Friday, January 3, 2014

SHABBAT: Removing snow on Shabbat

In most Israeli cities snow is not very common.  This year, however, there were large amounts of snow, especially in Yerushalayim, and many rabbis referred to the question of removing snow on Shabbat from our front doors, doorways or any other paths that need to be used on Shabbat.  This HOTD will review three of the main concerns discussed as possible reasons as to why one can/can't handle snow on Shabbat. 

1. The first concern is muqse. Muqse, defines those elements which we cannot handle on Shabbat, even when we are not doing any forbidden action with them (examples: money, a cellphone, a Tefilin, etc.).    And why we could suppose that snow would be muqse on Shabbat? Because one of the categories of muqse includes nolad, (=a newborn thing). Something that was not there before Shabbat becomes automatically muqse on Shabbat. For example, if a chicken would lay an egg on Shabbat, that egg cannot be handled (tiltul) on Shabbat because it is muqse.  When it snows on Shabbat, it seems that the same principle should apply: we should not remove snow because it is considered nolad/muqse...   However, according to the Shulhan Arukh (328:8, 320:10-11 or Bet Yosef at the end of 310)  rain, hail or by the same principle snow, which falls on Shabbat, is not muqse. Because it is considered a natural extension of expected freshwater. So, from the point of view of muqse, it will be no problematic to handle snow. Additionally, and at least for those who would follow the ruling of the Rama (308:6), even if one would considered snow muqse (like Iggerot Moshe  23:36) it will be permitted to remove snow because for Rama it is permitted to remove a muqse that can become a potential hazard for the public.

2. The next point is that according to some rabbis (leb abraham) clearing snow would be considered an strenuous physical effort which should be prevented on Shabbat. This argument can also be rejected because not every strenuous physical effort is forbidden on Shabbat. For example in case of need we could move a big table from one side of the room to the other side, etc.  

3. The last concern is that removing snow might lead to carrying outside (hotsa-a, ha'abara) in an area with no 'erub.  This is probably the most serious concern because it potentially involves a Biblical (mideOrayta) transgression.  In any case, when there is no 'erub, snow still could be removed from our doorways, etc., provided we would not be carrying the snow or the shovel for more than 6 feet (4 amot). 

NOTE: In our particular case (NYC) today, since it snowed on Friday, we obviously should not leave the removing of the snow deliberately for Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom
Candle lighting in NYC  4:21 pm 
Shabbat ends in NYC   5:22 pm