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Can I wash dishes on Shabbat?

Can I wash dishes on Shabbat?

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Washing dishes or flatware does not, in of itself, violate any of the Shabbat rules. Nevertheless, there are some other considerations involved which certainly complicate the process. Here are the most basic ones:

a. It is forbidden to turn on the hot water tap on Shabbat. The reason for this is that when you turn on the hot water, you are releasing new water into the hot water tank that supplies the sink. This would be a violation of the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat.

b. It is forbidden to use a sponge or washcloth, this because using these materials invariably involves squeezing them to the point where water is expelled—a violation of the prohibition against "pressing (out liquid)" on Shabbat. Non-absorbent bristled brushes may be used instead.

c. Washing dishes is permitted on Shabbat provided that you may possibly need to use these dishes again on Shabbat. However, it is not permitted to wash dishes simply to spare yourself the hassle of doing so after Shabbat.

The last two rules also apply to major holidays. Using hot water, on the other hand, is permissible on holidays that do not fall on Shabbat, when cooking is permitted. (This applies to most water-heating systems, those whose pilot flame stays on all the time. One would not be allowed to turn on the hot water if the sink is hooked up to a system whose pilot ignites when the hot water tap is turned on.)

And one more note: It is permitted to ask non-Jewish household help to wash the dishes on Shabbat. If they choose to use hot water and/or a sponge, that is their prerogative. Since the act of washing dishes itself is permitted, the methods they choose to employ is not our concern.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (22)
December 14, 2011
To Joseph
I understand the guidance given on observing the Sabbath. I'm glad you once had a job washing dishes, which is work and can be put off very easily during the short hours of the Sabbath.

The letter and the spirit of the law is true rest and celebration.
Anonymous
near Chicago
December 12, 2011
Response to Anonymous, near Chicago
To follow up on Joseph Lathrop's words: The English word "work" is not a perfect translation of the Hebrew word "melakha." There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about this in the English-speaking world. On the one hand, there are some very strenuous behaviors which Jews are actually permitted on Sabbath. Example: Moving furniture within the home. On the other hand, there are some very easy behaviors which Jews are prohibited on Sabbath. Example: Turning electrical devices on and off. This sounds very crazy to a lot of people, and having grown up very secular, I understand how people feel. However, by learning Jewish mystical philosophy, I am coming to appreciate this stuff more and more. Of course, I would never advocate stoning anyone over it! I like Eve's suggestions. Last Sabbath I just rinsed the dishes with cold water, and then I washed them after Sabbath.
Rob W.
Pittsburgh, PA
November 1, 2011
Anonymous, near Chicago
I have been employed as a dish washer many times and what you don't seem to understand is what work on Shabbat actually is refering to. It is not say moving a couch in our home but the work that was done to build the tabernacle, in short, creative work. This type of work is broken down into the 39 melakhot basically 39 categories of work, if it would fall into these then it is considered working on Shabbat.
Joseph Lathrop
Lafayette, Indiana
November 1, 2011
Janet - no offense intended...
Have you ever washed [to wash or clean] dishes? It's work. It's lifting, scrubbing, checking, stacking, rinsing... all the details and the sweeping descriptions = Work. It isn't even easy and is honestly unnecessary during the short hours of Shabbat. It may be allowed by some, but any personal examination will show that washing dishes is not resting. Some are employed as 'dish washers'.
Anonymous
near Chicago
October 31, 2011
Unfortunately, Anonymous,.
doing dishes isn't "work". : ) You're right, though, that we can't ask anyone to do something on Shabbat that we can't do. Ask a halachik rabbi for further details.
Janet Clare
Maale Levona, Israel
October 30, 2011
I don't understand how 'non-Jewish household help' can do any work for us during Shabbat, since the Creator clearly included slaves (or servants) and strangers (non-Jews) in the prohibition. If they were free to do what they hadn't committed to avoid when they are not in our community or home as soon as they enter it, [according to the exact wording of the law], it would be forbidden for them to do work in our company, and with our knowlege or even at our request. The letter and the spirit of the law is true rest and celebration.
anonymous
near Chicago
August 23, 2011
washing dishes on shabbos
May we put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher on shabbos?
Anonymous
San Rafael, ca
July 20, 2011
washing dishes on shabbat
Though paper plates and throwaways might be economically cheap, we should think about the environmental concerns and tikkun olam.
I don't think that it's right to damage the environment by using disposable goods on Shabbat.
Karmiya
richmond, va
June 24, 2010
Washing Dishes on Shabbat
1. Use paper plates , throw-away cutlery and drinking cups! You don't have to worry about washing dishes then. Go to the Dollar shops to buy them.

2. Keep a basin of sudsy water in the sink and spay some bleach in it for sanitary reasons. Plates can be soaked or simply dipped or rinsed in the basin without a hassle. Use one for meat and one for dairy and/or parve.

The post by Joseph Lathrop makes good sense. Doesn't this fall under the Chabad teachings of treat others as you would want them to treat you?
Eve
Mesa, AZ
June 24, 2010
Asking someone to wash dishes on Shabbat
"If I can do dishes on Shabbat, I can ask someone else, Jew or non-Jew to do it instead. If they are a non-Jew, they can do so in any manner that is comfortable for them, including using hot water or sponges, within the bounds of guarding the kashrut of the home (e.g. not using a milk sponge for cleaning meat dishes). Since I can't use hot water, I can't ask that they use it, for example. However, if the person is a non-Jew, he can choose to use hot water and not be breaking any Shabbat laws"

I am not a rabbi, but I think this is what is meant here. In general, anything a Jew can do, he can directly ask someone else to do. HOW that someone does it depends on the laws, if any, that apply to him.

P.S. Sure wish I could get someone to do the dishes for me on any day! :-)
J. Clare
Maale Levona, Israel
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