Reading on Shabbat

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Permitted reading on Shabbat

  1. It is permitted to look at a synagogue member's list and read from it in order to check whose turn it is to receive the honor of reading the Torah. [1]
  2. It is permitted to read mitzvah announcements on Shabbat, however, it is forbidden to make business mitzvah announcements which include the price of an item. [2].
  3. It is permitted to read store sign or brand names on Shabbat. However, those who are strict in this matter shall be blessed. [3].
  4. It is permitted to read the ingredient list on food products on Shabbat. [4].
  5. It is permitted to look in a phone book to find a specific name and address on Shabbat. [5]
  6. It is permissible to read a pamphlet that has both Torah and advertisements as long as one is careful to not look at the advertisements. [6]

Learning Secular Subjects on Shabbat

  1. According to Sephardim, one should only learn Torah on Shabbat and one may not learn secular subjects such as science. According to Ashkenazim, many are lenient to allow learning secular wisdom on Shabbat but a pious person should refrain. [7]
  2. According to Ashkenazim, one may read Jewish history texts that inspire mussar and Yirat Hashem. [8]
  3. Many authorities forbid reading novels on Shabbat. Some are lenient for pleasure reading.[9]
  4. Concerning studying for a secular test on Shabbat see Hachana.

Bus Schedule

  1. One shouldn’t read a bus schedule on Shabbat. [10]
  2. One is permitted to read street signs on Shabbat. [11]

Reading captions of pictures

  1. It is forbidden to read the captions of pictures on Shabbat. [12] However, if is a caption underneath the picture of a rabbi then you may have room to be lenient. [13]

Newspapers, Advertisements, Business

  1. It is forbidden to read a catalogue of advertisements or anything that has any bearing on finances on shabbat. [14]
  2. It is permissible to read a pamphlet that has both Torah and advertisements as long as one is careful to not look at the advertisements. [15]
  3. It is forbidden to read a recipes or a cookbook on Shabbat.[16]
  4. Many poskim forbid ordering a newspaper that is printed and delivered on Shabbat, while some are lenient if most of the subscribers are non-Jewish.[17]
  5. Some say that it is permitted to read newspapers on Shabbat skipping the business sections and advertisements.[18]
  6. Is a newspaper printed on Shabbat considered nolad? Some poskim consider a newspaper printed on Shabbat to be nolad and forbidden to read. Others disagree. Furthermore, since it was in the property of the non-Jew it might not be muktzeh.[19]

Giving Invitations

  1. Technically, if the only time one see's his/her friends is on Shabbat, one may give out wedding or bar mitzvah invitations on Shabbat. One must make sure that the distribution of invitations does not cause one to violate the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat. However, it is absolutely preferable to to give out mitzvah invitations during the week. [20].

Sad stories

  1. It is preferable not to read sad things that may bring the reader to tears such as holocaust stories. [21]

Opening Mail

  1. It’s forbidden to tear or steam a letter open on Shabbat. It’s permissible to tell a non-Jew that it’s forbidden to open letters on Shabbat so that the non-Jew will understand to open it as this is not a command but only a hint. [22] Similarly, it’s permissible to benefit from the letter since the action of the non-Jew was applied to the envelope and not to the letter directly. [23]
  2. It’s permissible to open an envelope or a booklet that was stapled shut just for transmission by post by removing the staples. However, it’s forbidden to remove the staples from two papers that were stapled together permanently. [24] Similarly, it’s forbidden to staple an envelope closed. [25]

Reading Mail

  1. In general it’s forbidden to read letters on Shabbat even of a social or business correspondence. However, if a letter of social correspondence arrived on Shabbat it’s permissible to read it silently (without moving one’s lips) because it’s possible that it contains crucial information for Shabbat. However, business letters may not be read on Shabbat at all. [26]


  1. Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz's Ten Minute Halacha on Reading Newspapers on Shabbat


  1. Yalkut Yosef 307.5
  2. Yalkut Yosef 307.8
  3. Yalkut Yosef 307.11
  4. Yalkut Yosef 307.12
  5. Yalkut Yosef 307.13
  6. Hazon Ovadia, Volume 5, Page 72; Ach Tov VaHessed, Year 5783, Pages 115-116
    • Mishna Shabbat 148b writes that one may not count the number of guests from a list on Shabbat. Abaye in the Gemara 149a explains that this is a rabbinic restriction so as not to come to read a Shtar Hedyot on Shabbat. What is a Shtar Hedyot which one may not read on Shabbat? Rashi 116b s.v. Shtar explains it to be financial calculations or letters. The Rambam (Pirush Mishnayot Shabbat 23:2) also explains Shtar Hedyot to mean letters and the reason for this is that on Shabbat one may only read Navi and it’s explanations and not even a book of wisdom and science. Bet Yosef 307:17 quotes the Baal HaMoer (43a s.v. VeHa) who agrees.
    • However, the Rashba (149a s.v. VeLeInyan) explains Shtar Hedyot as a business documents. This is also the definition of the Ri quoted in Tosfot 116b d"h "kol sheken" and the Rosh (see there where he writes that reading shtarei hedyotot is a problem of mimtzo cheftecha from Yishayahu 58:13) Shabbat 23:1 (Rashi himself on 149a seems to say this also, and tosfot 149a d"h "shtarei" questions Rashi. see Netziv in Meromei Sadeh 149 for a reconciliation of Rashi). Therefore, Sh”t Rashba 7:288 rules that it’s permitted to read books of wisdom and medicine and quotes the Ramban who agreed. [Bet Yosef 307:17 learns this out from another Teshuva of the Rashba 1:772 where he says that one may analyze an astrological tool called the Istrolav.]
    • S”A 307:17 rules like the Rambam who says that on Shabbat one should only learn Torah and not books of other wisdoms, however, he mentions that some are lenient. Mishna Brurah 307:65 writes that the minhag is like the Rashba, however, a pious person (Yireh Shamayim) should be strict. Rav Aviner holds like the Mishna Brurah. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 4, pg 982) uses a stricter language saying strictly speaking pleasure reading is permitted but it’s best to refrain from any secular books.
    • Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 29:49 extends the Mishna Brurah even to permit reading professional literature, journals that does not include any business, and textbooks. He notes that Rav Shlomo Zalman (Nishmat Avraham 307:5) is quoted to say that a doctor could learn medicine on Shabbat but a medical student may not.
    • However, Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat vol 2, pg 214, 626) rules like Shulchan Aruch that one should only learn Torah on Shabbat and is only lenient to allow a medical student who has a test after Shabbat and is pressured for time to study medicine (except for the study of surgery) on Shabbat. Rabbi Mansour on agrees. Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, pg 234) writes that the halacha follows Shulchan Aruch but one doesn’t have to protest those who are lenient because they have what to rely on.
    • It's interesting to note that the Rama (Sh"t Rama 7) writes that he only studied philosophy from Moreh Nevuchim on Shabbat and Yom Tov when others were taking walks.
  7. S”A 307:16 writes that secular literature, romance, and history of wars are forbidden to read on Shabbat and even during the week because it is considered an activity of scoffers (Moshav Letzim) and it is like following idolater’s practices (Al Tifnu El HaElilim) and reading romance is also a violation of provoking the Yetzer Hara. Mishna Brurah 307:58 writes that Yosephon (not the same as Josephus) and a few other Jewish history books aren’t included in this prohibition because one learns from them ethics and fear of heaven (Yirat Hashem). Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 90:11 writes that one shouldn't study history on Shabbat, however, one may read Jewish History books which inspire Yirat Shamayim and have Mussar in them, such as Shevet Yehuda, Sefer Yuchsin, Divrei HaYamim of Ri HaKohen, or Yosefon (which is not the same as Josephus).
  8. S”A 307:16 writes that secular literature, romance, and history of wars are forbidden to read on Shabbat and even during the week because it is considered an activity of scoffers (Moshav Letzim) and it is like following idolater’s practices (Al Tifnu El HaElilim) and reading romance is also a violation of provoking the Yetzer Hara. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (quoted by Menucha Shelemah pg 226) says that it is forbidden to read narratives and dramas on Shabbat because they do not inspire to Yirat Shamayim. Similarly, Shabbos Home (Rabbi Simcha Cohen, vol 1, pg 57-8) writes that the minhag is lenient by science, math, and medicine but not history and fictional novels which are not considered ‘wisdom’, however, one who fears heaven should refrain from any secular wisdom on Shabbat. However, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 4, pg 982) (based on Rama 307:1 and Mishna Brurah 307:65) writes that strictly speaking pleasure reading is permitted but concludes that it’s best to refrain from any secular book on Shabbat. 39 Melachos adds that obviously if there’s objectionable material it’s forbidden to read on Shabbat or the week.
  9. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat, vol 2, pg 197)
  10. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat, vol 2, pg 197)
  11. Gemara Shabbat 149A, Rambam Shabbat 23:19, Maggid Mishneh Shabbat 23:19, Rosh Shabbat 23:1. Rashi there explains that this is as a gezera from the rabbis so that you won't come to read shtarei hedyotot. see Meiri there who says that captions themselves are shtarei hedyotot and Pri Megadim Eshel Avraham 307:51 adds that the Beit Yosef seems to hold that way as well. Ran 63b in the Rif writes that the reason is that you may come to erase. Eliya Rabba 307:37 writes that the practical difference between Ran and Rashi would be if the writing is engraved where the concern that you may come to erase wouldn't exist.
  12. Rav Moshe Halevi in Menuchat Ahava 1 page 236 cites some rabbis who allow it since it enhances your fear of G-d but nevertheless says one should be strict even in this.
  13. Mishna Brurah 307:63, Yalkut Yosef 307.22, Rav Yisrael Belsky in Shulchan Halevi page 90, as well as Menuchat Ahava (vol 1, pg 233) who says this prohibition even applies if your a shopping for a mitzva related item such as the arba minim.
  14. Hazon Ovadia, Volume 5, Page 72; Ach Tov VaHessed, Year 5783, Pages 115-116
  15. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 29:48 writes that it is included in the prohibition of mimso chefsacha. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach thought that if one’s intent is purely to see how the food tastes better and isn’t concerned with how to cook it, maybe it would be considered a book of wisdom. Halacha Brurah (307:90, Amirah Lnochri v. 2 p. 329) writes that based on Rav Shlomo Zalman it is forbidden for Sephardim who hold it is forbidden to learn a science book on Shabbat. He also quotes Beer Moshe 6:67 who was lenient since people are only looking at the recipes for pleasure. Halacha Brurah still holds that it is forbidden. Listen to Rabbi Mansour on and Rabbi Brovender explained this halacha.
    • The Maharam Shick O.C. 123 addresses the question of subscribing to a newspaper that is printed on Shabbat. He says that although there is a dispute whether or not one may ask one non-Jew to ask another non-Jew to do a melacha on Shabbat, everyone should agree here that it is permitted, since the workers in the printing station don’t know that they are printing for Jews. Nonetheless, he concludes that this is not enough to rely on. Rav Mordechai Willig (Am Mordechai p. 214) writes that the Maharam’s logic would not apply nowadays, because the workers in the printing company know that there are Jews in the city for whom they are printing.
    • Rav Moshe Feinstein (quoted by The Sanctity of Shabbos p. 83), Mishneh Halachot 4:47, and Be’eir Moshe 6:66 agree that ordering a newspaper for Shabbat is forbidden because of Amirah LeNochri. Rav Hershel Schachter (oral communication, Halachipedia Article 5773 #6) said it would be forbidden even if one orders a weekly subscription that includes Shabbat.
    • In another context, the Maharam Shick (O.C. 324) writes that it is not similar to the case of Shulchan Aruch O.C. 276:2 where halacha assumes that the non-Jew’s intent depends on the majority of the people for whom the melacha is done. In our case, every single print is for a specific need, and if the Jew didn’t subscribe, they would print less. Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 31:25, however, quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who argues that it is permitted to order a newspaper to be delivered on Shabbat if most of the subscribers are non-Jews because the additional printing is considered a grama, and perhaps the newspapers printed for Jews are nullified by the majority. Nonetheless, Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata adds that if a non-Jew brought the newspaper through an area where there is no eruv, one may not read it on Shabbat.
  16. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 29:48, 31:25, Mishna Brurah 307:63. A Guide to Practical Halacha (Shabbat v. 3 p. 155 n. 53) quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that some allow reading the newspaper on Shabbat especially in a time of war, while others hold it is forbidden. Either way, he says that it is forbidden to read the advertisements, business and financial articles, stock lisstings, reral estate listings, or classified ads.
  17. Rivevot Efraim 8:152:2 writes that a newspaper printed on Shabbat is nolad gamur and is muktzeh. However, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 31:24 writes that a newspaper printed on Shabbat is permissible to read. Gilyonot MReyach Nichoch 5775 Parshat Bo issue 225 p. 14 Rav Shlomo Aviner explains that a newspaper isn’t nolad since it is just paper with ink. Nishmat Avraham second edition p. 576 quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman that a fax that came in on Shabbat is nolad on Shabbat but a newspaper made on Shabbat isn't nolad since there's no muktzeh on a non-Jew's property. (Magen Avraham 308:15 and 501:12 writes that a utensil made by goy on Shabbat is nolad and is muktzeh even though it belonged to a non-Jew, but the Levush 505:1 argues that even for nolad there’s no muktzeh for a non-Jew’s property.)
  18. Yalkut Yosef 307.21
  19. Mishna Brurah 307:3; Ketzot Hashulchan 107:43.
  20. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:2
  21. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 30:57
  22. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 28:5
  23. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 28:5
  24. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 29:45. Sh"t Iggerot Moshe 5:21:5 writes that since we no longer get any urgent news in the mail this doesn't really apply anymore. see also tiltulei shabbat teshuva 29, the Shabbos Home of Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen 5:footnote 14, Beer Moshe 6:66, Rav Avigdor Neventzal in Yerushalayim Bimoadeha Shabbat Kodesh 2 page 260 who agree to be stringent
Category Topic
Mitzvot of Shabbat
Kiddush Levana - Enjoying Shabbat - Fourth meal of Shabbat - Havdalah - Having a meal on Friday - In the Spirit of Shabbat - Kiddush - Lighting Shabbat Candles - Making Early Shabbat - Making one hundred Brachot on Shabbat - Preparing foods on Shabbat - Preparing for Shabbat - Shenayim Mikrah - Kavod Shabbat - Shabbos Davening - Seudat Shabbat - Seudat Shelishit - Lechem Mishneh - Motzei Shabbat - When Does Shabbat Start?
Restrictions of Shabbat
Allowing Carrying Using an Eruv Chatzerot - Animals on Shabbat - Asking a Jew to work on Shabbat - Asking a non-Jew to work on Shabbat (Amirah LeNochri) - Benefiting from a Violation of Shabbat (Maaseh Shabbat) - Books, notebooks, and papers - Brushing Teeth on Shabbat - Building a structure on Shabbat (Boneh) - Carrying on Shabbat - Cleaning the dishes - Cleaning and Folding Garments on Shabbat - Clearing the table - Cooking (Ofeh and Bishul) - Cosmetics on Shabbat - Dancing and clapping on Shabbat - Electricity on Shabbat - Eruv Chatzerot - Eruvin - Games on Shabbat - Getting dressed on Shabbat - Giving birth on Shabbat - Grinding (Tochen) - Handling objects on Shabbat (Muktzeh) - Infants on Shabbat - Introduction to the Modern Eruv - Kneading (Lash) - Mail on Shabbat - Medicine on Shabbat (Refuah on Shabbat) - Melacha That Begins Before Shabbat - Opening bottles and containers (Boneh) - Plants on Shabbat (Zoreah) - Preparing for after Shabbat (Hachana) - Reading on Shabbat (Daber Davar) - Recreation on Shabbat - Sechirut Reshut - Separating mixtures (Borer) - Squeezing fruits (Sechita) - Speaking on Shabbat (Daber Davar) - Taking a cruise over Shabbat - Taking measurements on Shabbat - Techum - Transactions on Shabbat - Transportation on Shabbat - Going to and Staying in the Hospital on Shabbat - Wages on Shabbat (Sachar Shabbat) - Washing one’s body on Shabbat
Introduction to Melechet Machshevet - Marbeh Bshiurim - Plowing - Planting - Harvesting - Gathering - Threshing - Winnowing - Separating - Grinding - Sifting - Kneading - Baking and Cooking - Shearing - Laundering - Combing - Dyeing - Spinning - Mounting warp threads - Making two loops - Weaving - Unraveling fabric - Tying - Untying - Gluing, taping, or stapling - Ripping - Trapping - Slaughtering - Skinning - Tanning - Smoothing - Scoring - Cutting precisely - Writing - Erasing - Building - Demolishing - Completing a vessel - Extinguishing a flame - Kindling a fire - Carrying