- Question: [Thursday, 3rd Kisleiv, 5781]
May one put together a folding table on Shabbos by inserting the legs into the table surface? I own a folding table which is made in the following way: The legs and frame on which the table rests are taken apart from the table and then put back together. There are pieces that protrude from under the table onto which one inserts the leg frame to lock it in and secure it. Is the attachment of the leg frame into the socket under the table prohibited due to the building prohibition and is taking it apart prohibited due to the destroying prohibition?
Indeed, there are certain cases in which the above can be permitted and certain cases in which it would be prohibited, it all depends on the tightness and firmness of the legs when they sit inside the socket under the table, as well as on the amount of time that the table is meant to last in this erect position. If the table is not meant to last even 24 hours in this position as it is only opened for the use of guests and then immediately taken apart after Shabbos, then indeed it is permitted to be inserted and removed even on Shabbos itself, even if it is inserted very strongly in its sockets and even if one may come to forget to take it apart right away in 24 hours. If, however, the table is meant to last for some time in this position, then it depends on the firmness of the attachment of the legs into the sockets. If it is a very weak attachment, in which the sockets are wider than the legs and the legs actually jiggle inside the socket being loosely inside, then it is permitted to erect and take apart on Shabbos without limitation even if it is meant to last a long time in this position. If however the sockets are narrow to the size of the legs and thus grasp the legs in a way that the legs cannot jiggle inside the socket, then if it is a very firm and strong attachment that requires very strong effort to insert and remove then it may not be put together or taken apart on Shabbos being that it is meant to last more than 24 hours. However, if it is not a very firm attachment and requires only light effort to inserted and remove it, then it is disputed whether it may be attached on Shabbos and practically we are stringent unless it is a time of great need, although it is permitted even initially to take it apart on Shabbos.
Bottom line, after further verification of the facts of the case, it was determined that the above said table in question may be taken apart on Shabbos being that it effortlessly can fit inside of its socket, although it may not be erected on Shabbos being that they are accustomed to leave it erect throughout the week, and it is not a very loose fit inside the socket. However, in a time of great need, such as that there are not enough tables for guests, then one may be lenient to put it together on Shabbos.
Sources: See Admur 313, 19-22; 314:19; Michaber and Rama 313:6 and 9; M”A 313:12; Taz 313:7; M”B 313:45; Aruch Hashulchan 313:31; Ketzos Hashulchan 119 note 7; Chazon Ish 50:10; Minchas Yitzchak 4:122; 9:38; Nonetheless it’s possible to argue, that since the entire intent of the manufacturing of this table is for it to be folded and have his legs removed whenever necessary then perhaps it is never deemed similar to a regular vessel that contains assembled parts, and is rather similar to the cover of the bottle which may be screwed back onto the bottle even if he does not plan on opening it for another month being that it is made for constant removal and insertion. Thus, so too, here since this table was made for constant insertion and removal of its legs, ones intent on leaving it there for a long time is irrelevant. On the other hand, one can argue that in truth the cover of a vessel is a unique case being that it is not possible to use the vessel without opening it and hence its function requires the ability to constantly be able to remove the cover. However, by the table, it is perfectly okay if one decides to leave it erect forever just like a regular table and hence if one does decide to leave it for more than 24 hours it would be subject to all the regular rules of a vessel that contains assembled parts. Practically, one can deduce from the ruling of the Minchas Yitzchak regarding using a screw to adjust the height of a standing Shtender that it is forbidden being that at times last more than a few days, that the same would apply here regarding a folding table, and it is hence forbidden to be done as we concluded.