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

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha


Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

Separating the Tzitzit Strands

Question: My younger son wears a “Tallit Katan” (Tzitzit garment). When I see that the Tzitzit strands become entangled, may I untangle them on Shabbat? Answer: Before reciting a blessing on a Tallit or a Tallit Katan (Tzitzit garment), one must separate the Tzitzit strands from one a......

Read Halacha