Halachos of Muktza - Summary
Because of the melacha of Hotza’ah, we are not allowed to carry outside or from one Reshus to another.
But INSIDE, we are allowed to carry as much as we want… or are we?
The Chachomim made a takana called Muktza, which tells us about things we aren’t allowed to carry, even inside of our own houses!
There are three reasons for this takana.
Reasons for Muktza: #1
Shabbos is a day of rest. But if we can carry around whatever we want to in our homes, it won’t be very restful! We will be busy all day moving things around from one place to the next. So the Chachomim made the takana of muktza, so we won’t be able to be busy with all of these things, and will rest on Shabbos.
Reasons for Muktza: #2
Muktza helps keep us from making a mistake and doing Hotza’ah on Shabbos, carrying outside of a Reshus Hayochid.
If we could just carry whatever we wanted all the time on Shabbos, even things we’re carrying for no reason, we would forget and carry things outside! That is the melacha of Hotza’ah, and the takana of muktza helps keep us from accidentally doing it.
Reasons for Muktza: #3
The third reason why the Chachomim made the takana of muktza is to make sure that Shabbos feels different and Shabbos’dik for EVERY type of Yid.
Some Yidden don’t do much melacha during the week. If the only thing different on Shabbos was melacha, there wouldn’t be much different on Shabbos for them! It would feel just like a weekday.
Extra Strictness in Muktza
The takana of muktza makes sure that Shabbos feels very different for EVERYBODY.
The Chachomim, beginning in the times of Dovid and Shlomo Hamelech (or even before that), made a takana called Muktza, making sure we don’t move keilim that will make Shabbos less Shabbos’dik.
On Shabbos, a person is not allowed to move a keili, even one that ISN'T muktza, for no reason.
This is because of a gezeira that was made in the times of the second Beis Hamikdash, in the days of the Navi Nechemya ben Chachalya. The Yidden of his time were not being careful with Shabbos. They were even squeezing fresh wine, loading up their donkeys, and carrying outside on Shabbos.
So the Chachomim of that time made a VERY strict gezeira. They didn’t let Yidden move ANYTHING on Shabbos except for very specific reasons, to keep the Yidden from doing melachos on Shabbos.
This gezeira worked! When Yidden had to think carefully about everything they touched on Shabbos, they stopped doing melacha without thinking. Over time, the Chachomim were able to make the gezeira less and less strict, since the Yidden were being so careful.
But one part of the gezeira still remains today: We are not allowed to move a keili on Shabbos for no reason at all.
There are two types of things that we can move even for no reason — seforim and food or drink, because they weren’t included in the gezeira in the times of Nechemya ben Chachalya.
Two Kinds of Muktza
There are many types of things that are muktza on Shabbos.
Some kinds of muktza things are very strict. We are almost NEVER allowed to move them on Shabbos. This is called Muktza Chamur, the strict kind of muktza.
Then there are things that the Chachomim are not as strict about. We are not allowed to move these things on Shabbos to keep them from getting ruined, but we CAN move them if we need to use them for something we are allowed to do on Shabbos, or if we need it out of the way so we can use that space. This is called Muktza Kal, the less strict kind of muktza.
Muktza Kal is the less strict kind of muktza.
Even though these things are still muktza, not something we regularly use on Shabbos, there are some times we are able to move them: Letzorech Gufo (if we need to use it for something we are allowed to do on Shabbos), or Letzorech Mekomo (if we need the space where it is).
One type of muktza we can move for these reasons on Shabbos is called a “Keili Shemelachto Le’isur” — something that is usually used to do a melacha that we are not allowed to do on Shabbos. For example, a pen or a pair of scissors are both a Keili Shemelachto Le’isur. They are usually used for writing and cutting things to a certain size — the melachos of koseiv (writing) and mechateich (cutting to size).
On Shabbos we are not allowed to pick up a pen or scissors to put them back in the drawer where they belong, since they are muktza.
But if there is a pen on the couch, we are allowed to move it out of the way if we need to sit there (Letzoreich Mekomo). And if there is a bag of food that needs to be opened on Shabbos, and we don’t have a better way to open it, we are allowed to use scissors to cut open the bag (Letzorech Gufo).
There are different reasons why something isn’t meant to be used. If we don’t expect to use something on Shabbos because it is something important or expensive that we are very careful with, it is called Muktza Machmas Chesron Kis.
For example, a wrapped wedding present is this kind of muktza. You are planning on giving it to someone as a gift, so you are careful not to ruin it!
Another example is a Shochet’s knife. A shochet spends a lot of time making sure his knife is very very sharp, and he wouldn’t use it for anything else! (Shechting is asur on Shabbos.)
Another example of Muktza Machmas Chesron Kis is a birth certificate. It is a very important piece of paper that people are very careful with.
This type of muktza is Muktza Chamur, a strict kind of muktza. We are not allowed to move these things on Shabbos, even if we want to use them for something we ARE allowed to do, or if they are in a space we wanted to use.
Picking Up Muktza by Mistake
What happens if you pick something up on Shabbos, and then realize that it is muktza? What should you do? Should you drop it right away, or can you put it back down where it belongs?
The halacha depends on what kind of muktza it is!
If it is the kind of muktza called Muktza Kal, the less strict kind of muktza, you can put it down where it belongs. So for example, if you picked up a pen by mistake, you can put it away in it’s proper place.
But if it is the strict kind of muktza, Muktza Chamur, you need to drop it right away! So for example, if you reach into your pocket and pull out a piece of paper, and realize it is a dollar bill, you have to drop it right away! If you need it to go into a safe place, you need to kick it or blow it away. (Of course, we should check our pockets before Shabbos so this doesn’t happen!)
Muktza = Moving
Even though we can’t move muktza, it is not asur to touch it if it is something that usually doesn’t move.
For example, a car is definitely muktza. But it won’t move just by touching it, because it is so heavy. So it isn’t a problem to touch it on Shabbos.
Tiltul Kil'achar Yad
On Shabbos, we are not allowed to move things that are muktza.
The Chachomim explain that this is talking about moving things in a normal way, with our hands. But moving something in an unusual way is called Tiltul Kil’achar Yad, which IS mutar. For example, we are allowed to push away muktza with the back of our hand, move it by kicking it out of the way, pushing with our elbow, head, or stomach, or pulling with our mouth.
Exceptions to Muktza: #1
Muktza means something that is not meant to be used on Shabbos.
We wouldn't want to use something smelly and yucky on Shabbos, so smelly and yucky things are muktza.
But since having those kinds of things around can bother us on Shabbos, the Chachomim made “Heter Graf Shel Re’i,” that we can move something yucky on Shabbos so that it won’t bother people.
For example, if you have a smelly garbage can, or find a dirty diaper or a dead bug on Shabbos, you can take them out, even in the regular way.
Exceptions to Muktza: #2
There are some times when the Chachomim took away their gezeira of muktza. One time is when leaving the muktza where it is will be a sakana for people.
For example, broken glass is muktza, since it usually can’t be used for anything.
But if glass breaks on the table or where people walk, someone could get hurt! Because of this, the Chachomim didn’t make it counted as muktza, and we are allowed to clean it up in the regular way.
Hilchos Shabbos, by Pansaim