13. Broken Kelim and Worn-Out Clothing

As we have seen (section 3), any item that is not suitable for Shabbat use is muktzeh maĥmat gufo. We must now clarify at what point an item is considered unusable and therefore muktzeh. As a rule, there are two factors that affect the status of such an object: its objective state, and the owner’s subjective attitude toward it. We will now explain.

If one threw out perfectly good clothes or kelim before Shabbat, they do not become muktzeh even though he is their owner. Since his personal attitude differs from that of most people, it is disregarded by halakha. Nevertheless, if before Shabbat he threw out used clothing and kelim, they become muktzeh even if some people would use such items. Since the owner threw them out, and they are used, they become muktzeh (SA 308:12; MB ad loc. 51; Rema 308:7). But if he threw them out on Shabbat, they do not become muktzeh. Since they were not muktzeh when Shabbat began (as they were still somewhat fit for use), they do not lose their status over the course of Shabbat (MB 308:32).

If a kli breaks on Shabbat and the broken parts are still usable, the parts are not muktzeh. The broken pieces are only muktzeh if there is no possibility of using them. Nevertheless, if there is a danger that people may be hurt by the broken pieces, one may even use his hands to clear them away. If a kli broke before Shabbat and the owner threw away the broken pieces, then even if they could be used on Shabbat, they are muktzeh (SA 308:6-7; MB ad loc. 48; SSK 20:42).

If one part of a kli fell off (whether on Shabbat or before Shabbat) but it can be reattached, then even though it is not usable over Shabbat, it is not muktzeh. Just as one may move the kli, one may move the part that broke off, because it is still considered part of the kli. Therefore, if a beaded necklace broke, since one intends to restring the beads, they are not muktzeh (on condition that there is no concern that a knot will be tied on Shabbat to hold the necklace together). Similarly, false teeth or crowns that fall out are not muktzeh, since one intends to put them back. A button that falls off an item of clothing is not muktzeh either, since it will be replaced. Even though a new button is muktzeh since there is no use for it on Shabbat, in this case the button is not muktzeh, since it has already been part of the item of clothing.[12]

In contrast, if an item was attached to the ground and then broke on Shabbat, it is muktzeh because nobody plans to move something attached to the ground. Therefore, if a door in a house falls off on Shabbat, one may not move it (Shabbat 122b; SA 308:8-10; MB ad loc. 35).[13]

If disposable dishes have been used but could still be reused, they are not muktzeh. However, once they have been thrown into a filthy garbage can, they are muktzeh. Even if they have not been thrown away, they are muktzeh if they are so dirty that they would generally not be reused. However, if they are in a place where their filthiness disturbs people, they may be cleared away, as they are considered a graf shel re’i (as explained in section 12; SSK 20:42).

If one dried his hands with paper towels and then put them into the paper recycling bin, they are still not muktzeh if people sometimes reuse them to wipe up spills. However, if the paper towels were deposited in a regular dirty garbage can, from which people generally would not retrieve them, they are muktzeh.


[12]. This is the approach of Minĥat Shabbat 88:2; Az Nidberu 7:46; Menuĥat Ahava 1:12:40; and Orĥot Shabbat 19:167. SSK 15:72 and Yalkut Yosef vol. 2, p. 394, agree, but conclude that it is good to be stringent and avoid carrying a button that fell off because there are Rishonim (Me’iri, R. Yonatan of Lunel) who maintain that the only reason that one may move the detached door of a kli is that it can still be used (to cover something), not that it retains its status of part of the kli. If so, a button that cannot be used at all on Shabbat is muktzeh.We should add that if there is a concern that one might end up taking the part of the kli that fell off on Shabbat and reattaching it in a permanent way, thus transgressing Boneh, the Sages forbade moving the broken part. For example, if the leg of a bench fell off, one may not move the broken bench on Shabbat in order to rest it on a different bench, because he may end up fixing it. However, if it would be difficult to fix the kli, or if it has already been used in its broken state before Shabbat, we are not concerned that anyone will forget and fix it on Shabbat, so one may move it, as explained in SA 313:8 and Rema 308:16; above, 15:6.

[13]. Other similar examples include a door handle, a faucet handle, or a toilet seat that fell off. In each of these cases, the item may only be used on Shabbat if two conditions are fulfilled: first, it must be possible to replace the broken part in a clearly temporary way, so that it can still be used for its designated purpose; and second, there must be no reason to be concerned that one will reattach it properly on Shabbat. Some further details about a door handle are explained in 15:3 above. See also Ĥut Shani, 2:36:4:7, 9.

Another example is if the door of a cabinet or closet fell off. If the cabinet is small (its volume is less than forty se’ah, which is an ama by an ama by three amot), then if the door will eventually be reattached, it is not muktzeh (Rema 314:1; SSK 20:45 and n. 164). However, if the cabinet or closet is larger than forty se’ah, its door is considered the same as the door of a house, and it is muktzeh. Orĥot Shabbat ch. 19 n. 236 suggests that if a piece of furniture is larger than forty se’ah but is occasionally moved (like the bima on which the Torah scroll is read), when it comes to muktzeh it is considered a kli (rather than a house).

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