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Measuring on Shabbat

The Daily Halacha Moment - Kotev - Measuring on Shabbat

״כל השונה הלכות בכל יום - מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא״ (נידה עג ע״א, מגילה כח:)

“Anyone who studies Halachot every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come” (Megilla 28b, Niddah 73a)


May one measure on Shabbat?


On Shabbat, it is rabbinically prohibited to measure or weigh items such as food or drink with even a small scale or ruler. [1]

Even counting the tiles on a floor to find out how big a room is should not be done on Shabbat. [2]

It is permitted to turn on the tap even though the meter that counts one’s water usage will measure the amount of water that is being used. [3]

One may weigh and measure to fulfill a mitzvah, such as weighing matzah and marror on Pesach, or in order to measure if a mikveh has enough water in it. [4]

One may count his steps in order to know how far the techum is on Shabbat. [5]

One may not weigh himself on Shabbat, even on a mechanical scale, unless it is for health reasons. [6] Similarly, one may also not measure his height.[7]


[1]. Tosfot 126b, “Umidivrehem,” states that this is an issue of Uvdin de’chol. See also in Mishnah Berurah 306:34-35 and Kaf HaChaim 306:61. It seems from the Rambam, Shabbat 23:12-13 that the reason for this prohibition is that one may come to write. See also in Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchatah, chap. 29, footnote 91.

[2]. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchtah 29:35. Hilchot Shabbat B’Shabbat, 73:41 permits doing so by counting the tiles, but does not permit to take steps and count how many feet the room is. See also in Orchot Shabbat, chap. 22, footnote 174.

[3]. Shulchan Shlomo 323:1; Orchot Shabbat 22:118. The reasoning why this is permitted is for several reasons: 1. Since the water that is coming through will not necessarily turn the meter by such a minute amount at a time. 2. Since most people do not pay attention to the measurement of the water being used. 3. Since one is most likely turning on the water for some need, and this would be considered a mitzvah purpose.

[4]. Yechaveh Daat 1:16; Chazon Ovadia, Yom Tov, p. 73; ibid., Pesach, vol. 2, p. 73; ibid., Shabbat, vol. 6, p. 26. This is only permitted on a mechanical scale and not one that is digital. See also in Igrot Moshe, O.C. 5:18, on 306:7.

[5]. Mishnah Berurah 397:5.

[6]. Yaskil Avdi 7:24. Orchot Shabbat 22:117 also adds that one may weigh a child in order to know how much he ate.

[7]. Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat, vol. 2, p. 166; Rivevot Ephraim, vol. 1, 223:13; Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchatah 14:42-44.

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