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Is it forbidden to play a woodwind instrument, such as a recorder, on Shabbat?

I want to say it's forbidden, because (I think) musical instruments were played in the beit haMikdash. However, even though they were played, were they made? In other words, would it be considered a "work" in that it's "work" that is forbidden on Shabbat?

  • if the problem with instruments is makeh b'patish, why wouldn't that apply to woodwinds? – rosends Feb 19 '15 at 22:06
  • Why do you ask specifically about woodwind instruments and not, say, brass or string? – Double AA Feb 19 '15 at 22:37
  • I'm more interested in learning to play a woodwind and was wondering if it's forbidden on Shabbat. I'm not interested in brass or string instruments. – EhevuTov Feb 19 '15 at 22:49
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    @EhevuTov Could the answer be related to why a shofar is not blown on Rosh Hashana if it falls on Shabbat? The shofar has no valves to depress or holes to finger. It just requires blowing. I imagine that if the simple shofar can't be blown on Shabbat a more complex woodwind even more so couldn't – JJLL Feb 19 '15 at 23:31
  • @DoubleAA, also, the recorder woodwind is one piece with no moving parts, no reed, etc. It's a very simple instrument. – EhevuTov Feb 20 '15 at 7:36
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It's forbidden (Shulchan Aruch, OC 338:1). He gives no reason (as usual), but, if I recall correctly, the reason the rabbis instituted this prohibition was as a safeguard lest one come to fix the instrument as needed while playing. (I know little about woodwinds, but I guess that might include putting in a new reed.)

  • That's some good input. The reason why I mentioned a "recorder" is because recorders are usually made without reeds or exchangeable parts. I was speculating that complex instruments would have a greater chance of being forbidden, so I went with the simplest instrument that I could imagine. And I recently purchased such a woodwind, so I'm super curious now. What would you think about the question now that there is no reed or moveable parts? Thank you. – EhevuTov Feb 20 '15 at 7:31
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    @EhevuTov Shulchan Aruch, the major authority on Jewish practice, doesn't give a reason for the ban or limit it to instruments with moveable parts. Perhaps other authorities do so limit. – msh210 Feb 20 '15 at 7:54
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Playing all types of musical instruments on Shabbos is forbidden by Rabinic decree. It is forbidden as a "shvus" (Rabinic ordinance of Shabbos), not a "melachah" (creative activity).

As is typically the case, they didn't differentiate between different types of instruments (lo plug). They also forbade making music with non-instruments (even banging pot lids to create music).

One reason given for the ordinance that forbids playing any form of musical instrument on Shabbos is that the player may fix the instrument, which is an infringement on the Melachah of Makeh B'patish. (The Shabbos Home, by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen)

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    Who gives said reason? – Double AA Feb 20 '15 at 18:45
  • that's a similar thing @msh210 said concerning repairs, which is why I stated a simple one-piece instrument like a recorder, with no parts. This is curious to me. – EhevuTov Feb 20 '15 at 18:50
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    @EhevuTov see my edit. – LN6595 Feb 20 '15 at 18:59

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