The Shulhan Aruch (307:4) rules that one may give money to a non-Jew before Shabbat to buy things on one’s behalf so long as he does not tell the non-Jew to buy in on Shabbat. If the non-Jew decides to buy it on Shabbat of his own accord, the Jew may benefit from this purchase. This is in line with the Talmudic dictum of “Ada’ata Denafshe Ka’avid” (lit. “of one’s own accord”) which means that the non-Jew performed the forbidden act on Shabbat because it was more convenient or any voluntary reason, then a Jew may benefit from such an act.
Rabbi Yitzhak Benoualid (Vayomer Yitzhak, Orah Haim, § 24) discusses a case in which one asks a non-Jew to sell one’s merchandise on one’s behalf and will be paid a commission. Since the non-Jew will be selling for his own gain and was not told to do it specifically on Shabbat, then the Jew may benefit from the proceeds of the sale. If it is known that the salesperson is working for a Jew, he writes, then it is considered more problematic Halachically. Thus, one may have one’s non-Jewish salespeople sell merchandise on Shabbat as long as they were not told beforehand to do it on that day. However, if it is clear that the salespeople are working on behalf of the Jew and it is known that the owner of the company is Jewish, then it would not be permitted.
In the past, there were only certain days that markets were open. The Mishna Berura (M.B. O.H. ibid:15) discusses a locale in which their market day was Shabbat. In such a case, he writes that it would be forbidden to tell a non-Jewish worker to go to market on the market day since the implication is to go on Shabbat. Rabbi Yehuda Ayash (Bet Yehuda, O.H. § 44), citing the Bet Yosef, disagrees and says that unless one explicitly tells the worker to buy it on Shabbat, then it would not be a problem.
One relevant application of this Halacha is choosing a delivery date when shopping online. Clicking a Saturday delivery date option is akin to telling a non-Jew to do a prohibited act on Shabbat on one’s behalf and as such should be avoided. Nevertheless, clicking for delivery is not exactly like directly telling a non-Jew to deliver the product because the order triggers a series of actions that lead to one finally receiving a product at home. As such, in a situation such as if someone needs medication specifically on Saturday, there are leniencies on which one can rely.
Summary: One may not ask a non-Jew to buy merchandise on one’s behalf on Shabbat unless the non-Jew has some interest in this transaction. One should avoid choosing a delivery date which falls on Shabbat when shopping online.
In previous generations people in Morocco would bring their food to be cooked in a communal oven. An issue that arose in those days was that people would send their Dafina pots to the communal oven before Shabbat and a non-Jew would be in charge of placing them in the oven to be cooked. (Regarding the issue of Bishul Akum, cooking by a non-Jew, it is assumed that the food was already partially cooked to circumvent the problem). Due to the sheer volume of pots that were sent to the communal oven and the limited time before Shabbat, it sometimes happened that people’s food was placed by the non-Jew in the oven on Shabbat itself. This led to a Halachic quandary of whether or not the non-Jew was allowed to perform a forbidden act on Shabbat on behalf of a Jew.
Rabbi Yitzhak Benoualid (Vayomer Yitzhak, Orah Haim, § 25), responding to this situation, writes that if there is not enough time before Shabbat for the food to be cooked, it is as though one is assenting to the food being cooked by the non-Jew on Shabbat itself, and is therefore forbidden. If, however, the Jew sent the pot of food at a reasonable time before Shabbat but the non-Jew decided on his own to delay placing it into the oven until after Shabbat began, then it would be permitted.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Eliezer di Avila (Ma’ayan Ganim), Rabbi Shalom Messas (grandfather of the better known Rabbi Shalom Messas; Divre Shalom, Orah Haim, § 1) and Rabbi Shalom Messas (Tevuot Shamesh, Orah Haim, § 48) rule stringently by saying that even if the pot is sent in a timely fashion, if it is known that the non-Jew may possibly place it in the oven Shabbat, it is akin to expressly asking him to do so.
To clarify, telling a non-Jew to perform a forbidden act is only a rabbinic prohibition. There are several levels of this act. Firstly, all opinions agree that one may not tell a non-Jew to perform a biblically-forbidden act on Shabbat on behalf of the Jew. Next, there is a difference of opinion among the Poskim when the Jew does not tell the non-Jew to perform a forbidden act on Shabbat itself but the non-Jew does it on his own, like the example discussed. A third scenario is when the act being performed by the non-Jew is forbidden Rabbinically. Since telling a non-Jew to do something on Shabbat is only problematic on a Rabbinic level, and since the act itself is only forbidden Rabbinically, there is more leniency with this scenario. This doubling of Rabbinic injunctions is known in the Talmud as a Shvut d’Shvut. The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 307:5) rules that one could be lenient with such a Shuvt d’Shvut when a minor illness, financial loss or a Mitzvah are involved. For example, one may tell a non-Jew explicitly to move Muktzeh away from the Teva so that the Torah may be placed and read on top of it.
Summary: A Jew may ask a non-Jew to perform a Rabbinically forbidden act on Shabbat if it for a Mitzvah, to prevent financial loss or if one has a non-life threatening illness.
Muktze (lit. “set aside”) are items which our Sages forbade to move on Shabbat and accordingly, the prohibitions associated with Muktze are, generally speaking, Rabbinic in origin. The Gemara (Shabbat 124b) explains that these laws were instituted to prevent one from taking out objects into the public domain where an Eruv does not exist.
The Rambam (Shabbat 24:12) also offers several reasons as to why our Sages instituted the concept of Muktze. The first reason is to create a safeguard against the possibility of using forbidden objects on Shabbat. If one is forbidden from moving a certain object then it reduces the chance of one actually using said object. Another reason is to create a greater distinction between weekdays and Shabbat, especially for people who do not work during the week. If one is not occupied with laborious activities throughout the week and would normally be able to handle certain items on Shabbat, there would be very little difference in that person’s experience of a weekday versus Shabbat. Furthermore, if one is able to handle these objects, then there is a concern that one will be spending all one’s time on Shabbat moving them around, which compromises the very notion of how one is supposed to spend one’s time on Shabbat.
In all Rabbinic enactments, such as Muktze, there are reasons as to why our Sages decided to institute them. Additionally, the Gemara (Pesahim 30b) says that our Sages were inspired by the Torah law when instituting these enactments. As such, Rabbi Elhanan Wasserman (hy’d) writes (Kovetz Shiurim Beitzah 3b) that the Sages’ inspiration from the Torah for Muktze was from the Biblical prohibition of carrying in a public domain, but that the reasons for this enactment are those offered by the Rambam.
There are two broad classes of Muktze, the first being items which have a Halachic status of a Kli, or a vessel, and those which do not have that status. Although Kelim typically are allowed to be moved on Shabbat, there are certain types of objects that are considered Muktze and it is this class that will be discussed presently.
Summary: Muktze refers to objects which our Sages forbade from moving on Shabbat.
There is a dispute as to whether nightfall begins at sunset or at Tzet Hakochavim, and Ben Hashemashot represents the time in between the two, and is considered to be a Halachically ambiguous time. Accordingly, during Ben Hashemashot of Shabbat it is unclear whether or not Shabbat has commenced. Due to this ambiguity, the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 307:22) rules that one may perform Rabbinically-forbidden act in the time of Ben Hashemashot of Shabbat for the sake of a Mitzvah, such as asking a non-Jew to do a Melacha on one’s behalf.
Regarding how long Ben Hashemashot lasts, there are a multitude of opinions, given different geographic locations and given when Tzet Hakochavim is. As such, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, vol. IV, Orah Haim, § 62) writes that with respect to this Halacha, one may rely on Ben Hashemashot lasting up until the time of Tzet Hakochavim of Rabbenu Tam, which is the latest opinion. Nonetheless, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Hazon Ovadia, vol. III, pg. 488) questions this approach and writes that it is questionable if one can rely on such a late time as Rabbenu Tam. It is plausible that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s opinion can be relied upon in extenuating situations in which one would ask a non-Jew to perform some act in an unusual manner (“Shinui”). That said, one should be strict and consider Ben Hashemashot as being the time between sunset and Tzet Hakochavim according to the Geonim. These times are readily available online and in Jewish calendars.
Summary: One may ask a non-Jew to perform a Melacha on one’s behalf for the sake of Mitzvah during Ben Hashemashot of the beginning of Shabbat.
The first category of Muktze within the broad group of Muktze which have the status of a vessel is what the Gemara (Shabbat 157a) refers to as Muktze Mahmat Hesron Kis (lit. Muktze for fear of monetary loss). This refers to an object that is so expensive that one would not use it for anything except its official intended use. The examples given by the Gemara are the blade of a Shohet or of a Mohel, which are specially crafted for slaughtering animals or circumcising, respectively, and are not something one would use to cut food.
One modern-day example of Muktze Mahmat Hesron Kis is a smartphone. Smartphones are relatively expensive and people do not typically use them for other purposes, such as using the phone as a doorstop or tapping a loose nail. As such one would not be able to move it one Shabbat. There are those that contend that since the smartphone is in a sturdy case that can withstand other uses, that one would be able to move it on Shabbat under certain conditions. It goes without saying that if one is able to move it, it is under the assumption that the screen or the like will not be turned on as a result, which is strictly forbidden. Generally speaking, however, the concensus is that a smartphone does have the status of Muktze Mahmat Hesron Kis and cannot be moved on Shabbat.
Summary: A smartphone has the status of Muktze Mahmat Hesron Kis and cannot be moved on Shabbat.
The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 308:4) discusses a type of Muktze which is known as Keli Shemelachto LeHeter, or a vessel whose act is permissible. This refers to objects whose primary purpose does not involve a violation of the forbidden labors on Shabbat. One is allowed to move such objects, even if it is for the sake of the object not breaking or being stolen. This is in contrast to a Keli Shemelachto LeIsur, a vessel whose act is forbidden, which is only allowed to be moved for a permitted act or to liberate a needed place. The Shulhan Aruch adds that if there is no purpose to moving a Keli Shemelachto LeHeter, then it is forbidden to move it. Furthermore, holy writings, such as a Torah scroll or Megillat Esther, and food are allowed to be moved even for no particular purpose. It should be noted that a Megillat Esther is not allowed to be moved if Purim falls on Shabbat.
Regarding cutlery, there is a question as to whether it is considered a regular Keli Shemelachto LeHeter or if, as accessories to food, they have the same dispensation as food itself. The Mishna Berura (M.B., O.H. 308:23) writes that indeed, cutlery, bowls, cups and plates have the same status as food itself and thus could be moved for no purpose, but also mentions a stringent dissenting opinion. The Sha’ar Hatziyun (ibid:21) cites the Rambam in his Pirush HaMishnayot, who forbids moving such objects for no reason, as does the Ben Ish Hai (Miketz, 1).
Nevertheless, Rabbi Baruch Toledano (Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, 286:22), citing the aforementioned Mishna Berura, writes that the strict opinion is a novel interpretation and is not to be relied upon. Additionally, the Aruch Hashulhan writes that playing with a utensil to calm one’s nerves or as a type of distraction is considered enough of a purpose even for the strict approach and would be permitted.
Regarding foods which are not permitted, Rabbi Baruch Toledano (ibid.) takes a strict approach. For example, he decries different Jewish groups who would distribute Matza in Morocco on Shabbat when Pesach falls on Motzae Shabbat. Since one is not allowed to eat Matza on Erev Pesach, he distinguishes Matza from other foods, and considers it a Muktze Mahmat Hisaron Kis, and therefore forbids moving it at all on such a Shabbat.
Summary: A Keli Shemelachto LeHeter is an object with a permissible use and can be moved for its use or for its place, but cannot be moved for no reason. Holy writings and food can be moved even for no reason. Cutlery, cups and the like are treated as food and can also be moved for no particular purpose. Matzah should not be moved on Erev Pesach that falls on Shabbat.
A third type of Muktze is known as Kli Shemelachto LeIsur, or a vessel whose primary function is for a forbidden act on Shabbat. The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 308:3) rules that such an object may be used for a permitted function. The examples given by the Shulhan Aruch are using a smith’s hammer, which is normally used to strike gold or other metals, to crack open nuts or a hoe, which is normally used to till the ground, to cut open a fig. The Shulhan Aruch says that such Muktze may be moved if one needs the spot on which it is laying, such as if one needs to move a pair of scissors from one’s chair if one needs to sit down. One may not, however, move this type of Muktze so that the item itself does not get damaged or stolen.
The Pri Megadim (§ 338) and Rabbi Avraham Buchach (Eshel Avraham ibid:3), who quotes the Levush, discuss objects that are typically not used on Shabbat because of a stringency and not because of the letter of the law. They write that such objects do not have the status of a Kli Shemelachto LeIsur but rather a Kli Shemelachto LeHeter. In other words, an object’s primary purpose has to be forbidden on Shabbat by the letter of the law in order to be considered a Kli Shemelachto LeIsur and not because a stringency has been accepted to not use this object on Shabbat. One example is a scooter, which strictly speaking, is not forbidden to ride on Shabbat but rather there is an accepted custom to be strict not to ride them on Shabbat. Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or LeZion, vol. II, ch. 26, §11) discusses the Muktze status of a mercury thermometer on Shabbat. He writes that thermometers are usually used by those who are ill and ill people are allowed to check their temperature with such a thermometer on Shabbat. As such, he rules that a thermometer would be considered Kli Shemelachto LeHeter.
The Rama (ibid.) adds that although moving Muktze in certain situations is forbidden, touching it is not. Some interpret the Rama as meaning that one can only touch Muktze if it is not one’s primary intent, such as if one walks by and grazes it. Rabbi Avraham HaKohen (Yukah Na), however, writes that even if one specifically wishes to touch Muktze for its own sake, it would be permitted so long as one does not move it. Therefore, one may touch or even lean on a car on Shabbat. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Tevuot Shamesh Orah Haim, §57) appears to agree with this approach as he writes that regarding a timer, one may specifically touch it on Shabbat.
Summary: An object whose main function is forbidden on Shabbat may be used for a permitted purpose and may be moved if one needs that spot. One may touch Muktze as long as one does not move it.
The next category of Muktze is known as Muktze Mahmat Gufo, or something that is inherently Muktze. This refers to objects which do not have the status of a Kli and have no purpose on Shabbat, and save for some extraordinary circumstances, can never be moved on Shabbat. Some examples of this category include stones or money.
In a related manner, the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 308:29) discusses the Muktze status of foods that are eaten by animals and birds. If the food is suitable for commonly found animals, then it is not considered Muktze, even if one does not possess said animals. If the animals are not common, then such food is not considered Muktze provided that one possesses that type of animal.
Regarding the parameters of “commonly found” animals, Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or LeZion, vol. II, ch. 26, pg. 216) writes that if dogs, for example, are common in one side of a city and not on the other, then foodstuffs suitable to dogs would be considered Muktze in the latter side of the city. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, vol. 9, O.H. 108, note 154) takes issue with this position and writes that as long as there are dogs in the city, then such food is not considered Muktze, even if no dogs are in the vicinity to actually consume that food. According to Rav Ovadia, the common presence of a certain animal in a locale imparts the status of “food” on items that are suitable to be eaten, and therefore they are not considered Muktze. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata, ch. 12, note 91) says that even if there are no dogs in one’s town, anything that may be considered dog food is enough to not be considered Muktze.
Another practical implication of this Halacha involves pits, nut shells, and the like. Since these are not fir even for consumption by animals, they do not have the status of food and are considered Muktze Mahmat Gufo. Regarding egg shells, the Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Miketz, 15), Rabbi Avraham Alkalai (Zechor LeAvraham, vol. III, pg.48) and Rabbi Avraham HaKohen (Me’at Mayim, 22) all write that they are not suitable for animals and are thus considered Muktze. Therefore, when peeling eggs in the Dafina, for example, one should be careful to discard the shell once it is off the egg.
Summary: Any food which is suitable for animal consumption has the status of food and can be handled on Shabbat. Shells, pits and the like are considered Muktze.
The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 308:31) rules that raw meat is not Muktze because it can be chewed on. Even if the meat is unsalted and may theoretically have blood in it, it is permissible since chewing does not agitate the blood and cause it to become exuded. Furthermore (ibid:32), raw fish is not considered Muktze so long as it is salted. Nowadays, however, it would seem that the reality is the opposite. It is almost unheard of for raw meat to be eaten and especially unsalted meat, since all commercially available kosher meat is pre-salted. Additionally, it is common for people to eat unsalted raw fish such as in sushi.
The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 308:31) rules that raw meat is not Muktze because it can still be consumed by chewing on it.. Even if the meat is unsalted and may theoretically have blood in it, it is permissible since chewing does not agitate the blood and cause it to become exuded. Furthermore (ibid:32), raw fish is not considered Muktze so long as it is salted. Nowadays, however, it would seem that the reality is the opposite. It is almost unheard of for raw meat to be eaten and especially unsalted meat, since all commercially available kosher meat is pre-salted and as such, the Ben Ish Hai (Shana I Pekude:9) writes that nowadays, raw meat is considered Muktze. In theory, if one set aside steak tartar for consumption, it would be permissible on Shabbat. Additionally, it is common for people to eat unsalted raw fish such as in sushi, and thus, that type of fish would not be considered Muktze.
Interestingly, there is a question among the Moroccan Poskim regarding freezing raw meat on Shabbat. Typically speaking, raw meat should be salted within three days because after that point, the blood found within it dries up and can not longer be removed by salting. As such, after three days, unsalted raw meat should be discarded. Rabbi Machlouf Abuhatzira (Yefe Sha’ah, 56) discusses a scenario in which one has unsalted raw meat which will soon be three days old, and since one cannot salt it on Shabbat, he rules one may freeze it. Rabbi Yedidya Monsonego (Pe’at Yam, 11), quotes Rabbi Haim David Serero, who writes that one could freeze the meat but then went back on his ruling and said it is not permissible as once the blood remains there for three days, even if frozen, it cannot be drawn out as effectively afterwards. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Tevuot Shamesh YD 82) also rules that one may not freeze it. Again, it is uncommon to have access to unsalted meat nowadays, and so this discussion is more academic than germaine.
Summary: Nowadays, most raw meat would be considered Muktze on Shabbat, whereas sushi raw fish would not.
In its discussion of Boneh (lit. building) among the thirty nine prohibited actions on Shabbat, the Gemara (Shabbat 47a) analyzes the permissibility of assembling a cot on Shabbat. Based on this discussion the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 313:6) rules that if the pieces are interlocked and affixed strongly, which the Gemara refers to as “Taka” (lit. affixed), then the assembly would be considered Boneh and would be forbidden. If, however, the parts are assembled in a loose manner it would be permitted. The Mishna Berura (ibid:45) quotes the Magen Avraham and the Taz, who both discuss assembled cups and write that since they are constantly assembled and disassembled as part of their normal use, one would be able to put such a cup together on Shabbat. Similarly, the normal way to use a drink bottle, for example, is to remove the cap and to put it back on regularly, and thus would be permitted. Regarding objects which are not regularly opened and closed, such as a salt shaker, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerubach ( Minchat Shlomo pg 70) writes that since it has the ability to be readily opened and closed, doing so on Shabbat would be permitted as well.
With regards to tightening a screw on Shabbat, one should be careful as this action can be a violation of Boneh on a biblical level. (c.f Tosfot Shabbat 47a). As such, Rabbi Baruch Toledano (Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, 291:6 ) adds that when one is assembling something with screws, one must screw them tightly so as to minimize the possibility of needing to tighten them on Shabbat. Another potential issue is assembling a needle or syringe on Shabbat. Certainly, if the syringe is needed for something that is Pikuah Nefesh (lit. life-preserving), such as insulin for a diabetic, then it is permitted. Otherwise, putting together the syringe is considered Boneh and potentially also the forbidden act of Makeh BePatish (the finishing touches when creating an object).
Therefore, although Boneh classically applies to structures built on the ground, it can also apply to objects that are built when different parts are assembled in a sturdy manner. Some objects are assembled with little force but because of the mechanism of the parts, the attachment is very strong, such as belt buckles which are easily clipped onto a belt but remain sturdily attached. Regarding these kinds of objects, I heard from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv that since the parts are not put together forcefully, they do not have the status of Taka, and one would be able to put it together on Shabbat.
Summary: One should be careful on Shabbat with objects that require assembly as one may violate the act of Boneh.