Halacha for Sunday 14 Cheshvan 5781 November 1 2020

The Forbidden Work of Shearing on Shabbat

One of the thirty-nine forbidden works on Shabbat is shearing. This refers to detaching anything attached to any living creature, such as shearing wool from sheep or cutting hair or nails off of a human being. These laws are discussed in Shulchan Aruch Chapter 340.

The Prohibition to Pluck Hair
The Torah prohibition to pluck hair on Shabbat applies only when this is done by means of a vessel, such as scissors. However, plucking hair out by hand is merely a rabbinic prohibition.

Thus, one may not cut one’s hair on Shabbat, whether this is done with a vessel or by hand. One may likewise not use any creams or foams meant to remove hair on Shabbat. There is no distinction between hair on the head, arm, or any other area of the body for that matter. (See Yabia Omer, Volume 4, Chapter 34, Section 18)

Scratching One’s Head or Beard
Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l writes in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Ki Tisa, Year 2) that one should avoid excessive scratching of the beard on Shabbat, for this will certainly lead to plucking out hairs. Similarly, women who have long hair should avoid excessive scratching of the scalp, for this will almost certainly lead to plucking out hairs.

Rabbeinu Ha’Ari z”l would avoid touching his beard on Shabbat altogether so that he would not inadvertently come to pluck out a hair as is common on weekdays. Once, he accidentally touched his beard on Shabbat and he did not remove his hand from his beard until Shabbat concluded (Ru’ach Chaim, Chapter 340). Indeed, the great luminary of our generation, Hagaon Harav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman zt”l had a similar practice whereby he trained himself not to touch his beard even on weekdays lest he touch his beard on Shabbat and transgress the prohibition of plucking out hairs.

Checking the Head for Lice on Shabbat
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (Halichot Olam, Volume 4, page 20) that although plucking hairs is forbidden on Shabbat, one may nevertheless check children’s heads for lice on Shabbat. Although doing so may inadvertently lead to plucking out hair, this is still permissible since this plucking is being done by hand (a rabbinic prohibition) and one does not intend for this to happen at all. (An unintended direct causation regarding rabbinic prohibitions on Shabbat is permissible.)

Maran zt”l adds that if one has a bandage stuck to one’s skin and needs to remove it on Shabbat, one may do so even if this may cause some hairs to be plucked out, for plucking in this manner is only a rabbinic prohibition and one removing a bandage does not intend for hairs to be plucked out. There is therefore room for leniency in this regard.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Salt on the Table

Question: Is there a halachic necessity to have salt placed on the table before reciting the Hamotzi blessing and is it necessary to observe this custom on weekdays as well? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 40a) states: “Rava bar Shmuel said in the name of Rav Chiya: One may not recite the Hamo......

Read Halacha

Question: May one eat bread without washing one’s hands if one does not touch the bread with one’s hands directly and instead holds it with a napkin and like?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (107b) states: “The Sages permitted a cloth (i.e. they permitted eating bread without first washing one’s hands by wrapping one’s hands in a cloth) for those eating Terumah (meaning that during the time when the Bet Hamikdash still stood, befo......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Washing One’s Hands for a Bread Meal

The Enactment of Washing One’s Hands for a Bread Meal There is a rabbinic enactment to wash one’s hands before sitting down to eat a bread meal. The Mishnah in Masechet Eduyot (Chapter 5) relates that Rabbi Eliezer ben Chanoch was excommunicated for having raised doubts about the necess......

Read Halacha

Eating without First Washing One’s Hands

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one may not be lenient and nullify the edict of washing one’s hands prior to eating bread; even if one does not touch the bread with one’s hands directly and merely holds it with gloves or a napkin, one may still not defy this edict. If one......

Read Halacha


The “Asher Yatzar” Blessing vs. Birkat Hamazon

Question: In the previous Halacha, we have discussed if one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing on food and before he does so, he uses the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, one should recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing first and......

Read Halacha

Question: If one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing after eating any food (for instance, by eating a Kezayit, approximately twenty-seven grams, of fruit) and before reciting the after-blessing, one used the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, which blessing must one recite first: Should one first recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing or the after-blessing on the food one ate?

Answer: This question has already been discussed by the Maharshal (Rabbeinu Shlomo Luria, one of the foremost Acharonim who lived approximately five-hundred years ago in Eastern Poland and authored the Sefer Yam Shel Shlomo and others) in his responsa (Chapter 97) and writes that if one becomes obli......

Read Halacha

A Power Outage on Shabbat

Question: Last Shabbat, there was a power outage and for six hours, we had no electricity. Later on in the day when the problem was repaired, the Plata (electric hotplate) turned back on. Is it permissible to eat the foods that were warmed on the hotplate? Answer: Regarding the aforementioned mat......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon in the Place One Has Eaten

Question: Is one obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon specifically where one has eaten bread or may one recite this blessing elsewhere? Answer: One who eats a bread meal must recite Birkat Hamazon in the place where one has eaten and one may not go to a different place and recite the blessing there......

Read Halacha