Halacha for Tuesday 23 Cheshvan 5781 November 10 2020

Introduction to the Laws of Muktzeh

In the following Halachot, we shall discuss some of the laws regarding Muktzeh on Shabbat. Let us first start off by explaining the reasons for the prohibition of Muktzeh as well as the essence of the prohibition (based on the teachings of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l).

The Rambam (Chapter 24 of Hilchot Shabbat) writes: “Our Sages prohibited moving certain objects on Shabbat the way one generally would during the rest of the week. The reason for this prohibition is because the Sages said that if the prophets commanded one to make sure the way one walks and speaks on Shabbat does not resemble the way one walks and speaks during the rest of the week as the verse states, ‘Or to speak your [mundane] words’. Certainly then, the objects one carries on Shabbat should not be the same as the objects one carries during the rest of the week so that Shabbat should not appear as a regular weekday in one’s eyes, lest one come to pick up and fix different items from corner to corner and from house to house or hide rocks and the like, for as one sits idly in one’s house, one will surely look for something to do and one will then not have rested on Shabbat and he will have transgressed the Torah’s commandment of, ‘In order that [you] should rest.’”

It is clear from the words of the Rambam that the prohibition of Muktzeh is a rabbinic decree, for the Sages understood that if one would be permitted to carry any object on Shabbat, this would lead to an extreme disrespect of Shabbat in that one will exert much effort in arranging one’s possessions on Shabbat and there will be no distinction between Shabbat and the rest of the week, thereby causing one not to fulfill the Mitzvah of resting on Shabbat as the verse states, “In order that you should rest.” Thus, our Sages decided to forbid moving Muktzeh objects on Shabbat.

The Rambam writes an additional reason for this enactment is that if one were to move tools used for forbidden work on Shabbat (such as a rake or  shovel which are tools used for types of  works that are  forbidden on Shabbat), one might come to use them slightly and perform a forbidden type of work on Shabbat. The prohibition of performing forbidden work on Shabbat is very grave indeed and it is thus proper to distance the public from doing so. The Rambam writes other reasons for the prohibition of Muktzeh as well. The Ra’avad disagrees and writes a different reason for the prohibition of Muktzeh. However, this is not the place to go into detail about all of the different reasons behind this issue.

There are several types of Muktzeh objects which are categorized based on the given object. Each category of Muktzeh objects possesses its own set of laws. We will begin by explaining the category called “an object used for permissible work” meaning an object which is usually used for a purpose that is permitted on Shabbat, such as a fork which is surely permitted to be used for eating on Shabbat and this is categorized as “an object used for permissible work” (as opposed to “a tool which is used for forbidden work”, such as a rake or a shovel, which is usually used for work that is prohibited on Shabbat).

In the next Halacha we will, G-d willing, explain when it is permissible to move “an object used for permissible work” and when it is prohibited.

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