General laws of Muktzeh

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Reasons for Muktzeh

There are a number of reasons why the Rabbis forbad moving certain items on Shabbat.

  1. The rabbis understood that just like the prophets forbad speaking on Shabbat just like one speaks during the week (Dabber Dvar) and they forbad walking just like one walks during the week (MeAsot Derachecha), so too the items a person moves on Shabbat should different from what he moves during the week. Considering that a person can't do any melacha, he might begin to move all sorts of items around the house in an effort to organize or clean. If one does such, one will have violated the Torah's commandment to rest.
  2. The rabbis prohibited moving items lest one come to use them for a prohibited use on Shabbat.
  3. The rabbis felt that some people don't do any particular work during the week. If such people were able to speak, walk, and move items just like they do during the week, the "resting of Shabbat" wouldn't be distinguishable from one's rest the other days of the week.
  4. The rabbis were concerned that if one were to move any item one would come to carry outdoors.[1]

Ways of moving Muktzeh

  1. If a Muktzeh item is on top of a non-Muktzeh item, it is permitted to move the Muktzeh indirectly if one’s intent is to use the non-Muktzeh item but not if one’s intent is to move the Muktzeh. This assumes that the non-Muktzeh item isn’t a Bosis and one can’t remove the Muktzeh by tilting. [2]
  2. It is permitted to move a Muktzeh item with one’s body. [3]
  3. It’s permissible to blow on Muktzeh to make it move if it’s for a permissible purpose. [4]
  4. Additionally, it’s permissible to cover a Muktzeh item with a vessel even if the vessel will touch the Muktzeh as long as placing the cover on the Muktzeh will not move it. [5]
  5. It’s permissible to sit on Muktzeh unless there’s no need in which case one shouldn’t. [6]

Touching Muktzeh

  1. It is permitted to touch Muktzeh if it does not move. Some say that one may not touch Muktzeh if one’s intent is to serve the Muktzeh item. [7]
  2. It’s permissible to remove a permissible item that’s sitting on top of a Muktzeh item. [8]

Muktzeh that’s in already in one’s hands

  1. If one has picked up a Kli Sh’Melachto LeIssur in one’s hands in a permissible fashion then it’s permissible to place it anywhere one likes. However, if one picked it up in a forbidden way or one has a absolute Muktzeh item in one’s hand, then one should drop it. [9]

Unpleasant situations

  1. Anything which is disgusting such as feces, a dead mouse, and the like are Muktzeh. [10] However, they may be moved (to a garbage) out of a place which are used frequently such as places in one’s house which are used, or path in front of one’s house. [11]
  2. A disgusting item may not be returned to the house. [12]
  3. Something which is disgusting in a place that’s not used frequently may not be moved and in cases of loss one may sit in that place so that it’ll be disgusting and will require one to remove it. [13]
  4. Something which is not so disgusting but unpleasant such as having a bad smell is not Muktzeh. [14]
  5. In the first place, one may not make a situation which is disgusting which will need to be removed, however after the fact, the disgusting item may be removed. [15]

Sources

  1. Rambam and Raavad (Shabbat 24:12), Bet Yosef (Intro to 308), Mishna Brurah (Intro to 308), Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat v. 2, p. 304)
  2. In the Gemara (Shabbat 123a) Rav Nachman states that indirect movement of Muktzeh is permitted. On the other hand, the Gemara (43b) earlier states that everyone agrees indirect movement of Muktzeh is forbidden. Tosfot (43b s.v. DeKuleh) answer that indirect movement of Muktzeh is permitted if one’s purpose is to move the permitted item and a Muktzeh item is drawn along, but if one’s intent is to move the Muktzeh item, one may not do so even indirectly. The Rif 20b, Rambam (Shabbat 25:14), and Rosh 3:19 agree to this resolution. Tur and S”A 311:8 codify this as halacha.
    • The Chazon Ish 47:12-14 explains that if one is moving a Muktzeh item and a non-Muktzeh item for the sake of the Muktzeh, it is considered as though one is moving Muktzeh, but if one is moving it for the sake of the non-Muktzeh item, it is considered as though one is moving only the non-Muktzeh. Accordingly, the Chazon Ish writes that he doesn’t understand the Taz 308:18 and Mishna Brurah 308:115, who write that one may push peels or bones that are totally inedible off the table using a knife if one needs the area where these peels and bones are located since one is moving Muktzeh indirectly for a permitted need. The Chazon Ish argues that since one is primarily focused on moving the Muktzeh, it is forbidden even if it is done indirectly.
    • Rabbi Mordechai Willig (Am Mordechai p. 104-6) explains that the Mishna Brurah and others hold that it is permitted to move Muktzeh indirectly for a permitted use on Shabbat as Chazal were lenient with regards to moving Muktzeh indirectly for a permitted purpose. He explains that this leniency may be due to the fact that Muktzeh is based on the prohibition to carry on Shabbat. Even if one carried Muktzeh for a permitted purpose and not for the Muktzeh itself, it would be Melacha Sheino Tzaricha LeGufo and not a biblical prohibition. However, Chazal only permitted moving Muktzeh for a permitted use if done indirectly or in an abnormal manner because of a Lo Plug. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 22:38 agrees with the Mishna Brurah.
    • Based on S”A 309:3-4, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen (Muktzeh, A Practical Guide p. 35-8) notes that one may not indirectly move a non-Muktzeh item if it was a Bosis. Additionally, if one can remove the Muktzeh item by tilting, one may not move it indirectly.
  3. The Mishnah (Shabbat 141a) states that one may push Muktzeh straw off of his bed with his body but not with his hands. The Gemara explains that this is based on the principle that indirect movement of Muktzeh is permitted. Based on the distinction of Tosfot (see note 1), Rabbeinu Yonah (cited by the Rosh 3:19) asks why indirect movement of Muktzeh is permitted if one’s intent is to move the Muktzeh item. The Rosh answers that moving Muktzeh with one’s body is permitted even if one’s intent is to move Muktzeh, whereas direct movement of a non-Muktzeh item which in turn moves a Muktzeh item is permitted only if one’s intent is for the non-Muktzeh item. Tur and S”A 311:8 codify this as halacha.
    • The Mishna Brurah 311:30 writes that it is permitted to move Muktzeh with any part of one’s body other than his hands. For example, in 308:13 and 30 he writes that one may move Muktzeh with one’s foot. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 22:36 agrees. See Chazon Ish 47:12, who argues that the Rosh merely meant that one may lie down on straw even if it moves since its not evident that one is moving Muktzeh. One may not, however, move Muktzeh with one’s body if his primary intent is to move Muktzeh. See Rabbi Mordechai Willig (Am Mordechai p. 105-6) who connects this to the above dispute.
  4. S”A 308:43 and Rama 308:3 consider blowing on Muktzeh as indirect movement which can be moved for a permissible purpose.
  5. Mishna Brurah 308:22 rules like the Gra unlike the Magen Avraham (which was brought as a dispute in Mishna Brurah 308:17).
  6. Ran on Rif (Shabbat 46b), Mishna Brurah 308:82
  7. The Yerushalmi (Beitzah 5:1) states that one may place a vessel over an egg that was laid on Shabbat as long as the vessel doesn’t touch the egg. The Maggid Mishneh (Shabbat 25:23) wonders why there should be a prohibition even if the vessel touches the egg – after all, Chazal forbade only moving Muktzeh. He answers that since an egg is round, touching it automatically will make it move. The Trumat HaDeshen (67) based on Tosfot (see note 1) argues that covering Muktzeh for its protection is forbidden since one’s entire intent is for the Muktzeh.
    • S”A 308:42 and Rama 308:3 write simply that it is permitted to touch Muktzeh and don’t add the Trumat HaDeshen’s condition. Magen Avraham 310:3 rules in favor of the Trumat HaDeshen, while the Gr”a (Beiur HaGra 310:6) rules like the Maggid Mishneh. The Mishna Brurah 310:22 and Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 22:33 agree with the Gr”a.
  8. Rama 308:3
  9. Mishna Brurah 308:13
  10. Mishna Brurah 308:136
  11. S”A 308:34, Mishna Brurah 308:130, 131
  12. S”A 308:35
  13. S”A 308:34 and 37, Mishna Brurah 308:131.
  14. S”A 310:1, Mishna Brurah 310:1
  15. S”A 308:36 writes that one should make a disgusting object in order to remove it from the house, and Mishna Brurah 308:139 explains that one shouldn’t make a disgusting item (which will need to be removed) irrelevant of one’s intent.