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Inspired by my previous question regarding heating up soup on Shabbat, I present a challenge to the Judaism StackExchange community --

List halachot which have halachic decisions ranging from outright Torah violations (i.e. not simply a rabbinic violation) all the way to 100% sanctioned and permissible?

For instance, regarding the soup question, Yemenite Jews follow the Rambam's decision that heating up liquids on Shabbat is fully permissible. On the other hand, the Shulchan Aruch (318:4) rules that it is a violation of the Torah.

(I am of course not referring to halachic decisions where decisors suggest that the righteous should refrain from such a practice, והבעל נפש יחמיר, etc. rather halachic decisions meant for communal consumption. Decisors often say, והעיקר הוא, 'the principle [decision] is' to denote their final, most basic decision).

Formal definition:

  • At least one halachic decisor must rule that the practice is completely permissible and this practice must be followed by at least one identifiable community (i.e. Sephardic Jews, Galician Jews, etc.)

  • Similarly, at least one halachic decisor must rule that the same practice is a flagrant violation of the Torah, with similar caveats as above.

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why is this not a riddle – simchastorah Nov 25 '11 at 18:11
How about Halachoth whose rulings range from obligatory to a (Torah) prohibition? – Seth J Nov 25 '11 at 19:14
@simchashatorah: because I don't think ChaimKut actually has a particular case (or answer) in mind. – Alex Nov 25 '11 at 20:57
Shouldn't this be a community wiki? There will be lots of valid answers. – avi Nov 26 '11 at 17:58
@SethJ I would think the wearing of sheitlach comes close here. (Compare the opinion of Sefardis on sheitlach with that of, say, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.) Also, unmarried women going to mikve for niddah, although I'm pretty sure no one would call that a "Torah prohibition" – SAH Oct 4 '13 at 18:53

17 Answers 17

How about an Eruv in a big city?
For those who hold like Rashi that you need 600,000 people to cross through a city for it to be a rishut harabim, carrying within an eruv is fine, and without an eiruv would usually be an issur dirabanan.

However for those who hold like other rishonim who don't need the 600,000, most public areas can be considered a reshut harabim and then carrying within the same "eiruv" would still be issur diorayta (The wording of the shulchan aruch: ואפילו יש להם חומה אם הם מפולשים משער לשער sounds like an eiruv wouldn't even downgrade it to a karmalit.)

See O.C. 345, 7 and the Be'ur Halacha there.

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As a minor correction, <<carrying within an eiruv would still be issur diorayta>> -- by definition, an eruv cannot be made around a reshut harabim. In that case, it would simply be a string of wire without any halachic ramifications. – ChaimKut Nov 29 '11 at 19:46
Well yes, but according to the other opinion it would be a fully-functioning eiruv, so I decided to refer to the "string of wire" as an eiruv in both cases for clarity. – Mark Dec 1 '11 at 9:38
Mark, I understand your point, but for further clarification it might be good to edit your answer to state, "most public areas can be considered a reshut harabim and then the 'eruv' which was constructed would not be valid and carrying in the area surrounded by it would still be issur diorayta." – Seth J Dec 22 '11 at 16:03
But see 364:2 and Biur Halacha there. It might be Derabanan. – Double AA Sep 22 '14 at 17:23

See my answer on a man shaking a woman's hand:

  • Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin says it's totally permissible, and it was prevalent in the German community 50 years ago.
  • R' Chaim Kanievski says if someone puts a gun to your head and says "shake this woman's hand [in a business setting] or else I'll shoot you", you still can't do it.
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Do you have the text of R' Kanievski's responsa? He's clearly putting touch between the sexes under the rubric of improper relations (עריות) and therefore applying the general rule of ייהרג ובל יעבור , one should be willing to die before committing improper sexual relations. What's unclear is whether he is using that as a rhetorical phrase or he actually believes that. For instance, Rav Cherlow of Petah Tikva doubts that such a literal interpretation was R' Kanievski's intention - moreshet.co.il/web/shut/shut2.asp?id=36266 – ChaimKut Nov 28 '11 at 0:41
The source for R' Kanievski's statement is his compilation of letters קריינא דאיגרתא , 1:172 . The text in question was manually transcribed on this message board: hashkafah.com/index.php?/topic/6410-shaking-hands/page__st__100 He relies on the Chazon Ish for this decision. – ChaimKut Nov 28 '11 at 1:27
But what's interesting in his reasoning: זהו בדין יהרג ועל יעבר ככל אביזרייהו דעריות 'One should martyr oneself rather than commit this act, like all other 'trappings' of improper relations' (loose translation) The category 'Trappings of improper relations' includes a wide range of things, not all of them Torah prohibitions. Martyrdom should not be taken as an indication of the severity of the law. For instance, in times of persecution, one is expected to martyr one's self even for 'minor customs of Israel', based on Sanhedrin 74. Rambam takes such a position. – ChaimKut Nov 28 '11 at 1:37


As stated in this J.SE answer there are not a few rabbonim who hold that smoking is assur. As far as whether it's a Torah violation (rather than a Rabbinic one) Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky (at 4:30) is quite clear that he holds it is.

Also from that answer, (thank you @ShmuelBrill), there are many rabbonim that hold that it is l'chatchila muttar, if not recommended, e.g. R' Biyamin Zilber, R' Moshe Feinstein.

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Rav Ovadia Yosef once said that anyone who sells cigarettes should get makot ( lashes ). – Robert S. Barnes Oct 1 '13 at 18:54
R'Moshe made very clear that his opinion on the matter was dependent upon the current medical perception of cigarettes in his day. The health detriments were not known with certainty, and the benefits were obvious. I know of no one who believes that R'Moshe would still hold by his hetter today, especially considering his stance vis a vis other forms of unhealthy behavior. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 16 '15 at 3:28
[T]here are many rabbonim that hold that it is l'chatchila muttar, if not recommended, e.g. ... R' Moshe Feinstein. ??? In December 1963 (over three weeks before the game-changing Surgeon General's report was published) R' Moshe (as well as the general population) didn't consider the danger to be well established (merely a chashash where dash beih rabim). That's why R' Moshe merely said a person should not smoke but that it isn't strictly prohibited... – Fred Jul 23 '15 at 22:26
...Even if R' Moshe would have maintained his opinion had he written the responsum later on (which I doubt), it doesn't seem right to include him on the list of people who said it is l'chatchila muttar, if not recommended. It would be more accurately rendered as "not technically forbidden (if you don't bother people with your second-hand smoke [discussed in a different responsum, IIRC]), but not recommended." -1. – Fred Jul 23 '15 at 22:32
@Fred, If you visit the answer I linked, you will notice that R' Moshe did in fact write a later responsum (in 1981) reiterating that position. Additionally, I'm not sure how you went from "not ... forbidden [i.e., permitted] ... but not recommended" -- a distinction without a difference from what I wrote -- to "this is so bad I've got to downvote". – HodofHod Nov 12 '15 at 1:19

I believe the opinions on opening an umbrella on shabbos range from Biblical prohibition to allowable.

When it comes to what goes on in a kosher slaughterhouse (slaughter and inspection), my understanding is there's very little gray area of rabbinic prohibition that divides Biblical prohibition from totally allowable. So it wouldn't surprise me if you'll find similar cases there.

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That's a good one! The Chatam Sofer (Orach Chaim 72) (goo.gl/nvivX) fully permits it, but the Nodah BeYehuda (Orach Chaim 30) (goo.gl/VG6Va) prohibits. While the Nodah BeYehuda seems to decide that it is prohibited rabbinically, since it is only a temporary 'tent', he is 'חושש', also takes into consideration, the opinion of the Rif that even a tent with a roof size of a tefach (3-4 inches), may nevertheless be considered a permanent tent. – ChaimKut Nov 28 '11 at 1:07
@ChaimKut the Sefer Melechet Shabbat (pg. 309) says that according to the Noda Beyehuda it is Mideorayta. – Hacham Gabriel Jul 26 '12 at 19:19

Tearing plastic, paper, leather, et al. on Shabbos

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (340:17) (and I believe, the Minchas Chinuch) holds that the melacha of tearing only applies to composite items. I.e., fabrics, which are made from multiple threads, or anything else that is two or more items connected together. Therefore, there is no prohibition, Biblical or Rabbinic, against tearing paper or similar items.

On the other hand, the Mishna Berura (340:41) holds that tearing paper is a violation of the melacha of tearing.

(I'm sure there are better sources from the MB and other places, but this is the one I found right now.)

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Can you define "composite" more clearly? Paper is made up of multiple strands of pulp. – Yitzchak Sep 22 '14 at 16:44
And of course, everything is made up of multiple molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles... I do not know, though I could make several educated guesses as to where the "composite" line is drawn. Recognizability, naming, visibility, etc., are all used in halacha for making similar distinctions. But these are only guesses, and this is not really meant to be a comprehensive explanation of that sugya nor to teach practical halacha. The first link provides multiple related sources for those who are interested in learning more. – HodofHod Sep 22 '14 at 19:16
That makes sense. The real test case would be a US bill. The paper is woven, not pressed but unlike most cloth, the threads are not really visible. – Yitzchak Sep 23 '14 at 18:24

I know that "shaving with an electric razor" runs the gamut of totally Assur, to 100% required, depending on the community.

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Can you provide a responsa that considers an electric razor to be a Torah prohibition (of the same type of electric razor that is considered permissible by others)? – ChaimKut Nov 29 '11 at 19:49
@ChaimKut you can read many such responsa in this book here. koshershaver.info – avi Nov 30 '11 at 4:46
Nice devar torah on the issue here. vbm-torah.org/archive/halak65/11halak.htm – avi Nov 30 '11 at 4:52
Who says it's required???? – Seth J May 1 '13 at 18:25
@SethJ Some yeshivot require it of their students. – avi Jun 16 '13 at 14:23

Yoshon. According to S"A Y"D 293 it applies everywhere and the Rama doesn't disagree. However, the Ashkenazim accepted the Bah (on the Tur) to be Mekil out of Eres Yisrael on gentiles' grain.

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The Talmud Yerushalmi says that it is forbidden to Kill lice on Shabbat. ("killing lice is like killing a camel") http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14141&st=&pgnum=20

The Talmud Bavli says that killing lice on Shabbat is allowed.

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Which community follows the yerushalmi and which follows the bavli? – Double AA Jun 16 '13 at 14:29
Mentions who allows and who forbids killing lice on Shabbat: jpost.com/Magazine/Judaism/… – Robert S. Barnes May 8 '14 at 7:31
@DoubleAA, I believe that the Romaniote community follows the Yerushalmi – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 16 '15 at 1:05
@Noach So they don't kill lice on shabbat because of the yerushalmi? Can you cite that? I'm skeptical. – Double AA Feb 16 '15 at 2:04
@noa That's what I figured. Not so conclusive here. – Double AA Feb 16 '15 at 15:25

Not (fully) covering the hair...

-For unmarried women. (The Rambam says they must cover--Hilchot Issurei Biah 21:17. I have heard of a few fringe groups that hold by this, including the Lev Tahor in Bet Shemesh and Montreal. However the Shulchan Aruch, 75:2, rules that an unmarried woman's hair is not considered ervah, and obviously most groups follow this and similar opinions.)

-For kallahs. (I don't know the details on this, but see DoubleAA's answer here. I know that some strict groups--possibly Satmar--do require a full covering for kallahs.)

-For married women. (Some relevant positions are discussed here. Also, it seems that certain people derive a leniency from Aruch Hashulchan [Orech Chaim 75: 8], in which married women's hair is not considered ervah for purposes of prayer--although this is contradicted in Mishnah Berurah 75:10. Certainly the extent of a married woman's covering is a matter of wide-ranging opinion.)

-For divorced and widowed women. (There are some lenient opinions about these women's need to cover, for example Igros Moshe Even HaEzer vol. 1. 57 and vol. 4 32: 4. Further here.)

I would imagine that in each category, there are those who hold that no covering at all is a Torah violation.

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Taking charity to study Torah:

משנה תורה הלכות תלמוד תורה ג"ט/י

כל המשים על ליבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה, ויתפרנס מן הצדקה--הרי זה חילל את השם, וביזה את התורה, וכיבה מאור הדת, וגרם רעה לעצמו, ונטל חייו מן העולם הבא: לפי שאסור ליהנות בדברי תורה, בעולם הזה.

Rambam - Mishneh Torah - Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:9/10

One, whoever, who makes up his mind to study Torah and not to work but to live on charity, profanes the name of God, brings the Torah into contempt, extinguishes the light of religion, brings evil upon himself, and deprives himself of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive any temporal advantage from the words of the Torah.

Of course we know that a large segment of the Torah community doesn't hold by this opinion.

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The Rambam wasn't talking about people who are paid to learn Torah. He was talking about people who force themselves onto non-specific charity funds as a result of the fact that they voluntarily impoverish themselves by learning Torah at the expense of working. So a kollel stipend is not the same as a handout that is necessitated by the fact that someone learns in kollel. Further, it is questionable whether government welfare would be considered the same as a charity fund in this regard. – Fred Nov 21 '13 at 8:02
@Fred Could you provide a source for that? Because the text seems fairly clear and straightforward and as far as I know is understood by most if not all scholars according to it's plain meaning. It's one thing to say it's Daat Yachid or something like that, but quite another to try and say it doesn't mean what it seemingly clearly does mean. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 21 '13 at 11:49
My original point was that a kollel stipend is not "charity", and government welfare is probably not technically considered charity either (though I'm not fond of the idea of relying on it). (By the way, what I meant by "paid to learn Torah" was שכר בטלה or some such, which, although the Rambam doesn't propose this idea, does not necessarily clash with the Rambam's wording here). In any event, my main point was that the harsh wording of the Rambam (chilul HaShem and such) seemed to be predicated not only on benefiting from Torah but also specifically on relying on charity as such.... – Fred Nov 21 '13 at 18:58
However, after reading the Rambam's commentary on Avos (4:6), I see that he does clarify that a chilul HaShem could result from the public's perception that people are accepting money to learn (ולא יתירו לעצמם זה, ויסברו שהוא חלול השם אצל ההמון, לפי שהם יחשבו התורה למלאכה מן המלאכות אשר מתפרנסים בהן, ותתבזה אצלם), apparently supporting your point. Anyway, the Kesef Mishneh (Hil. Talmud Torah ad loc.) discusses the Rambam's position and concludes for the most part as you wrote, though he does cite rishonim and Talmudic sources in apparent disagreement with the Rambam's position. – Fred Nov 21 '13 at 19:06
@Fred That's the point of this post - some hold that it's totally forbidden, while others hold the exact same thing to be totally permissible. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 22 '13 at 8:41

Beis Shammai are of the opinion that a brother may perform levirate marriage with one of his dead brother's wives even if another one of the wives is forbidden to him, while Beis Hillel says that it is forbidden, and a violation of marrying a brother's wife. Yevamos 1:4

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As a bonus, psak range is from mitzva - chiyuv kares. – Binyamin Oct 3 '13 at 10:11
Good suggestion, but we're looking for final halahic decisions. Since the halacha has long ago been decided in favor of Beit Hillel (except in a small number of cases), I think this may not count since there is no posek who follows Beit Shammai in this case. – ChaimKut Oct 6 '13 at 5:40

The question of when you say the beracha on shabbat candles (before or after you light) is a situation where there are two opinions about how to do it. According to each opinion, if you do it the other way, then you're over on an issur d'oraita.

According to the Rema, you're supposed to say the beracha after you light. If you say the beracha before you light, then you've immediately accepted Shabbat, so you're over on a melacha d'oraita when you actually light the candles.

According to the Mechaber (as understood by Rav Ovadia Yosef), you're supposed to say the beracha before you light, as you would with any other beracha. If you say the beracha after you light, then you're over on a beracha l'vatallah, which is an issur d'oraita.

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Is Tosfos Shabbos DeOraisa? Is a Bracha LeVatala a Deoraisa? – Shmuel Brin Feb 15 '15 at 21:48
Does rama really hold that meikar hadin? More like a chumra lest you did accept shabbat – Double AA Feb 16 '15 at 2:18

Rambam - Hilchot Isurai Biyah 11:14/15

הלכות אסורי ביאה יא,יד

וכן זה שתמצא במקצת מקומות, ותמצא תשובות למקצת גאונים, שיולדת זכר לא תשמש מיטתה עד סוף ארבעים, ויולדת נקבה אחר שמונים, ואף על פי שלא ראתה דם אלא בתוך השבעה--אין זה מנהג, אלא טעות היא באותן התשובות. ודרך מינות באותן המקומות, ומן הצדוקיין למדו דבר זה; ומצוה לכופן כדי להוציא מליבן, ולהחזירן לדברי חכמים--שתספור שבעת ימי נקיים בלבד, כמו שביארנו.

And you will find in certain places, and you find some rulings from some Geonim, that a woman who gives birth to a boy will not have relations until forty days, and one who gives birth to a girl until eighty days, even if she saw blood only in the first seven days -- this is not a valid custom, but a mistake in those rulings. And it is the way of heresy in those places, and they learned it from the Sadducees; and it is a mitzvah to remove it from their hearts by force, and return them to the way of our sages -- that they should count seven clean days only, as we have expounded.

While the practice has been pretty much wiped out in the Ashkenazi world, it is still somewhat common among certain Sepharadim from Morroco and Tunisia. I have personally encountered this custom, and can vouch for it's continued existence.

Marc Shapiro discusses it in the appendix to his book, "The Limits of Orthodox Theology".

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Waiting for what? – Double AA Oct 13 '13 at 0:32
I don't think historical claims are valid answers to this question. Offering a Korban in Shiloh has ranged from obligatory to forbidden as well. – Double AA Oct 13 '13 at 0:33
@DoubleAA Maybe a poor choice of wording. Waiting to go to the mikveh after birth. There are still many Sepharadim who do this, although the practice has been almost wiped out. My Morrocan mother in law got on my case about this very thing. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 13 '13 at 6:51
Why was this downvoted? – Robert S. Barnes Feb 2 '15 at 5:00
It is a good answer, but I'm wondering if it was ever practiced in the Ashkenazi world that it would be proper to say it was "wiped out". As far as I know, it was in the Sefardi world that this custom was ever found. In Ashkenaz there was the custom to not even wait for bleeding to stop within those extra days. About that custom it might be proper to say it was "wiped out". – Yishai Jul 23 '15 at 14:56

Inspired by the aerosol on shabbos question, shaking out a tablecloth or any other act which scatters particles of a similar nature through wind.

According to the Yerushalmi, this would be a Torah violation.

According to the Bavli, this would be permissible.

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What are the sources (for the Yerushalmi and Bavli) in this case? – Yehoshua Sep 18 '12 at 20:22
Which community follows the yerushalmi and which follows the bavli? – Double AA Jun 16 '13 at 14:53

The use of electricity on Shabbat seems to run the gamut from being a Torah prohibition all the way to being assur only due to minhag ( among mainstream Orthodox Jews. )

However, many Talmidai Rambam hold certain uses of electricity to be 100% mutar, but those that I know refrain from using it anyways, out of respect for community standards I suppose.

Regarding electricity on Yom Tov, I know that a significant ( not sure how large exactly ) percentage of shomer shabbat Sephardi Jews use electricity on Yom Tov.

It's a very interesting issue which you can read about in depth here:

The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov

Rabbi Michael Broyde & Rabbi Howard Jachter

Rabbi Broyde - Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, Rabbi Jachter - Associate Rabbi of Congregation Beth Judah in Brooklyn

Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society, No. XXI - Spring 91 - Pesach 5751

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Wow, why so controversial? I see this has generated 2 upvotes and 2 down votes within 25 minutes of posting. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 1 '13 at 19:43
no community (who otherwise keep Torah and Mitzvot) considers it permitted. – Shmuel Brin Oct 1 '13 at 19:54
Which doesn't answer the question – Shmuel Brin Oct 1 '13 at 22:27
@ShmuelBrin I don't know if your first comment is true regarding Yom Tov, but certainly a +1 to your second comment. – Double AA Oct 1 '13 at 22:53
@DoubleAA A large percentage of shomer shabbat Sephardic Jews use electricity on Yom Tov. – Robert S. Barnes Oct 2 '13 at 5:44

Ashkenazi poskim hold that the Yichud Room at a wedding is a mitzvah, while some Sepharadi poskim (in particular Rav Ovadia Yosef) hold that it an un-tzniut practice and completely assur.

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Does that make a Torah prohibition? Which? – Double AA Oct 3 '13 at 13:01
It's probably rabbinic at best (akin to why kidushei biah is no longer performed.) – Chanoch Oct 3 '13 at 13:24
  • Transgressing Shabbos for a gentile/presumed gentile/non-presumed Jew.

  • Transgressing Shabbos to prevent a potential future life-threatening situation (i.e., carrying essential medication outdoors [rather than staying inside]; gathering food for future days while lost in the

    Only one source for now (I'm in a hurry, sorry): "A pertinent question concerning carrying on Shabbos is whether a person suffering from a sickness such as angina or asthma is permitted to carry his medication through a public domain on Shabbos. Certainly, if such a person was outdoors without medication and suffered a life-threatening attack it would be permissible (and obligatory) to procure the necessary medication through any means. However, the question is whether he may carry his medication outdoors when he leaves his home, to have a supply on hand in case of an attack. Since there is no medical reason which compels the patient to leave his home, where his medicine is kept, it is questionable whether this can be considered a medical emergency. Some Poskim permit the person to carry the pills if he does so in an unusual manner, such as storing the pills in his hat.* However, since there are many details to this halachah, one should consult a Halachic authority."

    (Rabbi Simcha Bunin Cohen, The Shabbos Home, Vol. 1. There is a footnote--in Hebrew, which I can't read--which may include the [more] primary sources/opinions. I'll try to look into this later.)

    *DoubleAA notes that this would only be a Rabbinical violation. I will try to find out if any poskim would permit such carrying in a non-unusual manner, if necessary (although that seems like a pretty circumscribed question, since non-unusual methods are rarely necessary, and obviously the unusual method is preferable).

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Storing pills in a hat would be a rabbinic violation. They aren't arguing (at least as presented) about a biblical violation. – Double AA Oct 4 '13 at 20:06
@DoubleAA OK. I'll try add some better examples after Shabbos. I think they exist. The gathering-in-the-wilderness situation, for example. – SAH Oct 4 '13 at 20:24

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