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Shabbat Parashat Emor 5774

Ask the Rabbi: Coin Collection on Shabbat

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Is it permitted to handle my modest home-based coin collection on Shabbat?

 

Answer: This question reminds us of a similar one we answered years ago – whether a rock collection is muktzeh (see Living the Halachic Process, vol. I, C-15). We will summarize our discussion there and then see how a coin collection compares.

Rocks are muktzeh (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:21) because generally they do not have a use that would make them considered a kli (utensil). However, if one prepares them for a given purpose or if their owner decides to use them for a specific permitted purpose, they are not muktzeh (ibid.:21-22). Thus, rocks that were incorporated in a rock collection need not be muktzeh because they are to enjoy looking at.

The question we had was regarding a case where the rocks are on display in a manner that the arrangement remains untouched over long periods of time. Does that turn the collection into muktzeh machmat chisaron kis, something one is careful not to use for various uses that may come up? While the usual cases of muktzeh machmat chisaron kis are utensils that are basically for forbidden purposes, where other uses are ruled out, does it extend to an object whose purpose is permitted but one is careful to rarely move it (e.g., wall clocks and paintings)? Rav Moshe Feinstein (responsum #13 in “Tiltulei Shabbat”) said such things are not muktzeh; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (20:22) said they are muktzeh machmat chisaron kis.

Coins are muktzeh (Shulchan Aruch, OC 310:7). This is not only because their use is related to a prohibited activity (commerce), for then their muktzeh status would be only partial. Rather, they are not considered utensils (see introduction of Mishna Berura to OC 308) because their value is not intrinsic but based on convention. However if one uses coins as something of interest they would not, on the basic level, be muktzeh (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:38, regarding coins incorporated into jewelry, which are not muktzeh).

In some ways, a standard coin collection is more likely to not be muktzeh than a rock collection, if we are correct in assuming that the coins are made to be handled. One keeps them in books, whose pages are turned to look at coin after coin. While they are nestled within plastic coverings, turning the pages is still considered moving the coins, as the pages and the plastic serve the coins. Therefore, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata should agree the coins are not muktzeh unless one keeps locked in a safe and rarely handle. If the collection is slated for sale and the owner is careful not to use it in the meantime, the coins would be muktzeh (see Rama, OC 308:1). However, we understand that you are talking about a collection for the owner’s personal interest.

The one remaining issue is the Chazon Ish’s opinion. The gemara (Shabbat 65b) says that if one attaches a stone to an article of clothing for a purpose of utility, it is permitted to move the stone along with the clothes, as long as he intended to use the stone for that purpose before Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 303:22). The gemara says that, as opposed to a stone, intention for that purpose would not suffice for a coin. Most understand that this is only if the coin was not permanently set aside for the use before Shabbat (see Beit Yosef, OC 303, Mishna Berura 303:74). Thus, if coins are permanently on display and no longer act as “money,” they would be permitted. However, the Chazon Ish (OC 42:17) says that coins cannot be considered as set aside for another purpose, as they are always candidates to be used again as money and remain muktzeh.

You, though, do not have to be concerned with the Chazon Ish’s opinion. Firstly, we follow the majority lenient ruling (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilcata 20:38). Secondly, the Chazon Ish’s logic seemingly does not apply to a coin collection. Since the coins involved have a special collectors’ value that exceeds their value as money, there is no reason to suspect they will revert to use as money.

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