Tearing Toilet Paper on Shabbos

This post here led to some interesting comments and questions both online and off. One of the questions that garnered some attention was this one.

“Um? Could someone please explain the tearing of toilet paper comments to me?”

As an answer someone provided this link which I reviewed as I do all links that come across my blog. Now I find a lot of this to be interesting, but I have to admit that trying to explain somethings such as this and the reason that they are encouraged or discouraged to be tough.

Let’s look at this section:

What about tearing toilet paper when there is no option?
Obviously one must prepare toilet paper before Shabbos. The problem arises when one has depleted the supply of tissues, torn toilet paper etc. or one is in a place where there is no pre-torn paper.
For obvious reasons we will not discuss the various technical options that are on hand when there is no toilet paper available, but when those options are exhausted and/or one’s only practical option is uncut toilet paper, the following is the correct procedure:
One should tear the toilet paper by resting one’s elbows on the sheet of toilet paper and tear it with one’s elbows. This is called tearing kilachar yad – in a backhanded manner, and is only an issur d’rabanan. [6]

This is one of those things that I cannot explain without shrugging myshoulders repeatedly because it just doesn’t make sense to me. Now perhaps I am missing something but this is a necessity that you cannot do without, unless you are in the woods and all you have are pinecones in which case you are in big trouble.

Ultimately what I find is that there are areas such as this in which I cannot provide a reasonable explanation as to why they are necessary. Some of these things are acceptable to me and some are not. Yes, I am picking and choosing but that is part of life and when it comes to matters of faith I think that we often reach places in which we are forced to use our gut instinct instead of our heads.

That is not a value judgement but an observation.

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  1. ~ Stacy ~ December 31, 2005 at 4:42 am

    Hi Jack!

    Thanks so much, I appreciate the education. And I was trying really hard not to snicker, but then I came across Attila’s comment and I just couldn’t help myself. (heh)

    Honestly, I know very little … no, that’s an understatement … I know next to nothing about … oh heck … let’s just say that sometimes the comments are completely um … Hebrew to me?

    So, ah yeah, don’t mind me … carry on. I’m having a grand time just trying to pronounce mekalkel and not have it come out as McCaulkin. I’m also coming to realize why you guys & gals (here) have such a great sense of humor. (smile)

    ~ Stacy ~
    (without the TuTu)

  2. PsychoToddler December 30, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    brother yehuda, I understand what you’re saying but you should use English for the benefit of those who don’t.

    Jack, there’s no question that people “pick and choose”. Life is all about that. Just so long as you understand that you are “picking and choosing” and that there are things that are defined as “wrong” that you can live with. The problem I have with people who negate halacha is that they have decided that if they don’t like the rule, that the rule is wrong.

    The Jay-walking thing is an example. I think I should be able to Jay-walk, so I do. But I know it is against the law and I risk getting a ticket.

  3. Jack's Shack December 30, 2005 at 7:04 am




    I don’t see how tearing on the lines is mekalkel. There is a distinct purpose that is being served by toilet paper and tearing it one way or another doesn’t seem to change that, at least to my thinking.


    Good question and maybe I am just tired but I am drawing a blank.


    I know a bunch of similar stories that I might have to share here one day.


    No, I got that but I find this whole topic to be questionable.

    Brother Yehuda,

    Makes sense to me.


    As always you made me smile. Thank you.

  4. Attila December 30, 2005 at 1:58 am

    we are forced to use our gut instinct instead of our heads

    When you’re out of toilet paper, I don’t think you should use either your gut instinct or your head, both of which would get rather soiled. You should use some other kind of paper.

  5. brother yehuda December 29, 2005 at 7:44 pm

    I’d like to point out the sugya (crap I forget where it is. It’s not hard to find) in the Gemara on what to do if you’re stuck outside the Techum on Shabbat, therefore confined to a 4-ama square, and have to go to the bathroom.

    The maskana is “gadol kevod habriyot, shedocheh lav min hatora” – i.e. Rabinnic regulations come second, when kevod habriyot is at stake. Therefore, a person is permitted to violate the 4-amot to find a dignified place to take care of their needs. One member of Chazal even indicates that a clever person would use that opportunity to find a way back inside the Techum if they can.

    Considering the strong parallels, I’d assume that the proper course of action in the case of running out of pre-cut toilet paper would be to ignore whatever typically-applicable issurim derabanan which might be involved in cleaning oneself on the toilet thoroughly.

  6. Anonymous December 29, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    I have a huge problem with this issue too. Why are people tearing toilet paper before Shabbos then running out of it? Have they never heard of a little invention called tissues?

  7. Anonymous December 29, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    Jack, I think that you missed the main explanation in that link. Look at the first question – “May one tear a piece of glad-wrap from the roll on Shabbos?”

  8. Mirty December 29, 2005 at 9:31 am

    Tearing the toilet paper before Shabbos was one of my chores when I was a kid. Also taping the lights (so we wouldn’t accidentally turn them on and off).

    Sometimes, I would reach over to my nightstand and, without thinking, turn the radio on while I was half-asleep on Shabbos morning. Then I had to ponder whether to leave it on (Mom and Dad would find out), turn it off (double-asur), or turn down the volume (perhaps not asur and satisfyingly sneaky). I usually turned down the volume and hoped no one would notice. (No one ever did.)

  9. Pragmatician December 29, 2005 at 9:28 am

    ezzie-I learned the same thing.

    Jack-Which are some of the unexplainable things you do accept?

  10. Ezzie December 29, 2005 at 9:20 am

    This won’t make you much happier, but we were always taught that if we were stuck, we should tear NOT on the lines. That would be mekalkel and therefore not a(s much of a) problem.

  11. Stacey December 29, 2005 at 5:00 am

    I have issues with this on many levels.

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