- Question: [Thursday, 16th Teves 5781]
Is it permitted on Shabbos to give a standing ovation? Meaning to clap hands after someone’s speech and the like? I believe that I was taught that while you are allowed to clap hands for music and singing, you may not clap hands to applaud someone.
In truth, it is the opposite. It is permitted to clap hands the normal way on Shabbos for the sake of an applause or standing ovation. However, it is forbidden to clap hands the normal way for the sake of music or while a song is being sung. However, the widespread custom is to be lenient and permit clapping hands the normal way when one is singing songs for the sake of joy of a mitzvah [i.e. Shabbos Niggunim, singing in shul by Davening and Farbrengen]. Thus, there are three types of clapping:
- For a standing ovation which is permitted the normal way.
- Clapping to a tune which does not involve Simcha Shel Mitzvah and is therefore forbidden to be done the normal way
- Clapping to a tune which involves Simcha Shel Mitzvah in which case one may do so the normal way.
Explanation: The sages prohibited clapping on Shabbos due to that their general music playing prohibition applies even against using one’s body to make music. Now, while in truth this matter is debated amongst the Poskim as to whether it applies today, and the widespread custom is to be lenient, nonetheless the final ruling is to be stringent. Nonetheless, this prohibition was only made against using one’s body to make music in the normal way, however, to make music using one’s body in an abnormal way was never decreed against and is therefore permitted. Furthermore, the prohibition was only made against clapping towards music or in the form of a tune, however, to clap simply in order to make noise without any tune was never decreed against and hence one may clap in order to get someone’s attention, or wake someone up, or as a standing ovation. Furthermore, the custom is to allow clapping even the normal way when singing on Simchas Torah being that it is done for the sake of a mitzvah, and from this extended the accustomed allowance to permit clapping the normal way on Shabbos when singing a tune for the sake of Simcha Shel Mitzvah, such as in Shul, or by the meal.
Sources: See regarding the general restriction against clapping and the dispute relevant in today’s times: Admur 339:2; 338:1; Michaber 339:3; Rama 339:3; Rambam Shabbos 23:5; Mishneh Beitza 36b; M”B 339:10; Aruch Hashulchan 339:9 [rules that the form of clapping and dancing done today was never included in the original decree of the Sages and hence it is always permitted to be done on Shabbos even not for a Mitzvah purpose.]; See regarding the allowance to clap in the abnormal way: Admur 339:2; Michaber 339:3; See regarding the allowance to clap for noisemaking and to applaud someone: M”B 339:9; Biur Halacha “Oi Al Haluach”; Az Nidbaru 13:14; Piskeiy Teshuvos 339:5; see regarding the allowance to clap the normal way for a song of Simcha shel Mitzvah: M”B 339:10; Shaar HaTziyon 339:7; Minchas Elazar 1:29; Nimukei Orach Chayim 339; Ashel Avraham [Butshatsh]; Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag 2:165