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The 39 Melachos

The 39 Melachos

The basic premise of the melachah:

Any action which initiates or promotes plant growth in any way is classified as Zoreya - sowing. The main melachah is simply sowing seeds but anything which enhances plant growth including, watering or fertilising, is forbidden as well.

In the Mishkan:

According to Rashi and the majority of Rishonim, the first eleven melachos were required in the Mishkan to produce dyes needed for colouring the woollen tapestries and cur- tains that draped the Mishkan. The dyes were derived from herbs and plants that had to be grown and cultivated, hence the melachah of Zoreya. (It was a wondrous miracle that the Bnei Yisrael were able to grow these herbs on the arid desert soil). Rav Hai Geon and other Rishonim explain that the first eleven melachos were needed to make the Lechem Haponim (show bread) and certain meal offerings (known as Menochos). However, there are no Halachic ramifications from this dispute between Rashi and Rav Hai Geon.

Av Melachah/Primary and Toldos/Derivatives:

According to most Poskim, sowing a seed is the Av Melachah. Others hold that planting a sapling is the Av Melachah. How- ever, the dispute is basically academic as any method of initiating or promoting plant growth is at least a Toldah (derivative) of Zoreya. Examples of Toldos include watering plants and placing houseplants in sunlight to improve growth.


There is no specific size of seed or plant considered Zoreya. The sprouting of any plant life is according to Halacha, a significant accomplishment and is therefore a melachah.


Planting or placing a seed on any surface where growth is possible is Zoreya. Therefore, planting seeds on the desert

sand is not Zoreya as nothing can grow in these conditions. Similarly, placing seeds on a well-trodden path isn’t Zoreya as the constant trampling will definitely prevent any growth. Another example is feeding seeds to chickens, which is not Zoreya as the chickens will eat the seeds before they germi- nate. When eating fruits or vegetables, one must be careful not to discard the pits, seeds or cores by throwing them on the ground as they could eventually germinate.

Watering plants:

Watering is a Toldah as it promotes plant growth. Therefore, one must take care not to accidentally spill liquid on grass or plants. A common problem is on Succos, rain collects on the top of the Succah roof so when you open up the roof, rain can spill onto the grass, which is Zoreya. However, if the Succah is on a deck near to the lawn, it is permitted to open the roof, even if the water will trickle across the deck onto the grass (as it is indirect).

Cultivating Plants and Trees:

Anything that promotes plant growth is Zoreya. This includes:

pruning, weeding, using insecticide, removing rocks from sprouting vegetation and protecting plants from the ele- ments.

Preserving a Lulav or vegetables in moisture during Yom Tov:

It is permitted to return a Lulav, or any of the Arba Minim to water or replace it in a damp towel (which was prepared before Yom Tov) to prevent it from drying up and withering. However, only replacing the Lulav is permitted; placing a Lulav in water for the first time is Zoreya. This is only the case on Yom Tov, on Shabbos it is even forbidden to return a Lulav to water as the Lulav is Muktza.

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חנ ד“עשת ןושח 5th October 2013

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Dvar Torah

Dvar Torah

In Parshas Noach, 8:21, Hashem says, "I will no longer curse the earth because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.”

Famously, Reish Lakish expounds on this possuk and says that the Satan is the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination) and the Angel of Death and the Satan’s preferred method is to entice man to do evil and then seek retribution. As Reish Lakish writes, “Each person’s inclination strengthens itself against him and tries to kill him.” In addition, it is also well known that the greater the person, the greater the Yetzer Hora.

However bearing this in mind, a question aris- es. It is written in the Gemara in Chagiga, “the Angel of Death said to Rav Bibi bar Abaya, ‘a great man who manages to change and over- come his bad characteristics, he (the Angel of Death) will add on years to his life.’” However, this seems very difficult to understand. If the Angel of Death is the Yetzer Hora, who as we said earlier, “strengthens itself against him and tries to kill him,” why would he then add on more years to a man’s pre-allocated

lifespan? The Yetzer Hora’s main objective is to kill a man, not to lengthen his life!

The Vilna Gaon answers as follows. Without doubt, the reason why the Yetzer Hora adds on years to the great man’s life is not out of love or compassion; rather it is one of the many cunning tricks used by the Yetzer Hora to deceive man. The Gemara in Yuma explains that if a person lives the majority of his pre- destined years without committing even one sin, he will never sin again throughout the remainder of his life.

Therefore, when the Yetzer Hora sees a great man who has abstained from sin for most of his lifespan, he does everything in his power to at least engineer a scenario where the great man could sin. He therefore adds on as many years as necessary to the lifespan so that the man hasn’t lived the majority of his life. Therefore, there is still a slight possibility that the man could commit a sin in the future and if he does sin, the Angel of Death can take the man’s life as a punishment. In fact, the Yetzer Hora lengthens the man’s days so that in reality, he is shortening them.



One winter in Lodz was particularly cold and the price of firewood skyrocketed, leaving the poor people without any means to warm themselves. The re- nowned Rav of the city, Rav Eliyahu Chaim Meisel, decided to take upon himself to collect money for firewood from the wealthy people of the city.

The first stop was the home of the wealthiest man in Lodz, Mr. Posnanski. When the doorman saw the Rav coming, he quickly hurried to summon his boss, who despite wearing light clothing, immediately rushed out into the cold to personally greet and welcome the Rav into his home. He invited the Rav in to talk. The Rav returned his greeting but instead of entering the home, he remained at the door in the bitter cold and began to make conversation with Mr. Posnanski.

The Rav was making polite small talk and casual con- versation about nothing in particular. He discussed the comings and goings of the city, world news, on and on without seeming to indicate the reason for his visit. Mr Posnanski stood and listened with respect whilst his bones began to freeze in the biting wind.

The Rav kept on going with endless conversation as if

he were relaxing, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was standing in the freezing cold. Eventually, the cold became too much for Mr. Posnanski and he apologetically asked the Rav if they could continue their conversation in the warmth of his living room. Without budging, Rav Eliyahu Chaim said that now he will tell him why he came. He explained to him the scarcity of firewood, and Mr. Posnanski gave him the large amount that he asked for. Only then did the Rav finally accede and he followed the host into the room.

When they sat down in the comfort and warmth, Mr Posnanski asked the Rav why he insisted on speaking for so long at the door in the cold. Rav Eliyahu Chaim said that the world says that a satisfied man cannot comprehend the pain of those who are starving. Similarly, those who live in heated homes cannot fathom the pain of those living in freezing huts with no source of heat. Had we sat inside, you would not have given as generously as you did after standing in the cold for so long and experiencing a small taste of the poor peoples' pain.

experiencing a small taste of the poor peoples' pain. Q) What is the significance behind the

Q) What is the significance behind the

three steps we take when beginning our

Shemoneh Esrei?

David Rees

A) When we take the three steps we are

attempting to emulate Moshe Rabbeinu who when ascending Har Sinai is said to

have gone through 3 levels of cloud:

Choshech, Anan and Arofel. Therefore,

similarly when we attempt to engage with Hashem, we take three steps for- ward to try and gain a similar elevation to that of Moshe’s.

Hasmonean Beis Rabbi

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Dvar Torah

Dvar Torah

It says in this week’s Parsha, 8:18-19, “So Noach went forth, and his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. Every living being, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth came out of the Ark by their families.”

Interestingly, the word ’םהֶ יתֵ ֹחפְ שְ מִ לְ ,‘ by their families,’ is omitted in the earlier Possuk that lists those who boarded the Ark as the Flood began. It is only men- tioned regarding the types of animals and people that disembarked.

From the addition of just one word we can learn that humanity underwent a drastic transformation inside the Ark. Prior to the Flood and the destruction of the world, Hashem viewed man as an independent being, capable of survival on his own, with- out the assistance of other people. A social environment was unnecessary for man to survive. Mankind clearly followed in the footsteps of Adam, who was created alone.

However, those who took refuge in the Ark emerged after the Flood, ’םהֶ יתֵ ֹחפְ שְ מִ לְ ,‘ by their families,’ in cohesive groups. They instinctively clung to one another, as Ha-

shem had removed from them their natu- ral inclination to be self-dependent and instilled in them social dependence. This permanently changed human nature.

Hashem implemented this change for the benefit of humanity. The sins of the world prior to the Flood had pulled humanity down to such a low level that Hashem saw no purpose in sustaining the world; Ha- shem had no interest in supporting an in- dependent and selfish race. This inherent flaw of egocentrism in human behavior resulted in a lack of respect for one anoth- er. This in turn led to stealing as they had no respect for the property of others. The only resolution to this issue and the only way to restore the trait of respect back into the world was for Hashem to make people reliant on one another.

This explains why Noach and those who entered the Ark were forced by Hashem to remain inside the Ark for so long. They were kept there to teach them to live to- gether in peace and harmony. Only when they had been fully infused with a sense of community, did Hashem allow them to return to a natural existence in the outside world.


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