Shabbat Parashat Shemot | 5769
Muktzeh on Raw Food That Was Expected to be Cooked
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I put uncooked food on a non-adjustable hotplate (to avoid the concern of “stoking the coals”) before Shabbat, so that it would cook over Shabbat. I discovered during Shabbat that the hotplate was not plugged in. Was the food muktzeh as it would seem, or should we say the following? Since I thought that the food would be edible, Shabbat began with the food being on my mind, not removed from it, as the word muktzeh implies. When I discovered the mishap, Shabbat had begun, and I remember learning that there is no muktzeh for part of Shabbat. Is that correct?
Answer: First, we are assuming that the food, as you found it over Shabbat, was not only not cooked but not considered even marginally edible. If it was marginally edible, it would not be considered muktzeh (Mishna Berura 308:126). If it was fit for a dog’s consumption but it was (as in your case) made for human consumption, then most poskim consider it muktzeh (ibid.:27).
Almost all of the issues you raised are discussed in one gemara (Beitza 26b). The gemara tries to determine whether there is muktzeh for part of Shabbat. One of the proofs it brings is from the case of one who took some fruit and put them on the roof to turn into dried fruit. The baraita rules that they are muktzeh unless he designated them before Shabbat for use. The gemara tries to understand what the state of the fruit was when Shabbat started: “If it was fit, why does it need to be designated? If it was not fit, what does it help to do so? If you want to say that he did not know if it was fit or not, didn’t Rav Kahane say that muktzeh that dried up [before Shabbat] without the owner knowing is permitted? Therefore, it must be talking about a case where it had been fit, became unfit and then became fit again [on Shabbat]. If you say there is no muktzeh for part of Shabbat, why do you require designation? On the other hand, if there is muktzeh [for part of Shabbat], how does designation help? You must say that it is talking about a case where it was partially fit, as some people eat it and some do not. If he designated it, he revealed his thought process [that he will use it]. If he did not designate it, he did not reveal his thought process.”
This gemara, whose conclusions are brought as halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 310: 3-5), teaches the following things regarding your questions. Whether or not something is muktzeh does not depend on the owner’s perception of if it is useable but on whether it actually is (see ibid.:4 and Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 22:17). Even if something was not muktzeh when Shabbat started, if it became unfit during the course of the Shabbat in such a manner that it could not be permissibly and reliably assumed to be turned into being fit again, it would be muktzeh from the time the status began. That which the gemara says that an object does not become muktzeh for part of Shabbat is talking about a case where the object not only started Shabbat as fit but, after becoming not fit, subsequently became fit again. In that case, it reverts back to not being muktzeh anymore, according to the lenient opinion, which is accepted as halacha (ibid.:3). However, in your case, the uncooked food remained unfit and muktzeh.
Although the raw food in question was apparently muktzeh, you could have possibly moved it, not only to make room but even to refrigerate it, in the following manner. Moving muktzeh with parts of the body that are not usually used for moving (tiltul b’gufo), such as legs and elbows, is permitted (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 311:8). Moving the object by pushing, pulling, carrying it, etc. with the use of a non-muktzeh item that one is handling directly (tiltul min hatzad) is permitted for purposes other than the protection of the muktzeh item (ibid.). Most poskim, though, say that this it is forbidden to use this system to protect the muktzeh object.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of Shirley, Sara Rivka bat Yaakov Tzvi HaCohen z”L
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.