09. Kelim She-melakhtam Le-heter, Food, and Books

Kelim that are used for permitted purposes (kelim she-melakhtam le-heter), a category that includes tables, chairs, beds, pillows, thermoses, clocks, and brooms, may be moved for any reason, though one may not move them for no reason at all. In Neĥemia’s time, when people failed to observe Shabbat, the Sages decreed that no kelim should be moved at all. When meticulous observance was restored, they permitted moving kelim she-melakhtam le-heter but left the decree in place for moving them for no reason. The idea was for people to pay attention to what they do with their hands on Shabbat. Making sure not to move kelim without a reason keeps people aware of Shabbat and makes it more likely that they will not end up transgressing any Shabbat prohibitions. Furthermore, on Shabbat one aspires to inner peace and restfulness. This includes one’s hands as well – they should be at rest, not busy moving and carrying things unnecessarily.

In contrast, no decree ever limited the movement of food, books, clothes, or jewelry. Because they make Shabbat enjoyable, one may move them even without a reason.

The poskim disagree regarding kelim that are used very frequently, such as cutlery, plates, and cups. According to some, these kelim possess the same halakhic status as food and may thus be moved for no reason. Others maintain that they have the same status as kelim she-melakhtam le-heter, which may not be moved without a reason. Since muktzeh is itself a rabbinic law, the lenient position is the primary one. Le-khatĥila, though, since many poskim are inclined to be stringent, it is preferable to take their opinion into account and to avoid moving cutlery and dishes for no reason.[9]


[9]. According to a beraita in Shabbat 123b, in the time of Neĥemia, when many failed to keep Shabbat, the Sages decreed that all kelim are considered muktzeh (except for three; see below). Once the people returned to meticulous observance, the Sages again permitted moving kelim in a three-step process. Rava explains that the Sages permitted moving a kli she-melakhto le-isur only le-tzorekh gufo and le-tzorekh mekomo, but kelim she-melakhtam le-heter could be moved even in order to prevent their being damaged. According to most Rishonim, this permission to move kelim used for permissible things is limited to situations where there is a reason to move them (such as “from the sun to the shade” to protect them), but one may not move them unnecessarily. This is the opinion of Ran and Magid Mishneh (which derives this position from Rambam), and Rashba is inclined to be stringent as well. Tur and SA 308:4 rule accordingly. However, according to Ra’ah and Ritva, when the Sages permitted moving kelim from the sun to the shade, they also permitted moving them for no reason at all. Aĥaronim recommend being stringent here, following SA.In contrast, all agree that food and books were never decreed muktzeh at all and may be moved even for no reason. This is also the case regarding clothing and jewelry (Ketzot Ha-shulĥan §105, Badei Ha-shulĥan §7 as cited in SSK 20:83).

There is a disagreement about kelim that are regularly used during meals. The first position is that of Rambam (MT 25:1-3), Shlah, Ĥayei Adam 66:3, and Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Miketz 1. According to them, as stated in the Mishna (Shabbat 123b), three kelim were not included in the decree of muktzeh because they were necessary for eating. These three are: a tool for cutting pressed-fig cakes, a spoon to remove scum from the surface of soup, and a small knife left on the table to cut bread and meat. However, other kelim used for eating may not be moved without a reason. The second approach is that of Tosafot (Shabbat 123b, s.v. “miktzo’a”), Rosh, Shiltei Giborim, Tehila Le-David 308:4, Ĥesed La-alafim, and MB 308:23. According to them, the three kelim mentioned in the mishna are only examples of kelim used frequently at meals. In fact, all tableware – cutlery, cups, and plates – have the same status and are not muktzeh at all. R. Ovadia Yosef rules stringently, even forbidding a nervous person from fidgeting with such items in order to calm his nerves (Yalkut Yosef vol. 2, pp. 452-457). Some who are generally stringent about kelim are lenient in this last case. This is the implication of AHS 308:15. SSK 20:83 agrees: “It is permitted for one to move an item if he finds pleasure in occupying himself with it, even if there is no practical purpose.” Orĥot Shabbat ch. 19 n. 108 records a similar ruling in the name of Ĥazon Ish. mia man sis for it, and therefore, is absolutely muktza (SSK 20:15*; Minhat Yitzhak 43: Yalkut

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