. Nevertheless, in truth, this is only prohibited when one soaks the seeds for several hours until they are soft and ready for planting. However, if one soaks them for only an hour or two and immediately places them before the birds, this is not prohibited. Maran zt”l rules likewise in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4, page 17. We have written this several years ago in the Halacha Yomit.

Nevertheless, we must add that in general, the owners of parrots and other birds usually intend for the seeds to sprout completely in which case all Poskim agree this is forbidden. Additionally, this only applies to wheat or barley seeds; however, regarding sesame or flax seeds which immediately upon becoming wet stick to one another, it is forbidden to soak them in water on Shabbat because of the prohibition of kneading (see Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 340, Section 12). In general, seed mixes meant for parrots and other exotic birds include seeds that stick together like flax seeds and there is a Torah prohibition of soaking them in water on Shabbat.

Opening a Faucet When the Water Will Eventually Flow to the Garden
The Poskim discuss a scenario where there is a sink where people wash their hands and the water that enters the drain flows through a pipe and eventually spills out onto a patch of earth where plants are growing. Is one permitted to use such a sink on Shabbat or does this constitute the forbidden work of “planting”?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l addresses this issue in several places (Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 5, Chapter 27, Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 1, page 135, and Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4, page 10) and concludes that according to the letter of the law, one may act leniently and use such a sink on Shabbat when one intends to wash one’s hands and not to water the plants.

His reason for this leniency is because the pouring of the water is not being done directly by the individual; rather, this is being done in an indirect fashion, for the water is first poured into the sink and it then flows on its own until it reaches the ground. This cannot be considered a direct watering like one who waters plants with a hose and aims the water directly towards the ground. Since the individual’s intention is not to water plants at all and only wishes to wash his hands, at the very worst, this only constitutes a rabbinic prohibition and when one does not have in mind to perform the forbidden action at all, this does not constitute any prohibition whatsoever. Maran zt”l quotes many sources to support his opinion and writes that the Chatam Sofer and other great Poskim rule likewise.

Nevertheless, clearly, one may only be lenient to use such a sink when one has no intention of watering the garden and is only using it to wash one’s hands and the like. However, if one is doing so in order to water one’s garden, this will be prohibited on Shabbat.

Summary: Regarding a sink whose pipes lead the water poured into it onto earth where plants are growing, one may use such a sink on Shabbat as long as one intends only to wash one’s hands and not to water the plants.

One may not soak seeds in water on Shabbat unless one is doing so for a short period of time, such as for an hour or two, in order to feed them to a bird or animal in one’s possession. Nevertheless, seeds which stick together immediately upon becoming wet, such as sesame or flax seeds, may not be soaked in water at all.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Thermometers on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to use a thermometer on Shabbat? Answer: Clearly, there is no room to take one’s temperature with an electronic/digital thermometer. Our discussion will revolve around using a thermometer that is not electronic and contains mercury which expands and rises as it h......

Read Halacha

Making a Bookmark on Shabbat

Question: If one is reading a book on Shabbat and would like to mark a certain page by making a slight scratch with one’s nail or by slightly folding the corner of the page, would this be permissible on Shabbat? The Forbidden Work of Writing Answer: One of the forbidden forms of work on Sh......

Read Halacha

A Driver’s License-“Lashon Hara”

Question: If an individual wishes to obtain a driver’s license and I am aware of a medical problem that will impair him from driving, may I relay this information to the Department of Motor Vehicles? Answer: The Rambam (Chapter 1 of Hilchot Rotze’ach) writes: “Anyone who has the......

Read Halacha

Coloring a Napkin or Handkerchief on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha, we have explained in general the fundamentals of the forbidden work of dyeing on Shabbat which is one of the works which are forbidden to be performed on Shabbat. The Opinion of the Sefer Yere’im Rabbeinu Eliezer of Metz writes in his Sefer Yere’im (Chapter 2......

Read Halacha


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 prohi......

Read Halacha

Various Dangers- A Car on the Road

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the positive Torah commandment for one to make a railing around one’s roof so that no one falls from there. After explaining this Mitzvah, the Rambam (Chapter 11 of Hilchot Rotze’ach U’Shmirat Nesfesh) adds: “Similarly, it is a M......

Read Halacha

The Forbidden Work of Dyeing On Shabbat

The Basis of the Forbidden Work of Dyeing One of the thirty-nine works forbidden by Torah law on Shabbat is the forbidden work of dyeing. The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) states likewise. We have previously discussed that any work which was performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was prohibit......

Read Halacha

Widows and Orphans

The Torah states (Shemot 22): “You shall not oppress any widow or orphan. If you oppress them and they call out to me, I shall surely hear their cry. My anger shall flare and I shall kill you with the sword; your wives shall then be widows and your children orphans.” The Torah explains t......

Read Halacha