Choresh

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Definition

  1. Choresh, or plowing, is one of the 39 melachot. [1] The definition of Choresh is any action that prepares the soil for planting. [2]
  2. The three types of actions that are forbidden as ‘Plowing’ are making holes, softening, and flattening the ground to prepare it for planting. [3]
  3. The extensions of the Torah prohibition of ‘Plowing’ include removing rocks or thorns from a field, spreading out fertilizer in a field, and watering a field (in order to soften it). [4]
  4. It's forbidden to remove dirt mounds and stones or fill in holes in the field in order to flatten the ground. [5]

Amount

  1. Plowing of any amount is forbidden[6] because even a tiny hole is useful to plant a tiny seed. [7]

Watering dirt or a plant

  1. It's forbidden to water soil on Shabbat. (According to many authorities this is prohibited because of Choresh as it improves the field, while others prohibit it because of Zoreha, planting.) [8]
  2. It's permissible to water desert land if nothing isn't used for planting while the ground is still moist. [9]
  3. It's forbidden to wash one's hands over grass or vegetation. [10]
  4. Since acidic or caustic liquids do not promote vegetation it's permissible to spill vinegar or alcohol on vegetation. Similarly according to many authorities if there is a great need it is permissible to urinate on plants on Shabbat. [11]

Clearing the ground

  1. It's forbidden to clear rocks, logs, or debris off the terrain as it is considered Mesakel (a Toldah of Choresh) because it improves it for planting. [12]
  2. Leveling terrain is a form of landscaping which is a Toldah of Choresh (Mashveh Gumot). [13]
  3. In previous centuries when the flooring was earth it there was no concern of Choresh when digging or filling in holes but there is a prohibition of Boneh (as it improves the structure of the floor). [14]

Weeding

  1. It is forbidden to remove weeds from a field on Shabbat. [15]

Cleaning off one's shoes

  1. The rabbinic prohibitions on this action are removing dirt from one’s shoe in a field [because you may come to fill a hole]. A tiled courtyard is included in this prohibition but a house isn’t (unless the ground is dirt). [16]
  2. One can’t rub spit into the ground but one can step on it regularly. [17]

Plowing in a uncultivable land

  1. Even there's no issue of Choresh in digging or plowing in a arid desert soil, or under a low deck or porch where vegetation can not grow, nonetheless there is another concern of Boneh. [18]

Sweeping on shabbat

  1. One may not sweep in a courtyard even if it’s tiled as a prohibition of sweeping a field but sweeping in a house (with flooring, where majority of houses in the city have flooring) is permitted. One shouldn’t use a broom with straw bristles because it’s definitely going to cause individual bristles to break. [19]

Games on dirt

Playing with marbles

  1. Playing marbles on a dirt floor is forbidden because it may smoothen the ground. Many poskim permit playing on flooring (wood, concrete, carpet), while others impose the prohibition to all floorings. Nonetheless, all agree that it's permissible to play marbles on a table or on a large floor mat. [20]

Playing with dice

  1. Playing with dice on the ground is forbidden because it may smoothen the ground. This prohibition applies even to flooring in a house but not a rug or a table. [21]

Playing with soccer

  1. One should not play soccer on a dirt field. [22]

Playing jacks

  1. Since jacks and kugelach don't involve rolling it's permissible to play it on any surface. [23]

Playing with sand

  1. There is no issue of Choresh in digging in fine dry sand (however, there is an issue of muktzah) and so it is permissible to drag a chair in sand even though it will make a furrow. [24]
  2. It’s permissible for children to play with sand that’s fine, dry, and prepared before Shabbat for this use (as in a sandbox). One may not add water to the sand on Shabbat. [25]
  3. One may not dig in moist or clumpy sand. Therefore if the sand in a sandbox is moist or has solidified as is common after the rain one should not allow children to play in the sandbox. [26]
  4. Adding water to sand is a violation of the Melacha of Losh (kneading). [27]

Dragging heavy objects

  1. It’s permitted to drag a bed, chair, or bench on dirt if you don’t intend to make a hole with it. But a heavy bench or table which will definitely make a hole can’t be dragged even in a tiled courtyard [but is permitted in a house]. [28] It is permissible to push a carraige or wheel chair on dirt befcause the wheels aren't digging up dirt but depressing it. [29]
  2. A children’s toy can be dragged since it has a smooth bottom [because it will not dig up dirt but compress it] even if it will lean to the side and drag. [30]

Compressing soil

  1. Walking on soft dirt is permissible because one is merely compressing soil and not loosening it. However, one should be careful not to llift the wheels when turning to avoid scraping up dirt. [31]
  2. It's permissible to push a carriage on soft soil because one is merely compressing soil and not loosening it. [32]
  3. It's permissible to sit on a chair in the sukkah even thought the legs sink into the ground. [33]

High heel shoes

  1. It is permitted to wear high-heeled shoes on bare soil, yet, it is preferable to walk slowly on the soil. [34]

Description

Most commentaries believe plowing was needed for growing plants, which were used as dyes for the Mishkan.[35] Commentaries dispute the scope of the Av Melacha. Some believe the Av Melacha is limited to plowing[36] while others believe any form of digging[37] constitutes the Av Melacha.[38] All agree that any form of landscaping improvement, with the intention to improve the ground[39], violates a tolada.[40] Examples include fertilizing[41] and removing weeds.[42]

Authorities disagree if the Melacha of Choresh requires making the ground fit for growing plants or improving any ground is also Choresh.[43] Similarly, a dispute exists if improving the ground for non-agricultural purposes violates Choresh.[44] Additionally, while it certainly is forbidden to plow with animals on Shabbos, commentaries disagree if this is a violation of Choresh.[45]

Based on a confluence of factors, one does not violate Choresh by pushing a stroller on dirt.[46]

Sources

  1. Mishna in Masechet Shabbat 73a
  2. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 251)
  3. Kalkelet Shabbat 2
  4. Rambam Shabbat 8:1
  5. Mishna Brurah (Intro to 337)
  6. Rambam Shabbat 8:1, Mishna Brurah (Intro to 337)
  7. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 252)
  8. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 254)
  9. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 254)
  10. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 268)
  11. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 268)
  12. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 255)
  13. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 255)
  14. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 255-6)
  15. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 255)
  16. S”A 302:6, 337:2, B”HL Ibid. “VeYesh”
  17. S”A 316:11, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 255)
  18. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 254)
  19. S”A 337:2, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:73, Mishna Brurah 337:14, Sefer Hilchot Shabbat (vol 2 pg 51, Choresh note 115, by Rabbi Eider) in name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein), 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 256-7)
  20. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2 pg 259)
  21. S”A 338:5, Mishna Brurah 338:20, Kalkelet Shabbat 2
  22. Practical Halachos of Shabbos (pg 21) based on Mishna Brurah 308:158 who says that one shouldn't play with a ball on the ground because of the concern of flattening out the ground.
  23. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 259)
  24. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 252)
  25. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:4, Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim, pg 137-8), 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 253)
  26. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 254)
  27. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 254)
  28. S”A 337:1, M”B 337:4, Beiur Halacha “VeYesh”
  29. Practical Halachos of Shabbat (pg 21) quoting Hilchos Shabbos by Rabbi Shimon Eider (pg 43 par 8)
  30. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 28:42, Sh”t Yechave Daat 2:52
  31. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 258)
  32. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 258)
  33. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 259)
  34. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, page 258), Rabbi Eli Mansour on dailyhalacha.com
  35. Rashi 73a s”v HaOfeh. For another opinion, see the introduction to Eglei Tal s”k 1.
  36. Meiri 73b s”v HaChoresh
  37. Orchos Shabbos 28 note 68, based on Rashi Beitzah 23b s”v Mipnei Sh’Koveshes, argues stroller wheels do not dig but rather press dirt down and this is permitted. However, Orchos Shabbos argues pressing dirt down for the purpose of planting seeds is forbidden under Choresh. This distinction here between intending to plant and not intending to plant is not clear to me.
  38. Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 7:2, Ritva 73b s”v HaChofer
  39. Shabbos 73b
  40. Shabbos 103a (and see the Meiri there s”v HaMenachesh), Yerushalmi Shabbos 7:2, Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 8:1 and the Mishna Brurah’s introduction to Orach Chaim 337. However, the Eglei Tal Choresh s”k 9 argues, based on Rashis 73b s”v Melacha Achas and s”v Mishum Choresh, that Rashi limits the melacha to only softening the ground for planting. See also Rashis 73b s”v Guma and s”v Patur Aleha.
  41. The Yerushalmi Shabbos 7:2 says m’zavel is an example of Choresh. Rabbenu Chananel on Shabbos 73b and the Chayei Adam Hilchos Shabbos 10:3 cite this Yerushalmi. While the Rambam does not explicitly mention a prohibition of fertilizing, the Nishmas Adam 10:1 argues the Rambam includes it when the Rambam Shabbos 8:1 writes “any act which improves the ground is a tolada of Choresh.” However, the Eglei Tal Zoreah s”k 22 in the end of the Hagah argues m’zavel is only rabbinically prohibited.
  42. The Rambam Shabbos 8:1 mentions m’nachesh and the Mishna Brurah cites this in his introduction to 337.
  43. The Ohr Zarua 55, citing Pesachim 47b, argues the ground must be fit for growing plants. However, one could negate the citation of Pesachim by claiming it is only referring to Kilayim. The Pnei Yehoshua Shabbos 73b s”v Michdi and the Mishna Brurah, in his introduction to 337, concur that the ground must be fit for growing plants.
    • The Yerushalmi Shabbos 7:2 says sweeping is included in Choresh. This approach must say either: 1) this is against the Bavli Shabbos 73b that digging a pit in one’s house is only a violation of boneh, 2) sweeping is only a rabbinic prohibition, 3) the Yerushalmi discusses a case where one sweeps outside, or 4) the Yerushalmi discusses a case where the dirt floor is fit for growing plants and the Bavli discusses a case where the dirt floor is not fit for growing plants.
    • At first glance, Tosafos Shabbos 39a s”v Mipnei, disagrees with this approach above. However, the Maharam s”v B’emtza Dibburo V’od argues that Tosafos is only saying that this is a rabbinic prohibition. It is thus possible Tosafos agrees on a Torah level that the ground must be able to grow plants.
  44. The Meiri, commenting on the Mishnah 73a and the Pnei Yehoshua Shabbos 73b s”v Michdi argue Choresh must be for agricultural purposes. The Shita LaRan, Shabbos s”v Haysa appears to disagree. This position of the Shita LaRan may be supported by the Yerushalmi mentioned in note 9 which includes sweeping in Choresh. However, the possible answers mentioned in note 9 are relevant here as well.
    • Ohr Zarua, mentioned in Shaar HaTziyun 336:18, holds a middle view that pouring water on fallow ground, even without intentions to plant, violates Choresh if the ground has been designated for plowing.
  45. The Rambam in Hilchos Shabbos 20:2 appears to say plowing with an animal violates Lo Sa’aseh Kol Melacha Ata U-Behemtecha. Shabbos 153b says one does not receive malkus for this lav. (See the Magid Mishnah there for a different explanation of the Rambam.) The Ramban, in his Chiddushim to Shabbos 154b and his comments on the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos, Shoresh 14, argues plowing with an animal is simply plowing using an object. As such, the Ramban believes one who intentionally plows with an animal is liable for stoning. See also the Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 36 s”k 2.
  46. Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa (new edition) 28:48. See also Chut Shani volume 1 on Hilchos Shabbos, page 74.