Halacha for Sunday 6 Kislev 5781 November 22 2020

A Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that there are certain objects our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Utensils or tools which are used for types of work that are permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Thus, one may move forks, knives, a chair, or a table on Shabbat as long as there is some purpose in doing so. Similarly, these objects may be moved “from sun to shade” or from a place where one is worried it may get lost or stolen to a safer place.

Moving a Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat
Nevertheless, a tool which is used for types of work that are forbidden on Shabbat, such as a rake, shovel, or hammer which are all designated for forbidden kinds of work on Shabbat, may not be moved even if one is worried that it may get lost, stolen, or ruined in its current location. However, as we have explained previously, such items may in fact be moved for their own use or for the use of their place.

“Its own use” means, for instance, one may use a hammer, which is surely a tool used for work forbidden on Shabbat, to crack open a coconut on Shabbat. Similarly, an ax may be moved on Shabbat in order to use it to cut a cake of pressed figs.

“Use of its place” means, for instance, if one would like to sit in the place where a hammer is currently lying, one may indeed move the hammer and sit there.

Moving a Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat When a Utensil Used for Permissible Work Is Available
There is a dispute among the Poskim if it is permissible to move a tool used for work forbidden on Shabbat for its own use or for the use of its place when another place or utensil is available. We shall now explain:

The Mishnah Berura (Chapter 308, Subsection 12) writes that the ruling that it is permissible to move a tool used for work forbidden on Shabbat for its own use or for the use of its place only applies when one does not have a permissible object on hand, for if one does, it would be prohibited to use the forbidden object.

This means that if one has a nutcracker and, for whatever reason, wishes to use a hammer to crack a walnut, one may not use the hammer, for our Sages only permitted doing so when one has no other utensil available.

Similarly, if one has two chairs in front of him, one empty and one that has a rake lying on it, and one wishes to sit down, one may not remove the rake from the chair it is on, for the Sages only permitted doing so when there is no other seat available. However, if there is another chair to sit on, this will be prohibited. The Kaf Ha’Chaim, Hagaon Harav Shalom Mizrachi zt”l, and others rule likewise.

However, some Acharonim write that the Halacha does not follow this opinion and they write that since the greatest of the earlier authorities do not mention this law of only being able to use a tool used for work forbidden on Shabbat when there is no other permitted object available, this implies that there is no difference between moving an object used for work permitted on Shabbat and moving a tool used for work prohibited on Shabbat for its own use or use of its place and one may move such a forbidden tool (provided one of the aforementioned conditions apply) even if other options are available. This is the ruling of Hagaon Harav Chaim Na’eh and Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules this way as well. The Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata also rules leniently on this matter. However, he concludes by saying that if there is a permitted object available, it is preferable to use it instead. Nevertheless, the letter of the law dictates that one may be lenient in this matter.

Summary: A tool used for work forbidden on Shabbat may be moved on Shabbat for its own use or use of its place. Thus, one may crack open a walnut on Shabbat using a hammer. This applies even if there is another utensil available which is not used for work forbidden on Shabbat, such as a nutcracker, and even so, one may use the hammer to crack open the walnut.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Megillah Reading- Coronavirus

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor- Coronavirus

“Remember What Amalek Has Done to You” On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Vayikra this year, 577......

Read Halacha

Caution Regarding Chametz Issues

Our Sages (Tosefta Pesachim, Chapter 3) taught: “We inquire about and expound the laws of Pesach from thirty days before Pesach.” Based on this, great rabbis throughout the generations have taken the opportunity to teach the laws of Pesach to the public between Purim and Pesach since eve......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Koshering Vessels for Pesach

One may not use Chametz vessels on Pesach since vessels which have been used to cook in or have had hot Chametz placed in them have Chametz flavor absorbed in them. Thus, just as we separate between meat and dairy utensils all year long, we must likewise separate between the utensils we use all year......

Read Halacha


Matanot La’Evyonim- Coronavirus

In the previous Halacha we briefly discussed the Mitzvah of “Matanot La’Evyonim” on Purim day which is the distribution of two monetary gifts, one to each pauper. What Must One Give? In order to fulfill this Mitzvah, one need not give actual gifts; rather, it is permissible to ......

Read Halacha

Silver Vessels

Question: May one continue to use silver vessels or utensils, such as a Kiddush goblet, on Pesach after they have been used throughout the rest of the year? Answer: All vessels used all year round with cold foods or beverages may be used on Pesach after having been thoroughly washed beforehand, f......

Read Halacha

The Days of Purim and the Laws of Mishloach Manot- 5781

The Days of Purim Purim will be celebrated in approximately two weeks from today. This year, we must discuss several unique laws, first of all, because Purim day (the 14th of Adar) falls out on a Friday. Second of all, in Jerusalem, a “three-day Purim” will be celebrated since the 15th ......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of the Purim Feast This Year (5781)

Holding the Purim Feast at Night The holiday of Purim is different than all other holidays we celebrate in that whereas regarding other holidays the Mitzvah of partaking of a joyous holiday meal applies during the day and night, regarding the holiday of Purim, there is only a Mitzvah to hold a feas......

Read Halacha