Removing Foul-Smelling or Repulsive Muktzeh on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

As discussed earlier, items which are classified as muktzeh may not be moved in a normal manner for any reason. Still, if allowing certain muktzeh items to stay put will offend people’s sensibilities (kavod ha-beriyos), the Rabbis suspended the prohibition of muktzeh and permitted removing those items in a normal manner. It is permitted, for example, to pick up and remove a soiled diaper (as one would normally do) and take it out to the garbage207, despite the fact that a soiled diaper is classified as the type of muktzeh which may not be moved for any reason.

This dispensation applies only to smelly or repulsive items which are found in one’s living quarters, or in a hallway, walkway or yard which is used on Shabbos. Smelly or repulsive items that are found in an unused part of the house or yard may not be removed – unless they are emitting a foul smell which will cause discomfort to the people living in the house or using the yard.

Even muktzeh items which are not inherently smelly or repulsive but create clutter that one (or one’s wife) would find embarrassing should guests arrive may be removed on Shabbos.208 It is permitted, therefore, to clear away (in a normal manner) shells or pits that are strewn about the table or floor if leaving them will cause discomfort or embarrassment.

Although - as stated - it is permitted to move this type of muktzeh item in a normal fashion, some poskim maintain that l’chatchilah it should be moved in an abnormal manner if possible. If, for example, the messy pile of nut shells can be cleared away with a knife or a spoon, it is preferable to do so.209 Other poskim are not particular about this.210 Similarly, some poskim mention that if a non-Jew is readily available to clean up the mess, it is preferable to have him do so,211 while other poskim do not mention a necessity for using the services of a non-Jew.212

Some practical examples of “offensive” items which may be removed on Shabbos213:

  • Bedpans214 potties and soiled diapers215
  • Bugs, roaches, mice (dead216 or alive217; if they are alive, care must be taken not to trap them)
  • Dirty pots and pans218
  • Organic waste (bones, shells, pits)219
  • Garbage cans (overflowing or smelly)220
  • Open (leaky) gas valve221
  • Sweeping a dirty floor222
  • Water (pipe, roof223 (dirty or contaminated) and air conditioner224) leaks

207. Assuming that one may “carry” to the garbage.

208. Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:21-2 (see Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 10); Shulchan Shlomo 308:68.

209. Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:22-13; Ashrei ha-Ish 17:238. See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 22, note 126, concerning Yom Tov.

210. Tehilah l’Dovid 308:40; Shulchan Shlomo 308:69. See Beiur Halachah 638:2, s.v. u’beyom.

211. Aruch ha-Shulchan 308:60; Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:21-9.

212. Orchos Shabbos 19, note 40.

213. If, for some reason, the foul-smelling matter cannot be removed, it is permitted, when necessary, to use a muktzeh item to cover it up; see Shemiras Shabbos K’hilachsah 22, note 122. It is also permitted to use a muktzeh item to assist in the removal of the foul-smelling matter; see Ashrei ha-Ish 17:48.

214. O.C. 308:35.

215. Ashrei ha-Ish 17:176.

216. Mishnah Berurah 308:130.

217. Ashrei ha-Ish 17:178.

218. Beiur Halachah 308:4, s.v. keli.

219. Mishnah Berurah 308:115.

220. Mishnah Berurah 308:134.

221. Shulchan Shlomo 308:68-2; Chut Shani, vol. 3, pg. 140. See Shevet ha-Levi 5:43-2.

222. Beiur Halachah 337:1, s.v. v’yeish; Chazon Ish 47:21.

223. Mishnah Berurah 338:33. Netilas yadayim water and mayim acharonim may also be removed; Beiur Halachah 338:8, s.v. assur.

224. Ashrei ha-Ish 17:221; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 13:39.