Halacha for Sunday 28 Cheshvan 5781 November 15 2020

Moving Food Items on Shabbat

Question: May one move food items on Shabbat if they are not intended for Shabbat use, such as meat designated for Sunday or baking powder and vanilla sugar which have no use on Shabbat?

Answer: In the previous Halachot we have explained the primary laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that our Sages forbade moving certain objects on Shabbat. We have written that objects which are used for work permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Tools which are used for work prohibited on Shabbat may be moved for their own use or use of their place, as we have explained above.

Rocks, dirt, and the like are categorized as “innate Muktzeh” which are prohibited to be moved even for their own use or use of their place.

We must now explain the laws of moving various food items on Shabbat. Do the laws of Muktzeh apply here or not?

At first glance, food items can certainly not be considered objects used for permissible or forbidden work or on Shabbat, for food is not a utensil or a tool. However, we must discern whether or not food can be considered “innate Muktzeh”.

Indeed, this depends on whether or not the given food is able to be eaten on this specific Shabbat, such as cakes, cookies, and the like, for if this is the case, it may be moved on Shabbat. Similarly, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules (Chapter 310, Section 2): “There is no edible item that is detached from the ground that can be considered Muktzeh on Shabbat.”

However, if any specific food item is not edible on Shabbat, such as dough which is inedible until it is baked or rotten foods that are currently inedible, one may not move it on Shabbat, similar to the law of dirt and stones which may not be moved on Shabbat. Similarly, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules that grapes which were left out to dry in order to make raisins out of them and are now rotten, since the preparation process is not yet complete, one may not move them on Shabbat.

Based on this, baking powder which is inedible until after the baking process retains the law of “innate Muktzeh” and may not be moved. However, regarding vanilla sugar which is edible even without being baked (such as in a fruit salad), it may be moved on Shabbat. Similarly, meat which one intends to serve on a weekday and not partake of on Shabbat may still be moved on Shabbat since the prohibition of Muktzeh does not apply to things which can be eaten on Shabbat.

Based on what we have explained above that “innate Muktzeh” may not be moved even for its own use or use of its place, one may not move baking powder on Shabbat even if there is a purpose in doing so. Similarly, meat which is completely inedible on Shabbat may not be moved even for a purpose since it is “innate Muktzeh.”

Thus, if one needs to take a frozen Challah out of the freezer on Shabbat but the Challah is stuck behind a bag of flour or baking powder, one may not move the flour or baking powder in order to take out the Challah, for flour and baking powder are considered “innate Muktzeh” and there is no permissible way to move them (besides for a special exception that we shall, G-d-willing, discuss further).

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