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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo | 5769

Ask the Rabbi: muktzeh machamat chisaron kis

Question: I saw a situation on Shabbat in which, unexpectedly, a digital camera fell out of the carriage my friend was pushing, onto the sidewalk. The question arose whether she was allowed to move it or whether she had to leave it, with the likelihood it would being taken. If it is muktzeh machamat chisaron kis (= mmchk) an object that is so precious that its owner will use it only for its main purpose, one which is forbidden on Shabbat, then I assume there is no way to move it. However, if it is cheap enough that the owner would use it for other things, then as a kli shemelachto l’issur (= klshmli- a utensil whose main use is for forbidden activity), would it be permitted to make up a use for the camera at home (e.g., as a paperweight) that would enable it to be moved?


Answer: The categorization of an object as mmchk depends on the specific owner, object, and circumstances. All we can say is that usually digital cameras fall under that strict category. Yet, according to most poskim, it is still possible to protect the object.

The gemara (Shabbat 43b) discusses whether tiltul min hatzad (moving something muktzeh by pushing it with a non-muktzeh item he is holding) is forbidden. We rule that it is permitted when one does the moving for the purpose of using an adjacent non-muktzeh object or to make the place of the muktzeh item available; it is forbidden when the muktzeh object is indirectly moved for its protection (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 311:8).

Rishonim are bothered by the mishna (Shabbat 141a) that says that if one wants to sleep on a bed where pieces of straw are laid out uncomfortably, he may not straighten them out with his hands but may do so with his body. Why isn’t the latter tiltul min hatzad, which should be forbidden in order to use the rearranged straw? The Rosh (Shabbat 3:19), as understood by most poskim (see Shulchan Aruch ibid.; Mishna Berura 308:13), says that moving something with a part of the body one does not usually use for moving things is not forbidden tiltul and is permitted even to use or protect the muktzeh object. Ostensibly, then, one can kick the camera to a place where it will not be as vulnerable.

Two minority opinions will reject this leniency. The Pri Megadim (introduction to Mishbetzot Zahav 308) says that the leniencies regarding indirect tiltul do not apply to mmchk. This opinion is not widely followed by the poskim (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:(80)). A second problem is that the Chazon Ish (OC, 47:12) says that the Rosh is too widely applied, as he only explains why the mishna allows one to inadvertently move the straw while lying down on it but did not permit using unusual parts of the body to purposely move muktzeh for its protection. While some poskim adopt this opinion (Igrot Moshe, OC V, 22.6), most permit this type of moving (Mishna Berura 308:13, Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 22:34). One may certainly be lenient in a case of possible significant loss (Igrot Moshe, ibid.) like that of the camera.

Regarding your idea of employing the leniency of moving a klshmli for a permissible function (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:3), this can be entertained if you can determine that the camera is not mmchk. Even when the main purpose is to protect the klshmli, the Magen Avraham (308:8) allows moving it when it will be used for a permitted use. The Mishna Berura (308:16) accepts the premise of a secondary intention, but perhaps only for an existing need. The Machatzit HaShekel (to Magen Avraham ibid.) and Yalkut Yosef (Orach Chayim 308:3.7), though, allow contriving a need. However, your friend would have had to have a real plan to use the camera on Shabbat after bringing it home. Realize also that some poskim require that the situation is where there is no non-muktzeh object readily available for that use (Mishna Berura 308:12; the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:8 is equivocal on the matter). In any case, if you can be creative enough, your idea could also solve the problem.

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