Introduction: Understanding shvus and oneg Shabbos

Playing instruments/ clapping, dancing and banging

The mishna (Beitza 36b) says one can’t play an instrument lest he come to fix it. Nor can he clap or dance or bang on an object.

Conservative interpretation:
Shvus is only assur for example electricity when it is used for a melacha (a coffee grinder), as opposed to talking on the phone to wish someone a good Shabbos which enhances the oneg Shabbos.

As far as instruments, there are a few Rishonim who allowed certain instruments on Shabbos and one even says the issur of music is only when you live in an area where people are skilled in fixing the instruments.

Orthodox interpretation:
How do we understand shvus and when it does/doesn’t override oneg Shabbos? (If it ever does at all)

How does Orthodox Judaism allow dancing and clapping and even banging on Shabbos when a clear mishna says it’s assur? If it’s assur to bang and clap and dance lest one might create an instrument then What is the issue with the conservative playing an instrument lest they come to fix it. Both seem to be on the same level as both are guarding against an actual oraisa! What’s the heter for what Orthodox Jews do?

If you can provide a Shulchan Aruch Harav which I believe is how Ashkenazim paskin on these two topics that would be great!

  • 2
    How do you know that Orthodox Judaism allows dancing and clapping and even banging on shabbos?
    – Joel K
    Mar 20 at 14:40
  • If I recall correctly there is a Tosafoth that says we are no longer proficient in instrument making/fixing and therefore clapping/dancing is permitted (בטל טעם בטלה תקנה) and it is that position that is relied upon by those who permit it... but that's just going off of memory Mar 20 at 14:47
  • ok so why cant we play instruments if most people dont know how to fix it? Mar 20 at 15:29
  • @Deuteronomy you are correct, this Tosafos is on Beitza 30a
    – mbloch
    Apr 20 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


The SA 339:3 says that it is assur, however the Rama explains that the custom was to be lenient and provides two possible reasons:

אין מטפחין להכות כף אל כף ולא מספקין להכות כף על ירך ולא מרקדין גזירה שמא יתקן כלי שיר ואפי' להכות באצבע על הקרקע או על הלוח או אחת כנגד אחת כדרך המשוררים או לקשקש באגוז לתינוק או לשחק בו בזוג כדי שישתוק כל זה וכיוצא בו אסור גזירה שמא יתקן כלי שיר ולספק כלאחר יד מותר: הגה והא דמספקין ומרקדין האידנא ולא מחינן בהו משום דמוטב שיהיו שוגגין וכו' וי"א דבזמן הזה הכל שרי דאין אנו בקיאין בעשיית כלי שיר וליכא למיגזר שמא יתקן כלי שיר דמלתא דלא שכיח הוא ואפשר שעל זה נהגו להקל בכל. (תוספות סוף פרק המביא כדי יין)

We do not clap nor to we slap our hand to our thighs nor do we dance. This is a rabbinic decree lest one come to fix a musical instrument. It is even forbidden to tap one's fingers on the ground or the board or to each other as singers do, or to shake a nut for a child or to play with two nuts so that the child will be quiet. All of this and anything similar is forbidden, based on a rabbinic decree preventing the fixing of a musical instrument. Clapping using the back of the hand is allowed. Rem"a: Today people clap and dance and we do not stop them because it is better that they sin unintentionally . . . There are those who say that today, everything is permitted because we are not proficient in the fixing of instruments, so there is no reason to make decrees preventing the fixing of instruments, as this skill is not pervasive. It is possible that based on this, the practice has emerged to be lenient (Tosafot at the beginning of Perek HaMevi Kadei Yayin)

R’ Moshe OC 2:100 explains that it is apparent from Tosfos that even in their times this takana didn’t take hold, and therefore, once the reason is no longer applicable, the issur is removed. It is considered that all the rabbis agreed to remove it.

The Eishal Avraham explains that anything related to prayer or a mitzvah is also permitted.

  • So at the end of the day you are saying there is room to be lenient for playing instruments as well? As the mishna doesn't hold playing an instrument to be any more forbidden than dancing and clapping. Apr 22 at 0:38

I was under the impression that prior to the advent of Chasidism, it was fairly prevlant among Ashkenazim NOT to dance on Shabbos.

  • so why dont chasidim play instruments too? You cant pick and choose and say clapping and dancing and banging is ok but instruments arent. Where is the logic? Again, the mishna doesnt diffrentiate both are equally rabbinically forbbiden Apr 22 at 0:40

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