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

Washing One’s Hands with Water from the Mediterranean Sea and Water Which has been Desalinated

Question: If one is at the beach and wishes to eat bread but has no water to wash one’s hands with, may one wash one’s hands using the water of the sea or ocean? Salty Water Answer: Regarding the laws of washing one’s hands for a bread meal, the Mishnah and Gemara teach us that......

Read Halacha

Immersing One’s Hands in Sea Water

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one is on the beach and wishes to eat bread, one may not gather some sea water in a vessel and wash one’s hands, for sea water is salty and thus invalid for Netilat Yadayim. Immersing One’s Hands in a Spring, the Sea, or a Mikveh Howe......

Read Halacha

The Eight Levels of Tzedakah

The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Matenot Aniyim) writes that there are eight levels included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah with each one being greater than the other. The highest level of Tzedakah is by helping to support a Jew who lacks his basic needs by providing him with money by means of a gif......

Read Halacha

Listening to Music or Words of Torah in a Room Which Has a Bathtub or Shower in it

Question: May one recite holy words (words of Torah, prayer, or blessings) in a room with a bathtub or shower in it? Similarly, may one listen to holy songs or Torah lectures in such a room? Answer: There are two primary points which must be addressed: Firstly, whether or not one who is bathing a......

Read Halacha


Washing One’s Hands in the Restroom

Question: Is it permissible to wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) in the restroom or shower room? Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4) rules that one who exits the restroom requires Netilat Yadayim. Maran Ha’Chida writes that this is because of the evil spirit which rests......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Donating a Tenth of One’s Earnings

By popular demand, we shall now discuss the topics of Tzedakah and donating a tenth of one’s earnings more broadly based on the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim and based on what is written in the works of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l on this topic. Question: ......

Read Halacha

Food Items Touched by One Who Did Not Wash One’s Hands in the Morning

In the past, we have explained the obligation for one to wash one’s hands from a vessel every morning upon awakening from his sleep. We have also explained that when one awakens from one’s sleep in the morning, an evil spirit rests on one’s hands, for sleep is considered one-six......

Read Halacha

Question: Are those who customarily donate a tenth of their monthly income to Tzedakah permitted to deduct the cost of providing for their children still living at home from the sum of this ten percent?

Answer: We have previously discussed that one must donate a certain amount of Tzedakah annually. It is a “middle” level for one to give a tenth of one’s monthly profits every month. Now let us deal with our question regarding those who donate a tenth of their monthly profits to Tze......

Read Halacha