Mevatel Kli Me’heichano

Shabbat (3:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah (3:6) teaches that one may not place a utensil beneath a lamp to catch the dripping oil. The Bartenura explains that since the oil is muktzeh, it would be equivalent to being “mevatel kli me’heichano”. In other words, one is now preventing the utensil for being used, which one is prohibited from doing. We shall try to understand this prohibition and how it arises in this case.

The Bartenura explains that the issue of mevatel kli me’heichano is because the utensil can no longer be moved. Consequently, it is as if the kli has been cemented down (albeit for halachic reasons) and therefore resembles a melacha - construction. Rashi (Shabbat 154b) however explains that the result resembles a different melacha - demolishing - since the kli is no longer fit for purpose.

How do we understand how the oil is being mevatel kli me’heichano? Rashi explains that since the oil is muktzeh, the kli becomes muktzeh too as it is a basis le’davar assur – a base serving something that is prohibited to move. It appears that that the law of basis le’davar assur applies even if the muktzeh item was placed there during Shabbat. Indeed the Tosfot Rid (154b) understands that were it not the case, then one could simple shake the oil off the kli when he needed it and it should not then be considered mevatel kli me’heichano. The Beit Yosef cites the Ran as another Rishon that maintains this position.

The Baal HaMeor (Shabbat 154b) however argues that a kli only becomes a basis le’davar assur if the davar assur was on the kli during bein ha’shamashot (between sunset and night fall) on erev Shabbat. In other words, the fact that this oil has dripped on the plate does not make it a basis le’davar assur. He explains that if a davar assur falls on the kli during Shabbat then the kli is not muktzeh. One can simply pick it up and shake off the davar assur. This would be true also if one placed the kli in order to catch a davar assur, but did so with the intention of shaking it off soon after. The cases where mevatel kli me’hachano is an issue is where one intends to leave the davar assur on it for the rest of Shabbat. In other words, the problem with placing the kli under the dripping oil is that one intends to leave it there for the rest of Shabbat.

Based on this understands, we find and interesting distinction raised by the Magen Avraham (265:2). He quotes the Haghot Ashri who explains that the law in our Mishnah only applies if the kli was placed there to catch the oil. If however it was placed there to catch dripping wax then it would be permitted. What is the difference? He explains, that regarding wax, one could simple shake the wax of off. Regarding oil however, one would be reluctant to do so in order to preserve the oil.

The Magen Avraham however notes that there are some Rishonim that prohibit one being mavetel kli me’heichano even temporarily. Nevertheless, he notes that while this point is debated, in cases of hefsed (loss) everyone agrees it is permitted temporarily. Consequently, in the case of dripping wax, where there is a concern of (chas ve’shalom) a fire, then everyone would agree that it is permitted. Nevertheless, he cites the Maharil who explains that licence of hefsed is only if there is a clear and present danger.

The Mishnah Berurah (265:5) cites the Magen Avraham to raise a further distinction. He explains that while one would be able to place the kli in order to catch wax, one would not be able to catch the burning wicks that might fall. The difference is that if the wax falls, one would be able to shake it off immediately. With respect to the falling wicks, since one must wait for the wicks to burn out prior to shaking them off, it would be considered temporarily being mevatel kli me’heichano and therefore prohibited.

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