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Is using weed killer spray to destroy weeds permissible on Shabbat?

It is prohibited to reap plants on Shabbat, but to my knowledge biblically permitted to destroy something fully on Shabbat (I believe prohibited d’rabbanan).

Since this is destructive in nature, nothing is being torn from the soil, and it is to otherwise avoid a loss (like you kill weeds daily to prevent them from ruining a garden), would it be permitted?

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    The Mishna says that clearing leaves to help the soil beneath them is considered a derivative of "plowing" -- prepping the earth. This sure sounds like that to me -- you're prepping the earth. Alternatively, pruning dead branches is a derivative of "planting" -- you're encouraging plant growth. Sure sounds like it's going to be one of those two.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 3:19
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    Difference without a distinction. We all agree it's not "harvesting" as you don't want to use the weed. But you're looking at the weed, when the Gemara says look at the plant or earth you're trying to improve. You are still causing the other plants to grow by preventing the weeds from grabbing nutrients. How you do so is irrelevant.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 9:04

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The gemara in Moed Katan 2b discusses whether weeding is considered plowing or sowing

It was stated that the amora’im disputed the following question: With regard to one who weeds or one who waters seedlings on Shabbat, for what prohibited labor do we forewarn him? Rabba said: It is due to the prohibition against plowing. Rav Yosef said: It is due to the prohibition against sowing. [...] Rav Yosef said: According to my opinion, it is reasonable. Just as the usual objective of sowing is to cause the fruit to grow, here too, weeding or watering causes the fruit to grow.

As such weeding is forbidden on Shabbat, and spraying killer spray is a derivation of this. R Daniel Braude writes this constitues sowing (Learn Shabbos in 3 minutes a day, p. 317). R Yosef Tzvi Rimon writes accordingly (Shabbat, vol. 2, p. 577).

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  • So it is a no (not permissible)? Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 17:19
  • @PeterMortensen indeed it is not permissible
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 17:54
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Only melacha for a "constructive" purpose is prohibited biblically. For a destructive purpose is prohibited rabinically.

Biblically, if you are just destroying for no reason (not even for fun), that would be permitted. If you are destroying to improve the garden that would be prohibited.

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    If destructive, then "permitted" at the Biblical level, but still rabbinically prohibited.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 16:15
  • Do you have a source for this? It contradicts what I wrote and Shalom comment. Rabbinic prohibitions are prohibitions as well
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 3:32
  • I was speaking biblically Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 11:44
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    The question doesn't ask about biblically specifically, so I'd say it isn't permissable Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 18:10

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