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Lamed-Tet Melachot

For more details about the 39 Melachot, click here.

The first eleven of the 39 categories of work prohibited on Shabbat, are what the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 74b) calls the "sidura d'pas," the "order of (making) bread," which were the steps taken to cultivate wheat for the Lechem Hapanim (Show Bread) and grow other ingredients essential in the production of dyes that colored the wool curtains and tapestries of the Mishkan. These steps are: plowing, sowing, reaping, gathering, threshing, winnowing, sorting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and lastly baking / cooking. Baking itself was not performed during the actual construction of the Mishkan since bread was not required for the structure. It was only herbs that were cooked to produce the dyes.

The first of the thirty-nine melachot is zoreah, sowing or seeding. Zoreah includes planting, sowing, or watering seeds to induce or encourage growth.
Plowing, is the second of the thirty-nine prohibited melachot. It is prohibited to plow the ground---to level it off or make holes in it, like the holes used for planting seeds.

Kotzair - Reaping (cutting), the third of the thirty-nine melachot is the uprooting or severing of any living plant or vegetation from its source of growth. Thus, one may not uproot plants, branches, or even just one leaf. Plucking a flower, picking fruit from a tree, vegetables from a garden are actions all prohibited under the category of kotzair because these actions involve severing a living plant or part of a living plant from its source of growth.

M'amair - Gathering (bundling sheaves) Gathering is the fourth of the thirty-nine Melachot. Gathering consists of collecting natural produce into a bundle. Actions that would fall under this category would be piling scattered fruit (in the orchard), putting together a bouquet of flowers, or stringing figs. M'amair was the Melacha done by the first person to ever violate Shabbat, the wood-gatherer, in Bamidbar / Numbers 15:32.






Dush - Threshing.
The fifth of the 39 melachot, is Disha, or threshing. Its purpose is to separate kernels of grain from their husks, and it has been expanded to include the removal of any wanted item ( known as 'ochel') from its unwanted natural container ( known as 'pesolet'). This has ramifications in terms of a subcategory of disha, namely s'chita, or squeezing.

The sixth melacha is zoreh, winnowing. Winnowing is using the wind to separate wanted from unwanted objects.
Winnowing is a fundamental step in harvesting wheat because it separates the grain from the waste. After threshing, the kernels and the chaff would be left together on the ground, and the farmer would take a pitchfork, and throw a mixture of it in the air. The waste would blow away, leaving the heavier kernels.

The seventh of the 39 melachot, is borer, or sorting. It is any form of selecting or sorting inedible matter from food by hand. This includes removing undesired objects or matter from a mixture or combination such as removing spoiled cherries from a bowl of cherries or removing bones from a fish. (Gefilte fish is the traditional Ashkenazi solution to this problem.) Borer also includes the sorting of nonfood items mixed together, such as sorting dirty silverware from a mixture of clean and dirty silverware.

The eighth of the 39 melachot, is tochain, or grinding. Tochain is defined as the act of breaking down an item into small parts whereby it becomes suitable for a new use, such as grinding wheat into flour. Any kind of normal crushing, chopping, or grinding, by hand, or with a tool, falls under this category. Making Sawdust is a no no.
The ninth melacha, is miraked or sifting. Miraked is the sifting specifically done with a keli, or instrument, especially designed for the purpose of straining, such as a sieve or strainer.

The tenth melacha is Lush, or kneading, Lush is the act of forming a solid or semi-solid substance of particles using a liquid. There are two steps in this process: contact of the liquid with the flour, and the mixing of the two with a kneading action. Some examples of lush are mixing water with sand to produce thick mud, mixing water and powder to make thick paste, and making plaster.

The prohibition of Ofeh / Bishul (the eleventh melacha) is generally understood to be the causing of a change in the properties of a food or substance by use of heat. This includes cooking raw food until it becomes edible and causing change in nonfoods as well, such as the baking of bricks. Melting candles is prohibited.

With this definition of the melacha of Ofeh / Bishul, the eleventh of the 39 categories of work prohibited on Shabbat, we have completed what the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 74b) calls the "sidura d'pas," the "order of (making) bread," which were the steps taken to cultivate wheat for the Lechem Hapanim (Show Bread) and grow other ingredients essential in the production of dyes that colored the wool curtains and tapestries of the Mishkan. To recap, these steps are: plowing, sowing, reaping, gathering, threshing, winnowing, sorting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and lastly baking / cooking. Baking itself was not performed during the actual construction of the Mishkan since bread was not required for the structure. It was only herbs that were cooked to produce the dyes.

The next group of thirteen Melachot make up the essential steps in the processing of wool fabrics and garments. The cloth coverings of the Mishkan were made from wool,

The twelfth melacha is Gozez / Shearing, which consists of severing or uprooting any growing part of any creature, even if the creature is dead.

The thirteenth Melacha of Melabein, literally "whitening," (or bleaching), is expressed through three categories of activity: Shriyah, or soaking, Shifshuf, or scrubbing, and Sechita, or squeezing. More commonly, melabein is the act of cleaning on Shabbat, which is prohibited.

The fourteenth Melacha of Menafetz - Disentangling, Combing Raw Materials

After bleaching the wool, the next step is to comb the tangled threads to prepare it for spinning / weaving (by hand and with a comb). The prohibition of menafetz applies to the act of beating compact material into separate strands. This includes one who combs wool or beats flax stalks or any similar process.

The fifteenth Melacha is Tzovayah - Dyeing. The Melacha includes coloring or darkening any material that is ordinarily colored, dyed, or painted for some useful purpose.

The sixteenth Melacha is Toveh - Spinning. This Melacha involves twisting fibers together to make long threads.

The seventeenth Melacha is Maisach -Warping
- Mounting the warp (stretching threads onto loom).
Warping is the first step in the creation of woven fabric. The longitudinal threads are called warp and the transverse threads are called weft. Warping entails aligning and setting warp threads firmly in position in order to allow the weft threads to pass over and under them in perfect sequence. This is an important preliminary step of all types of weaving, including lattice-work, making a simple pot holder, and basket making.

The eighteenth Melacha is Oseh Beit Batai Neirin - Setting two heddles (preparing to weave).
Threading two threads.
This melacha is one of the five steps in making cloth. Technically, it involves threading two threads through the (heddle eyes) rings in each of the two harnesses of the loom. Practically, this prohibition would apply to setting up a loom with at least two strings or threads in one direction, as one might do to make a potholder.

The nineteenth Melacha is Oraig - Weaving.
The melacha of Oraig involves completing the creation of a fabric by passing the "transverse weft" thread under and over the "warp" threads. The reason these terms might sound unfamiliar is that they apply to thread mounted on a loom, a device that most of us have probably never seen.

The twentieth Melacha is Potzai'ah - Separating (removing) threads - Unweaving or removing Weaves

The Melacha of Potzai'ah is removing weaved threads from a loom. Excess threads eliminated from areas that are too densly packed is also Potzai'ah.

The twenty-first Melacha is Koshair - Tying a knot.
Any tight knot that will never loosen and become undone on its own is considered a kesher uman, whereas a kesher shel kayama refers to any knot that is meant to remain permanently, even if it is a type of knot that may sometimes come undone over time. In practice, any knot that is either tight and durable (and made without any specific intention to undo it later) or one that is meant to last permanently (even if not tight or durable) is forbidden to make, and must be treated as a possible Kesher M'de'oraisa (Torah-restricted knot).
The twenty-second Melacha is Matir - Untying a knot. The prohibition of untying applies to cases where the knot one is untying is also prohibited. If the knot is such that tying it was a violation of a Torah law, then untying that knot is also a Torah violation; similarly, if the knot is a violation of a Rabbinical law, so too untying it is in violation of a Rabbinical law.
The twenty-third Melacha is Tofair - sewing. Stitching two separate pieces of fabric together, combining any two separate objects into one single entity, by any means.
One important concept in regards to Tofair is that an action is not considered Tofair if the connection is meant to be created and broken as part of the object's functional design. Therefore using buttons, zippers, safety pins, and Velcro is permitted. Gluing is considered Tofair only when the gluing is meant to be permanent.

The twenty-fourth Melacha is Koraya - tearing.
The basic concept of Ko'reah may be described as the tearing of a single object into two parts, or the detaching of the two objects that became combined as one. Ko'reah is only possible with materials that are sewn or glued together when torn.
The next few Melachot, were performed during construction of the Mishkan on the Tachash animal, from whose hide a covering for the Mishkan was made.
The twenty-fifth Melacha is Tzud, which involves trapping or confining an animal or insect, providing that the species is one that is normally trapped or hunted. According to some poskim, Tzud is one of the few melachot that can be violated even without a direct action. For instance, frightening an animal into a corner is considered tzud even if one never came in contact with it.
The twenty-sixth Melacha is Shochet - the second Melacha in the series of melachot that deal with preparing skins. After trapping the animal, it is necessary to kill it in order to take the skin. Killing by any means, whether by slaughtering, stabbing or battering, not just shechita (ritual slaughter) as applied to kosher animals, would make one liable. This prohibition applies to all kinds of animals
The twenty-seventh Melacha is Mafshit - After slaughtering the animal, the next step in the process of preparing hides is to remove the hide and spread it out flat, hence the prohibition of Mafshit. This Melacha is not relevant in situations where the skin has already been cooked and is in an edible form, but rather only in cases where the skin is on a newly-slaughtered animal.
The twenty-eighth Melacha is Meabaid - Tanning.
Tanning involves the process by which raw animal hides are preserved. Hides are soaked in potent tanning solutions until they reach a point of long-lasting durability.
The twenty-ninth Melacha is Mesharteit - Tracing (scratching) lines, Marking.

After smoothing the processed hide of an animal, one must outline the area that is going to be cut. The act of outlining, or marking, is the Melacha of Mesharteit. This prohibition applies to skin, klaf (parchment), paper, wood, and other materials, with the exception of food.

The thirtieth Melacha is Memachaik - Smoothing. Memachaik is the method by which hair is removed from hides. Similar to smoothing hides, Memachaik only applies to surfaces that are firm. For example, sanding or smoothing a wooden or leather surface would be Memachaik.

The thirtieth-first Melacha is Mechataich - Cutting (to shape) or Measured Cutting. Cutting hides, or any material for that matter, with one's hands or an instrument, to a pre-measured size and shape is called Mechataich.

The Melacha of Mechateich is not to be confused with Ko'reah (tearing). Mechateich is measured cutting, while Ko'reah is not. Mechateich applies to all materials, while Ko'reah does not.

Sharpening a new pencil or a broken pointed one is mechataich. It is also Makeh B'Patish.
The next two Melachot, are connected to the Krushim (beams of the Mishkan)

The thirtieth-second Melacha is Kotaiv - Writing two or more letters

The wall boards of the Mishkan were inscribed with letters to facilitate matching them each time the Mishkan was erected.
This Melacha is often defined as creating meaningful images, not simply as writing. This is because, while forming two letters is generally the minimum for the prohibition of
Kotaiv, forming any images of at least that size would be problematic, including painting pictures, etching a design into wood, and embroidering a design into cloth.

The thirtieth-third Melacha is Mochaik - Erasing two or more letters.

If the Mishkan's builders erred in writing letters on the boards, they would erase them in order to write the proper ones.

The next two Melachot, are connected to the putting the walls of the Mishkan up and down.
The thirtieth-fourth Melacha is Boneh - Building

The prohibition of building on Shabbat that are prohibited are building something attached to the ground or adding to something that is already built on the ground.
Even doing a very small amount, of these actions is considered Boneh. Furthermore, fixing something, like a nail, on such a building is also prohibited.

The thirtieth-fifth Melacha is Soiser - Demolishing. Soiser is essentially the reverse of Boneh, building. As the Jews traveled throughout the desert, it was necessary to build and demolish the structure of the Mishkan by taking apart the separate kerashim, planks.
The next four Melachot, are connected to the the final touches of the Mishkan..

The thirtieth-sixth Melacha is Mechabeh - Extinguishing Fires.




The thirtieth-seventh Melacha is Ma'avir - Lighting Fires.
These two Melachot, (36 & 37), are closely related; one is the opposite of the other. Fire was used for cooking the dyes during the construction of the Mishkan and later for the Korbanot and is therefore prohibited. Mechabeh is extinguishing fire; Ma'avir is kindling fire.

The thirtieth-eigth Melacha is Makeh B'Patish - "The Final Hammer Blow" Striking the final blow (Finishing an object). This Melacha has its roots in the building of the Kerashim, the beams of the Mishkan. These beams were made of wood covered with gold. The gold sheathing was kept in place with golden nails that were hammered into the wood. The final hit on those nails to complete the beam was Makeh B'Patish. Although the Melacha stemmed from work done with a hammer, the prohibition applies to any act of completion.
Sharpening a new pencil or a broken pointed one is Makeh B'Patish.

The thirtieth-ninth Melacha is Hotza'ah - Transferring (transporting) from domain to domain (carrying). Hotza'ah is the general term for the last of the thirty-nine Avot Melachot of Shabbat.
The Torah prohibits one to transfer (i.e., carry, throw, push, etc.) an object from a "reshut hayachid", a private domain*, and "reshut harabim" - a public domain** and vice versa.

- Hotza'ah is carrying or moving something (transferring an object) between a reshut hayachid, and reshut harabim.
- Hachnasah - refers to transferring objects from a reshut harabim to a reshut hayachid.
Transferring an object either from a private domain to a public domain (Hotza'ah) or the reverse (Hachnasah) is forbidden by the Torah.
- Ma'avir Arba Amot b'Reshut harabim - carrying an object from one place in a public domain to another over a distance of at least four Amot, (appoximately 7 feet ) or more is similarly forbidden.
- Moshit, which involves "passing" an object from one reshut hayachid to another reshut hayachid through reshut harabim (as described in the Mishnah Shabbos 96a is also a Biblical prohibition.
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1. - The 39 Melachos, by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat.

- Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos and M'nucha V'Simcha by Rabbi Mordechai Katz.

- Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos by Rabbi J. Posen.

- The 39 Avoth Melacha of Shabbat by Rabbi Baruch Chait.

- Shmirat Shabbat KeHilchata

There are many more aspects to these melachot that can be learned from all of the above valuable references, from which these explanations have been adapted.

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