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What are the 39 melachot?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Shabbat » Forbidden Activities | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Talmud1 enumerates the thirty nine primary categories of [creative] activities - Melachot - forbidden on Shabbatbased on the work-types employed for the construction of the Tabernacle.  Each of these categories includes many subcategories of works that are done in the same way and/or produce the same results, and are therefore also forbidden on Shabbat.

1. Sowing

2. Plowing

3. Reaping

4. Binding Sheaves

5. Threshing

6. Winnowing

7. Selecting

8. Grinding

9. Sifting

10. Kneading

11. Baking

12. Shearing

13. Bleaching

14. Hackling

15. Dyeing

16. Spinning

17. Stretching the threads

18. The making of two meshes

19. Weaving two threads

20. Dividing two threads

21. Tying a knot

22. Untying a knot

23. Sewing two stitches

24. Tearing in order to sew two stitches

25. Capturing (an animal)

26. Slaughtering

27. Flaying

28. Salting

29. Curing hide

30. Scraping

31. Cutting

32. Writing two letters

33. Erasing in order to write two letters

34. Building

35. Demolishing

36. Extinguishing fire

37. Kindling fire

38. Striking with a hammer (i.e. giving something its final touch)

39. Carrying (in a public domain, or from a private domain to a public domain, and vice versa).


  • 1. Talmud tractate Shabbat 7:2 (73a)


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Gardening on Shabbat

Posted by: Maria, Scottsdale, AZ on Nov 09, 2005

Sorry for naive question, I'm new to this. Just read about the 39 rules and their tuldot. What about gardening, not for wheat? Can I grow flowers, and carry clippings, soil, fertilizer... from one part of the garden to another?

Editor's Comment

Planting, watering, fertilizing, etc., are all forbidden whether the intent is to grow wheat or any other type of vegetation.

no electricity

Posted by: Anonymous, Northampton, MA on Dec 09, 2005

As I understand it, there can't be any electricity on during shabbat. Or is it that a person cannot manually turn electricity on. If lights are on a timer, than can one time the lights so they turn on and off through out the day? Could I use a computer as long as I wasn't typing if the computer was turned on friday afternoon? Why can't I use a telephone?

Editor's Comment

1. It is permitted to benefit from electricity on Shabbat provided that it was turned on before Shabbat. 2. It is permitted before Shabbat to set lights on a timer so that they turn on and off on Shabbat. (The preceding two points are general rules; there are, however, exceptions. For all the details, you'll have to take a course on the subject!) 3. How would you use a computer without typing? (Using a mouse is also forbidden.) 4. Telephones, too, run on electricity. 5. See also "How is turning on electric lights on Shabbos considered work?" (

About Electricity Usage

Posted by: Justin Friedman, Los Angeles, CA on Jan 16, 2006

I am confused on one point. Is it permitted to leave electronic devices, with the exception of a telephone, plugged into a socket during Shabbat? This includes devices that run continually (refrigerator, battery charger, clock, etc.). Also, is this article implying that eating cereal is too symbolic of work to eat on Shabbot?

Editor's Comment

1. See preceding Editor's Comment.
2. Go ahead and eat your morning cereal! Rabbi Hecht only jestingly applied the slogan...

Shabbat and work

Posted by: Sylvia, Frechen, Germany on Dec 28, 2006

are certain groups of professionals allowed to work on Shabbat, such as fire-fighters, medical staff in hospitals and emergency services ?

Editor's Comment

Particular allowances are made for professionals who work in "life-saving" positions; a competent local rabbi who is familiar with the particulars of the individual situation would need to be consulted in order to make such an allowance. However, if there is a particular life-threatening emergency DO NOT consult a rabbi - do whatever needs to be done in order to save the life, life takes precedence over the Shabbat.

How does that make sense?

Posted by: Anonymous, Canada on May 05, 2007

So, I just read this article, and my question may be stupid, but I do not understand this. I can't carry a raquet to the tennis court to play with a friend, because carrying something means that I am working? That means that the majority of our everyday activities are eliminated? Please explain.

Editor's Comment

The very point of Shabbat is that our "everyday activities" should be "eliminated". Every day we live (primarily) as human beings focused on mundane activities. On Shabbat we are supposed emulate G-d and focus on the spiritual and the sacred. We leave the ordinary, everyday, stfuff behind, and spend one day focusing on the extraordinary, meaningufl stuff.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.