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What Is Muktzeh?

The Daily Halacha Moment - Muktzeh Introduction📱

״כל השונה הלכות בכל יום - מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא״ (נידה עג ע״א, מגילה כח:)

“Anyone who studies Halachot every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come” (Megilla 28b, Niddah 73a)


What exactly is Muktzeh?



The term muktzeh is defined as something that is “set apart” from being used. Items which are muktzeh may not be moved on Shabbat.

At the beginning of the period of the Second Bet Hamikdash, in the era of the prophet Nechemyah, the Chachamim noticed a laxity in the observance of Shabbat. In effort to strengthen Shabbat observance, the Chachamim banned the movement of nearly all objects by deeming them as muktzeh. [1] The initial ruling basically banned everything but eating utensils. Eventually, most of these restrictions were removed once there was an improvement of Shabbat observance throughout the nation. Although there was a significant improvement, the Chachamim established that many of the basic rules of muktzeh will remain in effect for the coming generations. [2]

There are several explanations offered by the poskim to explain the reason for the continues restriction of muktzeh items:

1. In order to prevent people from carrying items from a private domain to a public domain, and vice versa, thereby transgressing the melachah of Hotza’ah. [3]

2. In order to prevent a person from accidentally performing a melachah, even if the melachah is only rabbinically prohibited. [4]

3. Since Shabbat is a day of rest, one must act on Shabbat in a manner that one would not normally act during the week. Desisting from moving muktzeh objects serves as a precaution against viewing the Shabbat as a weekday. [5]

4. Since there are many people who are not engaged in work activities throughout the week, they needed some extra prohibitions of work in order for them to differentiate between Shabbat and the other days of the week. [6]


[1]. Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 123b. The Gemara earlier on in daf 30b states that Shlomo Hamelech would not move the body of David on Shabbat after he passed away since it was an issue of muktzeh, so it seems that to some extent the halachot of muktzeh were in place even before the time of Nechemyah. Chattam Sofer, Shabbat 142b explains that Nechemyah decreed on utensils, but other types of muktzeh were forbidden even beforehand. Shulchan Aruch HaRav 308:17 also makes this distinction, and states that items that were not needed on Shabbat were forbidden even before Nechemyah. See also in Orchot Shabbat, vol. 2, p. 2. Another explanation offered by the Chattam Sofer is that Shlomo Hamelech was not concerned with muktzeh, but was worried about the melachah of Hotza’ah.

[2]. The Bet Yosef in his introduction to hilchot muktzeh states that through the understanding of the halachot of muktzeh one can understand what it means to have yirat Shamayim. The Bet Yosef 308:45 also brings the Talmud Yerushalmi that states that because the Bnei Yisrael were lax in the laws of muktzeh, this was one of the causes of the Bet Hamikdash being destroyed. See also in Shelah, Shabbat, Ner mitzvah 69-70 who states that even people who are generally very knowledgeable and have yirat Shamayim sometimes overlook halachot in the laws of muktzeh, and it is a worthy subject to delve into and understand properly. This is also brought several times in Yaarot Devash 1:2; 2:1 who states that the laws of muktzeh are some of the easiest prohibitions of Shabbat that one can transgress, and therefore it is worthy to take the time to learn these halachot very well. Ben Ish Chai, Shanah Bet, Introduction to Parashat Miketz states that keeping the laws of muktzeh has even many spiritual benefits.

[3]. See Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 123b and Betzah 37a. See also in Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat, vol. 2, p. 306 who states that this is the main reason.

[4]. Rambam, Shabbat, 24:12-13. Ra’avad states that the prohibition of muktzeh was needed to limit the items that are being handled and prevent one from inadvertently carrying from a private domain to a public domain, and violate the melachah of Hotza’ah. See also in Magid Mishneh 24:12.

[5]. Rambam, 24:12; Tur 301:1.

[6]. Rambam 24:13.

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