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The Music of Halacha: Shabbat: Tied Up In Knots II

There are people who would never drive or turn on a light on Shabbat, however there are numerous, less obvious ways to violate Biblical prohibitions, more serious laws: Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, there was never leftover Challah at the end of a Shabbat meal. Unfortunately, gluten-free challah is not quite as tasty, so the muffin-size challah must go into a plastic bag for later use. My wife and daughter are not big challah-eaters and they too have challah to be bagged for the morning meal. At the moment when we must tie the plastic bag, we face a Biblical issue: How shall we tie the bag?

If we had twist ties, we could wind one round and round the bag; not an especially effective seal. (I follow the Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata, Chapter 15, Footnote 166, who rules that twisting the metal ties is considered Koshair.) We could also use one of those small notched plastic locks used by many bakeries, but I always break them when attempting to open the bag. So, perhaps I can tie the bag: Unfortunately, one may not seal a plastic bag, even for just a few hours, with a tight knot, even a single knot, because a single knot formed by tying the two adjacent ends of the bag together is considered a ‘tight” knot. (Ramah, O”C 317:1, Mishnah Berurah # 15) I would have to make a slipknot, but for some reason the bag always tears when I pretend to know how to make one.

So, here I am, sitting at my Shabbat table dealing with one of the 39 categories of prohibited creative work, potentially a more serious issue than flicking a light switch on or off. I wonder how tying a plastic bag of leftover Challah can be considered such an important form of creative work. I appreciate the challenge because I don’t even consider turning on a light on Shabbat, so this is forcing me to think about what I am doing. So much of the Shabbat laws has become second nature that I thrill when forced to pay careful attention to an action.

I sit staring at the bag trying to figure out what to do, and my mind wanders to the most important knot in my life; my Tefillin. “And you shall tie (knot) them as a sign on your arm.” (Deuteronomy 6:8) Am I really tying the Tefillin when I tighten the strap? A similar act would not be considered the prohibited knot-tying on Shabbat; remember the slip-knot? There is an opinion in Tosafot (Menachot 35b “Mi’sha’at.” See too Haketav V’Hakabbalah, Deuteronomy 6:8) that we must actually tie the knot on the hand Tefillin every day!

We fulfill an obligatory knot by simply tightening Tefillin, and yet the same action would not be a Shabbat knot. There seems to be different ideas of knotting for Shabbat and Tefillin.

I urge you to review part one of Tied Up In Knots and consider how the different opinions regarding the concept of Koshair.

To Be Continued…

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