14. The Permissibility of Moving Muktzeh Indirectly or with the Body

https://ph.yhb.org.il/en/01-23-14/

The main prohibition of muktzeh consists of taking a muktzeh item in one’s hand, the way it is normally moved. The more one deviates from the normal manner of taking an object, the more lenient the law becomes. There are two types of change (shinui) that can be used: min ha-tzad (indirectly, literally “from the side”) and be-gufo (using a part of the body besides the hand. One may move a muktzeh item indirectly, but only for a permitted activity. One may move a muktzeh item with his body even for the sake of the muktzeh item or a prohibited activity. We will now explain:

Min ha-tzad is accomplished by hand, but indirectly. For example, one may pick up fruit covered in straw or dirt in a way that causes them to move. Since the muktzeh items are moved indirectly, through the permitted action of moving the fruit, and the purpose is a permitted activity – eating the fruit – there is no prohibition (Shabbat 123a; SA 311:8-9). Similarly, if one wants to study Torah from a book that has a pen lying on it (assuming the pen was forgotten there, so the book is not a basis; see section 5 above), he may pick up the book even though the pen will then fall off. Likewise, if one accidentally left coins on a pillow and he now wants to sleep on it, he may lift up the pillow so that the coins will fall off. If one accidentally left a rock on top of a barrel and now wants wine from the barrel, he may tip the barrel and cause the rock to fall off. If the barrel was packed tightly among other barrels so that it cannot be tipped over, or if tipping it would break the barrel next to it, he may lift up the barrel while the rock is on top of it and move it to where he can slide the rock off without causing damage (Shabbat 142b; SA 309:4).

One may pick up a broom and use it to sweep up dust or leaves, which are muktzeh. This is because one is doing it indirectly, not with his hands but with a broom, for a permitted purpose – so that the place will be clean. Similarly, if one wants to use a table, he may use a knife to move away shells (that do not have the status of graf she re’i) that have been left on the table (Taz 308:18; MB ad loc. 115).[14]

If one wants to move the muktzeh item for its own sake, to protect it, one may not move it even indirectly. For example, if money was left on a chair and one is concerned that the money will be stolen, he may not tip the chair so that the money will fall off and become hidden.

In contrast, one may use part of his body to move the money and conceal it. For the entire prohibition of moving muktzeh on Shabbat is to do so in the normal manner, with one’s hand. The Sages did not prohibit moving muktzeh with the body. This includes moving with one’s foot, his arm, his breath, or any other limb other than the hand (SA 311:8; Rema 308:3). Therefore, if money is lying on the ground, one may move it with his foot to conceal it. Similarly, if an item is lying on the ground and is at risk of being stepped on and broken, he may use his foot to move it out of harm’s way. So, too, if a drawer has become a basis but has an item in it which one needs, he may open the drawer with part of his body and remove the necessary item. One may sit on a stone or on the wood of a construction site even though sitting down causes it to move (MB 308:82). Similarly, one may lean on a car, on condition that doing so will not set off the alarm.


[14]. It is true that some are stringent, maintaining that since a broom is taken in order to move muktzeh objects, moving with a broom is considered direct, not min ha-tzad (SAH 308:60; Ĥayei Adam §67 and Nishmat Adam ad loc. 6; Ĥazon Ish 47:14). Nevertheless, since muktzeh is a rabbinic law, the lenient ruling is primary. This is the approach of SSK 22:37-38 and Yalkut Yosef vol. 2, pp. 326-327. Besides, there are additional reasons to justify leniency in the case of sweeping – e.g., because what is being swept is considered a graf shel re’i or because it is insignificant. See Harĥavot.The Aĥaronim disagree whether one may indirectly move something muktzeh in order to use the muktzeh object itself for a permitted activity. For example, may one move a tray with a burning lamp on it in order to benefit from the lamplight (assuming that the tray also has a non-muktzeh item on it that is more important than the lamp, and thus the tray is not a basis, as we explained in section 6)? Beit Meir 276:3 and Pri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 308:18) are lenient; it is indirect movement for a permitted activity. However, SAH 376:10 is stringent; since the primary purpose of moving the tray is to use the lamp, the activity is not permitted, as it constitutes moving min ha-tzad for the purpose of something forbidden. SSK ch. 20 n. 194 states that one who wishes to be lenient has an opinion on which to rely.

One may move part of a muktzeh item for a permitted activity. For example, one may adjust the vents of an air conditioner or the dials on a wall clock, even though the clock is muktzeh maĥmat ĥesron kis, according to SSK 28:26, n. 55. Orĥot Shabbat ch. 19 n. 466, disagrees and prohibits doing so.

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