Flowers, Plants and Grass on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What are the Shabbos restrictions regarding plants and flowerpots?

Discussion: In practical halachic terms, all potted plants—both perforated or not,42 both outdoors and indoors43—are considered to be “nourished” from the ground and “connected” to it.44 Consequently, “uprooting” and moving any potted plant from one “connected” place to another, e.g., from the floor to the table, from the table to the porch, or from one side of the yard to another, may be a possible violation of the mealchos of Kotzer (Reaping) and/or Zore’a (Sowing) and should be entirely avoided. Moving a potted plant within the same “connection” location without “uprooting” it, e.g., dragging a plant from one part of the table to another or from one part of the yard to another, is permitted by some poskim but questioned45 by others,46 and it is appropriate to be stringent in this matter, whenever possible.47 It is permissible, however, to smell, touch and even bend the stem or the leaves, provided that they are soft and flexible and would not break upon contact.48

It is strictly forbidden to move a plant or a flowerpot from a shady area to a sunny area so that exposure to the sun’s rays will aid its growth. It is also prohibited to open a window or to pull up a shade with the specific intention of allowing the sun or air to aid a plant’s growth. Conversely, if sunlight or fresh air is detrimental to a plant, it would be prohibited to shut them out, since shutting them out promotes the plant’s growth.49

Question: What are the Shabbos restrictions regarding flowers?

Discussion: Flowers, while still connected to the ground, may be smelled and touched, provided that their stems are soft and do not normally become brittle.50

Flowers in a vase may be moved on Shabbos.51 They may not, however, be moved from a shady area to a sunny area to promote blossoming. If the buds have not fully bloomed, the vase may be moved but just slightly, since the movement of the water hastens the opening of the buds.52

One may remove flowers from a vase full of water if they have not sprouted roots in the water.53 Once removed, they may not be put back in the water if that will cause further blossoming.

Water may not be added to a flower vase on Shabbos.54 On Yom Tov, however, a small amount of water may be added but not changed.55

Flowers should be placed in water before Shabbos. In case they were not, they may not be placed in water on Shabbos if the buds have not blossomed fully. If the buds are completely opened, however, some poskim permit placing them in water on Shabbos while others do not.56

One may not gather flowers or create an arrangement and place it in a vase on Shabbos, even if the vase contains no water.57

Question: What are the Shabbos restrictions regarding grass?

Discussion: Chazal did not restrict the usage of grass on Shabbos. It is, therefore, permitted to stand, sit, lie down, or walk [in a normal pace] on grass according to all views58. Walking briskly, running or pushing a stroller on tall grass is forbidden by some poskim since it would inevitably result in some grass being uprooted,59 while other poskim are not concerned about this issue.60

The poskim disagree if it is permitted to use one’s hands to shake or move around blades of grass while they are still attached to the ground.61 Mishnah Berurah62 and Aruch ha-Shulchan63 rule leniently on this issue, if the blades will not become uprooted from the movement. All agree that grass that was uprooted on Shabbos is considered muktzeh, since it was attached to the earth when Shabbos began. It follows, therefore, that grass that became stuck to one’s feet or shoe soles on Shabbos may only be removed in an indirect manner.64

42. O.C. 336:8. Even a non-perforated pot is nourished “a bit” from the ground; Mishnah Berurah 336:43. [Possibly, this is only so with wood or ceramic pots; metal or glass non-perforated pots do not allow for nourishment from the ground; Chazon Ish, Orlah 32; Bris Olam, pg. 31. Contemporary poskim disagree whether plastic is like wood or like glass; Orchos Shabbos 18:19.]

43. See Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 73 quoting Chazon Ish and Shevet ha-Levi 6:167; 7:184-1. Some poskim hold that this does not apply to a home’s upper floors; see Shulchan Shelomo 336:8 and Bris Olam, pg. 31.

44. An additional concern, which applies even to non-perforated pots, are the leaves which protrude over the side of the pot; see Chayei Adam 12:2; Eglei Tal (kotzer) 3.

45. Since the dirt inside the pot may be considered muktzeh. Certainly, a large potted plant which is generally not moved around from place to place, may be considered muktzeh, as explained earlier in chapter 308.

46. See the various views in Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 336:38, Minchas Shabbos 80:194, Tehilah l’Dovid 336:6, Bris Olam, pg. 32, Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 26, note 6 and Orchos Shabbos 19:141.

47. Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in Sefer Hilchos Shabbos, pg. 64); Rav S.Z. Auerbach and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 73).

48. Mishnah Berurah 336:48.

49. Entire paragraph is based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish, Shevi’is 22:1; Shvisas ha-Shabbos, Zore’a 10; Har Tzvi, O.C. 211; Minchas Shelomo 1:10-8; 2:26-1; Shevet ha-Levi 4:36.

50. Mishnah Berurah 336:48.

51. Mishnah Berurah 336:53; Rav M. Feinstein, quoted in Sefer Hilchos Shabbos, pg. 64.

52. Rav Y.S. Elyashiv, quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 73; Bris Olam, pg. 32.

53. Rav S.Z. Auerbach, quoted in Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 26:26.

54. Mishnah Berurah 336:54.

55. O.C. 654:1 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 654:2; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 26:26, based on Machatzis Hashekel 336:24. See, however, Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 336:18 who seems not to differentiate between Shabbos and Yom Tov.

56. See Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 336:48; Shulchan Shelomo 336:12; Yechaveh Da’as 2:53; Chut Shani, Shabbos, vol. 1, 10-3.

57. Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:73.

58. Mishnah Berurah 336:15; 25

59. Mishnah Berurah 336:25 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. mutar. This is especially true if the grass is dry and brittle; see Ketzos ha-Shulchan 142, note 13.

60. Aruch ha-Shulchan 336:21. See Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 26, note 69, quoting Rav S.Z. Auerbach.

61. Magen Avraham 312:6 and Taz 336:4 are stringent. Eliyahu Rabba and Tosefes Shabbos are lenient. According to the stringent opinion, it would be forbidden to touch the grass as well, since grass blades will easily shake when touched; based on Mishnah Berurah 308:17; 310:22.

62. 312:19; 336:48 and Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 42.

63. 308:46.

64. Mishnah Berurah 336:24.