With regard to the [forbidden] labors for which one is liable to be executed by stoning or to receive karet if one transgresses willingly, or for which one is obligated to bring a sin offering if one commits the transgression unknowingly, there are primary categories and [their] derivatives.

The sum of all the primary categories of [forbidden] labor are forty minus one. They include:

1) plowing,

2) sowing,

3) reaping,

4) collecting sheaves,

5) threshing,

6) winnowing,

7) separating,

8) grinding,

9) sifting,

10) kneading,

11) baking,

12) shearing,

13) whitening,

14) beating,

15) dyeing,

16) spinning,

17) making heddles,

18) mounting the warp,

19) weaving,

20) undoing woven fabric,

21) tying,

22) untying,

23) sewing,

24) tearing,

25) building,

26) demolishing,

27) beating with a hammer,

28) trapping,

29) slaughtering,

30) skinning,

31) processing [hides],

32) removing hair,

33) cutting [leather],

34) writing,

35) erasing,

36) ruling lines,

37) kindling a flame,

38) extinguishing a flame,

39) transferring from one domain to another.

A Loom
A - The Warp
B - The woof
C - The heddles
A Loom

A - The Warp
B - The woof
C - The heddles

מְלָאכוֹת שֶׁחַיָּבִין עֲלֵיהֶן סְקִילָה וְכָרֵת בְּמֵזִיד אוֹ קָרְבַּן חַטָּאת בִּשְׁגָגָה. מֵהֶן אָבוֹת וּמֵהֶן תּוֹלָדוֹת. וּמִנְיַן כָּל אֲבוֹת מְלָאכוֹת אַרְבָּעִים חָסֵר אַחַת. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. הַחֲרִישָׁה. וְהַזְּרִיעָה. וְהַקְּצִירָה. וְהָעִמּוּר. וְהַדִּישָׁה. וְהַזְּרִיָּה. וְהַבְּרִירָה. וְהַטְּחִינָה. וְהַהַרְקָדָה. וְהַלִּישָׁה. וְהָאֲפִיָּה. וְהַגְּזִיזָה. וְהַלִּבּוּן. וְהַנִּפּוּץ. וְהַצְּבִיעָה. וְהַטְּוִיָּה. וַעֲשִׂיַּת הַנִּירִין. וְהַנְסָכַת הַמַּסֵּכָה. וְהָאֲרִיגָה. וְהַבְּצִיעָה. וְהַקְּשִׁירָה. וְהַהַתָּרָה. וְהַתְּפִירָה. וְהַקְּרִיעָה. וְהַבִּנְיָן. וְהַסְּתִירָה. וְהַכָּאָה בְּפַטִּישׁ. וְהַצִּידָה. וְהַשְּׁחִיטָה. וְהַהַפְשָׁטָה. וְהַהַעֲבָדָה. וּמְחִיקַת הָעוֹר. וְחִתּוּכוֹ. וְהַכְּתִיבָה. וְהַמְּחִיקָה. וְהַשִּׂרְטוּט. וְהַהַבְעָרָה. וְהַכִּבּוּי. וְהַהוֹצָאָה מֵרְשׁוּת לִרְשׁוּת:

With regard to the [forbidden] labors for which one is liable to be executed by stoning - when a forbidden labor is performed in the presence of witnesses who administer a warning (Chapter 1, Halachah 1)

or to receive karet if one transgresses willingly - when a forbidden labor is performed when witnesses are not present (ibid.)

or for which one is obligated to bring a sin offering if one commits the transgression unknowingly, - i.e., one intended to perform the forbidden labor, but was not aware that doing so was breaking the Sabbath laws.

there are primary categories and [their] derivatives. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Shabbat 7:2), the Rambam explains that the primary categories are so defined because "they were part of the work of the Sanctuary, which is termed melachah [the term used for the Torah for forbidden labor]." The Rambam clarifies the definition of what constitutes a primary category and what constitutes a derivative in Halachot 2-6.

See Yereim (249) who notes that the Jerusalem Talmud (Shabbat 7:2) derives the existence of thirty nine categories of work from the exegesis of Exodus 38:2. There is a question if this difference in sources creates a difference in law as well. See also the preface to Eglei Tal, which questions whether the definition of the categories of forbidden labor are taken from the activities necessary for the offering of the sacrifices in the Sanctuary, or merely the activities necessary for construction of the Sanctuary. (In this context, see Rashi, Shabbat 73a, which states that the forbidden labor of baking was not practiced in the Sanctuary although one of the offerings was the showbread which was baked each week.)

The sum of all the primary categories of [forbidden] labor are forty minus one. - The commentaries question why the Rambam (and his source, Shabbat 7:2, use this expression, rather than merely stating "thirty-nine." Some draw attention to the parallel found in the Mishnah's description of the number of lashes given a transgressor (Makkot 3:10). Others explain that this expression indicates that there is a fortieth activity - the spiritual service of prayer and study - which must be performed on the Sabbath day.

They include: plowing - This and the ten labors that follow are described as sidura d'pat, the manner in which bread is baked. They were necessary to prepare the herbs used as dyes for the curtains of the Sanctuary. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 1.)

sowing, - Significantly, plowing is mentioned before sowing in the Mishnah. Shabbat 73b explains that this was done to teach that if the earth is hard, and it is necessary to re-plow the land after the first plowing, one is liable for the second plowing as well. The Rambam, however, follows the usual order of activities. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 2.)

reaping - As explained in Chapter 8, Halachah 3, this refers to reaping with a utensil. Severing produce by hand is considered merely a derivative. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 3.)

collecting sheaves - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam mentions that the reapers usually gather the grain in small sheaves. Others follow who collect these sheaves into larger bundles. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 5.)

According to one opinion in Shabbat 96b, there is an explicit reference to the prohibition of this labor on the Sabbath. Numbers, ch. 15, relates that a person was executed for collecting wood on the Sabbath. As the Rambam states Chapter 21, Halachah 11, this labor includes only the collection of produce. Gathering other substances - e.g., salt - is not included. It is, however, forbidden by Rabbinic decree.

threshing - applying pressure to grain to extract the kernel from its husk. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 7.)

winnowing - casting the mixture of kernels and husks to the wind. The wind will blow away the chaff, while the kernels that are heavier will fall to the ground.

separating - separating stones and the like from the kernels of grain. This is usually done by hand.

grinding - crushing the kernels into flour. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 15.)

sifting - the flour with a sifter. Shabbat 74a (see also Chapter 8, Halachah 11) notes that the three labors - winnowing, separating, and sifting - are similar. Nevertheless, because they represent three different activities performed in the construction of the Sanctuary, each one is considered a separate primary category of forbidden labor.

kneading - mixing the flour with water to create a dough. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 16.)

baking - This also includes cooking, roasting, or the like. In the construction of the Sanctuary, cooking was necessary for the preparation of dyes. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 1.)

shearing - This and the following twelve labors are necessary for the preparation of fabric. Shearing involves removing hair or wool from an animal, whether dead or alive. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 7.)

whitening - After the wool is removed from the animal, it is washed to remove dirt. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 10.)

beating - Unlike Rashi and others who interpret as combing the wool, in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah he translates the word into an Arabic term meaning "beat it with a stick." This activity is necessary as a preliminary stage of the preparation of flax to be spun into linen. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 12.)

dyeing - for most of the fabrics used in the curtains and roof-coverings of the Sanctuary were dyed. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 13.)

spinning - intertwining the fibers to make thread. (See Chapter 9, Halachah 15.)

making heddles - The Hebrew, literally means "house of string." In the weaving process, it refers to the following practice: Weaving involves passing the threads of the woof over and under each of the consecutive threads of the warp. In order to facilitate this process, two frames are made, each possessing many threads with a loop (referred to as a "heddle") in the middle of these threads. The threads of the warp are passed through these loops, one from one frame, and the next from the other, consecutively. When this is completed, the weaver lifts the two frames alternately. As he raises one up, he passes the woof through. In this manner, he is able to thread the woof through the entire warp at one time. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Shabbat 7:2; Keilim 21:1.)

mounting the warp - See Chapter 9, Halachah 17-18, where the Rambam describes how a loom is set up. First, the threads of the warp are extended to the desired length and width. They are then attached to a rod on either side, and held taut. This is the activity referred to by this term.

weaving - passing the threads of the woof between the threads of the warp. (See Chapter 9, loc. cit.)

undoing woven fabric - See Chapter 9, Halachah 20.

tying - This refers to a permanent knot whose tying requires professional expertise. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 1.) In the construction of the Sanctuary, the chilazon which were used for dye were caught with nets that had to be tied (Shabbat 74b).

untying - This also includes untying only such knots. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 7.)

sewing - at least two stitches. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 9.)

tearing - in order to sew. Otherwise, one is not liable. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 10.) If a hole was found in one of the curtains of the Sanctuary, it was cut open and sewn close (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 302:4).

building - any structure; similarly, leveling the ground is included in this category. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 12.) The Kiryat Sefer gives as an example, the placement of the boards of the Sanctuary in their sockets.

demolishing - Here also the intent must be a constructive one: demolishing in order to rebuild. (See Chapter 10, Halachah 15.)

beating with a hammer - The Kiryat Sefer points to the fashioning of the menorah in the Sanctuary.

A craftsman finishing the fashioning of a utensil concludes his work by giving several taps with a hammer to smooth the utensil's surface. Thus, this labor also includes all activities performed to apply the finishing touch to an object - e.g., polishing and shining. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, loc. cit., and Chapter 10, Halachah 16.)

trapping - The Mishnah mentions the following seven categories as activities necessary to write a scroll. Leather hides were used to cover the roof of the Sanctuary. (See also Chapter 10, Halachah 19.)

slaughtering - Although this term is usually used to refer to ritual slaughter, the intent here is taking a life through any means. (See Chapter 11, Halachah 1.)

skinning - the hide of an animal to use for leather. (See Chapter 11, Halachah 5.)

processing [hides] - into leather. (See Chapter 11, loc. cit.) Significantly, the Mishnah (Shabbat 7:2) also includes salting the hides as a separate category of labor. Shabbat 75b, however, includes this activity in the category of processing hides and includes ruling parchment as the thirty-ninth category of labor.

removing hair - For leather or parchment, smooth skin is required. (See also Chapter 11, Halachah 5, 6.)

cutting [leather] - This refers to making an exact cut, so that the leather can be used for a purpose. Cutting indiscriminately is a destructive activity. Hence, one is not held liable. (See Chapter 11, Halachah 7.)

writing - two letters. This activity was necessary in the Sanctuary, for a mark was made on the boards so that the same boards could be matched to each other each time they were attached together. (See Chapter 11, Halachah 9.)

erasing - For if the builders of the Sanctuary erred in making a sign, they would erase it and write another in its place. In this instance as well, one is held liable only when one erases with the intent of writing two letters in this place. (See Chapter 11, loc. cit.)

ruling lines - For proper writing is possible only on ruled lines. (See Chapter 11, Halachah 17.) In the Sanctuary, this labor was performed to prepare the hides to be cut.

kindling a flame - This was necessary to cook the dyes. As the Rambam explains in Chapter 12, Halachah 1, one is liable for kindling a flame only when when desires to cook with it, use it for light, or desires ash. Otherwise, it is considered a destructive activity.

extinguishing a flame - Here also, one's intent must be constructive - e.g., to use the charcoal produced. In the Sanctuary, this was necessary to produce an even flame for the fashioning of the metal utensils (See Chapter 12, Halachah 2.)

transferring from one domain to another. - All the materials necessary for the construction of the Sanctuary were brought from the private domain to the public domain (Shabbat 96b). This forbidden labor is discussed in great length. (See Chapters 12-19.)


All of these [forbidden] labors and all analogous activities are referred to as primary categories of labor. What is meant by an "analogous activity"? Plowing, digging, or making a groove [in the ground] are all considered to be primary categories of work. For each one involves digging in the ground and they all reflect a single activity.1


כָּל אֵלּוּ הַמְּלָאכוֹת וְכָל שֶׁהוּא מֵעִנְיָנָם הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִין אֲבוֹת מְלָאכוֹת. כֵּיצַד הוּא עִנְיָנָן. אֶחָד הַחוֹרֵשׁ אוֹ הַחוֹפֵר אוֹ הָעוֹשֶׂה חָרִיץ הֲרֵי זֶה אַב מְלָאכָה. שֶׁכָּל אַחַת וְאַחַת מֵהֶן חֲפִירָה בַּקַּרְקַע וְעִנְיָן אֶחָד הוּא:


Similarly, one who sows seeds, plants trees, extends trees,2 grafts [branches to] trees,3 or prunes trees:4 All of these [activities] are considered a single primary category of [forbidden] labor, [for] they share a commonality, since all these activities have a single intent:5 to cause [a plant] to grow.


וְכֵן הַזּוֹרֵעַ זְרָעִים אוֹ הַנּוֹטֵעַ אִילָנוֹת אוֹ הַמַּבְרִיךְ אִילָנוֹת אוֹ הַמַּרְכִּיב אוֹ הַזּוֹמֵר. כָּל אֵלּוּ אָב אֶחָד הֵן מֵאֲבוֹת מְלָאכוֹת וְעִנְיָן אֶחָד הוּא. שֶׁכָּל אַחַת מֵהֶן לְצַמֵּחַ דָּבָר הוּא מִתְכַּוֵּן:


Similarly, a person who reaps grain or legumes, one who harvests grapes, dates, olives, or figs: All these [activities] are considered a single primary category of [forbidden] labor, [for] they share a commonality, since all these activities have a single intent:6 to remove produce from [the plant] on which it grows. [The same principle applies] with regard to other forbidden categories of labor.


וְכֵן הַקּוֹצֵר תְּבוּאָה אוֹ קִטְנִית אוֹ הַבּוֹצֵר עֲנָבִים אוֹ הַגּוֹדֵר תְּמָרִים אוֹ הַמּוֹסֵק זֵיתִים אוֹ הָאוֹרֶה תְּאֵנִים. כָּל אֵלּוּ אַב מְלָאכָה אַחַת הֵן. שֶׁכָּל אַחַת מֵהֶן לַעֲקֹר דָּבָר מִגִּדּוּלָיו מִתְכַּוֵּן. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ שְׁאָר הָאָבוֹת:


A derivative is a labor that resembles one of these categories of [forbidden] labor.7 What is implied? A person who cuts a vegetable into small pieces to cook is liable,8 for this activity resembles grinding. When a person grinds, he takes one [large] entity, and divides it into smaller parts. Anyone who performs an activity that resembles this is [performing] a derivative of the labor of grinding. Similarly, a person who takes a strip of metal and pulverizes it to use the powder9 acts as goldsmiths do;10 he is [performing] a derivative of the labor of grinding.


הַתּוֹלָדָה הִיא הַמְּלָאכָה הַדּוֹמָה לְאָב מֵאֵלּוּ הָאָבוֹת. כֵּיצַד. הַמְחַתֵּךְ אֶת הָיָּרָק מְעַט לְבַשְּׁלוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב שֶׁזּוֹ הַמְּלָאכָה תּוֹלֶדֶת טְחִינָה. שֶׁהַטּוֹחֵן לוֹקֵחַ גּוּף אֶחָד וּמְחַלְּקוֹ לְגוּפִים הַרְבֵּה. וְכָל הָעוֹשֶׂה דָּבָר הַדּוֹמֶה לָזֶה הֲרֵי זֶה תּוֹלֶדֶת טוֹחֵן. וְכֵן הַלּוֹקֵחַ לָשׁוֹן שֶׁל מַתֶּכֶת וְשָׁף אוֹתוֹ כְּדֵי לִקַּח מֵעֲפָרוֹ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעוֹשִׂים צוֹרְפֵי הַזָּהָב הֲרֵי זֶה תּוֹלֶדֶת טְחִינָה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


Similarly, one who takes milk and inserts a [piece of intestine] in it so that it curdles is liable for [performing] a derivative of separating,11 for he separates the curds from the whey.

If one made cheese from it, one is liable for [performing a derivative of building]. Whenever one collects separate entities and bonds them together so that they form a single mass, [the activity] resembles building.

Similarly, each of the primary categories of [forbidden] labor [mentioned above] possesses derivatives,12 which are determined according to the principles explained above. From the nature of the [forbidden] labor performed on the Sabbath, one can determine in which category of [forbidden] labor it should be included, or which [forbidden] labor it is a derivative of.


וְכֵן הַלּוֹקֵחַ חָלָב וְנָתַן בּוֹ קֵיבָה כְּדֵי לְחָבְצוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב מִשּׁוּם תּוֹלֶדֶת בּוֹרֵר שֶׁהֲרֵי הִפְרִישׁ הַקּוֹם מִן הֶחָלָב. וְאִם גִּבְּנוֹ וְעָשָׂהוּ גְּבִינָה חַיָּב מִשּׁוּם בּוֹנֶה. שֶׁכָּל הַמְקַבֵּץ חֵלֶק אֶל חֵלֶק וְדִבֵּק הַכּל עַד שֶׁיֵּעָשׂוּ גּוּף אֶחָד הֲרֵי זֶה דּוֹמֶה לְבִנְיָן. וְכֵן לְכָל מְלָאכָה וּמְלָאכָה מֵאֵלּוּ הָאָבוֹת יֵשׁ לָהֶן תּוֹלָדוֹת עַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ. וּמִגּוּף הַמְּלָאכָה הַנַּעֲשֵׂית בְּשַׁבָּת תֵּדַע מֵעֵין אֵי זֶה אָב הִיא וְתוֹלֶדֶת אֵי זֶה אָב הִיא:


A person who willingly, as a conscious act of defiance, performs an activity that constitutes one of the primary categories of [forbidden] labor or one of the derivatives [of these categories] is liable for karet.13 If witnesses come, he should be stoned [to death].14 If [he performs such an activity] without being conscious of the transgression, he must bring a sin offering of a fixed nature.

If so, what is the difference between the primary categories of [forbidden] labor and the derivatives?15 There is no difference except with regard to sacrifices. When a person, without being conscious of the transgression involved, performs many activities, each of which constitutes a different primary category [of forbidden labor] in one period of lack of awareness,16 he is obligated to bring a sin offering for every such category17 [of forbidden labor].18

If he performs an activity that constitutes a primary category [of forbidden labor] and its derivatives in one period of lack of awareness, he is obligated to bring merely one sin offering.19


אֶחָד הָעוֹשֶׂה אָב מֵאֲבוֹת מְלָאכוֹת אוֹ תּוֹלָדָה מִן הַתּוֹלָדוֹת בְּמֵזִיד חַיָּב כָּרֵת. וְאִם בָּאוּ עֵדִים נִסְקָל. בְּשׁוֹגֵג חַיָּב חַטָּאת קְבוּעָה. אִם כֵּן מַה הֶפְרֵשׁ יֵשׁ בֵּין הָאָבוֹת וְהַתּוֹלָדוֹת. אֵין בֵּינֵיהֶן הֶפְרֵשׁ אֶלָּא לְעִנְיַן הַקָּרְבָּן בִּלְבַד. שֶׁהָעוֹשֶׂה בְּשׁוֹגֵג אִם עָשָׂה אָבוֹת הַרְבֵּה בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד חַיָּב חַטָּאת אַחַת עַל כָּל אָב וְאָב. וְאִם עָשָׂה אָב וְתוֹלְדוֹתָיו בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד אֵינוֹ חַיָּב אֶלָּא חַטָּאת אַחַת:


What is implied? If a person plows, sows, and reaps on the Sabbath in a single period of lack of awareness, he is required to bring three sin offerings. Even if he performs all thirty-nine [forbidden] labors without knowing of the prohibition involved - e.g., he forgot that it is forbidden to perform these labors on the Sabbath - he is obligated to bring one sin offering for each and every [forbidden] labor.20

In contrast, if he ground [grain], cut a vegetable, and pulverized a strip of metal during a single period of lack of awareness, he is required to bring only one sin offering [for each Sabbath],21 for he performed only a single primary [forbidden] labor and its derivatives. The same applies in all similar situations.


כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁחָרַשׁ וְזָרַע וְקָצַר בְּשַׁבָּת בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד חַיָּב שָׁלֹשׁ חַטָּאוֹת. וַאֲפִלּוּ עָשָׂה הָאַרְבָּעִים חָסֵר אַחַת בִּשְׁגָגָה כְּגוֹן שֶׁשָּׁכַח שֶׁאֵלּוּ הַמְּלָאכוֹת אֲסוּרוֹת לֵעָשׂוֹת בְּשַׁבָּת חַיָּב עַל כָּל מְלָאכָה וּמְלָאכָה חַטָּאת אַחַת. אֲבָל אִם טָחַן וְחָתַךְ הָיָּרָק וְשָׁף לָשׁוֹן שֶׁל מַתֶּכֶת בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד אֵינוֹ חַיָּב אֶלָּא חַטָּאת אַחַת. שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא עָשָׂה אֶלָּא אָב אֶחָד וְתוֹלְדוֹתָיו. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


When a person performs many labors corresponding to a single category of labor in one period of lack of awareness, he is obligated to bring only one sin offering.22

What is implied? When a person sowed, planted, extended, grafted, and pruned in a single period of lack of awareness, he is obligated to bring only a single sin offering, for all of these [activities] are included in the same primary category of labor. The same applies in all similar situations.


הָעוֹשֶׂה מְלָאכוֹת הַרְבֵּה מֵעֵין מְלָאכָה אַחַת בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד אֵינוֹ חַיָּב אֶלָּא חַטָּאת אַחַת. כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁזָּרַע וְנָטַע וְהִבְרִיךְ וְהִרְכִּיב וְזָמַר בְּהֵעָלֵם אֶחָד אֵינוֹ חַיָּב אֶלָּא חַטָּאת אַחַת שֶׁכֻּלָּן אָב אֶחָד הֵן. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה: