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Zoreah involves planting as opposed to Zoreh which involves scattering a collection by the wind.


  1. In general, any action that initiates or promotes plant growth in any way is included in the prohibited Melacha called Zoreah (planting). [1]
  2. Planting of any amount is forbidden. The applications of this prohibition are planting, grafting, removal of obstacles to the plant, fertilizing, watering, spraying insecticide, putting seeds in water, and moving a plant in a bored pot. [2]
  3. Pruning a plant, removing weeds from a lawn or garden, fumigating with insecticide, or removing rocks from on top of a sprouting plant are forbidden as Zoreah (because they all promote plant growth). [3]

Promoting plant growth

  1. If one has an indoor plant one may not open the curtains in order to allow the plant to get sunlight. Similarly it’s forbidden to open a window near a plant in order to improve the ventilation for the plant. However, it is permitted to open the curtains or open a window if it is done in order to brighten or ventilate the room and the plant only benefits indirectly. [4]
  2. It is permitted to open and close a green house door in order to enter and exit but one may not do so in order to promote the growth of the plants. [5]

Dropping seeds

  1. One must be very careful not to drop or throw seeds, pits or cores of fruit or vegetables on the ground on Shabbat. [6]
  2. If one accidentally dropped a seed on Shabbat, if the seed is not muktzah (such as watermelon, apple, pear, or sunflower seeds, bird seeds) then it should be picked up right away (in order to violate Zoreah according to some opinions) and if the seed is muktzah (such as raw beans, raw peas, garden seeds, date pits, and date pits) it should not be picked up only after Shabbat. [7]
  3. Placing a seed on a well trodden path isn't a violation of Zoreah (because the seed won't sprout), [8] however, this is inadvisable because one could misjudge the situation and many seeds are muktzeh. (for which seeds are muktzeh see last halacha).[9]

Watering plants

  1. It is forbidden to water a plant on Shabbat because of Zoreah. [10]
  2. Washing one’s hands over plants on Shabbat is forbidden because watering a plant helps it grow and is forbidden on Shabbat. [11]
  3. One should be careful not to spill any liquid or even to spit on plants on Shabbos. [12]
  4. Urinating on a plant isn't a violation of Zoreah (because the caustic fluid doesn't help the plant). [13]See the halacha about urinating into dirt (Melachet Lash).
  5. Regarding leaving a sprinkler on a timer one must consult one's local Orthodox Rabbi. [14]

Removing a Sukkah covering

  1. If it rained and water collected on a Sukkah covering (shlock) and by removing the covering the water will spill onto grass it is only permitted to remove the cover if the grass is fully saturated (such as after it rained steadily for a long time and the ground hasn’t begun to dry). However, if the grass isn’t fully saturated one may not remove the covering if by doing so one will spill rainwater on the grass. [15]
  2. If the Sukkah is on a pavement or deck and the water will first spill on the pavement or deck and then spill over to the lawn it is permitted to open the covering provided that one doesn’t intend to water the grass and that some of the water doesn’t spill directly onto the grass. [16]

Potted plants

  1. If is forbidden to move a potted plant onto soil or grass nor may one hang a potted plant above soil or grass. [17]
  2. Many authorities forbid handling a potted plant on Shabbat even if it doesn’t improve it’s growth, while some are lenient. [18]
  3. If a potted plant fell over one may sweep the dirt but one may not put it back into the plant pot. [19]

Putting flowers in a vase

  1. A bouquet of flower isn’t usually Muktzeh. Some authorities permit putting fully bloomed flowers in water on Shabbat, while others forbid in any event. Therefore, one should avoid putting any flowers in water on Shabbat.
  2. It is permissible to remove flowers from water on Shabbat [20]and if a fully bloomed flower was removed and it was in water from before Shabbat it is permissible to reinsert it. [21]
  3. One may not put tree branches in a vase with water on Shabbat; however, one may return them to water unless there are flowers on the branches. On Shabbat one may not add water to a vase with flowers or branches; however, on Yom Tov one may add water. [22]
  4. On Sukkot, it is permitted to put a Lulav back in water if it was in water before Yom Tov. Also, one may return the Lulav to a damp towel but one may not prepare this towel on Yom Tov. However, on Shabbat the Lulav is Muktzeh. [23]

Preparing bean sprouts

  1. Watering bean sprouts on Shabbat is forbidden. Similarly, it is forbidden to remove bean sprouts from the moist environment of the jar. [24]
  2. If the bean sprouts were removed before Shabbat one may cut and add vinegar or salad dressing and eat them.[25]

Description of the Melacha

Where was it in the Mishkan: Zoreia is one of the first 11 melachos, which are as sidura d’pas[26], which are subject to a machlokes as to whether they were done in the mishkan for the production of dyes, or to bake bread to be used in the mishkan.[27]

Avos and Toldos: In addition to the av melacha of planting, which we might loosely define as causing a seed to grow, the Gemara[28] lists 4 other melachos, which, together with zoreia, are considered one melacha. The four are: Zomeir—pruning, Noteia—planting a tree, Mavrich—replanting a sapling in the ground, and Markiv—grafting. There’s a machlokes Rishonim as to which of these five are considered avos and which are considered toldos. The Rambam[29] is on one side of the spectrum, saying that all five actions are avos melacha. Rashi[30] says they are all avos except for zomeir (pruning), which is the one instance where one is solely removing growth. The Ritva[31] says only zoreia and noteia (planting a tree) are avos, which are the two instances where one is causing growth from the initial stage that of planting seeds. The Kesef Mishna[32] is on the other side of the spectrum, saying that only zoreia is an av and the rest are toldos.

An additional machlokes regarding zoreia is as to when one becomes culpable. The Rashash[33] says one is only culpable once the seed takes root, meaning that the melacha is result-oriented. Therefore, if one mistakenly planted or dropped a seed he should immediately pick it up. The Minchas Chinuch[34] disagrees and says one is culpable the moment he planted it, thereby making the melacha action-oriented. A practical case is when one accidentally drops some seeds on dirt outside; since this is done without any thought (mitasek), we can rely on the Mekor Chaim, who says that one who is mitasek isn’t in violation of any prohibition, to say it is permitted.[35]


  1. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 261)
  2. Rambam Shabbat 8:2, Eglei Tal Zoreya 1,4-8. The Rama 336:11 says if the plant has no buds, one need not be concerned.
  3. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 271-2)
  4. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 274)
  5. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 26:9
  6. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 264)
  7. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 266)
  8. Shulchan Aruch 336:4
  9. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 263)
  10. Shulchan Aruch 336:3, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 267-8)
  11. Shulchan Aruch 336:3, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 267-8)
  12. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 267-8), Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 26:6
  13. Shulchan Aruch 336:3, Mishna Brurah 336:28, 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 267-8)
  14. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 26:8 writes that one should ask this question to one's Rabbi. Rabbi Stein quotes Rav Hershel Schachter who is strict regarding leaving the sprinkler on a timer over Shabbat. However, Halachically Speaking quotes Rav Yisrael Belsky who permits except in an area that is seen by the public.
  15. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 268-70)
  16. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 268-70)
  17. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 275). See Mishna Brurah 336:34.
  18. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 275) quotes Shevitat Shabbat (Kotzer 5) and that he heard in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein that potted plants are Muktzeh, however, he adds that it seems from other sources that it wouldn’t be an issue.
  19. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 276) based on Mishna Brurah 337:12 and Beiur Halacha 337 D”h VeYesh
  20. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 276-7) quoting Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 26:29
  21. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 276-7). See Shulchan Aruch 336:11.
  22. Shulchan Aruch 654:1, Mishna Brurah 336:54, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 26:26
  23. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 277)
  24. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 279)
  25. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 2, pg 279)
  26. Shabbos 73a
  27. This is a machlokes between Rashi and Rav Hai Gaon, where Rashi maintains that they were done for the production of dyes, whereas Rav Hai Gaon maintains they were done for the production of the lechem hapanim. This machlokes can be understood as dependent on a deeper debate, whether the melachos of the mishkan are learned out from actions done in the daily avodah of the mishkan (Rav Hai Gaon), or only from prerequisite actions done in constructing the mishkan itself (Rashi).
  28. Shabbos 73b
  29. Hilchos Shabbos 7:2,3
  30. Shabbos 73b
  31. ibid
  32. Hilchos Shabbos 7:2
  33. Shabbos 73b
  34. Mosech HaShabbos Melechet Zoreia n. 2
  35. Rabbi Sobolofsky