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: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…