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Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita



Questions for the Week of Parshas Va'era


Muktze – k'li she'mlachto l'issur

Is one permitted to use a hammer to crack open a nut?

This brings us to the next category of muktze called k’li she’mlachto l’issur. A k’li she’mlachto l’issur is defined as a k’li mainly used for an action that is prohibited on Shabbos. A hammer, for example is used for hammering nails into wood, which involves an issur either of Boneh – Construction, or of Makeh B’patish – Applying the Finishing Touch.

The halacha applicable to this category is that if the k’li is needed (for something permissible – of course), it may be used. The term used to describe this is l’tsorech gufo – for the use of itself. Therefore, if one needs a hammer to crack open nuts, one may use it. If one needs a screwdriver to pry open a jammed lid, one may use it.

Before one wishes to use such a k’li, one must be sure that the particular k’li belongs in this category of muktze. As we learned in the previous sheet, a k’li that is muktze machmas chisaron kis may not be used l’tsorech gufo, as it is totally muktze.

If I have a nutcracker available, may I nevertheless use a hammer?

The Mishna Berura says [1] that one may only use a k’li she’mlachto l’issur when no other k’li is available. Accordingly, if you have a nutcracker, you should not use a hammer. If a knife will pry open the jar, do not use a screwdriver.

This appears to be a matter of availability. If your neighbor has a nutcracker, you would not be required to go and borrow it from him, and you may use the hammer. If however, the nutcracker requires a little searching for, it is debatable.

Is this stringency accepted by all poskim?

The Be'er Moshe [2] cites ten poskim who disagree with the Mishna Berura and hold that one may use a k'li shemlachto l'issur even when another k'li heter is available. Nevertheless, we have the Mishna Berura who ruled stringently, and we should try to abide by his ruling when possible.

If a screwdriver is occupying my chair, may I remove it?

Another rule applicable to this category is that if a k’li she’mlachto l’issur is occupying a space one needs, it may be moved. For example, if a writing pen is on a chair needed for sitting, it may be relocated. This is known as l'tzorech m'komo. [3]

Once it is removed from the chair and is still in my hands, may it be placed where it belongs or must it be put down as soon as possible?

The Shulchan Aruch [4] rules that the item may be placed wherever the person wants to put it.

If one lifted a muktze item when one was not allowed to, must it be put down as soon as possible, or now that it is already in one’s hand, may it be put wherever one wants?

This question can be divided into two parts.

1) Does it make a difference if the item was muktza machmas gufo e.g. sticks and stones or machmas chisaron kis e.g a camera?

2) If a k’li she’mlachto l’issur was accidentally picked up, may one continue with it to wherever he wants?

 The Magen Avraham [5] holds that this is a general permit for all muktze items. I.e. if a muktze item was lifted, it may be placed anywhere. The M”B [6] however, says that the poskim disagree and rule that this leniency applies solely to the category of keilim shem’lachtam l’issur. In other words, if an expensive camera was unintentionally picked up, it must be put down immediately. If one lifted a stone and remembered that there is no heter to move it at all, it must be dropped there and then.

As for the second issue, the Vilna Ga’on holds that the heter of placing items wherever one chooses applies only if the item was lifted when it was permitted to do so. If, however, a k’li she’mlachto l’issur was lifted absentmindedly, or when there was no heter to do so, it must be put down there and then.

To summarize: If one lifted an item other than a k'li shemlachto l'issur it should be placed down as soon as possible.

If one absent-mindedly lifted a k'li shemlachto l'issur it should be placed down as soon as possible.

It would be interesting to discuss whether once a k'li shemlachto l'issur was lifted absent-mindedly may one "invent" a use to avoid having to place it down immediately.

If a hammer is getting wet in the rain, may one bring it inside?

One is permitted to handle a k’li she’mlachto l’issur (an item usually used for something that involves an issur) l’tsorech gufo um’komo i.e. if one needs the actual k’li or the space it is occupying.

However, one is not permitted [7] to handle or move a k’li she’mlachto l’issur when the intention is to prevent it from damage or from getting stolen.

If, however the k’li will be needed later on Shabbos, one may bring it inside even though at present he is doing it to protect the k’li. [8]

One is permitted to “find” something to do with the k’li, even though the primary intention is to protect the k’li. [9] This is based on a Yerushalmi that brings a case of hunting nets that were getting ruined lying in the sun. The owners asked Rav what could be done to salvage them, and he told them to use them as pillows. We learn from this that – when a loss is involved - one may “invent”[10] a use for a k’li she’mlachto l’issur even though the primary intention is to salvage the k’li.

[1] Simon 308:12.

[2] Debretziner Rov ùå"ú çì÷ ç'.

[3] Simon 308:3.

[4] Simon 308:3.

[5] See Sha’ar Ha’tsiun 308:14.

[6] Simon 308:13.

[7] Simon 308:3

[8] T’hila L’dovid simon 308:5.

[9] M”B simon 308:16. Oruch haShulchan 308:14.

[10] Oruch haShulchan ibid.


Vort on the Parsha

Rashi cites the Midrash where Hashem says to Moshe Rabeinu that he "misses" the Avos, because they did not question Hashem as Moshe Rabeinu did. Hashem had promised Avraham the land and yet Avraham had to purchase a burial place with good money. Yitzchak's wells were refilled with sand etc. And you, Moshe, want reassurance that Hashem will redeem Am Yisrael. It seems that Moshe's faith was somewhat weaker than those of the Fathers.

The truth is that had Hashem promised Moshe Rabeinu something for his personal benefit he would not have asked for reassurance, but here he was asking for something with which to reassure K'lal Yisrael, something to give them in their hand that they could present Hashem with His promise. It was not for his own benefit.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.