Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Laundry Day

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Among the decrees which were instituted by Ezra is that of washing one's clothes on Thursday in honor of Shabbat.[1] Indeed, this decree is codified as normative halacha.[2] The reason for the decree was in order to ensure that one would have ample time on Friday to tend to the many other Shabbat preparations and not have to be occupied with doing the laundry.[3] It also ensures that no mishap would prevent one from having clean clothes for Shabbat.[4] In an additional explanation for Ezra's decree, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach suggests that since people generally do not wear clothes the same day they were laundered, doing laundry on Thursday has the added benefit of being an activity which conveys that one is preparing for Shabbat. If one were to do the laundry on Friday, however, it would not be obvious that the clothes are being laundered in honor of Shabbat.[5]

Click here to read moreSimilarly, one should be sure to perform all Yom Tov related laundry needs before Erev Yom Tov.[6] However, when Yom Tov falls out on a Monday, it is permitted to do the Yom Tov related laundry on Sunday if one was unable to do it on the days preceding.[7] So too, when Tisha B'av falls out on a Thursday, the Shabbat related laundering should begin immediately after the fast and not be postponed until Friday morning.[8]

There is some dispute whether Ezra's intention was that laundry should be done specifically on Thursdays, or rather, if his intention was simply that laundry not be done on Fridays.[9] As such, some authorities rule that washing clothes in honor of Shabbat on other days of the week is acceptable, as well.[10] Even one who generally does laundry on the other days of the week should leave over some laundry to be done on Thursday in order to comply with Ezra's decree. There are those who teach that there are kabalistic benefits in doing laundry on Thursdays.[11]

It is important to have clean clothes for Shabbat, and therefore one should not wear the same shirt or suit too many times without washing it. Similarly, washing one's clothes more frequently allows one the opportunity to comply with Ezra's decree when one washes them on Thursday.[12] According to some authorities, the ban on doing laundry on Fridays begins Thursday night after sunset,[13] while others argue that it only applies as of daybreak on Friday.[14]

There are a number of authorities who suggest that in our day one need not be overly stringent regarding Ezra's decree and one is permitted to do laundry on Fridays. This is because it is noted that in Talmudic times laundry was an extremely time consuming endeavor, whereas today it is accomplished by merely pushing a button. There was also the concern that clothes laundered on Friday would not be dry in time for Shabbat. Today, of course, with electric dryers there is no such concern. Therefore, while it remains ideal to do laundry in honor of Shabbat on Thursday, it is permissible to do so on Friday if need be.[15] Children's clothing was never included in the decree and may be washed on Fridays without reservation, if need be.[16]


[1] Bava Kama 82a
[2] Rambam Shabbat 30:3, O.C. 242:1
[3] Rosh;Bava Kama 82a, Magen Avraham 242:3
[4] Eliya Rabba 242:9
[5] Shulchan Shlomo
[6] Rivevot Ephraim 5:369
[7] Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 42:13, Pri Megadim E.A. 534:1
[8] Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 42:15, L'horot Natan 2:38, Or L'tzion 3:29:26
[9] Shaar Hatziun 242:16
[10] Ben Ish Chai;Lech Lecha, Kaf Hachaim 242:19
[11] Kaf Hachaim (Palagi) 26:11
[12] Mishna Berura 242:5
[13] Chut Hashani;Shabbat Vol. 1 p.50
[14] L'horot Natan 2:38:2
[15] Avnei Yashfei 1:49, Shevet Hakehati 2:104, Halichot Olam 3 p. 50, Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 42:13
[16] Or L'tzion 2:16

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