Shabbat Parashat Yitro| 5765
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I have a very extensive rock collection. Is it muktzeh on Shabbat?
Answer: Often, on issues of muktzeh, it is only the person who asks the question who can answer it, as we will explain.
Rocks are, in general, one of the classic examples of muktzeh (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:21) because, in their simple form, they do not have a defined use that would make them considered a kli (utensil).However,if one does something to prepare them to be used for a given purpose or if their owner decides, even without an act of preparation, to use them permanently for a purpose, then they are not muktzeh (ibid.:21-22). Thus, rocks that were collected for and, even more so, incorporated in a rock collection need notbe muktzeh.
The only question is if one’s high regard for the collection causes him problems, as we will explain. Things that are purposeless are muktzeh, asthere is not expected, when Shabbat begins, to be a good reason to move them. The fact that later on a use arises does not change their status. But there is a factor that makes something more muktzeh specifically because of its value. This category is called muktzeh machmat chisaron kis (=mmck).
The classical cases of mmck that are discussed in the gemara and early poskim deal with utensils that are designed to perform functions that are forbidden on Shabbat (keilim she’melachtam l’issur). Such utensils can be moved only in limited circumstances (details of which are beyond our present scope). However, if these utensils are additionally the type that are important enough to their owners that they are careful not to use the utensils for anything other than their main purpose, then they are mmck. As such, they are further off limits and cannot be moved at all (ibid.:1).
What happens if you have the second level of “muktzeh factor” without the first? In other words, what happens if you have a utensil that is made for permitted use (kli shemelachto l’heter) but because of different reasons, including its value, its owner is careful that it is not moved around? Two things are quite clear. Firstly, the Rambam (Shabbat 25:9) says that an object that was totally set aside not to be used on Shabbat, because, for example, it was put away to be sold, is mmck even if its ultimate use is for permitted activities (see Aruch Hashulchan 308:11). It is also clear that a kli shemelachto l’issur is more easily assumed to be mmck, because its range of possible uses starts off limited before the issue of its value (see Mishna Berura 308:8 & Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:4).A kli shemelachto l’heter needs a higher level of concern about its damage to be mmck. The question is where to draw the line.
Cases which are disputed by recent poskim include pictures and clocks that are hung on a wall. Rav Moshe Feinstein z.t.l. (responsum #13 in “Tiltulei Shabbat”) says that these are not muktzeh. His implied rationale seems to be that hanging them up on the wall is the way to use them, not the way to remove them from use. But Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (20:22) says that since one is careful not to move them from their places for fear they may get damaged, they are set aside as immovable objects, along the lines of the Mishna Berura (ibid.). (The Chazon Ish (OC 43:17) implies that even if something is not moved because there is no reason to move it, it is muktzeh). Presumably, if one often removes or rearranges the clock or picture, then it would not be muktzeh, but most people do not do so.
Your case depends on you. If you move around rocks in the collection or take out individual rocks on a semi-regular basis, then they are not muktzeh. If you are consciously careful to keep them untouched for extended periods then the matter depends on the opinions of the poskim mentioned.
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