Minor Household Repairs on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Meleches Boneh, the Biblical prohibition of building on Shabbos, includes building or assembling any type of structure which is attached to the ground.44 It also includes expanding an existing structure or attaching parts to it. Similarly, repairing or upgrading an existing structure may also be considered boneh. Below we list several tasks often performed by homeowners which are forbidden on Shabbos because of meleches boneh:

  • Removing or replacing a door from or on its hinges (even if it only requires a simple lifting off the hinges without unscrewing or removing nails).45
  • Removing or replacing a door or a window from or on its track.46
  • Banging a nail, screwing a screw or pressing a thumbtack into any part of a house.47
  • Tightening a nail or a screw.48
  • Attaching a water filter to a faucet.49
  • Screwing a bulb into a socket50 (in addition to the bulb being muktzeh).
  • Removing or replacing a drawer [from a built-in cabinet or closet51] which is usually not removed.52
  • Removing or replacing bookcase shelves [from a built-in bookcase] that are usually not removed (even if they are not screwed in).53
  • Attaching [or removing] a plastic hook (which is being attached to a wall via suction), even if it is going to be removed after a few hours.54 Some poskim, however, permit attaching such a hook to a door.55
  • Some poskim forbid removing [or replacing] a towel bar- or toilet-paper roller (held in place by pressure from a spring) from its notches in the wall.56 Other poskim, however, permit doing so.57
  • Replacing a mezuzah case on the side post of a door.58

The following common household tasks are not considered a violation of meleches boneh and are permitted to be done on Shabbos. Some examples:

  • Attaching or removing a baby swing which is attached to a door lintel.59
  • Opening and shutting a door or a window, even if the door or window may remain open or shut for a long time, and even if is locked with a bar or pole.60
  • Attaching a paper or a picture to the metal surface of a large appliance (.e.g., a refrigerator) using a magnet.61 Some poskim forbid attaching a magnet if the magnet is meant to stay in place for a lengthy period of time.62
  • Hanging a picture or a clock on a hook or hanger which is attached to the wall of the house.63
  • Unplugging an electric plug64 from its socket (when there is no electric current). Some poskim are stringent if the plug usually stays in for an extended period of time65 (as in the case of a refrigerator).
  • Returning the klaf of a mezuzah to its case which is attached to the side post of the door.66 Other poskim are more stringent about doing so.67
  • Under extenuating circumstances, some poskim permit using a plunger [or Drano68] to unclog a stuffed sink or toilet.69 Other poskim are hesitant to permit this unless it is done with a shinui.70 If a non-Jew is available, he should be asked to use the plunger. All poskim agree that it is forbidden to have a sink or toilet professionally snaked on Shabbos.

44. In certain cases, such as large closets that are big enough to contain the volume of 40 se’ah (approx. 180 U.S. gallons), Boneh min Hatorah would apply even though the closets etc., are not attached to the ground; O.C. 314:1.

45. O.C. 308:9. Same halachah applies to re-hinging a toilet seat; Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 252.

46. Mishnah Berurah 308:39. See Be’er Haitev 313:6. This is forbidden even if the doors or windows slide in and out of their tracks very easily; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:72.

47. Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 314:2; Kalkeles Shabbos 34. See Mishnah Berurah 314:8 who forbids banging a nail into a wall because of Makeh b’Patish.

48. See Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 313:32.

49. Chazon Ish, O.C. 53 (end); Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 251.

50. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 13, note 116).

51. Or from a large closet or cabinet even if not built-in; see note 1.

52. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Orchos Shabbos 8, note 13). See Binyan Shabbos. Boneh, pg. 7 and pg. 301.

53. Orchos Shabbos 8:10 and note 10.

54. Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 23:44; Ashrei ha-Ish 18-13.

55. Orchos Shabbos 8:21.

56. Ashrei ha-Ish 18-6.

57. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Orchos Shabbos 8, note 27); Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 248.

58. Shevet ha-Levi 4:143.

59. Rav N. Karelitz (quoted in Orchos Shabbos 8, note 20).

60. O.C. 313:3.

61. Orchos Shabbos 8:13. See also Shulchan Shelomo 314:1.

62. Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 23:46; Mishnas Yosef 9:101.

63. Orchos Shabbos 8:14 and note 19; Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 242. See, however, Ashrei ha-Ish 18:1.

64. Since a plug is muktzeh, it may be unplugged indirectly or by using a part of the body other than the hands, as explained in Chapter 308 and 311, and only when necessary.

65. Chut Shani (vol. 2 p. 243); Megillas Sefer (17:3).

66. Shevet ha-Levi 4:143; Tzitz Eliezer 13:53; Orchos Shabbos 8:24. See Binyan Shabbos, Boneh, pg. 306.

67. Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 242. See Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 23, note 117.

68. Orchos Shabbos 8, note 38.

69. Chelkas Yaakov 3:138; Minchas Yitzchak 5:75; 6:29; 7:19; Be’er Moshe 1:29; Shulchan Shelomo 336:11.

70. See Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:40-9 (who distinguishes between a sink or toilet which is only partially stuffed and one which is completely obstructed); Ashrei ha-Ish 18-9-10; Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 243.