Halacha for Tuesday 8 Iyar 5781 April 20 2021

The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat.

There are several detailed laws regarding this prohibition, for not all knots are forbidden to tie or untie on Shabbat as we shall now begin to explain.

The Laws of Tying and Untying are Contingent Upon One Another
We must first explain that the laws of tying and untying a knot are dependent on one another. This means that any kind of knot which is forbidden to tie on Shabbat is forbidden to untie on Shabbat as well. Likewise, any kind of knot which is permitted to be tied on Shabbat may be untied as well. The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Shabbat, Halacha 7) and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 317, Section 1) rule accordingly (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 5, page 47).

Knots Forbidden by Torah and Rabbinic Law
Some knots are forbidden to be tied by Torah law on Shabbat. Others are permitted by Torah law, but forbidden by rabbinic law as an additional “fence” (precaution) to the Torah’s laws.

Knots Forbidden by Torah Law-Permanent and Professional Knots
If one ties a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot that is not meant to be undone within the next day or the next week (as we shall soon explain), if this knot is “professionally done”, i.e. not all individuals know how to tie such a knot, for it takes certain knowledge and skill to tie such a knot, one is liable by Torah law as a result of the knot he has tied, similar to any other form of Shabbat desecration.

An example of a knot forbidden on Shabbat by Torah law is a “Camel-Driver’s Knot.” This entailed making a hole in the saddle or through the camel’s nose through which leather straps would be passed and tied strongly such that it would never become untied. This kind of knot is considered both “permanent” and “professional.” For this reason, one who ties such a knot on Shabbat is liable by Torah law.

Similarly, a “sailor’s knot,” i.e. when rope is inserted in a hole located in the front of a ship and tied very tightly so that it is firm enough to tie another rope to it to hold the boat in place in the dock, is considered a “permanent” and “professional” knot and is forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. In the next Halacha we shall discuss several knots which are permitted by Torah law to be tied on Shabbat but forbidden by a rabbinic enactment.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Donating Tzedakah (Charity) in Order for One’s Son to Recover From an Illness

Question: Is it permissible to donate a sum of money to charity in the merit of which someone should become healed or for any other personal request or is it improper to do this since the Mitzvah is not being performed for the sake of Heaven, rather, for one’s personal purposes? Answer: The......

Read Halacha

Walking a Dog on Shabbat

Question: If one has a pet dog at home, either for leisure or as a seeing-eye dog for a blind individual, may one move it on Shabbat? Similarly, may one walk the dog in the street on Shabbat? Answer: We have explained in the previous Halacha that all animals are considered Muktzeh on Shabbat as M......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Chazzan’s Repetition of the Amida

-------------------------------- Along with the rest of the Jewish nation, we are heartbroken and mourn the loss of those who passed in the horrific Meron tragedy on Lag Ba’Omer. May their souls be bound in the binding of eternal life and may Hashem send consolation to their families and ma......

Read Halacha


Lag Ba’Omer (The 33rd Day of the Omer)

The 33rd day of the Omer is a day of festivity and rejoicing in honor of the saintly Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. There are indeed sources for this among the Poskim. We are therefore customarily more joyous than usual on this day and we do not recite Tachanun (supplication prayers). This year, 57......

Read Halacha

Moving Animals on Shabbat

Question: May one move domesticated birds that live in a cage on Shabbat in order to move the cage from place to place as necessary? Similarly, may one remove a dead fish from one’s aquarium on Shabbat? Answer: The Gemara (Shabbat 128b) states that it is forbidden to move or carry any anima......

Read Halacha

Tying Tzitzit Strings and Plastic Cable Ties on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot we have discussed some basic laws of tying and untying knots on Shabbat. The general rule is any knot that is either “professional,” i.e. requires some skill to make, or “permanent,” i.e. is meant to last for a prolonged amount of time, is forbidden t......

Read Halacha

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