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MBY 338:1-8 Prohibitions against musical instruments and noisemaking (abridged)
MBY 338:1-8 Excerpted (mostly) from The 39 Melachos, by Rabbi Ribiat, Vol. IV, pp. 1159-1162.
The following topics are covered in this lesson:
1. Playing an instrument. It is prohibited to play musical instruments (Heb. ‘klei shir’) on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Producing any type of sound (even sounds that are not musical or rhythmical) is forbidden from a musical instrument. The reason is as follows: Musical instruments are often fragile and liable to break while being used. One who is engrossed in a musical composition when the instrument suddenly breaks or snaps, is likely to forget himself and repair the instrument before realizing what he is doing. Repairing the instrument is the melacha of ‘Makeh b’Patish’ (lit. “the final hammer blow”, i.e. completing the formation of an instrument). Musical instruments are therefore muktzah and may not be handled on Shabbos.

2. Tapping on bottles, banging pots and pans. One may not produce musical or rhythmic sounds from any object, even one that is not designed for producing sounds. For example, one may not knock on a door (even with his fist) in a rhythmical fashion. However, one may use a bottle, pot, or any object that was not designed for producing sound, to make sounds that are not musical or rhythmical. Examples: a) One may tap loudly against a glass or bottle to silence an audience. b) One may bang two pots together to wake up someone for davening. c) One may rap on the door with a key, to be heard inside. (Ed. The bottom line, it seems, is that “either or” is prohibited – i.e. either using an object designed to make rhythmical sounds or actually making rhythmical sounds. What is permissible is using an object not designed for making rhythmical sounds to make noise which is not rhythmical! Make sense?)

3. Singing, dancing and clapping. Singing is not included under any Rabbinical restriction. However, dancing and clapping in tune with singing is prohibited, as is the use of musical instruments, because these activities are frequently accompanied with music and could ultimately lead to (using, and thus – ed.) repairing an instrument. Even so, many Poskim rule that clapping in rhythm with the singing (and even dancing – ed.) is permitted today, because, unlike earlier days, the average person is not skilled at repairing a musical instrument. Therefore, this Rabbinic decree restricting instruments did not extend to clapping and the like. Based on this view, many people permit themselves to clap and drum their fingers while singing on Shabbos. (Ed. This area of Hilchos Shabbos is either unknown or unclear to many, and for good reason! My personal practice is to refrain from drumming and clapping rhythmically on Shabbos, even though I love doing so during the week!)

4. Dancing on Simchas Torah. It is customary to dance on Simchas Torah despite the general ban imposed against dancing on Shabbos and Yom Tov. There is a special exception on Simchas Torah in deference to the honor of the Torah that is being celebrated at this time.

5. Whistling. It is permitted to whistle with or without a tune on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Whistling is comparable to singing and was never included in the Rabbinical ban. However, whistling is only permitted with one’s lips or fingers. Use of a whistle is prohibited, just as is any other noise-making instrument.

6. Using a door knocker. One may not knock at a door with a door knocker, and certainly not use an electric door bell, on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Since it is an instrument for making sounds, it comes under the general restriction of musical instruments. Similarly, one may not tug at the end of a pull-cord with a bell attached at the far end, because use of a bell is included in the ban against musical instruments.

7. Opening a door with bells attached. It is questionable whether one is permitted to open a door with bells attached to it. On the one hand, use of a bell is considered a musical instrument, as mentioned above. On the other hand, the person entering through the door has no intention of causing the bells to jingle, but merely wishes to pass through. If no other entrance is available, and the individual must enter, he is permitted to open the door. It is best to remove the bells before Shabbos. They may also be stuffed with cotton and the like to prevent them from sounding. The bells may not be removed or handled on Shabbos, however, because they are muktzah. (Ed. It is permissible for shuls to use Torah adornments that have bells attached to them!)

8. Rattles, whistles and noisemakers. Rattles, whistles, “groggers”, bells and horns are all regarded as noisemaking instruments that are prohibited on Shabbos. Therefore, one may not vibrate a rattle or bell or any other noisemaking device to amuse a child on Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, one may give a baby (not an older child) a rattle or toys which make noise when shaken, if the rattle can be moved without automatically causing it to make noise. It goes without saying that electric and battery-operated horns, sirens and the like are forbidden to be used or handled on Shabos or Yom Tov. (Note: It is best to remove horns and bells from toys that a child uses on Shabbos.)

9. Blowing a Shofar for practice. One who has properly fulfilled the mitzvah of the Shofar may not blow a Shofar on Rosh Hashanah after the services for amusement or practice. (Ed. Of course, one may blow the Shofar for others who have not yet fulfilled the mitzvah, as many times as he needs to.) One may not even practice on the first day of Rosh Hashanah in preparation for the second day. One may give the Shofar to a boy, as long as he is under Bar Mitzvah age, to practice with it on Rosh Hashanah, but not on Shabbos.

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