Toveh - Spinning

After wool has been properly cleaned and dyed it is ready to be spun into strands to be used for weaving. Traditionally, this was done using a spindle. The melachah of toveh refers to spinning strands into thread.1 Twisting several strands together to form cord or thread (known as shezirah) is also prohibited.2 What does this mean practically in today’s day and age? If a string of tzitzit comes apart, one may not retwist it on Shabbat, for example.

Introduction to the Following Four Melachot

In the Mishkan, weaving was done with a loom. This loom was operated by running lines of thread through loops of string (heddles) which were attached to a frame that could be raised and lowered. The threads were stretched so as not to hang limply, and then attached firmly to a shaft on either side.These threads are called warp threads. The next step was to throw lines of thread across the width of the warp thread and lower (or raise) the frame to make the two directions of thread interwoven. After all the threads were woven together, the final product was disconnected from the loom.

The following four melachot are all steps in the weaving process:

Maisach - Warping

Maisach refers to the act of attaching the ends of the thread to the shafts to prepare for weaving.3 An important part of warping is ensuring that none of the warp threads become tangled. This is done by beating the warp threads with one’s hand or a stick. This beating of the warp threads is also included in the melachah of maisach.

Oseh Batei Nirin - Constructing Heddles

The warp threads are fed through loops, which allows the weaver to lift or lower the threads as needed. According to some, the melachah of oseh batei nirin refers to making two of these loops.4 Others say that the prohibition is feeding the thread through the loops.5

Oreg - Weaving

Oreg refers to the act of casting a spool (shuttle) of thread (weft) across the width of the warp thread.6 In order to make evenly spaced fabric, it is necessary to use a tool to pull the latest thread up against those already woven. This too is part of the melachah.7

Potzeya - Unraveling

There are a number of opinions as to what exactly this melachah includes. Some say it involves unraveling thread that snaps or becomes loose during the weaving process.8 Others argue that it refers to cutting off the woven material from the loom after the weaving process is complete.9 Snapping off a loose thread hanging from a piece of clothing would be prohibited under this melachah.