Introduction to the 39 Melachot – Shabbat –

Posted By on May 8, 2020

Shabbat: A gift

I have an exquisite gift in My treasurehouse; it is called Shabbat, and I wish to bestow it upon the Jewish people, Gd toldMoses. Indeed, Shabbat is a gift; a uniquely holy and special day. Ourobservance of Shabbat testifies to Gds creation of the universe and Hisabsolute sovereignty over it. By observingShabbat in accordance with halachah,we display our total commitment to Gd and His Torah.

In no fewer than 12 places, the Torahreiterates the prohibition against doing melachah,work, on Shabbat, but it is not clear from the Scripture exactly whichtype of work is included. People often assume the prohibition refers to going to work on Shabbat; others thinkthe Torah only forbids the use of electricity and modern technology. Inreality, although the Torahs prohibition does encompass many activities, itrefers to a very specific set of laws. From the way the Torah juxtaposes theendeavor to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the commandment to observeShabbat, our sages deduced that the 39 types of work used in the constructionand maintenance of the Mishkan comprise the 39 melachot.

Each melachahactually refers to a category of work, with numerous derivatives that sharesimilar characteristics. Since these activities are an extension of the centralmelachah, they are called toladot (children), and the main melachah is called the av (father). The avot and toladot areequally forbidden on Shabbat. Throughoutthis section we will use these terms to describe the nature of each forbiddenactivity.

Lets use zoraya(sowing) as an example. The goal of sowing is to promote plant growth. Assuch, while actual sowing is the av,any other activities which promote plant growth, such as watering plants orpruning trees, would be included in the melachahand referred to as toladot.

The first eleven melachot encompass all the steps that go into producing bread, fromplowing the soil to baking the dough. The Talmud refers to them as the sidura dpat - the process of makingbread.

Here, we will define each melachah and trace its source in the Mishkan. We will also giveexamples of possible toladot of each melachah and point to common scenariosthat should be avoided. This is in no way a comprehensive guide to Shabbatobservance. The laws are numerous and complex, and its important to consult aRabbinic authority for practical application when confronted with a potentialissue.

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Introduction to the 39 Melachot - Shabbat -

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