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THE 39 MELACHOT
Lamed-Tet Melachot

PLEASE NOTE: This is just a VERY BASIC introduction. There are many complex laws regarding Shabbat, and this is not the forum for decisions regarding what is or is not allowed on Shabbat. This is just to give the reader a flavor of the intricate halachot involved. A competent halachic authority should be consulted with any questions.

Melacha (plural "melachot").

1. Melacha refers to the 39 categories of activity that are forbidden on Shabbat. Melacha, is not "work." At least not the English definition of the word "work." You may not carry a needle out into the street on Shabbat, yet you may drag a heavy sofa across the room. So what Melacha is forbidden on Shabbat?

The 39 categories of activity that are forbidden on Shabbat, are all labors that have something in common - they are creative activities that exercise control over one's environment.

Specifically, the Talmud derives these 39 categories from the fact that the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to cease work on Shabbat in Shmot Parshat Vayakheil, with its detailed instructions on how to build the Mishkan*, and the preparation of its components, as described in Shmot / Exodus 31 and 35.
*[Mishkan - Tabernacle; the portable, temporary version of the Holy Temple that the Jews carried throughout the forty years in the desert into Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel), until they built the Beit HaMikdash]

This is to teach us, explains the Talmud (Shabbat 49b), which activities constitute melacha: any creative act that was part of the mishkan's construction represents a category of work forbidden on Shabbat. These categories are forbidden by the Torah.

2. Toldot - Work which is different from that done in the Mishkan, but which achieves the same result. These types of melacha are also prohibited by the Torah.

3. Rabbinic Decrees - There are a number of additional activities that are forbidden by the Rabbis. There are several categories of decrees that prohibit:

a. Activities that might lead directly to the violation of a Torah prohibition.

b. Use of items not designated for Shabbat use (muktzah).

c. Activities that might lead one to think that a prohibited activity is permissible (Ma'arit Ayin - The appearance of the eye).

d. Activities that are not appropriate for Shabbat, even though they are technically permissible (Uvda D'Chol - [resembles] weekday activity). The Navi Yeshayahu (Prophet Isaiah (58:13-14) recorded a prohibition against speaking of business and against weekday-oriented activities.

Here is the list of the 39 Melachot (main activities) prohibited on the Shabbat as listed in the Mishna Shabbat 73a:

1. Zoreah - Sowing (seeding)

2. Choresh - Plowing

3. Kotzair - Reaping (cutting)

4. M'amair - Gathering (bundling sheaves)

5. Dush - Threshing

6. Zoreh - Winnowing

7. Borer - Sorting (selecting, separating)

8. Tochain - Grinding

9. Miraked - Sifting

10. Lush - Kneading

11. Ofeh / (Bishul) - Baking/cooking

12. Gozez - Shearing

13. Melabain - Whitening (bleaching)

14. Menafetz - Disentangling, Combing

15. Tzovayah - Dyeing

16. Toveh - Spinning

17. Maisach - Mounting the warp (stretching threads onto loom)

18. Oseh Beit Batai Neirin - Setting two heddles (preparing to weave)

19. Oraig - Weaving

20. Potzai'ah - Separating (removing) threads (Unweaving)

21. Koshair - Tying a knot

22. Matir - Untying a knot

23. Tofair - Sewing

24. Ko'reah - Tearing (unsewing - ripping)

25. Tzud - Trapping

26. Shochet - Slaughtering (Killing)

27. Mafshit - Skinning

28. M'abaid - Salting/tanning process [1]

29. Mesharteit - Tracing (scratching) lines

30. Memacheik - Smoothing / scraping

31. Mechateich - Cutting (to shape)

32. Kotaiv - Writing two or more letters

33. Mochaik - Erasing two or more letters

34. Boneh - Building

35. Soiser - Demolishing

36. Mechabeh - Extinguishing (putting out a flame)

37. Ma'avir - Kindling (making a fire)

38. Makeh B'Patish - Striking the final blow (Finishing an object)

39. Hotza'ah - Transferring (transporting) from domain to domain (carrying)

[1] The list of Melachot in the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 7:2) includes salting hides and tanning as separate Melachot. The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 75b) states that these two are really the same Melacha, and amends the Mishna by inserting tracing lines, as the twenty-ninth Melacha.

These 39 Melachot are divided into six (6) groups:

Group I = Numbers 1-11
Group II = Numbers 12-24
Group III = Numbers 25-31
Group IV = Numbers 32-33
Group V = Numbers 34-35
Group VI = Numbers 36-39
Group V = Numbers 34-35
Group VI = Numbers 36-39

Group I is connected to the field work.
Group II is connected to the making material curtains
Group III is connected to the making of leather curtains
Group IV is connected to the Krushim (beams of the Mishkan)
Group V is connected to the putting the walls of the Mishkan up and down
Group VI is connected to the final touches of the Mishkan


1. Zoreah - Sowing (seeding)

The first of the thirty-nine melachot is zoreah, sowing. Zoreah includes planting, sowing, or watering seeds to induce or encourage growth. This melacha is only transgressed in a place where a seed could grow. Therefore, if one drops a seed in the desert or on a well-traveled road where it would be crushed, one has not violated the prohibition of zoreah. It is also not considered zoreah to feed seeds to chickens in a coop where it is very likely that the chickens will eat all of the seeds before they can germinate.1

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2. Choresh - Plowing

Choresh, or 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. Dragging a heavy lawn chair in one's backyard, (a really heavy lawn chair), is considered plowing, if it makes holes in the ground, and is thus prohibited on Shabbat. However, a distinction may be made between making holes in the ground and making mere compressions in the ground. The latter, which is what wheels of a wheelchair or a baby carriage might do to the ground, is permissible on Shabbat. Pushing the ground down and consolidating it, is halachically different than puncturing the surface of the ground. So, baby carriages on a dirt roads, are OK.1

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3 - Kotzair - Reaping (cutting) Harvesting

Kotzair, 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, or mushrooms from the forest floor 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. [Mushrooms, in other areas of Halacha, Jewish law, are not classified at plants for they do not "grow FROM the ground" but "grow ON the ground." (Thus someone about to eat a mushroom should make the blessing Shehakol - appropriate for milk, water, and foods that do not grow from the ground - and not make the blessing HaAdamah). But with respect to kotzair, mushrooms are Halachically equated as plant life for they draw nutrients from the soil, and thus should not be separated from their source of growth on Shabbat.1] The next time you have an urge to puncture the trunk of a sugar maple tree and drain its syrupy sap, think again! According to some Rabbis, draining the sap is equivalent to uprooting the sap from its source of growth, in this case the tree, and is thus a transgression of Kotzair.
Picking grapes from their stems, however, is allowed, provided that grape bunches have already been detached from the vine on which they grew.
Mowing a lawn is kotzair. We also may not handle any growing flowers or plants. It is also forbidden to climb a tree or smell an attached fruit, but it is permitted to smell a growing flower.1

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4 - M'amair - Gathering (bundling sheaves)

Gathering is the fourth of the thirty-nine Melachot. Gathering consists of collecting natural produce into a bundle. The prohibition, in fact, only applies to natural produce - gathering manufactured products is completely permitted. So there's no need to stop your little brother from collecting the candy bags after they have been throw at the Bar-Mitzvah boy. Actions that would fall under this category would be piling scattered fruit, putting together a bouquet of flowers, or stringing figs (something that was much more common in the time of the Mishna than it is today). Although this Melacha seems rather innocuous compared to such heavy-hitters as writing, plowing, and lighting a fire, it was the Melacha done by the first person to ever violate Shabbat, the wood-gatherer, in Bamidbar / Numbers 15:32.

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5 - 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.
One is not permitted to squeeze the juice out of a fruit on Shabbat.
However, there are a few legitimate ways to remove the juice from the fruit:
1)Suck out the juice, as it is a shinuy, or change, from the usual manner of squeezing out juice.
2)Squeeze juice out purely for the intention of improving the taste of the fruit, even if you keep the juice.
3)Squeeze the juice straight onto a solid that will absorb it.
(It should be noted that Rabbeinu Chananel prohibits this third activity, although he is in the minority. However, even he would allow the squeezing of lemon onto a solid.)

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6- Zoreh - Winnowing

The sixth melacha is zoreh, winnowing. Winnowing is a fundamental step in harvesting wheat because it separates the grain from the waste. In the mishkan, wheat was grown for the Lechem HaPanim, the showbread. 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. Many commentators explain that the melacha of zoreh is similar to borer, sorting or separating, and miraked, sifting, in that the main point of each melacha is separating the bad from the good. One way of explaining the difference between the three is by the means used for each; zoreh is through wind, borer is by hand, and meraked is through a sifting device. One may not b
low away nutshells from a mixture of nuts and shells.

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7 - Borer - Sorting (selecting, separating)

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.
Sorting is only permitted when ALL of the following three conditions are met:
1) The selection is done by hand.
2) The desired objects are selected from the undesired, and not the reverse.
3) The selection is done immediately before the time of use.
For example, if one has a bowl of mixed almonds and raisins and wants only the raisins, you must remove the raisins by hand, remove the raisins from the almonds, and intend to eat all the selected raisins immediately after removing them. This description of the complex melacha of Borer is very simplified, see note above.

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8 - Tochain - Grinding

The eighth of the 39 melachot, is tochain, or grinding. Tochain is defined as the act of breaking down an entity 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. There are four exceptions to Tochain: it only applies to earth-grown products; previously ground substances may be crushed again; food may be ground for immediate use; and substances may be ground in an abnormal manner.
In the time of the Talmud, medicines were ground up from herbs and other vegetable sources. Because of this, taking any form of medication was Rabbinically prohibited (except in life-threatening situations) to safeguard the melacha. Since the reasoning behind this prohibition no longer applies today, the details of its application have become very complicated. In brief, one is allowed to take medicine only for illnesses that weaken the entire body or that are very painful. Medicine should not be taken for slight aches or a cold. This aspect of tochain contains many more details, and 'The 39 Melachot,' Vol. 2, by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat is a good place to find out about them.

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9 - Miraked - Sifting

The ninth melacha, is miraked or sifting. How then, does it differ from borer, which also involves separating undesired from desired items? One suggestion is that meraked is the sifting specifically done with a keli, or instrument, especially designed for the purpose of straining, such as a sieve. Sifting flour to make it finer, or sifting the pebbles out of a pile of sand would be good example of miraked, while merely picking the pebbles out by hand would be termed borer (by the way, the pebbles themselves are generally muktza, thus making this whole activity a rather bad idea on Shabbat). Some Rishonim, (early Sages), make another distinction between miraked and borer, namely that borer is defined as removing the bad from the good, whereas miraked involves allowing the items that one wishes to keep, to pass through the strainer, retaining only the garbage on the face of the strainer. It includes the sifting of flour and the straining of liquids.

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10 - Lush - Kneading

Lush, or kneading, 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. There are many facets to this melacha which should be researched further, but it is interesting to note that, according to The 39 Melochot by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat (p. 527-49), it is permitted to soak matzah in soup or to dunk cookies in milk because these foods disintegrate when in contact with liquids.

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11- Ofeh / Bishul - Baking / Cooking

The prohibition of Ofeh / Bishul 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. If one were to place raw food on a flame, one should, and is required, to remove the pot before the raw food cooks. Generally, bishul does not occur in solid foods until the raw solid, or even part of it, becomes minimally edible. Liquids, however, since they are dramatically approved when heated, need only to be warmed and not physically changed by heat to be considered a violation of bishul. The minimum amount of heat needed to make substantial change is known as "Yad Soledet," (hand draws back) and is the degree of heat from which a person, upon contact, reflexively removes his hand ("hot to the touch").


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.

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12 - Gozez / Shearing

The melacha of Gozez is the first in a group of thirteen Melachot that make up the essential steps in the processing of wool fabrics and garments. The cloth coverings of the Mishkan were made from wool, and the first step in the process was shearing it from the animal. The melacha consists of severing or uprooting any growing part of any creature, even if the creature is dead. The melacha truly only entails removing with an instrument such as clippers or scissors, but the Rabbis later included any type of hair removal. This melacha has a number of important implications, even for those of us who don't own sheep. One may not comb their hair on Shabbat because a comb will definitely pull out hairs. Instead, one may gently use a soft-bristle brush. Cutting or biting one's nails on Shabbat is also prohibited, and one may not pull off loose or dead skin.

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13 - Melabain - Whitening (bleaching)

The sheared wool needed for the Mishkan was washed in a river. The Melacha of Melabein, literally "whitening," 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. Here are some halachot that explains what is forbidden in each one of those categories:
1) Soaking - One may not pour anything (that includes, water, seltzer, etc.) or spray anything on a stain to loosen it or erase it from one's clothes completely. Remember that when you spill something on yourself at lunch. Everyone's knee-jerk reaction, of course, is to reach for the seltzer.
2) Scrubbing - This prohibition includes folding over part of one's clothing to rub it against the stained spot in order to remove the stain. It also includes scratching out a dried stain from one's clothes with one's fingernail.
3) Squeezing - This category includes wringing out one's clothes on Shabbat. The good news, though, is that the prohibition of squeezing things out does not apply to sprinkling one's hair with water to hold down 'the frizz.' But, just watch yourselves. A sprinkle is OK, not a shower!

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14. 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. Some add that menafetz also applies to loose hair, in which case combing a wig is also prohibited on Shabbat.

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15. Tzovayah - Dyeing

To manufacture wool, the wool must first be sheared from the animal, and then the tangled fibers combed out. The next step is the Melacha of dyeing. Dyed wool was used for the curtains and the covers of the Mishkan. The Melacha includes coloring or darkening any material that is ordinarily colored, dyed, or painted for some useful purpose. If the coloring is only temporary, it is still rabbinically prohibited. This Melacha is the source for the prohibition of wearing makeup on Shabbat, since one is coloring the skin. Some authorities even prohibit sunbathing for this reason. Dyeing food is not considered Tzovayah because food's primary function is to be eaten, not to serve as art.

16. Toveh - Spinning

This Melacha involves twisting fibers together to make long threads. Given that none of us work in sweatshops, when would this melacha ever be relevant to us?
Well, for those of us who wear tzitzit, there comes a time when the threads of the tzitzit may fray and separate from one another. On Shabbat one may not twist the threads back together.

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17. Maisach - 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. (See Meleches Arigah by Rabbi P. Bodner p. 19 for a detailed explanation of this melacha.)

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18. 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.

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19. 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. On a more practical level, on Shabbat it sometimes happens that a thread in one's clothes becomes snagged on a hook or nail, causing the fabric around it to bunch up. Pulling and smoothing the bunched-up fabric is a direct violation of this melacha. On a less practical level, braiding shaitel (wig) hair is also prohibited because of Oraig.

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20. 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.
All the Melachot from 'mounting the warp' to here were required for weaving the Mishkan's curtains.
Relevance? Remember making potholders on the little square looms. The weaving would be Oreig, which is prohibited on Shabbat. Removing the finished product from the "loom" is the Melacha of Potzai'ah.

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21. Koshair - Tying a knot

During consruction of the Mishkan, those who fished for chilazon, a small fishlike creature whoe blood was used for techeilet [the blue dye used for the curtains of the Mishkan], would both tie and untie their nets, since it was sometimes necessary to remove ropes from one net and attach them to another.
Also, to prepare thread for stitching, it was necessary to tie the ends of the thread into a knot in order to tighten and hold the stitching to the seam. Similarly, the ends of the stitches in a seam must be tied into knots to keep the stitching from unraveling. Tying these knots is the melacha of Koshair.

There are two types of prohibited knots:
kesher uman
, a craftman's knot, and kesher shel kayama, a permanent 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).
Thus, a bow-tie used for tying shoes or decorative lace is not considered a knot, and making this knot for only a day, i.e. 24 hours or less, is therefore permitted. On the other hand, if one intends to leave it indefinitely in its knotted state then it is considered a kesher shel kayama even though it is not very firm.

Practical instances of Koshair:
- One may not seal a plastic garbage bag with a tight overhand knot rather a "slip" knot.
- One may not tie string in a double knot around a box of cake even if he intends to untie the string the same day.

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22. 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.

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23. Tofair - Sewing

While sewing certainly implies stitching two separate pieces of fabric together, which was done for the cloth coverings of the Mishkan, the Melacha of Tofair is more general and consists of 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. As a result, the adhesive on disposable diapers can be used, while "Fun-tack," which is often left in its position indefinitely, is prohibited.

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24 - Ko'reah - Tearing (unsewing - ripping)

As they began to wear and tear, and when small holes created by moths were found in the curtains of the Mishkan, the fabrics would have to be repaired. This was usually done by first tearing the holes to make them larger and then sewing them back together in an even seam. Tearing was performed in the Mishkan for no other purpose.
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. Rope or thread is repaired by tying the ends with a knot, not by sewing of gluing. Therefore, one may cut a price tag off of a garment (discreetly), preferably with a knife.
One may tear apart food packaging, wrapping around bandages, napkins, medicines, clothing, or even toys provided that no letters or designs will be torn (Mochaik) and that no vessel is formed (Makeh B'Patish).
Milk cartons with the glued tops present a problem of
Ko'reah. Some authorities see the spout as a temporary seal, and a glued joint of a temporary nature may be undone on Shabbat. However, some say that the best way to open cartons is by opening both sides, thereby ensuring that the problem of creating a vessel is addressed.
In general, one may retrieve the food or drink from their packaging by destroying the box or carton that they come in. When destroying the container, no melachot are violated:
(1)
Ko'reah is avoided (destructive tearing for a food or Shabbat necessity is permitted)
(2) Makeh B'Patish is avoided (since by destroying the carton, there is no way that one could be making a vessel out of it).
Despite the option of these destructive methods, any cartons, boxes, wrappers, bags, or other food packages should preferably be opened before Shabbat.

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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.

25. Tzud - Trapping

Tzud 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.
Because we no longer come into frequent contact with farm animals or wildlife, this melacha is mostly relevant to us when applied to pets and insects. Pets for the most part can be considered totally domesticated and already "trapped." It is therefore permitted to force them into a room or back into the house. (According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zt"l, eminent Posek of our generation, pets are muktza and should not be touched; therefore, one should only verbally urge it into the room or house.) In terms of insects, any insect that is slow-moving, such as a caterpillar, can be trapped because its sluggishness can already be considered a confinement. Dangerous insects such as hornets and wasps may be trapped using the classic plastic cup method, but not with a specially designed bee-trap (on Sukkot, such a trap must be set up before Shabbat and Yom Tov).

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26. Shochet - Slaughtering (Killing)

Shochet is 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 and things that come from the dirt.
Practical applications of Shochet are causing bleeding or blood clots, putting poison where it is likely to kill an animal, and spraying insects.

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27. Mafshit - Skinning

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. Therefore, this prohibition does not apply to removing the skin of a cooked chicken (although attention must be paid to the laws of Borer, separating).

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28. M'abaid - 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; this would ensure that they would remain in good shape for the Mishkan. M'abaid also applies to finished leather as well as raw hides, and therefore one is not permitted to use any shoe polish which contains leather preservatives.
As per a Rabbinical restriction, the preservation of food items is also prohibited. As such, one may not put fresh fish, meat, or vegetables into a pickling solution to cause them to become sour and thus preserved. (However, returning pickles to their jar is permitted.) Salting foods is also problematic, and the Sages prohibited sprinkling salt on some foods and vegetables. According to the Shulchan Aruch (321:3), one may not salt a plate of cucumbers, radishes, peas, onions, garlic, scallions, peppers, lettuce, carrots, turnips, or string beans.

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29. 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. It is forbidden to mark even with your fingernail.
Example: One cannot mark a piece of paper with lines in order to write letters in a straight line.

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30. Memacheik - Smoothing

Memacheik is the method by which hair was removed from the hides used to create the walls of the Mishkan. 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.
Memarai'ach refers to the rabbinic prohibition that stems from Memachaik. The prohibition of Memarai'ach applies to the smoothing of substances that can be molded i.e. wax, creams or ointments. It does not apply to completely viscous substances, so things like liquid soap do not even fall under the rabbinic prohibition. The rabbinic prohibition also only refers to smearing. Pressing cream onto the skin, however, may be permitted, providing one is careful only to press and not to smear. Food, also, does not fall under the rabbinic prohibition, since food is considered prepared as it is, and smoothing it doesn't constitute an important change. However, if one were to use the food in any way other than to eat it (i.e. spreading butter on chapped lips), it would be considered a normal substance subject to all the regular prohibitions.

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31. Mechateich - Cutting (to shape) Measured Cutting

Thus far, we have been reviewing Melachot related to the preparation of hides, the goal being the incorporation of these materials into large coverings for the Mishkan. Cutting hides, or any material for that matter, with one's hands or an instrument, to a pre-measured size and shape is called Mechateich. Following the general pattern set by previous melachot involved in the tanning process, Mechateich doesn't apply to food items, and one may cut measured pieces of fish, cake, and challah on Shabbat.
Small packets of sugar, salt, coffee, ketchup, mustard, etc., may be opened on their perforated lines because the intention is not to deliberately and skillfully follow the lines (to create a neat cut), but only to retrieve the item. However, the perforated lines on a box of tissues are meant to help produce a neat opening, and opening the box is thus
Mechateich.
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.

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32. 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.
There are two interesting Rabbinic prohibitions that emanate from
Kotaiv. One, as applicable to other melachot, is doing Kotaiv in a non-permanent fashion, such as writing one's name with one's finger on a windowpane. The other prohibition is from doing any activity that may lead to writing. For this reason, conducting business is problematic on Shabbat. Additionally, according to the Shmirat Shabbat KeHilchata, playing a game that generally involves writing (as in keeping score) would be problematic on Shabbat from a Rabbinic standpoint, although one does not actually plan to write. (Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:31)

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33. 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. This Melacha is defined as erasing meaningful images. The Torah prohibition encompasses both the cleaning of a writing surface and the obliterating of letters or characters. This also applies to non-traditional ways of erasing, like blotting something out instead of erasing it. One therefore must be especially careful when opening packaging that has letters on it on Shabbat. The Melacha only applies to letters. Destroying words is not a problem.
There are a number of interesting prohibitions that arise from this Melacha. Cutting a cake with lettering in the icing may be a problem. One should be extra careful to cut between letters. However, letters that are engraved in dough, like the lettering on some biscuits, is not considered writing and may therefore be destroyed without a problem. Deliberately washing off writing from the skin may be a problem. Books with writing on the leaves of the pages also present a problem. When the book is opened the words are destroyed, and when the book is closed again the words are re-created. There is much discussion as to whether this falls under the category of Mochaik and Kotaiv. However, all agree that it is best to avoid this if possible.

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34. Boneh - Building

The prohibition of building on Shabbat has wide ramifications. The main acts that are prohibited are building something attached to the ground or adding to something that is already built on the ground. Even doing a kol-shehu, a very small amount, of these actions is considered Boneh. Furthermore, fixing something, like a nail, on such a building is also prohibited.
In addition to building things that are attached to the ground, the prohibition of Boneh also covers 'building' something in the ground itself; for example, making a hole in a house or in a courtyard (provided that the hole is not dug solely for the dirt, in which case there is only a rabbinic prohibition against it). However, digging a hole in a field would be a violation of Choresh, plowing.

35. Soiser - Demolishing

The 35th melocho, Sossair 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 Melacha Deoraisa (Torah prohibition) applies only when the act of demolition is accompanied by an intention to rebuild eventually. However, any act of destruction (albeit unconstructive) is rabbinically prohibited because of its resemblance to the Melacha Deoraisa.

Practical cases:
One may not remove the handle of a window crank, unscrew / replace a tap filter, or replace a window screen.
It is not a problem to destroy parts of an edible food item, such as the shape of a cookie, while eating it. The reason given is that the functional use of food is for eating. Since Boneh and Soiser do not apply to the regular use and function of an object, there is no halachic problem of destroying food while eating it.

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36-37. Mechabeh and Ma'avir - Extinguishing and Lighting Fires

These two Melachot 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. One practical application of these prohibitions is electricity. One cannot use electricity on Shabbat. For example, turning lights on and off is prohibited.

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38. 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. For example, putting shoelaces into a shoe for the first time may be prohibited on Shabbat because of this Melacha. The Melacha can also apply to liquids: carbonating water, according to some, is also Makeh B'Patish.
It is interesting to note that restoring an item is not considered an act of creation and is therefore allowed on Shabbat. For example, a pendant that fell out of a necklace may be replaced because both the necklace and the pendant were not "broken" in their separated state. The same applies to a shoelace that came out of a shoe. There is also discussion about opening soda bottles. Some argue that by taking the cap of the bottle one is rendering the bottle as usable to store soda in. This may be considered an act of completion. Others argue that the bottle with the cap on it is also a complete functioning vessel, so removing the cap may not be considered creating a new vessel.
There are a number of Rabbinic prohibitions that emerge from this Melacha. One prohibition is that of playing musical instruments. The Rabbis made this prohibition to prevent people from playing and accidentally tuning the instrument. This would be considered Makeh B'Patish. Singing and whistling are not included in this prohibition. Another prohibition is that of tovelling dishes on Shabbat. Because one is not allowed to use the dishes before immersing them, the immersion gives off the appearance of "repairing" the object.
Makeh B'Patish is a fascinating and broad Melacha. It is extremely complex because it can apply to almost anything. It is one of the few Melachot that are not tied to performing a specific action. It focuses on the result, not the actual action. As such, there is a large volume of Rabbinic literature dedicated to understanding the exact nature of the prohibition. For further research one can look at the sources listed below or any of a multitude of other sources.

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39. 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.

*Reshut Hayachid - Private domain - is defined as an area enclosed by walls, fences or a series of doorframe-like structures (as used in an Eruv***) not less than ten tefachim high (approximately 38-40 inches). It may be ground level, or a pit ten tefachim deep. Private ownership is not a precondition for a Reshut Hayachid.

**Reshut Harabim - Public domain - is an area not enclosed by partitions even if title would legally deem it private property. Some areas are deemed "public" by the decree of our Sages of Blessed Memory; others are designated "public" by Torah law. Areas considered "public domain" by rabbinic guidelines can be converted to "private domain" by the establishment of an Eruv. Biblically ordained "public domains" cannot be included in an Eruv.

***An Eruv is an instrument by which an area which is not a private domain is halachically (by Jewish law) converted to one. To achieve this, the right of passage is rented from the owners, or the municipal authority - usually a contract for permission to use the property (poles and cables ) of the public utilities corporations is secured; and the construction of a perimeter around the area using natural barriers, walls, and/or a series of gate-like structures is completed. The word Eruv is derived from the verb to mix or blend since an Eruv blends many properties into a single private domain.

In order to transgress the Torah prohibition of Hotza'ah, certain conditions must be met.
An Akirah (initiation of movement) and a Hanachah (putting the object to rest) must be performed on the object by the same person. If one person does the Akirah and another does the Hanachah, only a Rabbinical prohibition is involved (Shabbat 3a). It is possible to move an object without ever performing an Akira, such as when the object is dragged.

One transgresses the Torah prohibition of Hotza'ah only if he picked up the object which he moved (Akirah) with the *intention* of placing it down again in another Reshut (domain). If he decides to place it in another Reshut only *after* picking it up, he has not transgressed a biblical prohibition, and hence need not bring a Korban Chatas for atonement.
(d) One only transgresses the prohibition of Hotza'ah if the object transferred has a certain minimum size. The Mishnah (Shabbat 75b) describes this size as, "Anything that is normally put away for human use and people do put away this amount of it." If the object transferred is food, one is only liable to punishment if the food is the size of a dried fig (k'Grogeret). For liquids, the amount is a Revi'it.

The labor of moving an object from one domain to another, seems like the most insignificant of all the melachot. Indeed, some early commentators call it an "inferior labor" (Tosafot Shabbat 2a). After all, nothing is really done to the object - it merely changes location. (See Beur Halacha 318.)

Yet this one "inferior" melacha seems to draw an inordinate amount of attention. About a third of tractate Shabbat, and about a third of the laws of Shabbat in the Shulchan Aruch, deal primarily with the laws of hotza'ah. And Rav Nachman of Breslov teaches that this prohibition is so important that all of the 39 forbidden labors are included in the prohibition on carrying! (Likutei Halachot Shabbat 7:30.) As you can obviously see, the Melacha of Hotza'ah is a very complex Melacha and contains many more details. This is not the forum for decisions regarding what is or is not allowed on Shabbat. This is just to give the reader a flavor of the intricate halachot involved. A competent halachic authority should be consulted with any questions.

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Sources:

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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