Tag Archives: mekalkel

Removing curlers from a shaitel on Shabbos

Originally Published: Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim 5775 Vol. XVIII No. 29

This weeks question:

May a curler be removed from a shaitel (wig) on Shabbos? May a clip, usually used with a curler but sometimes used alone, that is currently holding the sheitel in shape, be removed on Shabbos? May it be used to keep the sheitel in shape on Shabbos?

The issues:

A) Gozaiz, the melacha of shearing

B) Menapaitz, the melacha of combing

C) Boneh, sosair, building, demolishing; mekalkel, destructive activity; davar sheaino miskaven, possible unintended consequences

D) Makeh bepatish, completing/finishing the production of a utensil

E) Muktzeh, the status of a curler

A) Gozaiz

The curler is spiky and has hairs wound around it tightly, and is held in place with a pin. When the pin is removed, the hair around it should be tightly curled, at least for a few days. Thus, the hair might not just fall away from the curler. It might be necessary to pull the hair aside, or to pull the curler away from the shaitel. Firstly, is there an issue of combing, as there is when a person combs his or her own hair? There are restrictions on combing hair on Shabbos.

The primary melacha involved here would be gozaiz, shearing a sheep for its wool. In the construction of the Mishkan, wool needed to be produced for the various uses in the coverings and clothing. Included in this category are all melachos done to remove something growing on a living being, such as cutting hair and nails, combing angora rabbits or goats for their hair, removing feathers or clipping them, and even clipping cuticles. When they are done to remove the item rather than to produce it, such as cutting nails, it becomes a melacha sheainah tzricha legufah, not done for its own sake. The Talmud debates whether this is included in the Scriptural melacha. There are some who maintain that gozaiz would have been done to clean the hides that were used without their hair as well. Thus, even if it just removed, it is considered the actual melacha. Nonetheless, all agree that it becomes a Rabbinical application of the melacha. When one combs his hair, he might also remove some of it. However, this depends on the way it is combed. If one uses a finetoothed comb, and especially if it is done vigorously, it is likely to remove hair, and it might even be a certainty. If it is done gently and with a coarse comb, and certainly if one just passes his fingers through the hair, there is a very good chance that none will be removed. Some poskim maintain that this debate really concerns the issue of boneh, building. The styling of the hair is considered boneh by the Talmud.

Braiding the hair is also forbidden, due to this and other possible melachos. Parting it is debated. [The term shaitel appears in this context, when the stringent opinion seems to forbid it. However, in this context it refers to styling one’s natural hair.] Ashkenazim forbid using a comb for this, but permit using ones fingers.

This raises the question in our case, whether there is any difference in how tightly the curler is wound, and in how hard one pulls it out. Many poskim maintain that gozaiz should not apply to a shaitel at all. Removing hair from a hide applies whether the animal is alive or dead. However, in its current state the hair is not attached to a hide or skin. Other issues, such as boneh, could arise, as we shall see, but the issue of combing may be dispensed with. However, some poskim do apply gozaiz to combing a shaitel. [See Shabbos 60a 94b, Poskim. Tur Sh Ar OC 303:2627 340:12, commentaries. Minchas Shabbos 80:117. Avnei Nezer OC:170171. Kitzur Hil. Shabbos 18:4, notes.]

B) Menapaitz

After the fleece is sheared it is a matted mass of fibers. It needs to be combed out so that the fibers can be spun. This melacha includes other forms of fiber preparation, such as beating a stalk to separate its fibers [see below]. The Talmud even entertains a view that combing the hair while it is on the animal can also be considered the melacha. The reason we do not follow this view is that it is not the normal way to do it. This implies that it would still be Rabbinically forbidden. [Fibers from non-living sources, such as cotton and linen, may not be combed either. However, one view cited by the Talmud says that their av melacha, major category, is dash, the melacha of threshing. The fibers need to be drawn out from their original material. This could mean that if one has an artificial hair shaitel, the entire issue does not apply. It cannot be included in menapaitz, because it does not come from an animal. It cannot be included in dash, because it does not grow’ like plant fibers. Our case involves a humanhair shaitel. Others, however, include linen with wool as the same melacha. They forbid any kind of combing fibers to spin into a string or thread, including gut.] There appears to be a debate on whether combing something out to be left smooth, but not to be spun afterwards, is also included in this restriction. Furthermore, if the fibers had already been combed out once, it could be argued that one cannot be liable for recombing them.

Accordingly, the issue would arise in our case. Assuming that the shaitel will be combed somewhat when the curler is removed, due to the ‘teeth on the curler, is this menapaitz? The purpose of the combing is not to spin a thread. Each hair is separate. The shaitel was combed before. Is there an issue with simply untangling the shaitel? The poskim debate this matter. [See Shabbos 73b 74b, Poskim. Rambam, Shabbos 9:esp. 12. Kalkeless Shabbos, Menapaitz. Kitzur Hil. Shabbos 20. 39 Melachos (Ribiat) 13.]

C) Boneh, sosair; mekalkel; davar sheaino miskaven

Another issue arises when some of the loose hairs are removed. One may not build anything. Although there is much Talmudic debate about whether this applies to portable utensils, and further debate by the poskim, it is basically forbidden. We mentioned that braiding hair is boneh. Our case might be different because it is not attached to the body. While the Talmud seems to include a human body in the general definition of boneh, this does not necessarily apply to a utensil. However, shaping a sheitel professionally is definitely forbidden. It could also involve some of the processes of laundering, such as pressing A wig is an item of clothing, and in fact, is a piece of cloth with hairs attached. Thus, pinning the sheitel could involve boneh as well. This would depend on various factors. If the sheitel is not being shaped, but being kept in shape, there is no actual building. Thus, putting the curlers could involve some form of boneh, but pinning it or placing a clip in it probably does not involve this. In addition, even if it would restore its curls somewhat, it would depend on the permanence of the restoration. As we mentioned, braiding is considered a melacha, but shaping a hairstyle with a comb is debated. Using the clip is similar to using a comb. Some poskim would not forbid it on a persons hair. On a wig, it could be further mitigated, since there is debate on boneh on a utensil to begin with. Since one does not combine various components by curling, it would not necessarily constitute boneh of a utensil. Attaching a permanent clip would be more problematic.

Removing the loose hairs is sosair, demolishing. It enhances the sheitel. Accordingly, if the wild hairs are removed at the time that the curler is removed, this melacha could result. If the hairs do not need to be removed, it could involve mekalkel, destructive activity. This is usually not considered a Scriptural melacha, but is forbidden Rabbinically. The poskim discuss brushing clothing with a brush that could shed. According to the stringent view, one may not brush a sheitel that will shed. Furthermore, the lenient view considers it a clear case of mekalkel on the brush, whereas the sheitel is improved when wild hairs are removed. However, some poskim maintain that using a brush that sheds does not involve melacha, but involves zilzul Shabbos, demeaning Shabbos.

If the result is not inevitable, but is a possibility, the activity is permitted. The Talmud debates davar sheaino miskaven, a possible resulting melacha when a permissible activity is done. We follow the opinion that permits it. Thus, unless the sheitel is already falling apart, it is likely that hairs will not come out when the clip or curler are removed. [See refs to earlier sections. Rema OC 337:2, commentaries (Dirshu 24).]

D) Makeh bepatish

Putting finishing touches on a utensil is Scripturally forbidden. The classic case of this melacha is banging out the dents in a metal utensil. It applies to putting finishing touches on a utensil that make it usable. This applies in many ways to items of clothing. One may not fill a pillow, thread laces into shoes, or pick of excess threads from a garment. In our case, the sheitel is fully usable. However, if one considers it unwearable when it is disheveled, shaping it again involves makeh bepatish, or at least, tikun kli, repairing a utensil. This is either a Scriptural subcategory of makeh bepatish, or a Rabbinical extension of it, depending on the case.

Combing a sheitel into shape is thus more problematic in this aspect than styling the hair. Assuming that the hair is not braided, but parted by hand, the poskim permit it. It is not considered boneh, and the person is not a usable utensil. The sheitel is a utensil, and making it usable involves this melacha. Therefore, the poskim maintain that shaping a disheveled sheitel is forbidden. Shaping a slightly blown sheitel is permitted. This is done all the time, and is not considered activity that makes the utensil usable. The Talmud permits threading a lace into a shoe that had laces when Shabbos began. Although the laces were subsequently removed, they may be returned.

Accordingly, curling the sheitel properly does involve makeh bepatish. Pinning or placing a clip in it to preserve its shape does not necessarily involve any melacha. It would depend on whether this is always done, and whether the sheitel is usable without it. It could be compared to folding clothing. One may not fold clothing into its creases as part of the laundering process. One may fold it without planning specific creases to keep it tidy. One may hang clothing on a hanger. Furthermore, if the sheitel was pinned when Shabbos began, then the pin was removed for wearing, it may be returned afterwards. It does not perfect the sheitel, but helps it retain its shape.

The Talmud discusses removing clothing from a press, or shoes from a form. A professional press is tight. Removing the clothing has the appearance of a melacha, including sosair on the press. Presses were two separate pieces of wood clamped together. A home press is permissible. The clothing may not be returned to the press for the next day. Presumably, if one returns them on Friday night to keep their shape for Shabbos day, nothing is violated. The shoes may be removed from their form. In our case, it would appear that unclipping the pin is permissible. The curler is more problematic. The two parts are tight, and separating them literally pulls them apart. However, since they are two small parts of a utensil always used together. This is not like a press made of two large pieces of wood. It is more like a bottle with a tight cap. [See Shabbos 48ab 75b 102b103a 113b 141a, Poskim. Tur Sh Ar OC 302:14 340:8 39 Melachos 36:3:II:B:d.]

E) Muktzeh

The poskim debate the status of the press and the shoe form, especially after the item has been removed. The issue is that the original purpose of a shoe form is to shape the shoes, a case of makeh bepatish. The form is thus a kli shemelachto le‘issur, utensil with a forbidden use. On Shabbos, this is muktzeh, except when it must be moved to free its space of for an alternative permissible use. Removing the shoes involves moving the form. Since the shoes are the ‘spaceneeded, it may be moved. If the shoes are not tightly wedged in the form, the poskim debate whether it is preferable to remove the shoes without moving the form. Some poskim apply a similar ruling to clothing hung with clothespins. If possible the pins themselves should not be moved. In our case, the curler is tightly wound into the sheitel. One would be allowed to remove it for the space the sheitel. However, the actual curler is muktzeh either way. Its normal use is to wrap the sheitel around tightly with an eye to shaping it. This would indeed be a melacha of some sort, similar to shaping shoes in a form. The clip is used to retain the shape of the sheitel. It is like putting shoes in a shoe tree to keep their current shape, which the poskim permit. Accordingly, the clip should not be considered muktzeh. [See Shabbos 141ab, Poskim. Tur Sh Ar OC 302:4 308:14, commentaries (Dirshu).]

In conclusion, one may remove both the curler and the clip from the sheitel. The curler may not be put back into it, and remains muktzeh. The clip may be returned to the sheitel, if it will be worn again later on the same Shabbos.

Sponsored in memory of Rochel bas Harav Moshe Chaim ah, and Hagaon Harav Moshe Chaim ben Harav Avraham Yissachar, whose yahrzeits are the 13th and 16th of Iyyar, respectively.

© Rabbi Shimon Silver, May 2015.