Halacha Date: 14 Sivan 5781 May 25 2021
Question: May one make a bed on Shabbat so that it looks neat although one does not intend to sleep in it on Shabbat? Similarly, is it permissible to wash dishes which are no longer necessary on Shabbat because it is truly unpleasant and causes discomfort due to guests and the like?
Answer: Approximately half a year ago, we have explained the general rule that one may not wash dishes on Shabbat if they are not necessary on the day of Shabbat itself. The source of this law is that one may not prepare for a weekday on Shabbat. The reason for this prohibition is because one may not exert himself on Shabbat for something which is not necessary for Shabbat itself.
Making a Bed on Shabbat
The Magen Avraham (Chapter 302) writes that if a bed stands in a room where people are currently present and it is improper for the bed to be disorganized, one may place lines and the like on the bed even though he has no intention of sleeping in the bed on Shabbat. The Mishnah Berura rules likewise. Based on this, that it is certainly permissible to make a bed which already has linens on it on Shabbat in order to make it look presentable as long as this is being done for cleanliness and order in honor of Shabbat.
Washing Dishes for Purposes of Cleanliness
Regarding our question of whether or not it is permissible to wash dishes which one does not intend to use anymore on Shabbat for purposes of cleanliness, Hagaon Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l was asked a similar question by the Mashgiach (Kashrut supervisor) of the Sha’arei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The question was as follows:
Washing Dishes for Hygienic Purposes
Based on the guidelines of the Department of Health, soiled dishes may not be left in the confines of the hospital due to hygienic concerns. Will the hospital staff be permitted to wash these soiled dishes on Shabbat even though there is no necessity for them on Shabbat?
Hagaon Harav Waldenberg zt”l replied (in his Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, Volume 14, Chapter 37) that since the reason for the prohibition to wash dishes on Shabbat is because is it forbidden to prepare for a weekday on Shabbat, in this scenario, the washing of the dishes is not being done for the purpose of a weekday; it is actually being done for a purpose on Shabbat, for they would like the dishes to be clean on Shabbat for hygienic purposes. It is therefore permissible to wash the dishes in the hospital even on Shabbat.
Similarly, the Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata (Chapter 19) writes that the dishes may be removed from the table following the third Shabbat meal for the room to look neat and orderly, for this is not considered a necessity of Motza’ei Shabbat; rather, one wants the room to look organized on Shabbat itself.
Similarly, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l writes in his Sefer Shulchan Shlomo (Chapter 323) writes that if one is unable to handle a mess, if one has ants in his home which are attracted to the leftover food, or if one is worried that guests will arrive and his house will look unorganized, one may wash the soiled dishes on Shabbat, for this is not considered a necessity of Motz’aei Shabbat; rather, it is for the purpose of Shabbat itself. (Maran zt”l quotes all of this in his Sefer Chazon Ovadia.)
Summary: As long as there is some need for it (as we have explained above), one may make a bed on Shabbat for it to look neat on Shabbat.
Similarly, in a situation where it is necessary, such as out of respect for guests and the like, one may wash dishes on Shabbat in order to keep a semblance of order and neatness although one does not need them to eat with on Shabbat.