Clapping on Shabbat

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
I have learned that there are restrictions on the use of musical instruments on Shabbat, such as guitar, flute, organ, drum, etc.  Recently, a friend told me that this extends to dancing, clapping one’s hands and even tapping on a table to the beat of a song.  Yet I know I have seen knowledgeable people doing these things.  Can you please clarify this? (It would be music to my ears.)

Dear Michaela,
Thank you for your question.  The Talmud forbids playing musical instruments on Shabbat out of concern that the musician may inadvertently repair or adjust the instrument in a way which involves a melakhah.  Based on this, the Shulkhan ‘Arukh (OH 339:3) also forbids dancing, clapping, and striking the table (for example) to the beat of the music.  However, R Moshe Isserles (Rema, ibid., based on Tosafot) justifies the common practice to do all of these things on Shabbat, since we are generally not expert in repairing musical instruments, and there is no longer any reason to imagine that dancing/clapping, etc. may lead to the inadvertent performance of a melakhah.
The later authorities debate whether Rema actually intends to permit these activities outright, or only to propose a justification/mitigation for those who are lenient.
In practice, while many are stringent, there are those who follow Rema, Arukh ha-Shulhan, and others that all these activities are allowed.  Rav Moshe Feinstein (OH 2:100), for example, justifies dancing in a circle on Shabbat, on the basis that it is not much more than synchronised walking.  Other lenient considerations are for purposes of a mitzvah, tefillah, honour of the Torah, etc.  During bein ha-shemashot (twilight) there are also grounds to be more lenient.  (This may be relevant to Kabbalat Shabbat and Seudah Shelishit.)
Clapping for other reasons (ie, not for music) or knocking on a door (with one’s hands), but not in a rhythmic way, is definitely allowed.
Bottom line: There are certainly grounds on which to be stringent WRT clapping and tapping to music, but those who are lenient, particularly for spiritual/mitzvah purposes, have a halakhic basis upon which to rely.
I hope this is helpful.
Thank you again for prompting me to investigate this topic.
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
I hope you fasted well yesterday.
Thank you for the insights into the Kinnot, making them easier to understand.
In the afternoon, I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on Torahanytime.  As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st perek of Eichah is the source for the order of the alef bet as we know it.  Other chapters also follow the alef bet chronology but with ayin en peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim predates Megillat Eichah by centuries.  Several psalms are written in the alef bet order (e.g.
psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes.
PhilippeHi Philippe
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of samekh and 'ayin is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are family.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 vv per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the v. starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra'). I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that 'ayin belongs before peh. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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