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  1. Writing any kind of letter or symbol (that represents some idea) is forbidden under Kotaiv. [1]
  2. Affixing letters to a surface is also considered Kotaiv. [2]Examples include:
  • Attaching letters to a wallpaper,
  • Placing magnetic letters to a board
  • Arranging edible letters onto a cake.
  • Snapping Scrabble letter tiles into fitted groves
  1. However if the letters exist on a surface already it’s permissible to arrange them in an order. [3]Examples include:
  • Arranging number cards in front of the shul to show congregants the correct page number
  • Lining up numbers of a combination lock [4]
  • Playing a game that entails placing numbered tiles adjacent to one another
  1. If ink or wax fell on writing one should not erase the ink or wax because that would be erasing in order to write. [5]
  • If this is found in a Torah during Torah reading, if one can read the letter through the wax the Torah is fit to be read, but if it’s not readable some say to take out another Torah and some say just to read that word by heart. [6]
  • Another example where erasing is forbidden on account of writing is where one erases one letter to form another letter or erasing one letter to form two letters such as separating an m into two n’s. [7]
  1. If letters or pictures are written on the side of pages of a book, it’s permissible to open and close the book. However it’s correct to be strict if you have another book and it’s preferable not to write on the sides of books. [8]
  2. If a book ripped in the place of words, it’s permissible to place the pieces next to one another to read it if one doesn’t have another of these books. [9]
  3. One can brake a cake or cookie that has words printed in or on it if the writing is made of the food itself, but if the letters are made of food coloring or hard sugar one should be strict to brake the letters only in one’s mouth as one eats, nonetheless there is what to rely on to be lenient. [10]
  4. It’s permissible to use a thermometer for which letters appear if the person has fever and when it’s removed from the person the letters disappear. [A digital thermometer is forbidden because using it completes an electric circuit.] [11]
  5. It’s permissible to walk in shoes that have words etched into the soles that form words when walking on dirt or snow. [12]
  6. One can be lenient to wipe with tissue that has words not of sanctity in languages other than Hebrew. [13]
  7. It’s forbidden to write on a table with liquids on his finger. [14]
  8. It’s forbidden to write letters in fog or steam. [15]
  9. Fingerprinting (dipping one’s finger into ink and then placing it on paper) is forbidden as it forms a meaningful image. [16]
  10. One can mark (not in the form a letter) a parchment by the press his nail because it doesn’t last, yet it’s preferable not because some forbid this. [17] According to everyone it’s forbidden to mark a paper as it’s soft and the mark will last. [18]
  11. One may fold the page of a book to mark the place even if the crease leaves a lasting mark. [19]
  12. One may signal in the air, water or on a dry board in the form of letters if it doesn’t leave any mark. [20]
  13. Taking a photograph is forbidden as it draws an image, but one does not have to avoid being in a picture taken by a non-Jew for his own purposes. [21]


  1. Rambam Shabbat 11:9
  2. Magan Avraham 340:10, Mishna Brurah 340:22 (8)
  3. Sh”t Igrot Moshe O”C 1:135
  4. Tzitz Eliezer vol 13 Siman 44, Bezel Chachma vol Siman 78, Shevet HaKehati vol 2 Siman 153, Shalmei Yehuda 3:!6 in the name of Rav Elyashiv Shlita, Mishnat Halachot vol 5 Siman 48, Chelkat Yacov vol 3 Siman 150, Divrei Shalom vol 4 Siman 51
  5. Mishna Brurah 340:10
  6. Yabea Omer vol. 4 Orach Chaim 15:3, Mishna Brurah 340:10
  7. Mishna Brurah 340:22(4)
  8. Birkei Yosef 340:5, Leviat Chen 120, Tzitz Eliezer vol. 13 Siman 44, Vayesh Moshe vol 1 Siman 65.
  9. Mishnat Halachot vol 6 Siman 89, Beir Moshe vol 6 Siman 125, Shemirat Shabbat KeHalacha 28:3, Igrot Moshe Y”D vol 2 Siman 75 D”H “VeDvar HaDaf”
  10. Sh”t Yabea Omer O”C 4:38, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 11:20, Sh”t Beir Moshe 6:92, Sh”t Az Nidabru 10:8 Sh”t Vayeshev Moshe 1:4
  11. Sh”t Yechva Daat 4:29, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 14:30 concludes that if a regular thermometer is available one shouldn’t use this type of thermometer, Minchat Ahava 22:19, Kinyan Torah 3:39
  12. Yabea Omer O”C 5:28, Az Nidaberu 8:21, Beir Sharim 2:67, 3:38:3.
  13. Yabea Omer O”C 5:29, Az Nidaberu 1 pg 164#129, Rivivot Efraim 1:257 related to throwing paper with words on it in water.
  14. S”A 340:4, Mishna Brurah 340:19
  15. Mishna Brurah 340:20
  16. Shemirat Shabbat KeHalachata 41:75, Eretz Tzvi Siman 71,Yeshuot Moshe 1:70, Shuirim Metzuiim BeHalacha 80:55, Chelekat Yakov 3:25, Nachalat Ezra Hadaya O”C 1:7, Vayeshev Moshe 1:62
  17. S”A 340:5, Birkei Yosef 340:5 that Or Zaruah and Smak forbid, Beir Halacha D”H “Mutar”
  18. Mishna Brurah 340:25
  19. Menuchat Ahava 22:25, Shevet Hakehati 1:130 writes that it’s better not to fold the pages even during the week so as not to disrespect the sefer. Rivivot Efraim 1:223 (11)
  20. Rama 340:4, Mishna Brurah 340:22, Shar Tzion 340:28
  21. Mayim CHaim O”C 1: 145, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:26, Rivivot Efraim 3:230