Halacha for Wednesday 24 Cheshvan 5781 November 11 2020

An Object Used for Permissible Work on Shabbat

Question: Is one permitted to move a fork or knife on Shabbat for no reason at all?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have explained in general the reasons behind the prohibition of Muktzeh on Shabbat, which is a rabbinic enactment prohibiting the movement or carrying of certain objects on Shabbat. There are several types of Muktzeh. We shall now discuss the category of Muktzeh known as “an object used for permissible work on Shabbat”.

“An object used for permissible work on Shabbat” refers to a vessel whose primary use is a function which is permitted on Shabbat, such as a fork or knife. Certainly, these utensils can be moved on Shabbat whether one needs the actual utensil or just to use its space. Therefore, one may move a fork on Shabbat in order to use it for eating or simply because one needs to use the space where it is currently laying.

Clearly, most of the objects one uses on Shabbat can be classified as “an object used for permissible work on Shabbat.” Included in this category of Muktzeh are pots, plates, trays, chairs, tables, keys, and so on. We must now discuss whether these items may be moved on Shabbat even for no reason at all or perhaps one may only move them for a purpose.

The Gemara in Shabbat (123b) tells us that originally the Sages decreed the prohibition of Muktzeh on all objects, including objects used for permissible works on Shabbat (besides for several objects which the Gemara lists that were still permitted to be moved). However, when the Sages realized that most people could not uphold this decree, they progressively retracted and permitted certain objects to be moved on Shabbat and then once again permitted more things. The Gemara asks, “How lenient were they with regards to the original decree of Muktzeh? What did they permit the first time they ‘retracted and permitted’ and what did they permit the second time they did so?”  The Gemara answers, “Rava said, originally they permitted moving an object used for permissible work on Shabbat only for its innate use or for the use of its place. Later, they permitted moving it even from [lying in the] sun to the shade.”  This means that they originally only permitted moving such an object for its own use or use of its place, for instance, in order to use it for eating and the like. Later, the Sages permitted moving it even from sun to shade, meaning that if such an object lay in the sun and becomes very hot which can cause it to be damaged, even if one has no specific use for this utensil right now and one’s only interest is moving it so that it does not break, one may do so on Shabbat.

The Rishonim derive from this Gemara that it will only be permissible to move an object which is used for work permitted on Shabbat if one has some sort of use in doing so; however, moving it for no reason at all will be forbidden.

Based on this, one may only move an object used for permissible work on Shabbat provided that one is doing so for some sort of purpose; however, one may not move it for no reason at all. Although most people are not so meticulous regarding this Halacha, one is obligated to inform others of this, for this is not merely a stringency and is the actual letter of the law.

Rabbeinu Yosef Haim writes in his Ben Ish Hai that moving a utensil on Shabbat purely out of boredom, for instance, playing with a fork for no reason, is a forbidden form of moving Muktzeh on Shabbat. Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes in the name of the Aruch Ha’Shulchan that as long as one has some sort of actual satisfaction in doing so, moving the object will be permitted. Similarly, the Be’er Moshe writes in one of his responses that if one is sitting for many hours at the table of one’s Admor (Chassidic Rebbe) and in order to calm one’s nerves, one takes a fork and starts to play with it, one need not rebuke such an individual since there is some sort of necessity for what he is doing. However, if one does so for no reason at all, completely out of boredom, there is no room for leniency.

Summary: On Shabbat, one may move objects used for permissible works on Shabbat, such as a fork, knife, or chair, in order to use these objects themselves or to move them into the shade so that they are not damaged by the heat of the sun.  However, to move this type of object for no reason whatsoever is prohibited on Shabbat, as we have explained.

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

Donating Tzedakah (Charity) in Order for One’s Son to Recover From an Illness

Question: Is it permissible to donate a sum of money to charity in the merit of which someone should become healed or for any other personal request or is it improper to do this since the Mitzvah is not being performed for the sake of Heaven, rather, for one’s personal purposes? Answer: The......

Read Halacha

Walking a Dog on Shabbat

Question: If one has a pet dog at home, either for leisure or as a seeing-eye dog for a blind individual, may one move it on Shabbat? Similarly, may one walk the dog in the street on Shabbat? Answer: We have explained in the previous Halacha that all animals are considered Muktzeh on Shabbat as M......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Chazzan’s Repetition of the Amida

-------------------------------- Along with the rest of the Jewish nation, we are heartbroken and mourn the loss of those who passed in the horrific Meron tragedy on Lag Ba’Omer. May their souls be bound in the binding of eternal life and may Hashem send consolation to their families and ma......

Read Halacha


Lag Ba’Omer (The 33rd Day of the Omer)

The 33rd day of the Omer is a day of festivity and rejoicing in honor of the saintly Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. There are indeed sources for this among the Poskim. We are therefore customarily more joyous than usual on this day and we do not recite Tachanun (supplication prayers). This year, 57......

Read Halacha

Moving Animals on Shabbat

Question: May one move domesticated birds that live in a cage on Shabbat in order to move the cage from place to place as necessary? Similarly, may one remove a dead fish from one’s aquarium on Shabbat? Answer: The Gemara (Shabbat 128b) states that it is forbidden to move or carry any anima......

Read Halacha

Tying Tzitzit Strings and Plastic Cable Ties on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot we have discussed some basic laws of tying and untying knots on Shabbat. The general rule is any knot that is either “professional,” i.e. requires some skill to make, or “permanent,” i.e. is meant to last for a prolonged amount of time, is forbidden t......

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