Tying Shoelaces

April 15, 2013 | by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld

My kids’ shoes are constantly getting untied or getting into knots. During the week I would just tie double knots (they actually wear sneakers with Velcro straps anyway during the week). Are there any issues with doing so on Shabbat?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Yes, as a matter of fact. As we know, the Torah guides us in every aspect of our lives. Tying knots (as well as untying them) is one of the creative labors forbidden on Shabbat (Mishna Shabbat 7:2). Thus, Jewish law instructs us in how to tie our shoes on Shabbat!

The types of knots forbidden on Shabbat are ones which are either strong or long-lasting (Rema 317:1). A double knot is considered strong. A knot is considered “long-lasting” if the one who tied it had in mind that it would last 24 hours or longer. Thus, tying shoes is limited to the type of knot we typically tie – a half knot followed by a double slip knot. As it is easy to pull apart with one hand, it is not considered strong. And since people generally untie their shoes by the end of the day, it is not long-lasting.

A double knot, by contrast, is considered strong – even if the tier intended to untie it within 24 hours, and thus may not be tied on Shabbat.

Finally, you’re allowed to untie knots which formed by accident (Mishnah Berurah 317:23).

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