Combing clumps of tangled, unprocessed material is the av melachah of menapetz and is forbidden on Shabbat.

Even after wool is sheared from the animal and bleached, it is not yet ready to be made into thread because the hair is still tangled together. Menapetz involves untangling the strands of material from each other to make them straight and even.

There are various opinions as to which method of combing the melachah refers to.

According to Rashi,1 it involves separating the tangled material by hand. The Meiri, however, writes that only combing using a tool transgresses the av melachah.

Maimonides and Rabbi Ovadya Bartenura2 argue that the melachah refers to untangling the material by hitting it with rods.

The Avnei Nazer3 explains that the way material was combed in ancient times involved a two-step process; first it was untangled by hand and then it was combed with a metal comb. Therefore, both of these steps are included in the av melachah, since both were done in the construction of the Mishkan. He explains that Rashi agrees, and only mentions combing by hand so that one shouldn’t think that it is only a toladah, since it is less effective than combing with an actual comb.

Combing hair or fur that is still attached to a person or animal is not menapetz, because the material is not able to be properly spun while it is still attached.4 It is nevertheless forbidden under the melachah of gozez, since some hair will inevitably be pulled out while combing.

Menapetz in the Mishkan

Wool needed to be combed to be used for some of the curtains which were hung in the Mishkan.