Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,

Why don’t men know more hilchos Shabbos? They spend all those years in yeshiva!


Help! In the Kitchen


Dear Help!

Well, that’s a sexist question. Clearly some men know hilchos Shabbos. Your rabbi, for example.

But there’s definitely a lot we don’t know. I grew up going to decent yeshivas, but then at some point, in my early teens, I was at my grandparents’ for Shabbos, and my grandfather took the time to call me over and show me how he took hot water with a separate little cup “because that’s kli shlishi,” and I nodded, but I was thinking, “What’s kli shlishi? Is that like shalosh seudos?” But I didn’t ask, because the last thing I wanted, as a kid, was to learn new things on Shabbos.

But there’s a big disparity between what boys and girls learn in school. Girls know more practical hilchos Shabbos, and boys know more Gemara.

And yes, Gemara has practical applications outside of the beis midrash. Men learn Gemara so they can be trained to dissect things and argue about them, which is a skill they can then bring into their marriage by proceeding to lose every argument ever. But at least this way they can get out to the beis midrash in the evening and win some arguments and feel good about themselves.

The only downside is that these are arguments they can’t practice in the shower.

Women, on the other hand, are not really supposed to learn a lot of Gemara, because that’s like giving a soldier a loaded weapon. They’d use all kinds of tactics, like bringing up Gemaras you learned three years ago, asking questions that have no answer, and crying, and somehow the rabbis will end up sleeping on the couch.

I’m not saying that I didn’t learn any hilchos Shabbos in yeshiva. I actually learned Gemara Shabbos one year, but I didn’t learn many practical nowadays halachos of Shabbos. I learned about things like dragging a heavy bench across the ground. When am I doing that on a Shabbos afternoon, unless maybe it’s Sukkos? I’m taking a nap.

We also spent a lot of the year talking about a baal habayis giving tzedakah to a meshulach on Shabbos; I’ve been a baal habayis for several years, and this has not come up once. To be fair, I have the dinkiest bayis on the block. Also, not a lot of people go collecting on Shabbos these days, though it would be a pretty good idea, because that way kids can’t say, “My father’s at work.”

I also know whether or not I can ride a horse on Shabbos, which isn’t bound to happen unless Shabbos is also Chol HaMoed.

But these aren’t what we’d call practical halachos of Shabbos. The hilchos Shabbos I want to know are things like: How can I take cholent on Friday night? Can I put pillows on top of the alarm clock that I forgot to turn off before Shabbos, and how many pillows provide enough weight to muffle the sound without also pushing the snooze button that is helpfully right on top of the clock? Can I take tissues out of a tissue box on Shabbos if they’re still slightly attached together, or do I have to blow my nose on the whole chain? And if my bentcher pages are stuck together, should I try to pry them apart, or signal, during bentching, that I need a new bentcher? And also the question of what to do if you’ve turned on the bathroom light by accident and don’t want anyone to know. (Answer: Lock the door from the inside on the way out.)


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