I am looking for a sefer to use to learn Hilchos Shabbos at the Shabbos table. I used to use Orchos Shabbos, but I found that while I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, the rest of my family had a harder time with the nature of using a Hebrew sefer and translating/explaining. I also think that sometimes his thoroughness made it hard for everyone else to pay attention.

I am looking for a sefer in English which can be easily broken into small digestible segments, and gives a good basic general knowledge of Hilchos Shabbos. Something that guests could also follow even if they are only there for just the one meal would also be another advantage.

I am aware of several sefarim, such as me'oros haShabbos, the 39 Melachos, and The Shabbos Kitchen/Home etc. Artscroll set. I don't have experience with them, but those could be possible answers.

Please explain in your answers why your recommendation fits the criteria described here along with any other relevant information. First-hand experience is preferred but not required.

  • 1
    I know someone who's been using amazon.com/The-Melochos-Rabbi-Dovid-Ribiat/dp/B001O246H6 weekly for years now for just this. I can't give you details but presumably he (a successful educator by profession) is satisfied.
    – Double AA
    Jun 16, 2015 at 18:54
  • @DoubleAA sounds like an answer to me.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 16, 2015 at 18:56
  • @IsaacMoses I have no details of how it meets the criteria.
    – Double AA
    Jun 16, 2015 at 18:57
  • 2
    Have you considered Shemirath Shabbath, the English adaptation of Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah? I've never learned it in order, at the table or not, but it seems like it may fit at least some of your criteria.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 16, 2015 at 18:58
  • @yEz, There's a Sefer in Hebrew that has added a practical Q&A to each Se'if in the Mishna Brura. Kids loved it - took us a few years of Shabbos meals to get through. I can find the name if you're interested. Jun 18, 2015 at 9:42

7 Answers 7


Rabbi Ribiat's "39 Melochos" that you mention is lucid, comprehensive, and well-sourced, yet is also broken down into very digestible bites, which is why it has become so popular in the English-speaking world. (We've often used it as a basis for table discussions.) He begins sections with more general basic background pieces before he gets into more detailed applications. His examples tend to be very relevant, which also makes it much more engaging. (On the negative side, some of his organization method can seem unnecessarily complex and confusing, especially with regard to looking up his Hebrew end-notes. But for the purpose your describing, it sounds perfect. I would add that being a 4-volume set, it is more expensive than other, one volume works. However, I personally find it to be an essential part of a practical halacha library.)

  • I'm just going to add my concurrence, here, for the exact reasons that Loewian mentioned. FWIW, you have, now 2 opinions on the same book. I've used it with my own family together with a person more religious than us. We often gather Shabbat afternoon to learn a section from some volume.
    – DanF
    Jun 16, 2015 at 19:07
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    Concur as well. Been doing it every seudas shlishis in memory of the murdered fogel family a"h, since they were killed on shabbos my wife and I took it on to be mechazek our shmiras shabbos. Very clear and practical. Well written Jun 16, 2015 at 19:32
  • Look at the comment by @DoubleAA in the original question which also concurs with this answer. amazon.com/The-Melochos-Rabbi-Dovid-Ribiat/dp/B001O246H6 Jun 16, 2015 at 20:02
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    I am registering my disagreement. This is an altogether overly thorough seffer which happens to be in English. Not really family/children friendly. Mine was relegated to the top unreachable shelf along with the other not commonly used sfarim. It is good for learned people who wish to bridge the gap between hilchos shabbos in the books of yore to today's day and age. Just my 2c.
    – user6591
    Jun 16, 2015 at 21:15
  • See the comments to judaism.stackexchange.com/a/742
    – msh210
    Jun 17, 2015 at 13:11

Check out The 39 Avoth Melacha of Shabbath by Rabbi Baruch Chait.

It is designed for children, with the entire book being pictures. Each quarter of a page deals with a melacha, with pictures of different forms of the melacha around. It shows for each action whether it is d'oraita, d'rabbanan, or permitted.

It does not delve into the reasons much (at all), so be prepared for questions about why is this forbidden/allowed. It's really a cursory introduction to the halachot of melacha.

The book also touches on some of the requirements to be chayav, such as shogeg/meizid, mitasek, psik reisha, shelo/k'darka. It also has a page on muktzah.

Be prepared to pass it around the table to let everyone look at the pictures.

It is definitely short segments, and a guest can jump right in, assuming they have a basic knowledge of melacha.

Also, you might enjoy it. We have the book because my father needed a good reference for the melachot. :)

  • 1
    +1. It is an entertaining and wonderfully compact resource. It does often mention the reasons in brief (e.g. "Torah prohibition of קוצר: A flower pot with holes is considered attached to the ground; therefore lifting it is detaching"). Also, there's a handy reference page in the back with over 200 reference notes for the many examples in the book (the most frequently cited sources are Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos by R' Y.Y. Posen, Sh'miras Shabbos K'Hilchasah, and Chayei Adam).
    – Fred
    Jul 19, 2015 at 21:41

My personal favorite to share at the Shabbos table is The Shabbos Kitchen by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen and his entire Shabbos Halacha series.

Each chapter generally begins with a overview of the principles involved followed by a sampling of practical applications. Each part is followed by a summary.

I have used it at the Shabbos table and my family (including some children) has been able to follow along despite the fact that the Shabbos table is not the forum for serious in depth study. I find that we remember the concepts which helps us know what to do in many cases and it helps us know when a situation calls for further research.

I also like that Rabbi Cohen is not opinionated (even though he can be excused if he was). This means that when looking up the sources that he quotes I am rarely surprised. This is in contrast to some other books which may present the author's interpretation of the source without letting on that there may be alternate interpretations.

Please explain in your answers why your recommendation fits the criteria described here along with any other relevant information. First-hand experience is preferred but not required.

  • "sometimes his thoroughness made it hard for everyone else to pay attention."

My family had an easier time following Rabbi Cohen's seforim at the Shabbos table than some of the other Seforim that I tried.

  • "can be easily broken into small digestible segments"


  • "Gives a good basic general knowledge of Hilchos Shabbos"

Check. We received a solid general knowledge of the principles involved.

  • "Guests could also follow even if they are only there for just the one meal would also be another advantage."

This is a little more tricky. Some topics are longer than others. When we have guests I sometimes find the need to skip to one of the many topics that are short enough to be covered in one meal.

  • 2
    ChaimG, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing this detailed recommendation! I look forward to seeing you around, perhaps among our dozens of other requests for book recommendations or our hundreds of shabbos questions.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 17, 2015 at 15:40

Halichos of Shabbos from Rabbi Shimon D. Eider is a good choice.

It has the added benefit of including many word of mouth halachos heard directly from HaRav Moshe Feinstein.

  • 1
    Unfortunately it is written in the old typewriter print, and footnotes are in Hebrew.
    – user6591
    Jun 17, 2015 at 15:23

For years, my family used the English edition of Shmiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa. My father would read, and all members of the family listened. I haven't looked back on it recently, but I don't think it was very complicated or hard to understand; on the contrary, I think us kids usually understood what my father was reading.

We even had an interesting "hashgacha pratis" story that happened regarding our reading of the sefer; when we put away the volume that we used by the Shabbos table for Pesach, and read a different volume in its stead, we found ourselves a few weeks after Pesach still reading the laws of pikuach nefesh when my father (a doctor) got a phone call regarding an emergency situation that required him to drive out to save someone's life; the recent reminder of what he could and could not do came in handy that Shabbos.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed's Peninei Halacha Shabbat in Hebrew is excellent and not hard to understand (the rest of the series is also easy to understand). We used to read parts of it on Shabbat at the table. I assume the English is also good. You can check it out here.


"Do you know Hilchos Shabbos" by Rabbi M. Fletcher is a very family-friendly sefer. http://www.menuchapublishers.com/do-you-know-hilchos-shabbos.html

For a more thorough, and still easy understandable sefer on Hilchos Shabbos, I highly recommend the Sefer "Zachor Veshamor" by Rabbi E. Falk http://www.lehmanns.co.uk/zachor-v-shamor-the-laws-of-shabbos-vol-1.html These used to be available in type-print softback format, but are in the process of being re-written and printed in book format. At the moment only one volume has been printed, with more in the pipeline.

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