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The Melachah Of Kotev - Writing

The Daily Halacha Moment - Melechet Kotev – Writing 📝

״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)


What is the Melachah Of Kotev (Writing)?


Writing was required in the Mishkan in order to correctly identify where each of the planks were placed when the Mishkan was taken apart and put together again. A letter was written on each of the planks for this purpose. [1]

The primary aspect of the melachah of writing on Shabbat is when one writes two letters with one’s right hand. [2] Even though it is forbidden to write even one letter, it is only rabbinically forbidden. According to many Ashkenazic poskim it is still considered a biblical obligation. [See footnote 3]

Nonetheless, A person who is left-handed or ambidextrous can perform the melachah of Kotev even by writing with his left hand. [4] Even one who does not have any hands who normally writes with his mouth or in a different manner can perform the melachah of Kotev when writing in the usual manner that he writes. [5]

Engraving letters into an object or embroidering letters into a cloth is also forbidden because of Kotev. [6]

Over the next couple of days we will bzh discuss other common Halachot with regards to the Melachah of Kotev.


[1]. See Mesechet Shabbat 103a. The Ran explains that the reason for this was because the Mishkan had to be set up the same way every time, since some planks of the Mishkan that were situated next to a holy item in the Mishkan would be considered more holy than other planks that were situated further away. Therefore, the planks could not be switched since one may not downgrade an item that was used for a higher level of holiness to a lower level.

[2]. Rambam, Shabbat, 11:9; Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 5, p. 134.

[3]. Even though Rashi, Shabbat 74a and others, including the Mishnah Berurah 340:22 and Ben Ish Chai, Pekudei, 2:1, state that even one letter is a Torah prohibition. Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 5, p. 146 rules in accordance with the Rambam that it is only a rabbinical prohibition.

[4]. Rambam, Shabbat, 11:14. Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 5, p. 141 adds that even if one’s writing with the right hand is neater than one’s writing with his left hand, it is nevertheless considered the melachah of Kotev when writing with one’s left hand. See also in Shevet HaLevi 8:177.

[5]. See Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 5, p. 138.

[6]. Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, vol. 5, p. 141.

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