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Shabbat Parashat B'Haalotcha| 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Is one allowed on Shabbat to put a utensil (kli) in a place where it will catch something that is muktzeh?

Question: Is one allowed on Shabbat to put a utensil (kli) in a place where it will catch something that is muktzeh? Examples that come to mind are putting a plate under a candle to catch falling wax or catching or gathering dirty water that dripped or seeped into a room on Shabbat. What can be done with these things once they have found their way into/onto the kli?


Answer: While the two cases you give seem to depend on the same issues, there are halachic differences between them. Timing also plays a major role in the halachic status. We will start with the case of the wax

The wax is unusable on Shabbat, and is muktzeh machamat gufo, the basic level of muktzeh. If it started dripping onto the plate and this was one’s intention when putting them next to each other, the plate could theoretically become a basis l’davar ha’asur (an otherwise permitted object that becomes muktzeh by serving as a base for something muktzeh). However, it is likely that the wax is not important enough to accomplish that (see Mishna Berura 310:31; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 22:(38)).

In some ways the matter is even more lenient if one did not put the plate under the candle until definite nightfall of Shabbat (after tzeit hakochavim), as according to many opinions, a basis l’davar ha’asur cannot be created in the midst of Shabbat (Mishna Berura 266:26). When that is the case, if one wants the base utensil, he can shake off the muktzeh item and use the utensil, and if it would cause damage or is not possible to remove the muktzeh, he can use it as is (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:47). The problem, though, is that it is forbidden on Shabbat to take a kli out of use (mevatel kli meihechano), and according to some, even if you could later remove the muktzeh (see presentation of the positions in Menuchat Ahava 14:20). For this reason the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 265:3) forbids putting a kli under the candle to catch (in his case) the oil. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.:6) says that this can be remedied by putting something usable on Shabbat on the plate as well.

Let us move on to your question about the water. If one put a bucket before Shabbat to catch the water, then the situation depends on the following. If the water is fit for washing or animal consumption, where animals are around, there is no problem of muktzeh (Shulchan Aruch, OC 338:8). If the water it is not usable, it is muktzeh, and the bucket should not be moved unless the following situation exists. The gemara (Shabbat 124a) says that we apply the rule that a g’raf shel re’i (portable toilet) can be removed with its excrement if it is in a place where people go about activities and find its presence disturbing, to milder cases.  This includes a pot with food residue (ibid.) or our case of a bucket filled with unclean water in a room in use (see Mishna Berura 338:33).

The problem is putting the bucket there in the first place on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) or returning it after spilling out the water, and this, due to the convergence of two concepts. One is not allowed to create a situation of g’raf shel re’I of his own volition (Beitza 36b). Thus, he should decide that if he puts the bucket there, he should leave it there. But if he does that, then he will have violated the prohibition of mevatel kli meihechano. The Tur (OC 338) argues on this stringency, and the Biur Halacha (to Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) shows from the fact that people collect mayim acharonim or morning netillat yadayim water in a receptacle (by their bed, for those who do that), that we rely on the Tur’s opinion. (It is possible to distinguish between the cases- Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 22:(38)). Also one can create a situation of g’raf shel re’I in order to avoid significant loss (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 338:15).

If the water already has caused a g’raf shel re’I situation on the floor, then just as one can remove the unseemly muktzeh by hand, so he can remove it with or in a kli. Thus, one could sweep the water into a kli of some sort in the process of removing it.

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