Snow Removal on Shabbat

Rabbi Dovid Sukenik

Introduction

In regions of the world where snow falls regularly, residents are accustomed to
the chore of snow removal and approach the task with barely a thought. When snow falls
on Friday or Shabbat, however, hilchot Shabbat make this ordinary act far more complex.
This essay will explore various methods of snow removal as they pertain to Shabbat.
1


Muktzeh

The poskim debate whether or not snow is muktzeh. Some poskim
2
maintain that
snow is muktzeh. One source for this opinion is a comment of Tosafot,
3
who write, based

1
In cases in which leaving snow or ice on the ground would pose an immediate danger, the snow may be
removed, as pikuach nefesh overrides Shabbat. This scenario is not very common, however. The scope of
this article is limited to cases in which there is no imminent danger.
2
Pri Megadim Peticha Hakolelet to Hilchot Muktzeh #29, R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe 5:22:37 (see
Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat, p. 165, nt. 10 who quotes R. Feinstein as saying that it is muktzeh machmat gufo, R.
Shimon Eider Halachos of Shabbos, Dosh, nt. 331, says that R. Feinstein maintains that snow is not
muktzeh), R. Yisroel Belsky, Halachically Speaking vol. 3 issue 15. Sefer Shalmei Yehonatan, vol. 3, Luach
Hamuktzeh, p. 70 distinguishes between clean and dirty snow; while clean snow is not muktzeh, dirty snow
is not useable for any purpose and is therefore muktzeh. Shalmei Yehuda, Muktzeh, perek 13, note 19
suggests that Pri Megadim did not intend his statement as practical halacha, but rather as an explanation of
one of the categories of nolad R. Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi, Orach Chaim, vol. 1, p. 288) notes that even
according to Pri Megadim, the issue of muktzeh would only pertain if the snow fell on Shabbat itself. If the
snow fell before Shabbat, even Pri Megadim would agree that it is not muktzeh.
Birchat Retzeh (siman 73) and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat, Teshuvot from R.
Auerbach #13) discuss the possibility that snow is considered muktzeh only in a case in which there were
no clouds in the sky at the beginning of Shabbat or Yom Tov, so that the possibility of snow did not enter
anyone’s mind. This issue may be irrelevant nowadays, when many people learn of the possibility of
snowfall from the weather report and therefore expect it even in the absence of clouds.
3
Beitza 2a, s.v. ka.
on a Gemara in Massechet Eiruvin
4
that since water is absorbed in clouds; it is not
considered to be in existence before Shabbat. As such, snow that falls on Shabbat has the
status of nolad.

Some poskim reject this proof because only the hava amina (initial stage) of the
Gemara in Eiruvin assumes that water is absorbed in the clouds. According to the
conclusion of the Gemara, the water in the clouds is in constant motion and is thus
considered to already exist.
5


Many poskim, however, maintain that snow is not muktzeh.
6
They cite the Gemara
in Massechet Shabbat,
7
which states that one may not crush snow or hail on Shabbat in
order to cause water to flow from it, but one may place it in a cup or plate in order to
benefit from it. The Gemara does not make mention of muktzeh implying that snow may
be handled on Shabbat.

Orchot Shabbat rejects this proof.

He notes that in the time of the Gemara, people
would draw water from wells and rivers, and snow would sometimes be used as a water
source as well.In contrast, nowadays we use running water and snow is not used in the
same capacity; therefore today it would be muktzeh.
8



4
Eiruvin 46a.
5
See, for example, Har Tzvi, Tal Harim, Soter #1.
6
See Minchat Shabbat 80:56, quoting Teshuvot HaGeonim, siman 242; Beit Yosef, end of siman 310,
quoting R. Tzemach Gaon; Shibbolei Haleket, siman 85; Kaf Hachaim 310:52 and 338:60; Eshel Avraham
(Butchach), Mahadura Tinyana, siman 312; and Mishna Berura 338:30 in the name of Zecher Le’Avraham.
This is also the opinion of R. Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi, Tal Harim, Soter #1), R. Moshe Stern, Be’er
Moshe 1:20, R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, cited in Shalmei Yehuda, Muktzeh 13:9:19; Orchot Shabbat, vol.
2, ch. 19, nt. 259, Children in Halacha p. 138, and R. Shlomo Zalman Aurebach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat
Kehilchata 16:44 and nt. 110 (see, however, Sefer Tiltulei Shabbat, Teshuvot from R. Auerbach #13). Kli
Chemda (Shemot 16:26) discusses whether mon that fell on Shabbat would be muktzeh. This question is
merely academic, however, as a double portion fell on Friday and no mon fell on Shabbat at all.
7
Shabbat 51b.
8
Orchot Shabbat, vol. 2, ch. 19, nt. 259.
Another source to prove that snow is not muktzeh is from a sugya in Eiruvin 99b.
9

The Mishna says that on Shabbat, one may catch water dripping from a gutter pipe within
ten tefachim (handbreadths) of the ground. According to Tosafot’s analysis of the
Gemara (based on their understanding of Rashi’s opinion),
10
the Mishna refers to a case
in which the water did not rest on top of the roof; that is, the water came onto the roof on
Shabbat. R. Stern infers from here that the water in question is rain water. Ritva writes
that it is difficult to explain that this Gemara is only referring to rain water that fell on
Shabbat. Rather, it must also be referring to rain that fell before Shabbat.
11
Since the
Mishna says that one can catch this water, there seems to be no concern for muktzeh with
regard to rain that falls on or before Shabbat. Meiri
12
and Rashba
13
write that one may
bring the rain water into the house, further implying that there is no issue of muktzeh.

Another proof is the Gemara in Eiruvin 45b,
14
which states that rain that falls on
Yom Tov has the same techum (walking parameters) as the person who collected it.
Rashi explains that since the rain had not fallen before Yom Tov it has no previous
boundary and therefore follows the collector.
15
This clearly indicates that one may move
rain on Shabbat.
16




9
This proof is mentioned in Be’er Moshe 1:20.
10
Tosafot, Eiruvin 99b, s.v. lo.
11
Ritva, Eiruvin 99b, s.v. h”g.
12
Meiri, Eiruvin 99b, s.v. v’yesh.
13
Rashba, Avodat Hakodesh Beit Netivot, Sha’ar Shlishi #178.
14
This proof is mentioned in Be’er Moshe 1:20.
15
Rashi, Eiruvin 45b, s.v. harei.
16
Although R. Stern’s proofs are from sugyot concerning rain, most poskim assume that there is no
difference between rain and snow regarding muktzeh status; if rain is not muktzeh, snow should not be
either. Snowfall occurs in mid air when precipitation enters a cold atmosphere. Because it can easily
change back to rain, this is not considered nolad gamur and is therefore not a problem. (See, for example,
Machazeh Eliyahu, siman 68:1). R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:22:37), however,
differentiates between rain and snow, writing that the fact that the Gemara in Eiruvin (46a) states that rain
moves in the clouds does not apply to snow.

Tiltul Min Hatzad

If snow is muktzeh, as Pri Megadim maintains, the permissibility of moving the
snow may depend on the acceptability of tiltul min hatzad, moving a muktzeh item in an
indirect fashion. As an example, Shulchan Aruch states that if one wishes to remove
bones from the table, he may pick up the table or board that they are on and shake the
bones off.
17


Taz writes that a person may also wipe the bones off the table using a knife; since
he is not touching the muktzeh item directly, this movement is considered to be min
hatzad.
18
Mishna Berura quotes this opinion.
19
By extension, one would be able to move
snow using a shovel, as this act is similar to clearing the table with a knife.

Some Achronim disagree with Taz. Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes that using a
utensil to move the bones is only permitted in a case in which the bones were already on
the utensil. Thus, one may remove the bones by shaking the table on which they lie.
However, one may not place the muktzeh item onto another object and then move it.
20

According to Shulchan Aruch HaRav, one would not be able to use a shovel to pick up
snow unless the snow was placed on the shovel before Shabbat.

Chazon Ish writes that the leniency of tiltul min hatzad is only applicable when
the item that one wishes to move is not the muktzeh item. For example, if there is a rock

17
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 308:27.
18
Ibid. 308:18. Some authorities maintain that this leniency of Taz was only meant when moving the object
in the irregular fashion (like a knife being used to sweep the bones off of the table). However, using an item
to push the muktzeh in the regular fashion was never included in this leniency. See Orchot Shabbat vol. 2
19:247 and footnote 348. Other poskim maintain that there is no difference. See Minchat Asher Shabbat
siman 43, Megilat Sefer 45:5, Hilchot Shabbat B’Shabbat vol. 2 27:10 and footnote 27.
19
Mishna Berura 308:115.
20
Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:60, Kuntres Acharon 259:3. Ben Ish Chai, Mikeitz #14, disagrees with Taz as
well.
on top of a particular kli (vessel) and one wishes to move the kli, it is permitted to do so,
even though the rock is muktzeh, because this is merely tiltul min hatzad. If, however,
one wishes to move the rock, it would be forbidden to move the kli; it is considered as if
one is moving the rock, not the kli.
21
Thus, Chazon Ish writes, Taz is incorrect in
assuming that one may push a muktzeh item off the table using a knife. Since the goal is
to move the muktzeh item, it is considered as if that is what one is moving, even if he
does not physically touch it. Similarly, moving snow with a shovel is considered moving
the snow itself and is therefore prohibited.

Thus, if one assumes the position of Pri Megadim that snow is indeed muktzeh,
the permissibility of shoveling depends on whether we accept Taz’s leniency, which is
also subject to debate. R. Chaim Kanievsky records that the practice of Chazon Ish was to
follow this leniency of Taz, even though Chazon Ish argues against it in his sefer.
22


Even if we were to reject Taz’s ruling, however, most poskim assume that snow is
not considered muktzeh, and the question of tiltul min hatzad is therefore irrelevant.

21
Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 47:14.
22
Ta’ama Dekra, Hanhagot of Chazon Ish heard from his mother (the sister of Chazon Ish) #12; Shevut
Yitzchak, Muktzeh, perek 9 #4. See also Az Nidberu 9:33.
While the simple understanding of the passage in Ta’ama Dekra indicates that Chazon Ish followed Taz’s
leniency, a careful reading allows for a different interpretation. In this passage, R. Kanievsky discusses
removing crumbs and garbage from the table. These items have the status of graf shel re’i, which may be
moved. Perhaps the practice of Chazon Ish was not to be lenient in considering the use of a kli as tiltul min
hatzad with regard to muktzeh items, but rather to be strict in requiring the use of a kli to remove graf shel
re’i, as opposed to allowing its removal by hand. In a response to a letter from R. Dovid Rosman (dated 10
Adar, 5764), R. Kanievsky indicated that his intentions were indeed the latter, requiring use of a kli even
when use of one’s hand should have been acceptable. According to this interpretation, Chazon Ish never
followed Taz’s position and one would not be allowed to move snow with a kli. This correspondence is
referred to anonymously in Orchot Shabbat, vol. 2, ch. 19, nt. 529 in brackets.
There are, however, other published correspondences with R. Kanievsky which indicate otherwise. See
Shalmei Yehonatan, vol. 3, siman 54 #4. See also Orchot Rabbeinu, vol. 1, p. 141 # 164 and Kovetz
Moriah, Tevet 5752, gilyon 207, p. 88.
Nevertheless, even if moving snow is permissible from a muktzeh perspective, the poskim
note a number of issues raised by the act of shoveling on Shabbat.

Mashveh Gumot

Shulchan Aruch writes that it is forbidden to sweep an unpaved floor on Shabbat
lest one create holes in the ground, “mashveh gumot.” Shulchan Aruch also quotes an
opinion that permits sweeping unpaved floors.
23
Magen Avraham writes that the reason
to be lenient is that the creation of holes is unintended (davar she’eino mitkaven).
24

Ramo, however, quotes many Rishonim who maintain that sweeping even a paved floor
is forbidden.
25
Ramo writes that this is the accepted view and that one should not deviate
from it. Quoting Rabbeinu Yerucham, Ramo states that amirah le’akum (instructing a
non-Jew to perform an act) is permitted in this case.
26


The poskim suggest that shoveling snow poses a similar issue. Thus, according to
Shulchan Aruch, one can only shovel snow from a paved surface, such as a sidewalk or
driveway, while shoveling snow that is on the grass is forbidden.
27
According to Ramo, it
would seem that any shoveling constitutes a problem. However, it would be permitted to
have a non-Jew shovel the snow from one’s driveway or grass.

Biur Halacha
28
quotes Rivash,
29
Tosafot,
30
and others,
31
who state that one need
not be concerned with the possibility of creating holes in a city in which the majority of

23
Shulchan Aruch 337:2.
24
Magen Avraham 337:2.
25
Ramo 337:2, quoting Ri, Mordechai, Rabbeinu Yeruchem, Sma”g and Sefer HaTeruma.
26
Ibid.
27
Shulchan Aruch generally accepts the first view cited, not the yesh omrim.
28
Biur Halacha 337:2, s.v. veyesh machmirin.
29
Rivash, siman 394.
30
Tosafot, Shabbat 29b, s.v. gezeira.
31
Rashi, Shabbat 95a, s.v. zilcha; Biur HaGra 337:2, s.v. veyeish machmirin in the name of Sefer
HaTruma.
roads are paved. Accordingly, since the cities in which we live have mostly (if not all)
paved roads, the prohibition of mashveh gumot (flattening the ground) does not apply to
paved areas. However, shoveling snow that is on grass is still problematic.

Binyan and Stirah

On Rosh Chodesh Adar 5717 (1957), there was a heavy snowstorm in
Yerushalayim and R. Zvi Pesach Frank was asked whether the snow was muktzeh. He
writes that the more difficult issue is the possibility of soter (destroying). He reasons that
if snow turns to ice and becomes attached to a roof, removing the snow would constitute
breaking part of the roof. However, if the snow is soft, it would not be considered part of
the roof and its removal would be permitted. He further notes that if a shovel is used,
there is also a concern that one will make a hole in the roof itself.
32


R. Frank’s grandson counters his claim.
33
Shulchan Aruch writes that breaking ice
is permitted in order to reach the water underneath.
34
Magen Avraham writes that if the
ice is covering a river or well, it is prohibited to break the ice; since it is connected to the
ground, it is like binyan and stira.
35
Mishna Berura notes that most Achronim disagree
with Magen Avraham.
36
The issue raised by R. Frank is only problematic according to
Magen Avraham, whose opinion is rejected by most poskim, and therefore soter is not a
concern.

Uvdin DeChol


32
Har Tzvi, Orach Chaim, vol. 1, p. 288.
33
Ibid. Talelei Sadeh #4.
34
Shulchan Aruch 320:10.
35
Magen Avraham 320:15.
36
Mishna Berura 320:36.
R. Avrohom Weinfeld writes that shoveling snow on Shabbat is forbidden
because it is an uvda dechol, a weekday activity.
37
He compares this to the halacha that it
is forbidden to clear out a storage house for grain or wine unless it is for mitzvah
purposes, such as hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) or setting up a beit midrash
(study hall).
38
According to this reasoning, shoveling is permitted if guests are invited to
the Shabbat meal and one wants to enable them to enter the house. Similarly, it would
seem that shoveling a path to the shul so that people will be able to daven would also be
permitted.

Tiferet Yisrael writes that an act is considered uvda dechol if it fulfills one of
three criteria: 1) Chazal forbade it because it is comparable to one of the 39 melachot; 2)
It will lead to the performance of a forbidden act; 3) It involves a great effort (tircha).
39

According to this definition, the classification of shoveling as uvda dechol apparently
depends on how much snow is being shoveled. Shoveling is not comparable to any of the
39 melachot, nor will it lead to such a violation. However, if a large quantity of snow
must be shoveled, the act could certainly be considered a tircha. It is unclear how much
shoveling would be considered a tircha, however, and a competent halachic authority
should be consulted in cases of doubt.

If shoveling snow is generally prohibited as an uvda dechol, there are certain
instances in which the prohibition would not apply. In cases of tza’ar (pain), mitzvah,
40

and potential great loss,
41
many poskim assume that there is no issur of uvdin dechol.
42


37
Sh”ut Lev Avraham, siman 49.
38
Shulchan Aruch 333:1.
39
Tiferet Yisrael, Klalei 39, Melachot #1, s.v. amnam. Many poskim have attempted to define uvdin
dechol. See, for example, Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:74:4 (R. Moshe Feinstein); Me’or HaShabbat,
letter #2:2, Me’orei Eish, p. 66, Shulchan Shlomo 306:16:5, 319:24:2 (R. Shlomo Zalman Aurebach); and
Emet LeYaakov, Orach Chaim 302, nt. 339 (R. Yaakov Kaminetsky).
40
See Bach 333; Bi’ur Halacha 333:1, s.v. vechol shevut, and 338:1, s.v. ho’il; Ran, Shabbat 3b in the
dapei Ha-Rif; Shulchan Aruch 254:5; Mishnah Berura 254:35; and Machazeh Eliyahu 72:1.
41
Shu”t Bach (Yeshanot) 146; Machazeh Eliyahu 72:2.
42
Magen Avraham 328:48; Mishnah Berura 328:136.

Aseh DeShabbaton

R. Shlomo Wahrman suggests that shoveling snow should be prohibited because
it violates the mitzvat aseh of Shabbaton according to the definition of Ramban.

Ramban
writes
43
that despite the Torah’s prohibitions of certain acts on Shabbat, one would still
be able to check his grains, weigh his fruits, and perform other such activities without
technically violating a prohibition. The Torah commands the concept of shevut, which
limits our activities so that Shabbat can truly be a day of rest.
44


Degrading the Honor of Shabbat (Zilzul)

R. Yaakov Betzalel Zolty
45
and R. Pesach Eliyahu Falk
46
assume that shoveling
snow on Shabbat is forbidden because it is a zilzul, a degradation of kavod Shabbat. As a
comparable example, R. Wahrman cites the ruling of R. Moshe Feinstein prohibiting the
setting of a timer to cook food on Shabbat morning so that it will be ready for Shabbat
lunch.
47
If such a practice were allowed, all of hilchot Shabbat could be avoided by
setting timers to perform all of the forbidden activities; Shabbat would become a regular
weekday. Even though it may be technically permitted, allowing such an activity would
certainly be a disgrace to Shabbat.

Having a Non-Jew Shovel or Plow Snow

The prohibition of amira le’akum generally curtails one’s ability to ask a non-Jew
to perform an act that a Jew is forbidden to perform on Shabbat. Since many people hire

43
Ramban, Vayikra 23:24, based on Mechilta, Parshat Bo 9; Ritva, Rosh Hashana 32b, s.v. matni.
44
Sefer Orot HaShabbat, siman 50. R. Wahrman writes that R. Yaakov Betzalel Zolty agreed with his
explanation.
45
Quoted by R. Wahrman, ibid.
46
Machazeh Eliyahu, siman 68:2.
47
Am HaTorah, vol. 9. See also Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:60.
help to shovel snow on their property, the permissibility of amira le’akum in this context
is particularly pertinent. There are indeed a number of reasons to be lenient regarding
amirah le’akum in this context.

Amirah le’akum is only prohibited if the Jew asks the non-Jew to perform the
forbidden act on Shabbat. In a case of kablanut – that is, if a non-Jew is hired by a Jew to
perform a specific task, but not at any particular time – the fact that the non-Jew chooses
to work on Shabbat is for his own benefit, not that of the Jew.
48
Shulchan Aruch
stipulates that this is only true when the work is done privately; if it is clear that the work
is being done for the Jew, then it is not permitted, as the people who see the non-Jew
performing the act may not know that this was arranged in a permissible manner. Pri
Megadim writes that this concern applies exclusively to a Torah prohibition, not to cases
of shevut (Rabbinic prohibitions).
49
It would seem that according to Pri Megadim, in the
case of shoveling – which is clearly not a Torah prohibition – amirah le’akum is
permitted provided that the Jew does not specify that the work must be performed on
Shabbat.

Moreover, according to some Acharonim, amirah le’akum is permitted whenever
there is a machloket haposkim as to whether something is prohibited for a Jew.
50
As we

48
Shulchan Aruch 244:1. Although snow removal seems to be task oriented, in a situation where it is
clearly expected to be done on Shabbat, one can question whether this leniency would apply.
49
Pri Megadim Mishbetzot Zahav 244:1.
50
Tiferet Yisroel, Kilkelet HaShabbat, Dinei Amira Le’akum 7. There are a number of cases in which this
rule is relevant. Shulchan Aruch writes (Orach Chaim 314:7) that there is a machloket regarding whether or
not one can break the opening of a certain type of box on Shabbat, and it is permitted to be done by a non-
Jew. Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 11) explains that Shulchan Aruch is of the opinion that if there is a
machloket regarding whether something is permitted, we allow a non-Jew perform the act. He notes,
however, that Yam Shel Shlomo (Beitza 4:9) disagrees.
Ramo (302:1) quotes an opinion that one should not shake dust off of his clothing on Shabbat. Mishna
Berura (6) quotes Levush, who maintains that this opinion should be followed because it is the majority
view, but he rules that in this case, one may allow a non-Jew to clean the dust off of the clothing, as there is
a view permitting a Jew to do it.
have seen, although there are reasons to prohibit shoveling snow on Shabbat, not all
poskim agree, and amirah le’akum should therefore be permitted according to this view.
51


If shoveling is forbidden on Shabbat because it is classified as tircha (effort) or
uvda dechol, there is yet another reason to be lenient, as some poskim assume that amirah
le’akum is not prohibited in such cases.
52
Other poskim disagree, however.
53


There is a machloket Rishonim as to whether there is a prohibition to reheat a liquid that has cooled off (see
Shulchan Aruch 318:4 and Bi’ur Halacha, s.v. yesh). Bi’ur Halacha (253:5, s.v. lehachem) and Chazon Ish
(Orach Chaim 37:21, s.v. venereh) write that in such a case, a non-Jew is allowed to reheat the liquid for
the Jew.
Ramo (252:4) writes that if a non-Jew made an article of clothing and finished it before Shabbat, it may be
sent to a Jew even on Shabbat. However, the Jew may not go to the store and take the clothing. The
Acharonim debate whether the Jew may send a non-Jew to collect the article of clothing on Shabbat. After
quoting the various opinions among the Acharonim, Kaf Hachaim (252:44) concludes that since this
question of whether the Jew may go himself to collect the clothing is subject to machloket, one may send a
non-Jew to pick up the clothing.
51
Similarly, many poskim permit amirah le’akum if the reason that a Jew refrains from doing something is
because he is observing a chumra (not a hachra’ah lehachmir in a machloket haposkim). See Magen
Avraham 307:2; Hagahot R. Akiva Eiger to Magen Avraham 307:20; Tosefet Shabbat 307:3; Mishna
Berura 307:8.
52
Eliyah Rabba 252:12; Tiferet Yisrael. Kilkelet Shabbat, Klalei 39, Melachot #35, Soter; Ma’amar
Mordechai 252:6; Chemed Moshe 252:4; and Shut Arugat Habosem, Orach Chaim 55.
53
Taz 313:10; Shut Maharam Shick, Orach Chaim 155:9; Tehilla LeDovid 333:6; Tosefet Shabbat 252:18;
Mishna Berura 252:31, 313:56; and Sha’ar Hatziyun 252:28.
In his notes to his father’s responsa, R. Levi Greenwald, son of Arugot Habosem, comments that whether
we allow a non-Jew to perform an uvda dechol depends on a machloket Rishonim. Rashba (Chiddushim to
Massechet Shabbat 138a, s.v. ela amar Abaye) considers uvda dechol comparable to a regular shevut (see
also Tiferet Yisrael, Kilkelet Shabbat, Klalei 39, Melachot, s.v. amnam). Therefore, just as a non-Jew may
not perform a shevut unless it is a case of mitzvah, miktzat choli, or tzorech harbeh, he may only perform
an uvda dechol under those circumstances. In contrast, Eglei Tal (end of Melechet Ma’amer) quotes the
opinion of Ran that a shevut is more severe than uvda dechol. Thus, one could reason that while a non-Jew
may not perform a shevut under ordinary circumstances, he may perform an uvda dechol.
R. Greenwald’s reasoning is debatable, however. The lenient opinion allows a non-Jew to perform an uvda
dechol because when a non-Jew performs such an act, it is not considered an uvda dechol; no forbidden act
is performed. On the other hand, when a shevut is done by a non-Jew on behalf of a Jew, a forbidden act is

The recommendation of many contemporary poskim seems to be to allow a non-
Jew to shovel in cases of need.
54
Nonetheless, some poskim recommend only having a
small path cleared so that people can pass.
55


In cases of actual danger, Ramo permits moving muktzeh items so that no one will
be injured.
56
It would seem that if a non-Jew is not available, a Jew would be allowed to
shovel snow in such a case. This leniency, however, would not seem to apply in a
situation of fresh snow, which does not present a danger to one walking on it.

These leniencies regarding amira le’akum may only apply to conventional
shoveling of snow. Many poskim are strict regarding the use of a snow blower or plow
because of avsha milta; the noise that is made by the snow plow is a clear indication that
the act is being performed on the Jew’s property on Shabbat.
57


There is a statement of Magen Avraham regarding a different case that would
seem to limit the permissibility of allowing a non-Jew to use a snow plow. Magen

being performed on behalf of the Jew. Accordingly, even those Rishonim who maintain that an uvda dechol
is equivalent to a shevut could allow a non-Jew to perform an uvda dechol on behalf of a Jew.
54
R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Kovetz Zikaron Dror Yikra, p. 346, #66. See also Mishneh Halachot 4:45.
55
Nishmat Shabbat 4:47-2.
56
Ramo 308:6.
57
R. Dovid Ribiat, Thirty Nine Melachot, p. 1099, and Migdal Dovid, n. 47d. Although R. Ribiat is strict in
the English text, in the Hebrew notes (Migdal Dovid), he mentions some of the leniencies discussed earlier
and concludes that in case of great need, there are grounds to allow a non-Jew to use a snow plow.
Regarding avsha miltah, see Sh”ut Zekan Aharon, Mahadura Kamma, siman 15-16; Iggerot Moshe, Orach
Chaim 4:60, s.v. aval yesh; Sh”ut Minchat Yitzchak 4: 24. See also Ramo, Orach Chaim 252:5 and
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 252:5.
The reason to allow for use of a snow plow is that since the non-Jew could technically have used a shovel,
it is ada’ata denafshei (for his own purpose) that he chooses to do it. This would only apply to a property
that could be shoveled. A large area that would never be shoveled could not rely on this. Moreover, some
poskim only rely on the concept of ada’ata denafshei regarding rabbinic prohibitions; see Magen Avraham
276:11.
Avraham
58
writes that just as it is permissible for a non-Jew to collect piles of garbage
from a Jew’s property on Shabbat, it should similarly be permitted for non-Jews to work
on the construction of a shul in a case of kablanut. Nonetheless, he notes, the Torah
leaders refrained from permitting this to avoid a chilul Hashem. Since the non-Jews
would never allow someone to do work publicly on their holidays, it would be a chilul
Hashem if we were to allow non-Jews to do our work on Shabbat.
59
Perhaps allowing a
non-Jew to plow our sidewalks, walkways, and driveways would be included in this
limitation. Nonetheless,R. Akiva Eiger
60
disagrees with Magen Avraham’s contention
that this creates a chilul Hashem.


Spreading Salt on the Ground

The Gemara writes that on Shabbat, one may not crush snow or hail in order to
cause water to flow from it, but he may place it in a cup or plate and allow the water to
flow on its own.
61
Rashi explains that the reason for the prohibition is that by crushing
the snow, one creates a new entity – water – on Shabbat.
62
This statement of the Gemara
is codified in Shulchan Aruch.
63


Shulchan Aruch quotes the Maharam of Rotenberg, who maintains that one may
urinate on snow. Rosh, however, disagrees.
64
Mishna Berura explains that Maharam

58
Magen Avraham, 244:8.
59
In conversation, a certain Rav related to me that on his street following a Shabbat snowstorm, the snow
removal companies only came to the Jewish houses after Maariv on Motza’ei Shabbat. They understood
that the Jews would not permit this activity on Shabbat. He was quite pleased and proud of
the kiddush Hashem that he felt was created.
60
Hagahot R. Akiva Eiger to Magen Avraham ibid.
61
Shabbat 51b.
62
Rashi, ibid., s.v. keday.
63
Shulchan Aruch 320:9.
64
Ibid. 320:14.
maintains that urinating on snow is similar to trampling snow, which is permitted.
65
Rosh,
however, maintains that urinating on snow is different from the case of putting snow in a
cup to melt, because in this case, one actively causes the snow to melt, as opposed to
passively allowing it to melt. Mishna Berura quotes the opinions of Taz and Eliya Rabba,
who accept the lenient opinion of Maharam.
66


The poskim discuss whether placing salt on snow or ice is comparable to actively
crushing the snow to make it melt or whether it is considered as if one put salt on the
floor and the snow melted on its own. While some poskim are strict,
67
most assume that
there is no concern.
68
Some poskim assume that even though it is essentially permissible,
one should ideally either have a non-Jew sprinkle the salt or to do it himself at night
when no one sees so that people who do not know the halacha do not reach the mistaken
conclusion that one is performing a forbidden act on Shabbat.
69


Snowmen and Snowballs

In addition to the possible problem of muktzeh, building a snowman on Shabbat
may entail the prohibition of boneh, building. Rambam writes that if one collects pieces
and attaches them together until they become one unit (megaben), it is comparable to
building.
70
Based on this statement, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata writes that making
snowballs and snowmen is forbidden on Shabbat.
71
R. Moshe Feinstein is quoted as
saying that making snowballs is not a problem of megaben because they are not made to
last. This ruling would seemingly only apply to snowballs, which are made to be thrown

65
Shulchan Aruch 320:13.
66
Mishna Berura 320:40-41.
67
Hanotein Sheleg #20, 72 in the name of R. Chaim Kanievsky.
68
She-arim Metzuyanim Be-halacha 88:5; Yesodei Yeshurun, p. 366; Machazeh Eliyahu 67, 68; Nishmat
Shabbat 4: 246; and Beit Avi, Orach Chaim, siman 26 (who writes that that this is only grama).
69
Be’er Moshe 1:28; Me’or HaShabbat 3:13:47.
70
Hilchot Shabbat 7:6.
71
Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 16:44; Orchot Shabbat, vol. 1, 8:39; Shulchan Shlomo, Hilchot Shabbat,
vol. 2, 314:4; Halachos of Shabbos, Dosh #13, nt. 332.
immediately, and not to snowmen, which are expected to last as long as the weather
permits.
72


Mekor Chaim writes that we should protest against children who make snowballs
on Shabbat, arguing that the act violates two melachot, boneh and dosh
(threshing/extracting).
73
R. Shimon Eider suggests that making snowballs and snowmen
may violate the melachah of memarei’ach (smoothing) and/or be an uvda dechol.
74
Some
poskim, however, assume that making snowballs is permitted as long as there is an
eiruv.
75


Conclusion

Snowfall on or before Shabbat presents a number of halachic issues. As in all
realms of life, even the most mundane, it is the responsibility of every Jew to properly
evaluate the options for snow removal through the lens of the halachic sources. In doing
so, the cumbersome chore of removing snow is transformed from a physical task into a
halachic challenge.



72
Mesoret Moshe (recently published psakim of R. Feinstein), p. 68.
73
Mekor Chaim, Kitzur Halachot 320:11.
74
Halachos of Shabbos, Dosh n. 332.
75
Rivevot Ephraim 1:223:1 and Be’er Moshe 6:30. See, however, Piskei Hilchot Shabbat, vol. 2, p. 59,
where R. Stern is quoted as forbidding making snowballs.

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