Halacha for Thursday 3 Kislev 5781 November 19 2020

Moving Books and Newspapers on Shabbat

Question: Is one permitted to move or read medical books or phonebooks on Shabbat? What is the law regarding reading newspapers on Shabbat?

The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch Regarding Reading Books on Mundane and Forbidden Topics

Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 307, Section 16) writes as follows: “Books written about mundane witticisms and axioms and romance novels, such as the book, “Emmanuel”, may not be read on Shabbat. It is forbidden to read them on weekdays as well for that matter because of the prohibition of taking part of ‘a jester’s circle’ and one who does so transgresses the prohibition of ‘Do not turn to other gods’ which includes not following one’s own desires. Regarding romance novels, there is another prohibition of instigating the evil inclination against one’s self. The authors, copiers, and certainly publishers of such books cause the public to sin.”

Explanation: The book, “Emmanuel” is completely comprised of rhymes and witticisms about immorality and foolishness and may therefore not even be read on weekdays, for there are several prohibitions involved in doing so. Therefore, one may not read such books on Shabbat either and they will thus retain a Muktzeh status and may not be moved on Shabbat, similar to wood and stones. Included in this are all romance novels and fortune telling books which are forbidden to be read under any circumstances. Thus, on Shabbat they are like any other “innate Muktzeh” object, such as wood and stones, and they may not be moved even for a purpose.

We can infer from his words that anything that is forbidden to be read on weekdays is likewise prohibited to be read on Shabbat. It would seem that even books containing wisdom (such as science and history books) may not be read on Shabbat. Based on this, one would not be permitted to read medical books on Shabbat. However, the Aruch Ha’Shulchan writes that the letter of the law does not forbid reading books containing wisdom; nevertheless, it is a pious custom to dedicate the holy day of Shabbat to toil in words of Torah alone.

The Rashba writes in one of his responses that medical books may be moved on Shabbat, in accordance with the ruling of the Ramban. Similarly, Maran zt”l rules leniently regarding reading medical books, especially since reading medical books is a Mitzvah since this can aid in saving another’s life. (However, regarding other books of wisdom, such as history books and the like, it seems that one may not read them on Shabbat for they are similar to “mundane documents” which our Sages forbade reading on Shabbat.)

Regarding reading newspapers on Shabbat, if it is a religious newspaper which upholds the standards of Torah Judaism and may be read on weekdays, it is also permitted to be read on Shabbat, provided that one does not read about business topics and the like which may not be read on Shabbat. However, if it is a non-religious or non-Jewish newspaper, which may certainly not be read during the week for it is filled with all sorts of immodest pictures and articles that are filled with immorality, slander, and mockery of Torah scholars, it may not be moved on Shabbat similar to the law regarding dirt, rocks, and other objects which are “innate Muktzeh”. However, if one is using this newspaper to wrap something and there is no reason to think that anything bad might result from this, it may be moved on Shabbat to be used as a wrapper and the like.

A telephone book may be moved on Shabbat since it contains the addresses of those living in the city and sometimes there is a need for this information on Shabbat. Therefore, although it does contain things that may not be read on Shabbat, nevertheless, one may read the things that are permissible to be read on Shabbat and it may thus be moved on Shabbat.

All this, however, is only according to the letter of the law. However, it is worthy and fitting to only read words of Torah on Shabbat, for the reason why Shabbat was given to the Jewish nation is for them to have an opportunity to learn Torah.

Summary: The letter of the law dictates that one may read a religious Jewish newspaper or medical book on Shabbat. However, a non-religious newspaper is Muktzeh on Shabbat and may not even be read on weekdays.

Ask the Rabbi


הלכה יומית מפי הראש"ל הגאון רבי יצחק יוסף שליט"א

דין ברכת שפטרנו מעונשו של זה
לחץ כאן לצפייה בשיעורים נוספים

Recent Halachot

"תנא דבי אליהו כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא"

נדה ע"ג א'

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Eight Levels of Tzedakah

The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Matenot Aniyim) writes that there are eight levels included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah with each one being greater than the other. The highest level of Tzedakah is by helping to support a Jew who lacks his basic needs by providing him with money by means of a gif......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Donating a Tenth of One’s Earnings

By popular demand, we shall now discuss the topics of Tzedakah and donating a tenth of one’s earnings more broadly based on the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim and based on what is written in the works of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l on this topic. Question: ......

Read Halacha

Question: Are those who customarily donate a tenth of their monthly income to Tzedakah permitted to deduct the cost of providing for their children still living at home from the sum of this ten percent?

Answer: We have previously discussed that one must donate a certain amount of Tzedakah annually. It is a “middle” level for one to give a tenth of one’s monthly profits every month. Now let us deal with our question regarding those who donate a tenth of their monthly profits to Tze......

Read Halacha

How Much Tzedakah One Must Donate

The Rambam, Tur, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch write that the amount one should donate for Tzedakah is, if one can afford it, based on the necessities of the needy people. This means that if one is extremely wealthy and can provide for the needs of poor people in one’s city, one should ind......

Read Halacha


The Mitzvah of Tzedakah

The Tur (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 247) writes: “There is a positive Torah commandment for one to donate some of one’s money to charity, based on one’s individual capabilities. In addition to the fact that whoever donates charity fulfills a positive Torah commandment, one who abst......

Read Halacha

Who is Obligated in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah?

Every member of the Jewish nation must donate Tzedakah. Even a pauper who receives Tzedakah, has no way of earning a livelihood, and only lives off of what others provide him with must give Tzedakah from what others give him. When the Sages of Israel had control over the Jewish nation, the Jewish co......

Read Halacha

Unworthy Individuals

In the previous Halachot, we have explained the primary aspects of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. If one transgresses any prohibition in the Torah and does not repent, for instance, if one is aware of the prohibition of shaving one’s beard with a razor and he nevertheless does so or one who dese......

Read Halacha

The Privilege to Donate Tzedakah

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed how the prophet Yirmeya requested from Hashem that when the wicked wish to donate Tzedakah, he should present them with unworthy people. This means that the Tzedakah funds should go to unworthy causes, such as cheaters and con-artists. As such, the wicked w......

Read Halacha