Q Can one use a door-knocker, not an electric or musical door bell, on Shabbat? If it is forbidden, what is the nature of the prohibition?
A The issue is rabbinic, and is related to the fear that one may come to fix a musical instrument, which would be a violation of makeh b'patish. The source for the general issue is the mishna and gemara in Beitza 36b about not dancing or clapping for fear he might fix an instrument. Let's see how this relates to your question about a non-musical instrument.
The gemara at the end of Eruvin (104a) tells that Ulla scolded one whom he heard knocking on a door on Shabbat. Rava justified the knocker, saying that the problem is only if one made a "sound of song." The extent of what is considered song becomes a little clearer as the gemara proceeds. The gemara asks on Rava from a baraita that allows one to set up an apparatus that drips water to make a sound only for the needs of the sick. The gemara assumes at first that the sound was noise to wake someone up, which we see is normally forbidden. It deflects the proof, saying that the dripping water created a calming sound that puts people to sleep.We see from the deflection of the proof that "the song" doesn't need to be a real song but includes any sound made for its pleasantness (see Rashi, ad loc.).
In summary, it seems then that according to Ulla, knocking on a door in any form that he intends to make a noise is forbidden, whereas according to Rava, it is permitted unless the noise is at least marginally musical. Like whom do we pasken?
Although the Yerushalmi seems to concur with Ulla's approach, the Rif (Eruvin, ibid.) and the Rambam (as the Beit Yosef, OC 338 infers from a few sources) accept the lenient opinion of Rava. The Beit Yosef introduces the Agur's compromise opinion that it is forbidden to make sounds only with an instrument that is made for the purpose of making any sort of sound even if it is not musical. The Beit Yosef is puzzled by this opinion, as it appears too lenient for Ulla and too strigent for Rava. He suggests that it is within the camp of those who accept Rava, but that if it is a noise-making instrument, we need to be concerned that he will use it for music. Music apparently includes keeping a beat, as we find in the original example of clapping (Beitza 36; see Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 28:35).
Although the Shulchan Aruch does not bring the Agur's compromise as halacha (338:1), the Rama (ad loc.) does. Thus, according to the Rama, although one may bang with his fist on a door with the intention to make noise (as long as it is not to a beat), he may not do so with a door-knocker, which is made for that purpose.
Thus, it is permitted for Sefardim to use a door-knocker (see Yalkut Yosef, ad loc.:12) and forbidden for Ashkenazim (Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata, ibid.).
Certainly, the situation is even more problematic if there is some sort of more musical bell, even if it is not electrically activated, which is forbidden even for Sefardim.
However, there is room for leniency in the following case. If one has bells that chime whenever one opens a door and neglected to remove them before Shabbat, then the custom is to allow one to enter the house despite the knowledge that he will thereby produce the problematic sound. This is based on the Magen Avraham (338:1and 301:35) who says that one can move curtains or clothes with little bells attached to them if he does not have intention to make the noise. The Mishna Berura 338:6 (see also Biur Halacha ad loc.) explains this opinion and allows following it in a case of need, for example, if it is the only way into his house. In the case of bells on the adornment of a sefer Torah, there are authorities who are lenient because of the mitzva involved (see Mishna Berura, ibid.), and each shul should follow its minhag and the ruling of its rabbi.
Ask the Rabbi Q&A is part of Hemdat Yamim, the weekly parsha sheet published by Eretz Hemdah. You can read this section or the entire Hemdat Yamim at www.ou.org or www.eretzhemdah.org. And/or you can receive Hemdat Yamim by email weekly, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message: Subscribe/English (for the English version) or Subscribe/Hebrew (for the hebrew version). Please leave the subject blank. Ask the Vebbe Rebbe is partially funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel
ArtScroll Series • Mesorah
Harav Shmuel Mohliver answers that the Torah is teaching us that when it comes to redeeming the land of Israel, we mustn't be put off by the price. We must be prepared to pay even more than the "market value" to obtain every possible granule of this holy land. That's how dear it is to us.
Sometimes you can't appreciate a Dvar Torah unless you know a little about its author. Harav Mohliver was one of the few Rabbanim in 19th-century Europe to join secular Zionists in founding the Chibat Tzion movement. Though he certainly didn't identify with their views on Jewish life, he was willing to pay any "price" for Eretz Yisrael. As Rav of Bialystok, he attended a special conference in Lemberg, Galicia, convened to deal with the fate of the tens of thousands of Jews who had fled across the Russian border to Galicia following the pogroms of 1881. He suggested that the refugees be diverted to Eretz Yisrael. In 1882, he went to Paris to meet the young Baron Edmond de Rothschild and convinced him to help the struggling settlers in the Holy Land. It wouldn't be at all surprising to learn that he shared this Dvar Torah with Rothschild.
May we merit
to emulate his love of Eretz
Yisrael and thus merit its complete
redemption speedily in our days.
The commentators find it hard to understand why Avraham made such a strong distinction between the Canaanites and the inhabitants of Aram Naharayim in Babylon. For the Abarbanel, they were all equally idolatrous. Other commentators are confused as to why Avraham's prohibition should have included such "good" local dwellers as his close associates Aner and Eshkol.
Perhaps the Canaanites were especially notorious for their abominations (cf. Vayikra 17:27) or perhaps such intermarriage would have precluded later expulsion of this people from the Land (Luzzato). Bringing back a wife from distant parts would also have the advantage of limiting the greater possibilities of assimilation associated with a local marriage.
Nechama Leibowitz notes, however, that what really counts in the selection of a wife is her character. When Rivka attends to every little detail of drawing water for ten camels and adequately "replaces" Sarah in her tent, then we know that it is always worth the arduous search to gain a woman of valor.
Shabbat Shalom, Menachem