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May One Remove a Mukse Item from the Shabbat Table?

The Halacha permits moving a Keli She'm'lachto L'isur, a utensil designated for a prohibited function, such as a pen, L’Sorech M’komo-if it is in the way and its place is needed. For example, one may remove a pen from his Shabbat table in order to make room for the dinner plates. The Poskim discuss whether it is permitted to move the pen even if the space is not needed for something else, but he would like the space to remain empty; he does not want to see a Mukse item on his Shabbat table and cause disrespect to the Shabbat.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Russia – New York, 1895-1986) ruled that such a motive is not "L'sorech M'komo," and it may not be removed. He argues that, on the contrary, leaving a Mukse item on the Shabbat table is Kavod Shabbat, because he is demonstrating that he keeps the Halachot of Mukse.

This also seems to be the opinion of the Be’ur Halacha (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933), as well. He discusses removing a pot from the Shabbat table. In general, a pot used for cooking is a Keli She'm'lachto L'isur and may only be moved as long as it has food in it. Therefore, If the pot was brought to the table for serving and was emptied, technically it may not be removed from the table. The Biur Halacha permits removing the pot only because of a special dispensation called "Graf Shel Re’i," if the pot became putrid and was offensive. From this, it can be inferred that he does not allow removing the pot simply to have a clear table, and doing so does not constitute "L’sorech M’komo."

On the other hand, Hacham Bension allows removing the pot from the table, because it is not Kavod Shabbat. He only mentions "Graf Shel Re’i" as a secondary factor. This indicate that keeping a surface clear is "L'sorech M'komo." The Sefer Ma'hazeh Eliyahu also brings this opinion. Those who wish, may rely on this lenient opinion.

According to the strict opinion, which maintains that "L'sorech M'komo" is only when the space is needed for something else, the question is whether one may do "Ha'aramah" (circumvention). That is, may one remove the Keli She'm'lachto L'isur and then place an item that he did not really need in its place? The Aruch Hashulhan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein of Nevarduk, 1829-1908) cites the Talmud Yerushalmi that one may do "Ha'aramah," in order to avoid financial loss. For example, If the pen was left outside exposed to the elements, it may be moved to safety under the pretense that its space is needed for another item which he will put there. However, this would not enable him to remove the pen from the Shabbat table, where it is not in jeopardy.

There are two opinions whether one may remove a Keli She'm'lachto L'isur, such as a pen, from the Shabbat table if its space is not needed for another item.


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