For Whom The Bell Tolls
‘Royal Children May Go Out With Bells’
Our mishnah states that princes may go out on Shabbos with ornamental bells on their clothing. Since nobility often wear such bells, the Sages were not concerned that princes would remove them to show their friends and then accidentally carry them in the street.
The Gemara elsewhere states that the Sages prohibited playing musical instruments on Shabbos lest one mistakenly fix them when they break. The Rema (Orach Chayim 338:1) rules that included in this prohibition, referred to as hashma’as kol, is the use of any device which is designed to make noise, such as a door knocker.
Noise, Melody, Or Ornament
The Shiltei Gibborim (to the Rif on 30b, also cited by Rema, O.C. 301:23) comments that a person may not wear bells on his clothing unless the clappers are removed because bells are designed to make noise. The Magen Avraham (O.C. 301:35) distinguishes between children and adults. He asserts that the Shiltei Gibborim only requires the removal of clappers from bells on children’s clothing because children shake bells to produce a melodious sound. Adults, however, who are not interested in the sound of bells and only wear them for ornamental purposes, are permitted to wear them with their clappers.
Eliyahu Rabba (O.C. ad loc. and cited by Biur Halacha ad loc.) takes issue with the Magen Avraham’s leniency, and asserts that regardless of intent, one may not produce sounds with a bell because it is an instrument that is designed to make a melodious sound.
The Taz (O.C. 338:1, Y.D. 282:2) maintains that bells attached to a paroches or crown of a sefer Torah must have their clappers removed since the intent of those bells is to produce noise to signal to the congregation to rise when the Aron Hakodesh is opened and when the sefer Torah is carried.
The Magen Avraham (ad loc. sk5), however, claims there is no need to remove the clappers since these bells are not made with the intent to emit a melodious sound, and the individual who opens the Aron Hakodesh does not have any intention to shake the bells and make noise.
The Shach (Y.D. 282 sk4, citing Rabbenu Manoach found in the Beis Yosef’s commentary to the Tur, Y.D. ad loc. s.v. “e’kasav”) also permits carrying a sefer Torah with bells and clappers on Shabbos, but on different grounds. He states that the rabbinic issur against making music was lifted for mitzvah purposes. The bells on a sefer Torah serve an important function, that is, to signal to all that the sefer Torah is passing by and that all should rise in its honor. Rabbenu Manoach derives this from R. Yosef (Kiddushin 31b) who, when he heard the footsteps of his mother, would say “Let me rise before the Shechina.”
The Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 338:6) rules that one should conduct himself in accordance with the Taz and remove the clappers from the bells of sifrei Torah before Shabbos or stuff the bells with cotton. However, if for some reason this is not possible, or one forgot to do so, the Mishnah Berurah rules that we may rely on the lenient view.
Let Us See What People Do
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 338:1) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. sk3) maintain there is no problem and no need to act stringently. To the contrary, they say. An important purpose is served by these bells – that is, they signal to the members of the congregation that a sefer Torah is being carried. They therefore know to stand up and show honor to it. The Aruch Hashulchan states that leaving the clappers in the bells is the common custom throughout the world.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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