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39 Melakhot Jewish law (halakha) prohibits doing any form of melakhah ( plural melakhot) on Shabbat, with some exceptions. Though melakhah is commonly translated as "work" in English, a better definition is "deliberate activity" or "skill and craftmanship". There are 39 categories of prohibited activities (melakhot) listed in Mishnah Tractate Shabbat Chapter 7, Mishna 2). Different streams of Judaism view the prohibition on work in different ways. Observant Orthodox and Conservative Jews refrain from performing the prohibited activities. These prohibited activities are exegetically derived based on juxtaposition of corresponding Biblical passages from the kinds of work that were necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle. They are not directly listed in the Torah; elsewhere, the Mishnah observes that "the laws of Shabbat [...] are like mountains hanging by a hair, for they are little Scripture but many laws".[16] Many religious scholars have pointed out that these labors have in common activity that is "creative," or that exercises control or dominion over one's environment. The 39 categories of melakhah are: ploughing earth, sowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying, untying, sewing stitches, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, flaying, tanning, scraping hide, marking hides, cutting hide to shape, writing two or more letters, erasing two or more letters, building, demolishing, extinguishing a fire, kindling a fire, putting the finishing touch on an object and transporting an object between the private domain and the public domain, or for a distance of 4 cubits within the public domain. Each melakhah has derived prohibitions of various kinds. There are, therefore, many more forbidden activities on the Shabbat; all are traced back to one of the 39 above principal melakhot. Given the above, the 39 melakhot are not so much activities as "categories of activity." For example, while "winnowing" usually refers exclusively to the separation of chaff from grain, and "selecting" refers exclusively to the separation of debris from grain, they refer in the Talmudic sense to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible. Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. (Gefilte fish is one solution to this problem.)

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