Chapter 317

Chapter 317
Laws of tying and making bows on Shabbos


The following chapter will discuss when one may tie a knot on Shabbos. Doing so involves at times a Biblical prohibition, at others a Rabbinical prohibition, and at others is completely allowed. This is dependent on the type of knot being made and the length of time it is meant to last for.


The rules of making and untying knots on Shabbos

Halacha 1       

The Principal Prohibition: Tying and untying are amongst the principal [forbidden] actions being that in the [process of building the] Tabernacle the fishermen for the chilazon would tie and untie their nets. As all nets are made of many knots and these knots are permanent, and at times [the fishermen] would need to remove a rope from one net and add it to another net and [he would thus] untie it from [the first net] and [then] tie it [on the second net], [and thus we see that there existed both tying and untying in the works done for the Tabernacle].
What is considered a permanent knot? [However] Biblically one is only liable [on making] a permanent knot which is made to last forever, which means that he ties it with intention that it remain [tied] so long as it is able to exist and so long that he does not need to untie it.

The reason for this definition: Now, although it is possible that he [may] need to untie it in a [very] short time and will thus untie it, nevertheless since when he ties it he does not set a date in his mind for when he will un-tie it, and it is [thus] possible that it will remain [tied] forever, [therefore] it is considered a permanent knot, and one is liable on tying it and on untying it.

The Rabbinical definition of a permanent knot: However if he sets in his mind a designated time in which he will then certainly untie it, then even if this [designated time] is in a very long time [from now], it is not Biblically considered [a] permanent [knot] and he is [thus] exempt [from liability] whether upon tying it or untying it. However Rabbinically this is also considered [a] permanent [knot] being that it is designated to last a certain amount of time and it is thus [Rabbinically] forbidden to tie or untie.

Knots that are meant to be untied on the same day that they are made: However if it is not designated to last at all but rather to be untied the same day [that it was tied], such as knots of clothing and shoes of which when one places them on in the morning they are tied and when he removes them in the evening comes they are untied, then it is allowed to tie and untie it on Shabbos.
Torah Scholars who intend to not untie their shoes and clothes that night: However if one intends to not untie them that day, such as for example Torah Scholars that learn at night and do not remove their shoes and clothes at night, then it is forbidden for them to tie it on the morning of Shabbos if they intend to not untie them in the evening. Similarly it is forbidden to untie them on Shabbos if when he tied them on one of the days of the week he intended to not untie it immediately that coming night.

Tying their shoes and clothing on Shabbos without any intention: However if [the Torah Scholars] do not have any intention at all when they tie them, and rather they tie them casually, then they are allowed to tie them on Shabbos. [Furthermore] even if afterwards he [ends up] not untying it that night [and rather only unties it] after some time it is not considered due to this [even] a [Rabbinical] permanent knot being that at the time of tying it, it was not for certain that it would not be untied on the night after Shabbos, being that at times even the Torah Scholars remove their shoes at night prior to lying down.

Untying knots of cloths made without intention: Similarly it is allowed to untie it on Shabbos if one had tied it casually [without intention to leave overnight] even if it was tied a long time before Shabbos and was not untied in-between.

Knots that are always made to not be untied the next day: However knots that are always for certain left [tied] for a certain amount of time and it is never usual to untie it that same day, it is forbidden to tie them on Shabbos even casually or to untie them.
Other Opinions: [However] there are opinions which say that any knot which is not made to last seven days is not considered a permanent knot even Rabbinically and it is [thus] allowed to tie it and untie it on Shabbos. [Furthermore] even if most of the time it is common to tie it to last for seven days and only at times does one also untie it within seven days, such as for example a Torah Scholar which the majority of the time only removes his shoes and clothes from one Shabbos to the next Shabbos and it is thus found that their knots are left tied for seven days, although at times he does untie it within seven days, then it is not considered a permanent knot unless one has in mind while tying it to not untie it until after seven [days]. However when he casually ties them [without any intention] then it is not considered permanent unless it is common for him to always leave it [tied] for seven days, such as for example the strings used to tie the neck of a cloak, then for a person for whom it is never common to untie it [within 7 days] but rather only when he changes the cloak from Shabbos to Shabbos, then it is forbidden [for him] to tie it and untie it on Shabbos.
The Final Ruling: The final ruling is that one is to be stringent like the first opinion [to only allow to tie or untie a knot which is made to untie the day it is made] unless one is in great need [to tie or untie it], in which case one may be lenient to do so through a gentile.


Halacha 2

Other Opinions:[1]

Biblical liability is only applicable by professional knots: There are opinions which say that one is [never] Biblically liable even on a knot that is meant to last forever unless it has been professionally done, which means that it is a strong and tough knot similar to the knots that the professionals make during their work, such as the knots of the straps for shoes and sandals which the strap makers tie at the time of making them, and the same applies for all similar cases. However one who ties a permanent knot which is not professionally done is exempt [from liability].

For example, a strap broke and one tied it [or a] rope tore and one tied it, or one tied a rope to a bucket or one tied an animal leash [to an animal] and so too all cases [of knots] similar to these knots which are made by amateurs [then] any person who ties them permanently is exempt [from liability].

Rabbinical prohibition by amateur knots made to last even temporarily: Nevertheless it is Rabbinically forbidden [to tie such knots] even if it is not made to last forever but rather only for a set period of time as explained [above, meaning for more than one day according to the stringent opinion, and 7 days according to the lenient opinion].
Rabbinical prohibition to ever tie or untie a professional knot: However a knot which is done professionally, even if it not made to last at all but rather to be untied that same day, is Rabbinically forbidden to tie or untie on Shabbos, due to a decree [that if this were to be allowed then one may come to make also] a professional knot that is meant to last forever of which one is Biblically liable on.
Other opinions-No difference between professional and amateur: [However] there are other opinions[2] that say there is no difference at all between a professionally made and amateur made [knots], as even on an amateur knot one is Biblically liable if made for it to permanently last, and if [a knot] is designated to not last at all [then] in a situation that it is [thus] allowed to make an amateur knot it is also allowed to make a professional knot.
The Final Ruling: One is to be strict like the first opinion.

Making and untying a double knot on Shabbos: [For this reason that we rule stringently] we are therefore accustomed to be careful not to tie or untie any knot which is a double knot one on top the other even if made [with intent] to undo on that same day.[3]

The reason is: because we are not experts as to which knots are considered professional of which are [thus] forbidden to tie and untie even if not made to last at all, and [thus] any strong knot which is very tightly tied there is doubt that perhaps this is considered a professional [knot], and [thus since] a double knot is also a strong knot [therefore we are stringent].

Untying a double knot in a scenario that involves pain: Nevertheless in a scenario [that involves] pain one need not be strict regarding [the dispute of the] Rabbinical [prohibition] and one is [thus] allowed to untie it if [the knot] is not made to last at all in a way that it would for certain be allowed to be done [if it were an] amateur [knot], being that according to the latter opinion it is allowed even if it is a professional [knot].


Halacha 3

A bow knot and a single knot

A bow made on top of a single knot: The above only refers to [a double knot made of] two knots one of top of the other, however by one knot and a bow on top of it there is no doubt at all [that it is not considered] a professional knot and it is thus allowed to tie and untie in any case that it is not designated to last at all[4].

Making a single knot: [As well] if it is only a single knot without a bow on top of it, then it is not considered a knot at all and is allowed to be tied and untied even if made to last forever.
[However] all this refers to tying two things together, however if one makes a knot using the single end of  a rope or thread or string then it has the same law as a double knot for all matters.


Halacha 4

Making a knot for the sake of a Mitzvah

A knot which is not Biblically considered a permanent knot but rather only Rabbinically is allowed to be tied for the sake of a Mitzvah, such as to make a knot in order to measure one of the Torah required measurements[5], and even to tie a professional knot is allowed if it is impossible to measure it otherwise.


Specific examples of knots that are permitted and forbidden to be made and undone

 Halacha 5

Inserting straps into clothing:

Inserting the straps of a shoe and sandal into its hole: If the straps of shoes and sandals have come out [of the hole that they were fastened into] it is permitted to return them to their place as long as one does not make a knot at the end of the strap so it not escape from the hole, being that [such a knot] is a permanent knot.

However [even this] only [is allowed] in places that it is not common to tie such a knot [at the end of the strap]. However in those places that are accustomed to make this knot then it is forbidden [for them] to even reinsert [the straps] due to a decree that they may come to tie it.

To do this for the first time on Shabbos: Furthermore, even in those places that are not accustomed [to make such knots] it was only permitted to reinsert [the straps after having come out of their hole], however by a new shoe [which never yet had its straps fastened] it is forbidden to insert the strap on Shabbos being that doing so is fixing a vessel.

To reinsert into a narrow hole: Furthermore, even reinserting the strap was only permitted by a wide hole which it can be inserted into without effort, however if the hole is narrow to the point that one needs effort to enter the strap into it then it is not considered like he is reinserting it but rather like he is doing so for the first time and is [thus] forbidden due to that it is fixing a vessel.

Inserting straps into pants: The same applies by the straps of pants. However belts are allowed to be initially inserted into pants on Shabbos being that he does not nullify it there and it is [rather] made to constantly insert and remove, [and] therefore it does not pose a problem of fixing a vessel. However it is forbidden to enter a string into the [pants] being that he nullifies it there.


Halacha 6       

Undoing the knot of a collar[6]:

Made by the launderer: [It is allowed] to untie the collar [of a shirt] from the knot that the launderer knotted as it is not considered a permanent knot being that majority of times it is opened the day that it was made, immediately after the laundering.

Made by the tailor: However it may not be opened for its first time[7] being that this is [considered] fixing a vessel and one is [thus] liable [in doing so] on  [the] “Finishing touch” [prohibition]. However he is not liable for [the] tearing [prohibition] unless he [tears it] with intent to re-sew as was explained in chapter 302 [Halacha 4].

Cutting the sewing and knot of the tailor: [Furthermore] even if the collar had already been opened [after being made] but a professional [tailor] returned and sewed [the two sides of the collar] together in the way done by professionals, or if the professional tied it [in a way] that one is unable to untie it, then it is forbidden to cut the strings. However this [prohibition to cut an undoable knot] only refers to a knot tied by the professional prior to having finished making the clothing, being that then the cutting of the strings of this knot involves the [prohibition of doing a] “Finishing touch”. As this finalizes the work needed to be done to the clothing being that through doing so the clothing is now fit to be worn, while until this was done it was never yet fit to be worn, [and it is thus forbidden as] any [action] done which is the finishing stroke [of the making of the vessel] contains [the prohibition of] “Finishing Touch” as was explained in chapter 302 [Halacha 5]

Cutting the knot of the launderer: However other knots which were tied after the clothing had finished having its work done to it, such as the knots of the laundering or the strings of a cloak which have been tied and one is not able to undo, [then] it is permitted to cut them. Nevertheless, even so one may not be lenient [to cut it] in front of an ignoramus, and rather should do it privately.

By a knot made to last 7 days: If one is accustomed to only cut the strings [of the collar knot] upon changing the cloak from Shabbos to Shabbos , then it is forbidden to cut [the strings of the knot] just like it is forbidden to undo it [as explained in Halacha 1].


Halacha 7

Cutting and tearing sewn threads:       

However the above only refers to a knot made by the launderer, however if the launderer sewed the collar [together], as well as [a case that] a pair of shoes that have been sewed together in the way that is done by professionals, it is forbidden to cut them or to tear them from each other

The reason for this is: because by sewing there is no difference whether it was made to last or not to last, and destroying it always contains [the] tearing [prohibition]. Now, although one who tears is not liable unless done on condition to re-sew it [afterwards] nevertheless it is Rabbinically forbidden in all scenarios [even when destroyed without intent to re-sew].

Other Opinions: [However] there are opinions which allow tearing or cutting sewing that was not made to last.

The Final Ruling: The main Halachic opinion is like the latter opinion, although nevertheless one should not be lenient in front of an ignoramus.


Halacha 8

Tying a rope or thread to the bucket of a pit

One may tie a bucket to the mouth of a pit with a thread or sash and the like of materials which one does not [plan] to nullify there. However one may not do so with a rope being that he will nullify it there and it is [thus] a permanent knot being that the bucket is constantly hanging and tied there. [Furthermore] even with a woven rope[8] which is of importance and will not be nullified there it is forbidden [to tie with] due to a decree [that one may come to use also] other ropes.

However this only refers to buckets that are designated for the pit, however our buckets which are not designated for the pit [and will thus eventually be removed from the pit for another use[9]] [tying a rope on it] is not considered a permanent knot and it is [thus] permitted to tie to it even other ropes as long as the knot is not done professionally. [As if it is professionally done] it is forbidden to be done even if it is not made to last as was explained above [in Halacha 2]


Halacha 9       

Tying a rope to block the passageway for an animal

One may tie a rope in front of a cow in the width of the passageway in order to prevent it from leaving being that [such a knot] is not made to last as it is meant to be constantly untied in order take the animal out to be given to drink.

Furthermore, even to tie on Shabbos the two ends of a rope on the two posts of the doorway which were not at all tied to the doorway from before Shabbos is allowed, as we do not suspect that one may nullify one end [of the rope] that it be tied there forever and he will only let the animal out through untying the second end of the rope, being that at times he will undo one end and at times the other end [and there will thus never be one end nullified there].

However if in truth one does nullify one end [there] then it is forbidden.


Halacha 10

Knots which are at times made permanently

Any knot which at times one retracts his initial intentions and decides to nullify it there forever, then even if [one] now wants to make it without intent to nullify it there, it is forbidden [to make it] because he may change his mind and decide to nullify it there.

Tying a rope to a cow and its trough: Therefore it is forbidden to take a rope and tie [one end of] it to a trough and [the other end to] a cow, because perhaps when one will wish to remove the cow from there he will always untie only one of [the rope’s] ends and leave the second [knot of the second end] there permanently and it will [thus] be a permanent knot.

Woven ropes: However this only refers to other [non-woven] ropes, however with a woven rope it is allowed [to tie it] being that one will not nullify it there. There is no decree made here against a woven rope due to [that one may come to use] other ropes being that even by other ropes it is not common that one will nullify one end to be there forever, and rather he will at times undo end and at time the other end.
Tying the rope of a cow to its trough or vice versa: All the above is referring to tying a rope on Shabbos onto [both] the trough and the cow, however if it was already tied to the trough and one wants to tie it now to the cow or if it was tied to the cow and he now wants to tie it to the trough, then it is allowed to be done with any rope, as if he will come to nullify one of its knots to stay there permanently one can assume that the same knot which was already tied will [be the one that he will decide to nullify and] leave tied there forever.


Halacha 11

Weaving and unraveling ropes and wicks:

Biblically: One who weaves ropes of any type of material is liable for [the] tying [prohibition]. The amount [needed to be tied] to be Biblically liable is to the point that the rope can last with its weaving without needing to be tied at its end, in which case the work done to it is lasting.

Rabbinically: However Rabbinically it is forbidden to [weave it] any amount.

Unraveling: Similarly one who separates a wick is liable for untying and its measurement is like that of one who weaves it[10], although [this liability is only applicable] as long as he did not intend to destroy [the wick], as all those that destroy are Biblically exempt although it is Rabbinically forbidden to be done.

[1] Rif, Rambam and Michaber

[2] Rosh, Rashi, Tur and Rama

[3] However the Shareiy Teshuvah 1 brings from the Bircheiy Yosef that their custom is to allow tying a double knot to undo that day as it is considered an amateur knot, and its only a minority opinion which argues this.

[4] Meaning to undo that same day, So rules also Mishneh Berurah 19.

[5] Back then measuring was done through a rope have knots made on the various parts of the rope which represent different measurements.

[6] Back then it was the custom for the launderers to tie the collars with a knot in order to have it be shaped. The question here thus is if such a knot may be undone on Shabbos.

[7] Meaning that if one had just bought this shirt from the tailor then one may not undo the collar knot on Shabbos.

[8] This refers to a rope which is not usual to be used to draw water with. [Rashi Pesachim 11a]

[9] Mishneh Berurah 28. This applies even if one plans to leave the bucket there for more than one day. [Biur Halacha]

[10] Meaning that if the wick could have lasted without needing a knot at its end then one who undoes it is liable.

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