Twist Ties On Shabbos

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Some people, with good reason, automatically assume that actions are allowed on Shabbos unless proven otherwise. Therefore, they see use of twist-ties as presumptively permissible. Others see the clear similarity between twisting a twist-tie and tying a knot, and assume the former is forbidden like the latter. Both are right but the subject is more complicated because a possible forbidden parallel to twist-ties can be found.

Twist-ties are not automatically forbidden. An argument can be made that twisting a twist-tie does not constitute tying a knot. While the ends of the twist-tie intertwine repeatedly, they are merely wrapped rather than knotted. Additionally, twist-ties are made to be wrapped and unwrapped. When twisting them, you are not creating a knot but using the object in its normal function.

On the other hand, the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Shabbos 9:8) writes that someone who coils a rope violates a sub-category of tying a knot. Even though the rope has no knot, merely wrapping the strands in a way that they will remain together is forbidden. This would seem to also preclude uniting the two ends of the twist-tie into a coil, even if they subsequently split apart. Significantly, the Magen Avraham (317:20) and Mishnah Berurah (317:34) follow this Rambam.

One could counter, in turn, that coiling is only forbidden if it is permanent. If it is not, then there is no indication that it is even rabbinically prohibited. Or you could argue that the comparison with a rope fails because, with a twist-tie, the coil does not hold the ends together but rather the hardness of the material.

In practice, we find halakhic authorities on both side of the equation. Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah (ch. 15 n. 166) quotes R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as forbidding the use of twist-ties if you are sealing them for longer than one day. Orechos Shabbos (ch. 10 n. 51) quotes R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv as ruling strictly, as well. R. Mordechai Eliyahu (Imrei Mordechai p. 182-183) and R. Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:552) also forbid their use (see also Ma’amar Mordechai vol. 1 no. 14).

However, Orechos Shabbos also quotes R. Shmuel Wosner and R. Nissim Karelitz as permitting the use of twist-ties. Similarly, R. Eliezer Melamed (Peninei Halakhah, Shabbos 13:16 n. 14) permits their use.

I learned an easy compromise between the two positions from my wife. Whenever she closes a bag with a twist-tie, she does not twist the two sides together but circles the twist-tie around the edge she wishes to close. In that way, she seals the edge without tying a knot according to any opinion. I am not sure if this practice was started to satisfy all halakhic authorities (she doesn’t consciously do it) but it is certainly a viable method to benefit from twist-ties according to all views.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.


  1. Without too much work you can probably assur just about anything on Shabbat. But what compells people to try so hard to do so?

  2. Intellectual and religious honesty

  3. It’s interesting that you raise the issue of intellectual honesty. I’ve been thinking about this as a consequence of breadth reading (as opposed to depth learning) Masechet Shabbat via Daf Yomi — 42 dapim thus far — using both Artscroll and Koren. I had not previously realized the extent to which our baseline normative halacha is based on the specific conditions of a time and place (as opposed to an abstract legal principle not rooted in temporal circumstances). Quite challenging, actually…

  4. Non-sequitur

  5. Can you explain to me why it isn’t just a simple case of “preparing for after shabbat” or not?

    ie when you are closing the bag with no intention of opening it again before shabbat is over, then you can’t do it, but if you are, you can.

  6. r’avi,
    a broad definition of “preparing” would pronibit many activities (perhaps like hanging up your coat when the weather has warmed up by the time you come home from shacharit, or putting a sefer away)

  7. Hashakdan (the recent bioraphy of Rav Elyashiv) relates that Rav Elyashiv held that to tie a twist tie with one twist is permitted but a double twist is prohibited.

  8. Speaking of intellectual honesty: 10:8, not 9:8. And note, even if you say “coiling”, it’s not coiling a rope, it’s LAYING a rope. One coils an existing rope to store it. One lays a rope to stay together by twisting strands together in a special way, twisting the individual strands at the same time as you plait them together.

    Note the Rambam’s definition:

    ושיעורו, כדי שיעמוד החבל בפתילתו
    בלא קשירה–שנמצאת מלאכתו מתקיימת.

    Such that the rope will stay with
    its strands without tying, WHICH

    The Rambam’s argument includes as part of the definition, that which would exempt a twist-tie from being considered “laying rope”, because it is specifically meant to be TEMPORARY and REVERSIBLE.

    The later sources can only use the Rambam to assur if they ignore that phrase. Note that RSZA, at least, doesn’t use the Rambam but approaches from a different angle, hachanah. RYSE as quoted by Sass takes the “ignore the troublesome phrase” tactic.

    So we’re back to IH’s initial claim – people can assur anything they want, and in the last century or so, seem to feel unusually compelled to do so.

  9. Jon Baker,

    Speaking of intellectual honesty, I would have hoped that you would do some cursory research before impugning Gedolei Yisrael.

    Had you bothered to even take a quick glance at Orchos Shabbos (which Gil cited above) you would see that Rav Elyashiv held that twist ties are only an issur derabbanan (not deoraysa) for exactly the reason that you mentioned.

    A bit of respect and humility, please.

  10. ive seen other people use your wife,s solution. its mutar because it doesnt realy work

  11. Sass:

    I’m just quoting you, buddy. From a book that WASN’T Orchos Shabbos. Now that you suddenly change around from disagreeing with Gil’s report of RYSE’s opinion to agreeing with it, you cast aspersions on my citation of your earlier post. I call foul for setting that trap.

    So I don’t have the latest and charediest book on hilchos shabbos. I have to make do with an MB, SSK, and R’ Eidlitz (if I could find the R’ Eidlitz, darnit).

  12. My point stands.
    If you haven’t read any of the latest charediest literature, I don’t see where you come off criticizing Rav Elyashiv, when you haven’t done even cursory research to understand his position.

    As far as my post, I don’t recall disagreeing with Gil, or setting a trap, or whatever you’re talking about. Frankly, I’m not even sure how you got that impression. Gil said that Rav Elyashiv ruled strictly, which he did, and I added a detail from another source, that he only prohibited a double tie.

    How you got from there that Rav Elyashiv ignored a Rambam is way beyond me…

  13. Because, only by ignoring that clause in the Rambam, can one say that a twist-tie is assur because of similarity to laying (making) rope.

    I mean, without that clause, the similarity is obvious – a closed twist-tie, particularly with at least two twists, is visually similar to a rope. But with that clause, that the twisting is to make a PERMANENT object, one can’t say that the twist-tie is assur.

    So, either he’s saying like RSZA that it’s hachana, not rope-making, or he’s saying that it’s like rope-making. Gil lumped RYSE with RSZA, so I inferred that he had similar reasoning, perhaps not a valid inference.

    However, from the specific ruling that it’s TWO twists that make it assur, it’s clear to me (without having either book you mentioned, only your own citation of the nature of the issur without any of the supporting logic) that what’s important to RYSE is the similar APPEARANCE to rope. In which case, he’s ruling from the Rambam, and therefore the WHOLE Rambam comes into play, INCLUDING the explicit HETER for something TEMPORARY.

    I mean no disrespect to RYSE, only to the idea that the issue is rope-making – because those opinions cannot work if they take into account the WHOLE Rambam.

  14. Where in this Rambam do you see an explicit heter for anything? The Rambam is talking about chiyuv chatas, and says the shiurim for the issur deoraysa which will be chayav chatas. You seem to have inferred from there that a temporary tie is mutar, but I don’t know how you can call that an explicit HETER.

    Rav Elyashiv indeed addressed the WHOLE Rambam, which is why he held that twist ties are only assur derabbanan and not deoraysa.

    You seem to have also misunderstood Gil’s citation of SSK and Rav Shlomo Zalman. Rav Shlomo Zalman held it’s assur, not because of hachana, as you inferred, but because a tie that will last one day is permanent enough to qualify as laying a rope. It has nothing to do with hachana.

    Basically, you made several questionable inferences, and based on that, incorrectly disparaged one of the Gedolei Hador, without due diligence.

    Again, I repeat my call for some respect and humility, please.

  15. If we begin permitting umbrellas on shabbos for the reasons you identified earlier, I would be willing to prohibit twist ties for the reasons you identify here.

  16. Can you explain to me why it isn’t just a simple case of “preparing for after shabbat” or not?

    ie when you are closing the bag with no intention of opening it again before shabbat is over, then you can’t do it, but if you are, you can.

    melacha and preparing for after shabbos are two separate issurim. The fact that something violates or does not violate one doesn’t tell you anything about the other. If I cook a steak on my grill Friday night for dinner, I have violated the issur of melacha (specifically bishul), even though I intend to and do eat it for Shabbos dinner.

    WRT to hachana specifically, it is generally accepted that, even if one is not intending to use the item on that Shabbos, if the item will spoil it is not hachanah. That is why you can put away perishable foods in the fridge, even at shalosh seudos.

    There are many such uses for twist ties. If you leave bread out, for example, it is likely to become stale.

  17. Without too much work you can probably assur just about anything on Shabbat. But what compells people to try so hard to do so?

    Belief in Torah min ha Shomayim and Yiras Shomayim.

  18. Fotheringay-Phipps

    IIRC, RRF says in the name of his father RMF that twist ties are permitted. I forgot why, but I think it may have been because the tie is not tangled, similar to what Gil writes in his fourth paragraph.

    It would seem as a practical matter that anything tied for less than a week is a sofek d’rabbonon.

  19. Rabbis used to find solutions, now they find problems…

    Gil, I suggest you look at your first sentence again. It bespeaks a major problem with our generation.

  20. I second the criticism of Jon Baker’s comment. Cynicism mixed with lack of facts and dubious inferences are a dangerous mix.

    Dude: For the record, I proposed a solution at the end of the post.

    Moshe: As someone who has coiled the twist-tie for almost two decades, I can attest that it works. Maybe American twist-ties are stronger than those in Israel.

  21. I think that R Gil merely was illustrating that much of Hilcos Shabbos involves possibly differing Shitos as to if and when a melacha drabanan or toldah is violated. OTOH, isn’t the issue of twist ties and their duration similar to that of tieing a bow on the gartel that surrounds the Sefer Torah when one performs Glilah?

  22. ” isn’t the issue of twist ties and their duration similar to that of tieing a bow on the gartel that surrounds the Sefer Torah when one performs Glilah?”

    Yes and no. In terms of duration, yes, and that is a factor in the melachah of kosheir. But whether twisting is even a knot is subject to debate. That is where the Rambam is helpful.

    And even in terms of duration, they are not necessarily the same. When you tie a gartel around a Sefer Torah on Shabbos afternoon at minchah, it is pretty clear that you are not going to use it until Monday morning. That is more than 24 hours, and acc. to the Mishna Berurah assur miderabbanan.

    Twist ties, for many food packages, are often opened much sooner than that. Say a plastic bag with bread. That could well be opened at the next meal. (A garbage bag is different — you probably never intend to untie that.)

  23. What cynicism? I pointed out two things, and got piled on for them:

    0) You wrote “coiling” a rope, which confused the issue, since the Rambam is talking about Laying Rope, which is how one makes rope.

    1) The Rambam which is purportedly the source, includes a requirement of PERMANENCE for string-twisting to be a Toladah of tying. Your sources which cite that Rambam such as the MB, are clearly making a comparison to rope-laying.

    1a) Since the use of a twist-tie is meant to be TEMPORARY, it cannot fall afoul of the Rambam’s requirement of intended PERMANENCE.

    1b) People who would ban twist-ties by comparison to rope-laying, MUST NECESSARILY be ignoring the Rambam’s REQUIREMENT of permanence. Because with that requirement, the two cases are NOT analogous.

    2) RSZA very intelligently must have taken the full Rambam into account, because he saw twist-ties in terms of a different Shabbos issue (preparation for the next day).

    3) Sass cited a biography of RYSE, which claimed that RYSE only banned twist-ties with a double twist. Why would that be an issue? The simple explanation is that with two twists, it looks more like a rope than with one twist.

    4) When I called Sass on this citation, he then said I had to read another book to understand what he wrote. Funny, he didn’t cite that other book until called on his initial citation. In any case, I don’t have either of those books to check up. If someone wants to post the passages in question, I’d be happy to read them.

    Now I’m just mad at being misread. No wonder R Slifkin’s tone got worse the more people piled on him.

  24. MiMedinat HaYam

    footnote 18 in rupture and reconstruction (avail here

    also, same argument can be extended to ziplock bags, and clips. wire ties (the plastic ones) i can understand.

    as for “hachana”, we are specifically permitted to put food in fridge on shabbat for after shabbat. this is definirely analgous. (or will this now be forbidden?)

    this is definitely a case similar to the (now questionable) door system in hospitals discussed on another post here.

    as for machmir books on hilchot shabbat, any artscroll book will do. you are refering to r ribiat and / or r simcha bunim cohen.

    i always wanted to satirize pashkevillim by making one against the “terrible ” practice of using velcro to tie sefer torah. (and mention the “terrible” clip method.) the age old practice is to (slip knot) tie it together. (by the way, when doing the velcro, sew it on both sides — it makes things easier.)

  25. Jon Baker,

    Your original comment was dripping in cynicism, essentially accusing one of the Gedolei Hador of intellectual dishonesty in order to advance some kind of chareidi issur agenda. When in fact, it is YOU who displayed intellectual laziness at best, dishonesty at worst, and either way a lack of basic and fundamental understanding of what’s going on in this sugya.

    Allow me to summarize what happened here:

    You inferred from Gil’s post that Rav Shlomo Zalman’s issue with twist ties is hachana (WRONG) See my last comment for elaboration on this point.

    You inferred from Gil’s post that Rav Elyashiv’s issue is also hachana (WRONG)

    You inferred from my comment that my source and Gil’s source are contradictory and at odds (WRONG)

    You inferred from my comment that Rav Elyashiv does not address the whole Rambam (WRONG)

    You inferred from the Rambam that a temporary tie should be mutar (questionable)

    You then put all these wrong inferences together, to come to the conclusion, and even wrote in a cemment, without looking up a single source!, that Rav Elyashiv was somehow less than intellectually honest in his psak. (WRONG, disrespectful, and unacceptable)

    You jumped on an opportunity to call Rav Elyashiv intellectually dishonest, when in fact it was you who seemed to be trying to advance some anti-Chareidi narrative, and all the while you lack a basic knowledge of the issues involved. “Kol Haposel bemumo posel” was never so apt…

  26. I come at the cynicism from another angle: I actually find it kind of weird how offended people are by a relatively simple and benign halachic question. Just my two cents. Now, back to regularly scheduled programming.

  27. Cynicism and kol haposel do indeed bite the one who invokes it:

    >You then put all these wrong inferences together, to come to the conclusion, and even wrote in a cemment, without looking up a single source!

    I looked at the MB, I read the Rambam repeatedly, and then you guys started citing contemporary writers whose works are not online or in my home.

    The rest of it, yes, you’re right, I should have looked up more things, but I don’t have a Orchos Shabbos. I do have SSK and as Gil notes, Rivevot Ephraim is online.

    I’m not offended by the issue, what’s to be offended by? I don’t see why they’re reading an “anti-Charedi” agenda into what I wrote, I was just trying to reconcile what I thought were two different approaches (laying rope vs. putting food by), although rereading yet again, I can see how Gil might have thought he was also talking about permanence in “sealing it for more than a day”, which I read as “putting food by”.

    I’m somewhat offended by Mr Sass (what an appropriate moniker) thinking I have an anti-Charedi agenda. I only raised the idea of charedi vs. non-charedi (and really, are RYSE, RSZA, MB, any less “charedi” than anyone else?) after Mr Sass started yelling at me for being arrogant and ignorant.

    It’s one thing to say “you’re wrong, you’re misreading what Gil & I said, you should have looked this up here and there”, and another to say “you arrogant lout, you’re ignorant because you haven’t read my favorite book, you should learn some respect and humility.”

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