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One of the 39 Melachos of Shabbos is destroying built structures, whether they be attached or detached from the ground.


  1. Anything that is forbidden to build is also forbidden to destroy. See page on Boneh. [1]

Breaking Not in Order to Fix

  1. If one destroys something shelo al menas livnos, he has not performed the melacha of sosair but has performed mekalkel. Performing a destructive melacha is usually considered Mekalkel, which is forbidden mi’derabanan, unless one does it in order to rebuild such as drilling a hole in a wall in order to insert a nail.[2]
  2. Examples of biblical violations of Soter, which are constructive, include:
    1. Demolishing a building to rebuild another on that spot[3]
    2. Gutting a building to refurbish it[4]
    3. Removing an old window to install a new one[5]
    4. Breaking a building to use its materials elsewhere[6]
    5. Detaching a loose pole to reinsert it better somewhere else[7]
    6. Taking apart a water or appliance to repair another water or appliance[8]
    7. Breaking something in a fit of rage to pacify his anger[9]
    8. Breaking something dangerous so that it doesn't endanger people[10]
  3. Examples of rabbinic violations of Soter, which are completely destructive, include:
    1. Breaking a window of an abandoned building[11]
    2. Destroying a piece of furniture to throw it out[12]
  4. There is a dispute if a person destroys something in order to fix it the same way it was before whether that is considered biblical or rabbinic Soter. The opinion that holds it is rabbinic holds that even if one has a need to remove it for the time being. If it is only rabbinic then in a case of pain or an great loss it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to do it. For example, some poskim permit asking a non-Jew to remove a window or door in order to later put it back if it is a case of pain.[13]

Destroying or Breaking Utensils

  1. Destroying a utensil is also forbidden despite the principle of ein stirah b'kelim that only permits destroying a utensil that was improperly refurbished and pasted together after breaking. For example, breaking a regular barrel is forbidden on Shabbat, but it is permitted to break a barrel which was already broken and the pieces were pasted together.[14]

Door Locked

  1. It is forbidden to break a door that is locked, however, one can pick the lock with a pin or knife.[15]
  2. If a child is locked in a room and is hysterical because he is stuck it is permitted to break the door down.[16]



  1. Gemara Shabbat 122b
  2. Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 10:15 based on Gemara Shabbat 31b
  3. Gemara Shabbat 31b, Rambam Shabbat 10:15, 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  4. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094 based on Gemara Shabbat 31b
  5. Chayei Adam 39:13, 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  6. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  7. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  8. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  9. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1094
  10. Menuchat Ahava 3:23:48
  11. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1095
  12. 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1095
  13. Menuchat Ahava (v. 3 p. 168, 200 ch. 23 fnt. 57, 23:48) writes that we hold like the opinion that Melacha Sheino Tzaricha Lgufo is exempt and therefore, we hold that Soter is exempt biblically unless it is destruction in order to build something better than the original. His proof is Tosfot Shabbat 94a. He is aware that this isn't the opinion of the Rambam, nonetheless, he holds that we essentially follow the opinion of most rishonim that follow Rabbi Shimon with regards to Melacha Sheino Tzaricha Lgufo. He cites the Shulchan Aruch Harav 313:17 who points out this dispute but follows the Rambam.
  14. Rashi (Shabbat 146a s.v. shover) posits that destroying a barrel for the purposes of attaining food that is inside is permitted for the sake of enjoying Shabbat. Tosfot (Shabbat 146a s.v. shover) dismissing this approach being that it a melacha of Soter to destroy a perfectly good barrel. The Ran (on Rif Shabbat 61b s.v. matnitin) defends Rashi's approach that he understood ein stirah b'kelim to permit destruction of any utensil that is small. The Bet Yosef 314:1 clarifies that according to the Ran anything less than 40 seah is considered a small kli. Tosfot Eruvin 34b s.v. v'amay and Rosh (Eruvin 5) agree with the Tosfot. Tur and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 314:1 codify the opinion of Tosfot as the halacha. Mishna Brurah 314:7 notes that the Gra held like Rashi that it isn't soter even to destroy a complete kli.
  15. Mishna Brurah 314:37, 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1095
  16. Gemara Yoma 84b, Mishna Brurah 328:38, 39 Melachos v. 3 p. 1095