Template:Writing on the Side of Books

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  1. Many poskim hold that it is permitted to open a book on Shabbat even though it has letters or pictures on the side of the pages of the book; if, however, there is another similar book available without letters on the side, one should use that one. Also, it’s preferable not to write on the sides of books in order to avoid this issue. [1]
    1. Birkei Yosef 340:5, Leviat Chen 120, Sh"t Tzitz Eliezer 13:44, Vayesh Moshe 1:65, Mishna Berura 340:17.
      • The Levush 340:4 writes that it is a Torah violation to open or close a book with words stamped on the sides of the pages. He maintains that opening the book is erasing because the letters are broken, and then closing the book again is writing because the letters are reformed. Magen Avraham 340:6 and Chazon Ish 61:1 are machmir for this Levush.
      • The Rama in a teshuva (119), however, is lenient based on the Gemara Shabbat (104b) that says that there is a biblical prohibition if a person writes one letter in Tiveriya and one in Tzipori because it is not considered lacking a significant action to bring them together. The Rama infers that moving letters closer to or further from one another is not considered writing or erasing. Similarly, opening the book doesn’t erase the letters, but merely separates the parts of the letters, and closing the book doesn’t write the letters, but just combines the halves.
      • The Avnei Neizer 210:1-3 rejects this proof. He argues that separating two letters isn’t considered erasing because the letters still exist, but splitting letters horizontally is considered erasing because the letters become nonexistent. See Rama (ibid.) and Taz 340:2 for resolutions to this difficulty.
      • However, Sh"t Rama 119 and Taz 340:2 disagree saying that bringing existing letters together isn't a melacha and since the book is meant to be open and closed it is like opening and closing a door which is certainly permissible and not an issue of boneh and soter. The Rama's leniency is based on the Gemara Shabbat (104b) that says that there is a biblical prohibition if a person writes one letter in Tiveriya and one in Tzipori because it is not considered lacking a significant action to bring them together. The Rama infers that moving letters closer to or further from one another is not considered writing or erasing. Similarly, opening the book doesn’t erase the letters, but merely separates the parts of the letters, and closing the book doesn’t write the letters, but just combines the halves. The Avnei Neizer 210:1-3 rejects this proof. He argues that separating two letters isn’t considered erasing because the letters still exist, but splitting letters horizontally is considered erasing because the letters become nonexistent. See Rama (ibid.) and Taz 340:2 for resolutions to this difficulty. Based on this Avnei Nezer, see also Sh"t Har Tzvi Melechet Kotev 4 writes that even the Levush himself agrees that separating two complete letters isn't an issue of writing. He is just concerned of joining and separating letter fragments but not separating two whole letters.
      • Halacha for Ashkenazim: Mishna Brurah 340:17 comments that the minhag is to follow the Rama, yet if one has another sefer without letters on the side, he should use that one instead to be strict for the Levush. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 28:2 writes that it is preferable not to open a book with words or pictures written across the edge of their leaves and are broken and put back together when the book is opened and closed. He concludes that many authorities permit opening the book in such a case. The problem is best avoided by not writing on the edge of books.
      • Halacha for Sephardim: Yalkut Yosef (340:8 Din Kotev BeShabbat) writes that it is permitted according to the strict law, however, initially one should avoid writing words on the side of Sefarim.