Moving a Tzedaka Box on Shabbat

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: I, a gabbai, found on Shabbat morning that the tzedaka box was on the bima, where it would get in the way and/or get knocked off during laining. Is it permitted to move the tzedaka box in that situation? 

Answer: Review the basic rules of tiltul min hatzad (indirect moving of muktzeh) will allow us to come to solutions. 

The gemara, in three places (Shabbat 43b, 123a, 141a) raises the question whether tiltul min hatzad, i.e., by moving a non-muktzeh object one also causes a muktzeh item to move without touching it, is considered forbidden moving of muktzeh. Examples include moving a corpse by tilting the bed it is in so that it slides to a different bed, and grabbing a (picked) vegetable that is partially buried in earth, which causes the surrounding earth to move. The gemara identifies this question as a machloket among Tannaim and Amoraim. In discussion about the halachic conclusions on this matter, Rishonim compare this matter to the mishna (ibid. 141a) that one may not arrange the straw (usually muktzeh) that is sitting on top of a bed with his hand but may arrange it using his body (ostensibly, min hatzad). 

Tosafot (Shabbat 44a) distinguishes between tiltul min hatzad for the purpose of protecting or using the muktzeh item, which is forbidden, and tiltul min hatzad to remove the muktzeh because it is a disturbance, which is permitted. The Rosh (Shabbat 3:21) posits that whereas tiltul min hatzad is forbidden for the purpose of the muktzeh item, moving the muktzeh with a part of the body that is not usually used for such things (tiltul b’gufo) is not considered halachic moving and is permitted even for the purpose of the muktzeh. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 311:8) accepts the leniencies of both distinctions. Tiltul min hatzad is permitted when it is for the purpose of the non-muktzeh, and tiltul b’gufo is permitted for all purposes. Therefore, the Mishna Berura 308:13 allows kicking muktzeh even to protect it. The Chazon Ish (OC 47:12-13) understands the Rosh as permitting only moving with the body in a subtle way, like lying on the bed in such a way that moves the straw, but not in doing something direct and obvious with an unusual part of the body, like kicking muktzeh. The minhag is to be lenient, like the Mishna Berura (308:13), against the stringency of the Chazon Ish (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 22:34). 

Based on the above, we suggest the following possibilities: 1) If the tzedaka box is situated in a place that makes it hard to lain, one may push or lift it with a non-muktzeh object to a place where it will not be in the way. This is a classic example of tiltul min hatzad for a reason other than the purposes of the muktzeh

2) Similarly, if the bima is not fully useable because of the tzedaka box, you can carry the bima cover to deposit the tzedaka box somewhere, without moving it directly, and then return the cover to its place (see Shulchan Aruch. OC 309:3, based on Shabbat 142a). While vis a vis the cover, it suffices to keep it where it is and shake off the tzedaka box, we are not required to use the system of shaking off if it will cause: damage to the tzedaka box, some of the money to get lost, or an unsightly situation of coins on the floor (see Mishna Berura 277:18; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:47; see ibid. (167) that some might disagree if not shaking it out in its place is only to not damage the muktzeh.) Using this system assumes that the bima cover is not a bassis l’davar ha’asur (a base for something muktzeh), which is quite clear since no one would purposely leave a tzedaka box on a bima for Shabbat (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 309:4).

If the tzedaka box is in a place on the bima in which it does not take away from using the bima effectively and respectably but one is only concerned that the tzedaka box might accidentally get knocked off, neither of the above systems suffices. #3 does.

3) If one is nimble enough to use an unusual part of the body (e.g., elbows, teeth) to remove the tzedaka box from the bima, this is permitted based on the leniency of tiltul b’gufo



About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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