Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Muktzah-Carrying Dog

(Or, the lighter side of Halacha)

Last summer, my stepkids spent a Shabbat with my parents and got to experience, first-hand, the Orthodox way of observing Shabbat. They enjoyed the weekend very much, especially my mother's cooking (chicken soup, chicken, kugel, etc.). They hung around my parents' Jerusalem apartment, and successfully refrained from turning on lights or tearing toilet paper. Everyone was happy.

The only problem is that ever since then, every Shabbat the kids have loads of questions. No matter how many times I tell them I am no authority on anything -- "Ask the Rabbi!" -- they keep asking me. As if from the vaults of my childhood memory I will unearth not only what I did but why I did it.

Some of their questions from today:

Son: "If I was Orthodox, could I wear my hearing aids on Shabbat or would that be carrying?"

Mirty: "Yes, you can wear hearing aids or glasses or anything else you need for your health like that. I think it's considered part of your body; so it's not carrying."

Daughter: "You can wear glasses?"

Me: "Yes."

Daughter: "So can you carry stuff you really need, like a pencil in your pocket?"

Me: "No. You can only carry if there's an eruv or if you're in a walled city, like Jerusalem."

Husband: "Ah. The Old City in Jerusalem."

Daugher: "Can you just carry your wallet?"

Me: "Pencils and money are both muktzah. You can't touch them on Shabbat."

Daughter: "Can you --"

Me "Do you know what muktzah means?"

Daughter: "No."

Me: "It's what you can't touch on Shabbat, like money or pencils."

Daughter: "What if.... What if the dog carries your wallet into the room and drops it in the middle of the room. Can you pick it up and put it away?"

Me: "If you indeed have a muktzah-carrying dog, and I'm sure some people do, I think you have to train the dog to pick up the muktzah and put it back where he found it."

For some reason, daughter and son found this amusing.


Anonymous said...

...found this amusing.
Who wouldn't?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I had a discussion about both the muktzah dog, and the light-switch loving dog just the other week. If I understood right, you really can't make the dog do any prohibited activities even if you trained it to...but if the dog did it because it felt like, that's fine. Maybe if you dropped a piece of meat on the wallet and the dog decided to take the wallet back after eating the meat... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love when kids ask such questions. They also make you think about things yourself. Just last week, the following conversation went on between myself and my 3 year old daughter.

Daughter: Why aren't you doing email?

Me: It's shabbos

Daughter: So you can't do email on shabbos?

Me: No, you can't.

Daughter: (thoughtful pause)... I like shabbos.

Anonymous said...

I realize this isn't the point of this post, but just for the record (and of course you should consult with your local orthodox rabbi), you can surely put your wallet back where it belongs. This may or may not require picking it up with a "shinui" - a change from how you'd normally pick something up.

I love the term "muktzah dog." My kids use the term "muktzah" for anything not allowed on Shabbat. They used to call my mother-in-law, who drives to our house on Shabbat, "Muktzah Bubbe."

Anonymous said...

...found this amusing...

Me too :)

Anonymous said...

I would like to make a correction to something you said here. Muktzah items may be touched, the prohibition is against moving them. There are several reliable sources which I could site to prove my point, including ( If you prefer printed media I could refer you to Rabbi Baruch Chait's "The 39 avoth Melacha of Shabbath" ISBN # 0-87306-586-7 page number 42 (upper right corner). If you would prefer verbal confirmation, please contact a competent Rabbi. There are also several online resources where you could also verify this such as (Chabad) or

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