Plowing, the av melachah of choresh, is forbidden on Shabbat. When one plows, the plowshare cuts into the hard soil, loosening it, making it fertile ground in which to plant. Any other action which accomplishes this is included in the melachah of choresh. There is no minimum amount of soil required, since one can plant a seed even in a small area of earth that has been properly conditioned.1 There is also no specific method in which the melachah must be done. Even scraping the ground with one’s shoe or a heavy chair—if it loosens the earth—is considered choresh.

Plowing in the Mishkan

Plowing was part of the process to grow the herbs used to produce certain dyes for the Mishkan.2 Others source the melachah to the plowing used to produce wheat for some of the sacrifices and for the lechem hapanim, the showbread, which was baked on a weekly basis.3

Toladot of Choresh

  • Weeding plants.4
  • Pouring water on the ground to soften the earth and make it suitable for planting.5
  • Leveling the ground by filling a hole or removing stones and pebbles.6
  • Applying soil enhancers or fertilizers.7

Common Activities to Avoid

  • Dragging a heavy chair along the ground.
  • Raking the lawn.
  • Scraping one’s shoe against the ground.8