Folding corner of page as bookmark on Shabbat - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

Folding corner of page as bookmark on Shabbat Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman

Tammuz 5782 | June 2022

Topic : Shayla , Shabbat & Yom Tov ,


Is one is allowed to mark pages in a book one is reading on Shabbat, by folding over the edges? Is there an element of Kotev, or something else? Or other ways of marking – using paper clip, or other methods of marking…


The short answer is that several poskim (halakhic authorities) specifically allow marking pages in a book by folding the corner of the page or using a paper clip on Shabbat under most circumstances.[i] You may also use most other types of bookmarks.

Problematic marks and folding

There are many types of marks that are problematic on Shabbat. Kotev – writing, tzove’a – dyeing or coloring, as well as sirtut – certain types of marks and indentations – are prohibited on Shabbat. According to some poskim purposefully making any lasting mark on a surface is prohibited, as is marking in a way that is similar to writing.[ii] Therefore, one should not scratch a mark on a page to underline the text or to write or correct on top of the mark after Shabbat.

Certain cases of paper folding may also be prohibited due to sirtut, such as when done to make straight lines to write on or to aid tearing. [iii] Folding papers in special shapes such as origami or to make a toy is also problematic as it is making a vessel.[iv]

Why is folding a page corner permitted?

While making lasting marks is often prohibited even if one does not plan on writing over them, poskim do not include folding paper to mark a spot in a book in these prohibited marks.

Nachalat Tzvi explains that marks are only prohibited if they are similar to writing or erasing. (OC 340:5) Rav Meir HaLevi Klein explains that the fold is a fold, not a mark, and therefore one may even fold the page in a way that points to where they stopped reading.[v]

Another possible issue would be hachana – preparing for after Shabbat. Rav Ovadia Yosef explicitly states this is not an issue but does not explain why. (ibid) Rav Avraham David Horowitz only allows marking the page for after Shabbat if it is for a mitzvah, such as Torah study. He explains that this is not prohibited hachana as he rules that one may make a physical reminder for a thought they have on Shabbat if it is for a mitzvah.[vi] The other poskim we have mentioned do not limit bookmarks to cases of a mitzvah. In general, Rav Eliezer Melamed explains that hachana does not apply to actions that are done by rote and aren’t bothersome (tircha), such as putting food away after a meal. (Pninei Halacha Shabbat 22:16) Marking a spot in a book would fall into this category.


Folding the corner of a page, marking it with a paper clip, or using most bookmarks[vii] is permitted on Shabbat since the shape and mark are unimportant and it is not similar to writing.


[i] Yalkut Yosef 302:18, Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata,  Rivivot Efraim Vol. I, 223:11 writes that this is allowed but brings several opinions that question whether one should do so as it may not be respectful to Sifrei Kodesh and may also ruin the book. He reluctantly allows folding the corner where there are no words, but ultimately prefers other bookmarks.

[ii] Shulchan Aruch 340:5 allows for marking a book with one’s nail, but halachic authorities such as Mishna Berura and Taz argue that this refers to stiffer surfaces such as parchment where the mark would not last. Since marks on paper will last they argue this is a form of kotev or sirtut and prohibited on Shabbat.

[iii] The nature of the prohibition of sirtut is debated. For more on this topic see TB Shabbat 103a, Shabbat 75b, Rashi v’ayil sirtut, Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 11:17, Mishna Berura 340:22-25, Shmirat Shabbat k’Hilchata Vol. I Chapter 28, 15-16 and notes there.

[iv] Shmirat Shabbat k’Hilchata 16:19 and 28:17 , Piskei Teshuvot 302:12. These poskim also prohibit folding napkins in purposeful and intricate designs, although they allow for simple folds.

[v] Sefer Toldot Shmuel Vol. III Chapter 68 Kotev, paragraph 3, Piskei Teshuvot 340:21 Other reasons not to prohibit cite that mark the fold makes is not generally lasting, nor is it the purpose of folding the page. However these reasonings touch on more complicated topics such as melacha she’aina tzricha l’gufa, psik reisha d’lo nicha lei, and whether this mark is rabbinically or biblically prohibited. As I could not find anyone who prohibited the mark of folding a page in a book I did not consider these theoretical arguments necessary to allow folding the page.

[vi] Responsa Kinyan Torah Vol. II 115:2

[vii] Sticky notes were not part of the question and are a different discussion. Some poskim are machmir, but there are several reasons to allow them. For more on this discussion see Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata 35 note 66 (old edition) and 15 note 250, Pninei Halacha Shabbat 13:12, Responsa Nishmat Shabbat 7:206

[viii] See note ii. Mishna Berura ibid, Pninei Halacha Shabbat 18:4.

Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman Debbie Zimmerman graduated from the first cohort of Hilkhata – Matan’s Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a Halakhic Responder. She is a multi-disciplinary Jewish educator, with over a decade of experience in adolescent and adult education. After completing a BA in Social Work, Debbie studied Tanakh in the Master’s Program for Bible in Matan and Talmud in Beit Morasha.

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