4) Actions related to ‘Tofair’ (sewing)
[Excerpted from The 39 Melachos by Rabbi D. Ribiat, Vol. III, pp. 811, 812, 814-817]
a) The scope of ‘tofair’. The term “sewing” usually implies stitching two separate pieces into one. Indeed, sewing two stitches is certainly ‘tofair’… However, the general premise of tofair includes more than merely sewing… It entails the combining of any two separate objects (e.g. pieces of cloth, paper, wood etc.) into one single entity, whether by sewing, pinning, gluing or any other means…
b) The distinction between buttoning and tofair. It is evident from statements in the Talmud that buttoning a garment is not the melacha of tofair, even though a button is a very effective fastening device, comparable to sewing or gluing. Nevertheless, buttoning is not tofair and is even permitted in all cases. Why is buttoning not tofair? …Buttoning is not tofair for the following reasons: 1. Buttoning is a mode of use (i.e. this is the way the garment is always worn.) and 2. Buttoning does not truly combine the two items….
c) Using safety pins on Shabbos. Some Poskim offer the following analysis of safety pins:
1. Safety pins are comparable to buttons because a safety pin does not truly combine two parts into one in the same sense that sewing does…
2. Tofair occurs only where the medium used to combine the two items causes them to become unified to the extent that one must “tear” them apart to detach them. However, safety pins are not meant to truly combine any two items into one; after pinning, the two parts can be undone without any forceful or destructive tearing… It is therefore similar to a button in this regard. However, this comparison between safety pins and buttons is not universally accepted by all poskim. Conclusion: As a general rule, one should comply with the more stringent rulings that forbid pinning a garment (with safety pins) in a permanent manner. However, one may rely upon the authorities that permit use of safety pins for temporary use. Example: A woman may pin up the hem of a dress that came loose if doing so only until after Shabbos. Similarly, cuffs of trousers may be pinned up in a temporary fashion.
Thank you for not “pinning” me down on this question – or is it “punning”?!