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Halachos of Daily Living

Shoveling snow on shabos: Is the shovel muktza?

We have discussed many aspects of shoveling snow. What about the shovel, isn’t it muktza?

If snow shoveling is permitted on Shabbos, a snow-shovel is certainly not muktza since it is a Kli SheMelachto L’Heter, a utensil whose primary function is for permitted usage on Shabbos. What if I only have a regular shovel available? Sefer Nishmas Shabbos (4:247) concludes that a regular shovel is considered a Kli SheMelachto L’Issur, a utensil whose primary purpose is for melacha, suchas shoveling earth. This type of item can be moved on Shabbos if one needs the muktza item for a permissible use on Shabbos. Assuming there are leniencies in shoveling snow on Shabbos, one would be permitted to use a shovel for this purpose.

In addition to the concerns of carrying, muktza, and demolishing, which were addressed in previous installments of Halacha Yomis, are there any other concerns regarding snow removal on Shabbos?

Yes, there are in fact two more issues:

Some prohibit snow shoveling because of mashveh gumos (leveling the ground – a form of boneh, building) (The 39 Melachos, Vol. 4 p. 1098 c). However, Sefer Nishmas Shabbos (4:247) rules that this does not apply to surfaces covered indoors by wood, tile, carpet, or linoleum and outdoors by cement or asphalt.

Other poskim consider snow shoveling to be forbidden under the category of tircha yiseira (excessive strain) because it is a very laborious activity (The 39 Melachos, quoting Shu”t Lev Avraham Siman 49). The Nishmas Shabbos (ibid.) rules leniently in this regard because tircha is permitted for a mitzvah. Since shoveling the snow prevents people from slipping and falling on the snow and ice, it is considered tircha done for the sake of a mitzvah.

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