To Fold or Not to Fold: The Shabbos Tallis

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talisBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

It is Shabbos morning after Shacharis in shul and a man is putting away his tallis. Mr. Schwartz approaches him with an admonishment: “You know, you are not supposed to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Fold your tallis.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a Mishnah Brurah—you aren’t supposed to fold your tallis.”

“You’ve got some nerve! What are you talking about? I never heard of this! And besides, my father folded his tallis, and his father folded his tallis! And my rabbi never said anything about this ever, and he’s seen me fold my tallis plenty of times!”

In all probability, this conversation has taken place thousands of times in hundreds of shuls across the country and throughout the world since the Mishnah Brurah was written. Is it accurate? Does the Mishnah Brurah really hold this way? What is the prevalent minhag?

SOURCE FOR THE HALACHA

The original source for this halachah is the Gemorah in Shabbos (113a.) The Mishnah had previously informed us that one may fold clothing even four or five times. The Gemorah, citing the academy of Rabbi Yannai, qualifies this: It may only be done for that day, and by one person, and only a new, white (not colored) garment. The Tosfos on that section of the Gemorah comment: From here we learn that it is forbidden to fold the talaisim of the synagogue, for they are needed [only] for the next day.

Let’s, however, look at the final contemporary halachah, first the Mishnah Brurah’s position and then the opinion of the Aruch HaShulchan.

The Shulchan Aruch states (Orech Chaim 302:3): One may fold clothing on Shabbos for the needs of Shabbos to wear them that day.

THE FOUR REQUIREMENTS

The Mishnah Brurah (302:13) quotes the Magen Avrohom:

Therefore it is forbidden to fold a tallis. Even though the mitzvah of tzitzis all day and he may wear it, nonetheless, since he does not have in mind to wear it further, it is forbidden, unless it is a place where it is the custom to wear a tallis at Mincha.

Even in a situation where he wishes to use it that day there are four other requirements that must be met: (1) It must only be one person folding it; (2) it must be new, one that has never been laundered; (3) it must be white; and (4) he must not possess another one that he can use. If any one of these four is missing, he cannot fold it even for that day’s use, writes the Mishnah Brurah.

The Mishnah Brurah elaborates upon each of these four requirements.

(1) Only one person may fold it, because with two people the creases spread out and it appears as if he is “mesakein manah,” fixing something. If he is folding it on a sofa or chair, it is as if two people are folding it. (2) It must never have been laundered, because if it was never laundered it is somewhat hard and does not crease easily. Folding it is not considered so much of a “fixing” that it would be prohibited under mesakein manah. (3) It must be white, because if it was colored it is more of a mesakein. (4) He must have no other one; but if he has another one, even if it is not as nice as this one, they did not permit him to fold it. Nonetheless, on a Yom Tov that falls on a Friday, it is permitted when it is new and white, even if he has no intention to wear it that day. There is a debate as to whether this is true only if he made an eiruv tavshilin or even without it. (Eliyahu Rabbah requires an eiruv tavshilin, while Rabbi Akiva Eiger does not require one.)

There is an opinion, however, that when one folds it not on the original lines, it is completely permitted. This type of folding has no lasting endurance, and there is no mesakein manah (a sub-category of makeh b’patish, one of the 39 prohibited categories of activity) at all. It is, therefore, permitted even if none of the four requirements above are met. It is even permitted when he has no intention of wearing it that day at all.

The Shulchan Aruch concludes that the words of this second opinion appear to be correct. The Mishnah Brurah notes that the majority of authorities agree with this second opinion. However, he adds a quote of the Machatzis HaShekel: One who wishes to be stringent upon himself and not fold it at all (unless all five conditions are met)—this is certainly preferable.

Clearly, the Mishnah Brurah’s position is that it is forbidden to fold it on the lines. He even cites the stringent position not to fold it at all. Is this the minhag? Is Mr. Schwartz correct?

ARUCH HASHULCHAN’S VIEW

The Aruch HaShulchan (302:12 in the middle of the paragraph) writes: And in our times there are many people who fold their tallis on Shabbos. One can answer that they hold that our folding poses no problem of tikkun manah whatsoever. And the reason that is explained by Rashi that it is forbidden on account of tirchah (exertion) is not held by the Rambam, Tur, or Shulchan Aruch.

The Aruch HaShulchan goes on to quote the Kol Bo: “And nowadays, where it has become the custom to fold all clothing, it is possible that our folding is not comparable to their folding. They were careful to remove any crease, while we do not do that.”

The Aruch HaShulchan is clearly discussing folding the tallis on the line of the original crease. It is clear that he is disagreeing with the Mishnah Brurah in providing a rationale for the prevalent custom. In a previous paragraph, he described the folding process as some sort of professional folding, clearly distinguishing our folding from theirs.

CONCLUSION

So what is the conclusion? While it is certainly appropriate to follow the Mishnah Brurah, if someone does wish to rely on the Aruch HaShulchan’s explanation, there is certainly room to do so. Rav Ovadiah Yosef, in Yechaveh Da‘as (2:40), also writes that one should not protest against one who is lenient, even though he advises that one should fold it not on the original creases. The final conclusion? The corrector was not correct in correcting—he should have merely educated.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

16 COMMENTS

  1. The idea that folding a talis or any other garment was “mesakein” held true before the invention of “permanent press” in the 1950’s and 60’s.
    Anyone old enough to remember those days will tell you how very very creased the talis or any other garment was after being worn. It was a very different world that anyone under the age of fifty can’t imagine. Folding it smoothed it out. This is the basis for the halacha.

    All that changed with the introduction of permanent press. Now when you take off the talis there aren’t any creases; folding in fact may increase the creases in any garment.
    Nowadays one folds and puts away the talis simply as a way of neatly putting it away; there no longer exists the problem of “mesakein”.

  2. The reason that it increases Shalom Bayis is because when one gets accustomed to put away his Tallis on Motzei Shabbos, he will then get used to putting away the dishes, the tablecloths and the garbage etc. on Motzei Shabbos as well.

    That will definitely create more Shalom Bayis! 🙂

  3. So I don’t know about lenient or stringent, but according to Rav Schwab one is obligated to fold his Tallis on Shabbos because it is considered disrespect to it when you crumble it into the Tallis bag to fold later or to just leave lying around instead of it being put away properly

  4. It is definitely brought down somewhere important (I don’t remember where) that one should fold his tallis on Motzoei Shabbos because it is good to start the week involved with a mitzvah.

  5. Folding increases sholom bayis because your wife bought you the talis.

    #5: There’s a place between folding it normally and crumbling it up. Like folding not on the creases.

  6. My father waits until motzei shabbat to fold it but most people in my community fold their tallitot on shabbat at the end of shacharit.

  7. #2

    While you may have a strong point and you are probably right, this doesn’t remove the issur since..
    “כל דבר שבמיין צריך מנין אחר להתירו” Which means, that once Chazal makes something assur, although the reasoning behind it doesn’t exist any longer, even so the issur still remains until you have someone equal in greatness to suggest the heter. see תלמוד בבלי, מסכת ביצה, דף ה’, עמוד א

  8. Description: Folding a Tallit on Shabbat

    Is it permissible to fold one’s Tallit on Shabbat, and, if so, may he fold
    it regularly, or must he fold it differently than the way he normally does?

    Tosafot (Talmud commentaries from Medieval French and German scholars), in
    Masechet Shabbat (113), write explicitly that folding a Tallit is forbidden
    on Shabbat, since it is done in preparation for the following day. When one
    folds his Tallit after the prayer service on Shabbat, he obviously does not
    plan on wearing it again that day. As such, the folding is considered an
    act of preparation for the following day, which Halacha forbids on Shabbat.

    The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 302), however, approvingly cites the view that
    allows folding a Tallit on Shabbat in a different manner from the way one
    normally folds it. Meaning, according to the Shulhan Aruch, it is
    permissible to fold one’s Tallit provided that he does not fold it along the
    creases.

    Importantly, however, Rav Haim Sittihon of Halab, in his work Eretz Ha’haim,
    records that the practice in Halab was to fold one’s Tallit on Shabbat in
    the normal fashion. It appears that this was the custom in Halab since even
    before the time of the Shulhan Aruch, and we generally assume that we may
    continue following a custom that dates back to before the times of the
    Shulhan Aruch, even if the Shulhan Aruch rules otherwise. Therefore, people
    who fold their Tallit in the normal fashion on Shabbat may continue doing
    so. This is especially so for those who have a special Tallit designated
    for use on Shabbat, in which case they fold not in preparation for the
    weekday, but rather for the next Shabbat, which is permissible.

    Summary: There is a custom that permits to fold one’s Tallit on Shabbat,
    even in the usual manner, along the creases.

  9. Shulchan Oruch haRav says exactly as the Shulhan Oruch describes: One may rely on the second opinion (the “Mordechai”) [and fold the Talis not on its original lines]. The Chasidim and others who follow the S.A. HaRav certainly do not have to be strict.

  10. #7, there is indeed a place between the two, but folding in that way is disrespectful to the Tallis and we shouldn’t treat the Tallis worse on a holy day (i.e. Shabbos) than a regular day if we are allowed to fold it normally

  11. Zach…I 100% believe that rav shwab means folding it not on the creases as opposed to crumpling and putting in bag ND that you are misunderstanding his words. You should confirm what he said and meant before relaying it out in public.

  12. Along the lines of comment #5, I’ve noticed over the years that a significant number of fellows treat synagogue talisos with less than stellar respect, crumpling and dumping them even during the week. My theory is that this is how they’ve seen it done on Shabbos without knowing the reason and it became standard practice.

    The rav of my shul told me that when Rabbi Hershel Schachter was given an aliya in his shul one Shabbos Mincha, he folded the shul talis he used afterwards. My rav said that he asked Rav Schachter about it and was told that it’s important not to be mevazeh (treat disrespectfully) the objects used for mitzvos.

    I’m sure Rav Schechter did so in such a way as to avoid any chillul Shabbos described in the article and the comments.

  13. To: chachom (#1)

    There is a famous story of a chassid always spent a considerable amount of time folding his tallis just right after shabbos.

    The story goes that one motzei shabbos he was approached by the Rebbe who asked him what he was doing.

    He responded with your segula for shalom bayis.

    The rebbe thought for a second and responded: Getting home to your wife at a reasonable time after maariv is a bigger segula for shalom bayis!