of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel


Bet Midrash Virtuali


251:2 Not to engage in one's employment on Friday from Minĥah onwards (continued)

It is permitted to mend one's clothes and articles that will be used on Shabbat all day. Note: The same applies to someone else's clothes if they are needed for Shabbat and [the mender] does not receive payment [for the work done]. This same rule applies to people who write books for themselves as part of their study. Note: But one may not werite [books etc] for someone else for payment. One may have one's hair and beard trimmed all day, even by a Jewish barber. One should also study a little less on Fridays in order to prepare what will be needed for Shabbat.


Paragraph 1 of Section 251 established as a principle that one should not engage in gainful employment on Friday afternoons. The obvious purpose of this principle is to ensure that everyone leaves enough time to make all the necessary preparations for Shabbat. Paragraph 2, now, will 'annotate' that principle.

Rabbi Karo states that despite the principle enunciated in paragraph 1 it is permitted to perform last-minute emergency tasks, and these may be done 'all day' - i.e. up to the very last minute before the onset of Shabbat. He provides as an example the mending of clothes. Part of the 'Shabbat delight' [in Hebrew: oneg shabbat - making Shabbat a delightful day - is wearing fine clothes. Wearing weekday clothes on Shabbat would be unthinkable. Therefore, if on Friday afternoon a tear is discovered in one's Shabbat best it is permitted to mend the tear. Rabbi Karo then immediately generalizes his specific example: any article that will be used on Shabbat that needs mending or similar attention may be repaired on Friday afternoon. Obviously, two things should ideally be borne in mind: that the need for the repair work is sudden and could not have been done earlier in the week, and that the repairs are needed for Shabbat. However, the second consideration overrides the first: if the repair is needed for Shabbat it may be done on Friday afternoon even in it could have been done earlier in the week.

One might think that this permission is given only for oneself, to make last-minute repairs. But Rabbi Moshe Isserles adds a note (the first of two in this paragraph). Not only may one do necessary repairs for one's own Sabbath needs on Friday afternoons, but one may also perform a similar service for others - provided that no payment is received. If the repair is really needed for Shabbat, even if only to make it 'a delightful day', the work may be done for others on Friday afternoons.

Later authorities extend this permission even further. When the person doing the work is poverty-stricken and needs the money in order to provide what he or she needs for Shabbat they may even receive payment for services rendered. Most authorities are even more generous: not only may payment be accepted for emergency repairs on Friday afternoon when the money will provide for Shabbat necessities; it may also be accepted by the poor person when the money will go to providing 'extras' for himself and his family that will add to the 'Shabbat delight'. The only proviso is that the money be used to provide things for Shabbat which would otherwise not be available.

Clearly there is a danger that people might take advantage of this leniency. They might convince themselves that they really need the money for Shabbat or that the repair might be considered necessary for Shabbat and so forth. This must be left to the individual's conscience. Presumably the preamble to paragraph 1 of this section may serve as a warning to such people:

Anyone who does any work [which is gainful employment] on Friday from Minĥah onwards will see no sign of a blessing [from that work].

In bygone ages, before the mass production of books was possible, scholars would often have to copy out their own books from copies that had been lent to them for study purposes. Someone engaged in Torah study on Friday afternoon (it being assumed that the Shabbat chores are either already done or are being taken care of by others) may make a copy of what he or she is studying even though that copy may not necessarily be used during Shabbat. Here Rabbi Isserles adds his second not to this paragraph: this permission is only granted for one's own use and on Friday afternoon one may not make copies that are destined for other people if payment will be received. Scholars who came after Isserles even included in this prohibition the work of a scribe writing a Torah scroll, tefillin or a mezuzzah. The only exception here would be the obvious one, that the Torah scroll or the mezuzzah are needed on Shabbat itself.

Isserles now adds another exception: one may have one's hair and beard trimmed in honour of Shabbat right up to the last minute, and this service may even be performed by a Jewish barber; anyone seeing a Jewish barber at work on a Friday afternoon would assume that the work is being done in honour of Shabbat. However, add the later authorities, a jewish barber should refrain from offering his services to non-Jews on Friday afternoons because there is no way that that work could be considered to be 'in honour of Shabbat'.

The last item in this paragraph is addresssed to Torah scholars, those who spend their whole life engaged in study: they should leave enough time off from their studies to prepare for Shabbat properly.