THE LAWS OF SHABBAT
By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
Lash, Part I
May one pour water over flour without mixing?
Is it permissible to wash one's hands over sand or dirt?
I) Defining the Melakha
The melakha of lash (kneading;
the process is known as lisha) pertains to an action that has an opposite
objective to that of the melakha of
tochen (grinding), as well as the melakhot of dash
(threshing), zoreh (winnowing), borer (selecting) and merakked
(sifting). The other melakhot
listed here are performed in order to separate substances. Dash,
zoreh, borer and merakked separate between the wheat (or the flour)
and various types of refuse, while tochen reduces the wheat kernels to
grains of flour. Lisha, on the other hand, is a binding
melakha. In the process of
kneading, one fuses together separate, tiny parts and turns them into one
unit. (Note that the definition of the
melakha is a subject of debate as we shall see below.)
The melakha of
lash is not limited to foods, e.g., the preparation of dough from flour
and water; rather, it applies to other substances as well for example,
kneading water and dirt is forbidden by the Torah, as a subcategory of
lash (Rambam 8:16, according to
the Gemara, 18a).
It is not only lisha per se that is
banned by the Torah; rolling the dough (with a rolling pin) is also
forbidden by Torah law, since it is part of the greater process of the
melakha. (Yerushalmi 7:2).
Before delving into the details of the
need to be defined. A substance may
or not be bar gibbul
(kneadable), and the mass formed may be of two consistencies: belila ava
(a thick mixture) or belila rakka (literally, a soft mixture, i.e., a
thin one). Several questions need to
be raised regarding these terms: Does
lisha apply to that which is not bar
gibbul? What is the difference
between belila ava and belila rakka, practically and halakhically?
What is prohibited by Torah law, what is prohibited by rabbinic law, and what is
permissible? We will see the various
views and the rulings as we continue.
The melakha of
lash is an extremely complex one.
We will try to first grasp its principles, and after that we will try to
examine the practical halakhic ramifications.
II) Mixing Flour and Water Without Kneading
The Gemara (155b) cites a dispute among the Mishnaic authorities as to the
question of when one can become liable for
If one puts in the
flour and another puts in the water, the latter is liable, according to Rabbi. Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda says: "One is
not liable without kneading."
Thus, according to Rabbi (Yehuda Ha-nasi), combining water and flour is enough
to make one liable for lash, while
according to Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, one cannot become liable until one actually
kneads them together until they form dough.
The Root of the Argument
What is the basis of this dispute? It may be that this argument stems from
divergent understandings of the nature of the
melakha of lisha. According to
Rabbi, the essence of the melakha
is the very blending of two different substances, while according to
Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, the essence of the
melakha is the fact that two
substances stick to each other and agglomerate. This is the Eglei Tals
explanation of the dispute (Lash, 9:13). However, this explanation raises
certain difficulties in the explanation of the melakha.
Alternatively, it may be that according to all views, the essence of the
melakha of lash is that the
two substances adhere and form one mass, but according to Rabbi,
one may be liable for any significant act which hastens this result, even
if it has not yet been achieved.
This principle emerges from the melakha
of bishul (cooking), in which one may be liable for acts of partial
cooking (anything above the minimal level of edibility). On the other hand, according to
Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, one may be liable only for an action which brings
about the ultimate result of a single mass.
The Rishonim and the Acharonim argue as to which view is followed
in this dispute.
The Rif (67b), the
Rambam (21:34) and the Rosh (24:3) rule in accordance with the
view of Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda (since the anonymous mishna on 155b
follows his view), that there is a liability only for producing dough.
On the other hand, the Yere'im (Ch. 274, 133b), the Teruma (Ch.
220), the Semag (Prohibition 65,
lash) and the Semak (Ch. 280) rule in accordance with the view of
Rabbi (because of the general Talmudic principle that the halakha follows
Rabbi Yehuda Ha-nasi when he has one opponent), so that one is liable for the
very act of putting water into flour.
The Shulchan Arukh (321:16, 324:3) cites the lenient view (that of Rabbi
Yosei bar Yehuda) without any comment, and after that he introduces the
stringent view (that of Rabbi) with the words "There are those who say." The general principle is that the
Shulchan Arukh endorses the view which he includes without attribution; this
would suggest that the Shulchan Arukh rules leniently, that there is
no Torah prohibition in putting water into flour without kneading it. And indeed this is the
ruling of the Maamar Mordekhai (321:13), Rav Ovadya Yosef (Livyat
Chen 67). And the Menuchat Ahava
(Vol. II, Ch. 9, end n. 9).
On the other hand, the Rema (321:16) rules in accordance with the view of
Rabbi, that putting water into flour is forbidden by the Torah.
The Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Mishpatim 18) indicates that
Sefardim must also rule stringently in accordance with this view, and this is
the ruling of the Kaf Ha-chayim (324:14) and the view of Rav Mordekhai
We should note that Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, who believes that there is no
Torah prohibition of pouring water on flour, would concede that there is a
rabbinic prohibition, because he says, "One is not liable without
kneading" but he does not say that it is permissible. This is noted by the Ritva
(155b) and the Me'iri (18a) and cited by the Beit Yosef (Ch. 324,
Thus, putting water into flour without
lisha is forbidden for both Ashkenazim and Sefardim; however, while for
Ashkenazim it is a Torah prohibition, for Sefardim it appears that it is
(Nevertheless, even Ashkenazim rely on the lenient view in certain cases, as we
will see below.)
This dispute has various practical ramifications, as we will see below.
III) Pouring Water on Sand or Dirt
CHILDREN IN THE SANDBOX
Children are allowed to play in a sandbox on Shabbat because it is designed for
play and it is therefore not muktzeh (308:38). However, they are not allowed to play
with sand on the beach or with dirt at a construction site, etc. because it is
muktzeh on Shabbat, in the classic sense i.e., it cannot be used
because it lacks a recognized Shabbat use (Mishna Berura ibid. 144).
As we have seen, there is a prohibition (whether Torah-based or rabbinic in
nature) to pour water on flour, and the same applies to sand. Therefore, while children are allowed
to play in a sandbox, it is forbidden for them to pour water over it,
even if they do not actively knead it by hand.
WASHING HANDS OR URINATING OVER SAND OR DIRT
This issue comes up frequently for people on hikes, in the army, or eating in
the sukka may one wash one's hands on the "floor" when it is dirt or
sand? Watering the ground may
fall under the melakhot of plowing or
sowing at times, but when the ground in question has nothing planted in it and
is not designated for cultivation, these
melakhot are not a concern. However, one must investigate if there is a
reason to prohibit this act because of
lash. As we have seen, pouring water on sand (just like pouring it on flour)
is forbidden according to everyone: according to Rabbi, by Torah law; and
according to Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, by rabbinical law.
This question also arises in situations when one must urinate in the field. The Yere'im (Ch. 274, 133b)
indicates that one may not urinate anywhere where there may be a problem of
lisha (i.e., where the ground is not
hard). However, the Acharonim
debate this, as the Mishna Berura cites (321:57):
The Magen Avraham
writes, "It appears to me that it is forbidden to urinate upon mud, because of
The same would apply to
loose dirt and sand. While it is
true that one has no intention of lisha,
it is an inevitable result. As for a
spittoon or a basin sitting on fine or coarse sand, it requires further study if
this should be permitted or prohibited, because it might be an inevitable result
which one has no interest in [which is sometimes allowed].
However, I have found
that in the book Beit Meir that he allows it for this reason, in a case
of need, to urinate even upon mud.
It appears that one may
rely on this [lenient view] when the mud does not belong to the one urinating,
for in such a case one certainly has no interest in its
Thus, the Magen Avraham forbids urinating on mud because of
lisha, and the Mishna Berura
adds that according to this one may not urinate on loose dirt or sand. On the
other hand, the Beit Meir allows this because the person does not intend
to perform lisha, and the halakha
essentially follows Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, who holds that pouring water on mud
and the like is only prohibited rabbinically. Thus,
the case is one of an undesired, inevitable result of a rabbinical prohibition,
which is allowed in a case of need.
The Mishna Berura rules that one may rely on the Beit Meir in a
case of need as long as the dirt is someone else's, because then we say
that the one urinating certainly does not "desire" to change the consistency of
Therefore, one should be careful not to urinate on sand or on loose dirt, but
when there is a great need (such as there is no other convenient place),
one may be lenient. In any case, one may urinate
on hard ground.
What about washing hands? Here too, it is best to look for a
place in which the water will not be spilled on sand or soft dirt, but in a
place of need, one may be lenient.
However, there is a simpler solution.
Rav S.Z. Auerbach
allows using a sink which empties out among plants, as long as the water goes
through a pipe first. This renders
the act one of causation, and one may be lenient about this if one does
not intend to water the plants. In a
similar way, if one washes ones hands over metal or stone, even if the
water flows down to sand or soft dirt, this is permitted, since this is
considered causation and one has no interest in wetting the ground. (In a case where one is interested in
watering the ground, the act would be forbidden.)
Thus, it is permissible to wash one's hands over stone, even if the water will
flow afterward into sand or soil with plants in them. Even if the stone has some dirt on
it, there is no problem, since the mixture formed will be primarily liquid, so
there is no true blending.
Similarly, it is permissible to wash one's hands into a sink which empties into
sand or plants, as long as one does not own them, does not benefit from the
irrigation and is not interested in it.
In conclusion, it is forbidden to pour water on sand, and therefore children who
are playing in a sandbox may not pour water in it. To wash one's hands, or urinate, on
the ground, one should look for a place free of sand or loose dirt. However, in a case of need, one may
be lenient (especially when one needs to relieve oneself), and there is also
room for leniency if the water will first flow onto stone or metal and only
after that reach the ground.
Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch