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Using a Sefer Torah With "Rimonim" (Bells) on Shabbat

The Sages enacted a prohibition forbidding playing music on Shabbat or even doing something that creates a sound ("Hashma'at Kol"). This enactment was intended as a safeguard against the Torah prohibition of making or fixing musical instruments on Shabbat.

In light of this prohibition, one might question the propriety of using on Shabbat a Torah scroll adorned with "Rimonim" (decorative bells), as is customary in many synagogues. One who lifts and carries such a Sefer Torah creates a ringing sound, and it would therefore appear that just as one may not walk about with a bell on Shabbat, so is it forbidden to carry a Torah with "Rimonim." Indeed, the Taz (commentary to the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi David Halevi, Poland, 1586-1667), in Yoreh Dei'a (282), writes that a Sefer Torah with "Rimonim" should not be used on Shabbat, due to this concern.

Other authorities, however, justified the use of such Torah scrolls on Shabbat. The Eliyahu Rabba (work of Halacha by Rabbi Eliyahu Shapiro of Prague, 1660-1712) and others contend that this prohibition does not apply to situations involving a Mitzva. The "Rimonim" serve to adorn the Torah scroll and to announce the removal of the Torah from the Heichal, and the prohibition against making sounds on Shabbat therefore does not apply to the sounds produced by the "Rimonim." Others claim that since the Rabbis enacted this provision out of concern that one might fashion or fix a musical instrument on Shabbat, it applies only to private situations. In a public context, such as the synagogue, where people would remind one another not to transgress Shabbat, this prohibition does not apply.

Finally, some authorities argued that we may allow carrying a Sefer Torah with "Rimonim" because the individual carrying the Torah does not intend to create a ringing sound. Even though the ringing sound results inevitably from carrying the Torah, nevertheless, since producing sound is forbidden only Mi'de'rabbanan (by force of Rabbinic enactment), one may carry the Torah scroll despite the sound that results.

For all these reasons, many authorities, including Chacham Ovadia Yosef, permit using a Sefer Torah with "Rimonim" on Shabbat, even though it inevitably results in a ringing sound.