Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Sweeping Floors -- Maybe Not On Shabbos

My father, a"h, tried very much to be respectful of our choice to join the cult known as Orthodox Judaism.  One Shabbos morning he asked me why we were allowed to flush the toilets.  I asked him what could possibly be wrong flushing a toilet in Shabbos.  (Knowing me, there was probably a tone of exasperation in my voice.)  He replied that, "How should I know what could be wrong with it?  There are lots of things you don't do on Shabbos that don't make any sense to me."  (No exasperation, just seeking information.  He was good that way.)  I was duly chastised.

It's true, though; we do and don't do lots of stuff.  As I am coming to the end of the third volume of the Mishna Brura (hilchos Shabbos), I find more and more things that I should and shouldn't be doing that I am not and am doing down.  Just look at the headings: A bunch of details regarding stuff we do on Shabbos (339) and A bunch of stuff we don't do on Shabbos because they are kind of like other stuff we are forbidden to do (340).  My translation is relatively free, but not that far from literal.  I therefore thought it would be worth mentioning a couple of things that shouldn't have surprised me (since I have learned it before), but... well... you know...

What could be wrong with sweeping the floor, for example?  Not only is it a problem, it is a big enough problem that it merited its very own article, #337.   So what's the problem?  Not עובדא דחול/mundane workday activity/the spirit of Shabbos; sweeping, in fact is quite therapeutic for some people.  Maybe you are thinking that the stuff I am sweeping up is muktza and that's that problem.  Nope; having stuff on the floor into which you do not want to step comes under the "גרף של רעי/chamber pot" category which allows you to remove something icky that disturbs your Shabbos mood.  The problem is משווה גומות/filling in potholes; which is included in the מלאכה of plowing if done outside and building if done inside.  Dirt floors, you see, often get potholes and need to be evened out.

You say, "Hey!  I don't have dirt flooring in my dining room!"  True enough, but the original decree was made even for all houses regardless of flooring so people with dirt floors wouldn't forget themselves.  "But no one has dirt floors in my neighborhood!!"  True, and the Mishna Brura knew that also.  There is a nice long Biur Halacha on precisely that point.  I don't want to spoil all your fun, but if you sweep Friday afternoon (so any cracks and crevices are already filled in), and you live in a neighborhood/city/township where no on has dirt floors (so the decree may have never been relevant), and you use a broom with soft, synthetic bristles (so you aren't breaking sticks) then you can probably sweep.  But be sure to CYLOR.

Flushing toilets, btw... I have subsequently discovered that there certainly are some interesting issues that need understanding.  For example, sending waste from a private to domain to a public domain.  You wouldn't carry a garbage can out to the curb, so why are you allowed to flush the toilet?  There are answers, but it's not obvious.  Hmm... maybe my four year old grandson isn't forgetful, he's just machmir.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…