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Erasing Part of a Letter on Shabbos

Erasing a whole letter on Shabbos, without intention to write in the space, is a rabbinic prohibition. What about erasing “part” of a letter, in a way that leaves the original form of the letter complete (just “takes away” a little). Is this also prohibited? Is it permitted?

Answer:

Erasing a single letter can be a Torah prohibition, if it is big enough to write two letters in its place – though only if there is intention to write there.

If there is no space to write two letters in its space, the prohibition is rabbinic, though some write that there is a Torah prohibition of chatzi shiur (see Mishnah Berurah 340:12 and 340:22 sec. 4; see also Magan Avos; Tosafos Chadashim to Shabbos 7:2; Tosafos Shabbos 73).

However, there is no prohibition in erasing part of a letter, if the original form of the letter remains complete. Under these circumstances, all will agree that this is not even a chatzi shiur, because it is not a letter at all.

[See Kehilas Yaakov Shabbos Siman 38 (and Avnei Nezer no. 210 sec. 3) who explains that the prohibition of writing (and erasing) applies to letters that transmit information to the reader; a mark that transmits no information is not considered writing or erasing.]

However, there will of course be a problem of mukzeh in holding the eraser.

Best wishes.

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2 Comments

  1. The Avnei Nezer only mentions the point of writing, are you assuming it should be exactly the same in regards to erasing?

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