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Question: I notice that in some synagogues that I visit on Shabbat, some people do not fold their tallitot but rather leave them in their place unfolded. Yet I do see that the majority of people do fold their tallit and put it away. I actually asked one person why he doesn’t fold it and put it away neatly. He responded that really one is not allowed to do so. I would appreciate if you would clarify this matter. Consequently, when in a hotel am I allowed to let room service in to make the beds on Shabbat morning?

I. Hager
Brooklyn, NY

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Answer: The preponderance of views is that one is allowed to fold the Tallit at the conclusion of the Shabbat morning service, as we will explain.

We learn (Shabbat 113a, Mishna), “We may fold articles [of clothing, on Shabbat], even four and five times. We may arrange the beds from Shabbat [Friday] night for Shabbat [by day] but not on Shabbat for Motza’ei [the departure of] Shabbat…”

Rashi (ad. loc,s.v. “mekaplin et hakeilim”) explains that generally, clothes that are removed are also folded, because the cleaning/washing process softens the material and causes the garments to wrinkle easily.

We see from Rashi’s statement that folding garments improves their appearance and possibly prolongs their usage even after Shabbat, yet we may do so on Shabbat, even four and five times, if the intent is to wear them again on that day, similar to washing dishes and utensils where there is further need for them during the course of the day.

It is obvious that if there is no further need for these garments on that day, one may not fold them. Indeed, Tosafot s.v. “mekaplim keilim” state as follows: “From here we derive that it is forbidden to fold the tallitot of the synagogue [on Shabbat, at the conclusion of the Tefillah] because that is [equivalent to providing for] a need for the morrow.”

The Gemara, in explaining the Mishna, cites what they expounded in the school of R. Yannai about this rule [of allowing folding] applies where only one person is folding, but where it is two people [who are engaged in folding] it is not permitted; as regards new garments [it is allowed] if they are white, but colored garments are not permitted [to be folded]. Further, the folding was only allowed in the event a person had no other garment, but if he possesses other garments, he may not fold it.

Based on this Gemara, the Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 302:3) rules, “We may fold, on Shabbat, those garments that are needed to be worn that day, provided the following conditions are met: they [the garments] are folded only by one person; they are new garments that have not as yet been laundered; they are white; and then only if one has no other [garment] to change into. If any of these stipulations are not met, one is prohibited from doing so [folding].”

The Mechaber then concludes, “There is an opinion stating that folding [the tallit] not according to the original creases is permitted in all cases, and his words seem to be correct.” This last statement of the Mechaber refers to the views of both the Mordechai (Shabbat 113) and the Kol Bo (Hilchot Shabbat 31), who rule accordingly. In the Kol Bo we find this ruling attributed to a text of Ra’avad.

When we view Magen Avraham (ad loc.) there appears to be an inconsistency regarding the folding of a tallit and arranging a bed. The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) states, “And it seems to me that a bed that stands in a room in which he lives may embarrass him and be unpleasant if it remains that way [unmade], and therefore it may be made, for it has become a need of Shabbat itself.” This statement stands despite a seemingly contradictory statement in the Mishna (Shabbat 113a) stipulating that one may make the bed from Friday night for the Shabbat [day], but not from on the Shabbat day [in preparation] for Saturday night, since on Shabbat [day] straightening the bed is not a necessity for Shabbat, but rather for after Shabbat. The reason for the former statement is obviously the fact that the unmade bed’s presence in a room that is being used on Shabbat, even though the bed itself will not be used, will cause an impingement on the holiness of Shabbat, and thus making up the bed is permitted in that situation, and it is the former view that seems to carry the day.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.