Parshas Vayakhel.


Laws of rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbos.


1. The Creator gave the Rabbis the sanction to establish fences around the Torah laws. With the help of such safeguards, the laws of the Torah itself are protected. (One might question why, if the protections are so important, were they not specified by Torah itself? One of the reasons is, that protections can vary, depending on necessity, and laws of a Torah – are eternal. A good example of this is the rabbinical prohibition of taking a hot shower or bath on Shabbos. The Talmud tells us, that in the beginning it was permissible to bathe in the hot water which has been heated up before Shabbos, but some bathhouse attendants began to heat up water on Shabbos itself, claming that it was heated before. The Rabbis then forbade washing in hot water, but allowed to come into a bath for sweating and afterwards wash with cold water. However they had to forbid that also, since people were still washing in hot water claming they only come to the bathhouse for sweating. It happens sometimes, that if the generation becomes better, the severity of some rabbinical prohibitions is also decreased. A good example of this is the laws of Muktza – prohibition of moving certain objects. Many more objects were included in Muktza category in a generation that was conducting business on Shabbos, but afterwards, when people improved their observance some of these objects were permitted to be moved again. Note also, that some of the rabbinical laws are hinted by Torah itself. With regards to Shabbos in particular, the Torah requires the Rabbis to institute laws that will make this day special and also hints to some of the ways this day should be made different from weekdays. The Torah hints to the prohibition of walking far away from the city (Shemos 16, 29); the prohibition on doing commerce (Yermiyahu 17, 21, Nehemiah 13, 16); the requirement that our speech and manner of walking is different on Shabbos (Yeshiyahu 58, 13) etc. Obviously, after the sealing of the Talmud 1,500 years ago no more laws can be added by any Rabbi. All matters of Jewish law including the new questions that arise regarding for instance electric devices are decided based on the Talmud.


2. There are many specific laws regarding making a partnership with non-Jews who work on Shabbos. In case a Jew wants to operate a common restaurant, hotel, factory or a parking lot there are rules when this is permitted and how the profits should be divided. The detailed laws are beyond the scope of this book, obviously in each particular case one should ask a Rabbi. (Note also, that having a nonreligious Jewish partner in business is governed by more severe laws.)


3. One should similarly discuss with a Rabbi if he wants to hire non-Jews to do work on Shabbos. On the other hand, giving (before Shabbos starts) some work to a non-Jew to be done outside our homes, without asking him to do it on Shabbos – is generally permitted. For this reason we can deposit our dry cleaning and mail our letters on Friday. This law applies only to the work that is not done publicly, but hiring a construction company to build for us may be forbidden even if they do their work on Shabbos without being asked. Each concrete question should be asked to a competent Rabbi.


4. On Shabbos itself it is even more strictly forbidden to ask a non-Jew to do work for us. Unfortunately even some people who otherwise keep Shabbos are not fully aware of this prohibition. Many people heard of the concept of Shabbos Goi – a non-Jew who does the work for us. The truth is that in cold countries it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to heat the stove in order to avoid suffering in the winter. With time, many people started asking that non-Jew to do other things for them as well. This is how the prohibition of asking a non-Jew to do work was often ignored.


5. If some work is forbidden on rabbinically, one can ask a non-Jew to do it in case of a mitzvah, or for a person who is not feeling well. Sometimes, in case of great financial loss one can hint to a non-Jew to do work. For example, if there is fire that does not present any danger to people, one can tell a non-Jew: “whoever extinguishes it will not loose”. Obviously, if there is danger involved the work can be done by Jews as well and it is an obligation to do everything to save life.


6. The Rabbis forbid us to move certain objects called Muktza. Anything that is generally useless like stones, sticks, bones, shells and money can not be moved on Shabbos. If a stone was used from before Shabbos in order to hold a door from closing, we can continue using it on Shabbos. Any expansive article that is normally used for work that is forbidden on Shabbos can not be moved. However, if the article is cheap, it can be moved to perform permitted activity or to free space. Thus, a hammer can be moved to break nut shells or to move it out of the way. Those objects that were doing work in the beginning of Shabbos can not be moved the entire Shabbos. Thus, candles and lamps can not be moved even after they extinguish. Anything on which muktza objects were placed from before Shabbos also becomes muktza. Thus, the table on which Shabbos candles were lit can not be moved the entire Shabbos. However, if before Shabbos started other articles were place on that table, one can move it provided those articles are of greater importance than the candles. Many people therefore place challas on the table before Shabbos so that when the candles extinguish the table can be moved. Others light the Shabbos candles on a separate table, and this was the custom of Arizal and Vilna Gaon. (According to Kabbalah the candles are lit in the south while the eating table is placed in the north.)


7. During the meal we often have bones, pits and shells gathering in front of us. If so much of it assembled that one gets disgusted, he can move it away. A better advice is to put some bread on a plate first and during the meal to place all the pits on that plate. Afterwards, the plate can be removed. Note also that those bones that a dog can eat can be moved as long as there are some dogs in the vicinity. Regarding the animals themselves, they are also muktza and can not be moved on Shabbos.


8. It is forbidden to talk about business on Shabbos. One is not allowed to mention anything that can not be done on Shabbos itself, for example: “I will ride my car tomorrow”. However, one is allowed to talk about performing a mitzvah after Shabbos even if some work will be involved. In general, our speech on Shabbos should be exalted and different from weekdays.


9. It is prohibited to play musical instruments on Shabbos. Similarly, dancing or clapping hands is forbidden unless it is done for a mitzvah. For example, one can dance on Simchas Torah.


10. It is forbidden to climb trees and ride animals or even to lean on them or to ride in a boat. It is also prohibited to walk outside the limits of Tahum – a distance of approximately 2/3 of a mile from the city. Inside the city, it is permissible to walk any distance, but regarding what is considered the same city, one should ask a Rabbi. (Many cities in rural parts of America have houses that are spaced far from each other, and according to the Jewish law, each house, might be considered as separate city. In such a case one can not walk away from the house further than 2/3 of a mile.)


Parshas Pekude.


The laws of the prohibitions of making statues and copying structures that were in the Holy Temple.


1. The Torah prohibits us from imitating the buildings and the vessels that were in the Holy Temple. (One of the reasons for this prohibition has to do with the fact that all the structures and the vessels in the Temple were used to bring down very strong spiritual energy. The Creator permitted us to bring such energy only within the Temple itself. Thus, for example, we are forbidden to prepare incense with a similar mixture of plants and in the same proportion, as was burned in the Temple. We can not make similar anointing oil as the one that was used in the Temple etc. Interestingly, two golden angels were placed inside the holiest room in the Temple. They were facing each other and represented the love between the Creator and the Jewish nation. These angels were used for meditation and to bring down spiritual influx. Normally, making such forms would be forbidden but inside the Temple they were required. Indeed our sages teach that if similar angels were made outside the Temple this would be tantamount to breaking the prohibition against idolatry.)


2. It is forbidden to make a building exactly like the palace within the Temple or a yard like the one that was in the Temple. We are not allowed to make a seven branched menorah, for this reason we only make menorahs that have at least eight or at most six branches. Even if a seven branched menorah was made by a non-Jew it is preferable not to keep it.


3. The Torah forbids us to make sculptures of people. We should not keep them at home even if they were made by non-Jews. However according to most opinions making flat pictures is permitted. However it is forbidden to make even flat pictures of the sun, moon and the stars for this is the way they look to us on the sky.