Muktzah on Yom Tov

Question #1: Not far from the tree

An apple fell off my tree on Shabbos or Yom Tov. May I eat it?

Question #2: Raid the pantry!

We live in an apartment right above our grocery store. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, may we help ourselves to items that are in the store?

Question #3: Will these bones live?

May Fido’s Yom Tov seudah include leftover bones?


When discussing the laws of Yom Tov, the Torah teaches kol melacha lo yei’aseh bahem, ach asher yei’acheil lechol nefesh hu levado yei’aseh lachem (Shemos 12:16),“No work should be performed on these days. However, that which is eaten by everyone, only that may be prepared for yourselves.” We see from the pasuk that, although most melachos are forbidden on Yom Tov, cooking and other food preparations are permitted.

Imagine preparing a meal in the days of Chazal, or even as recently as just over one hundred years ago. Refrigeration and most modern methods of preserving food do not exist. Most food cooked earlier than the day it is served will be spoiled, or at least not particularly tasty. Therefore, virtually all preparations for a festive meal must be done on the day of the occasion. Not only all the baking and cooking, but even the shechitah and salting the meat (kashering) are performed the day the meal is served. To guarantee that our Yom Tov feasts are memorable and quality events, the Torah permitted any activity necessary to prepare a meal that will be served on Yom Tov.

In truth, there are a few food preparatory activities that are not necessary to have a delicious meal that day. It is rarely necessary to pick fruit and vegetables on the day that they are to be eaten — they can be picked a few days in advance of a banquet, without any risk of spoilage. Similarly, juices and oil can be squeezed a few days in advance, without affecting them adversely. We will see, shortly, some of the halachic ramifications of these observations.

Laying an egg

The freshest egg is one recently laid. May I cook on Yom Tov an egg that was laid the very same day? The opening Mishnah of Mesechta Beitzah, which is the primary source for the laws of Yom Tov, quotes a dispute in which Beis Shammai rules that an egg laid on Yom Tov may be eaten that day, whereas Beis Hillel rules that it may not. This is an atypical situation, since Beis Shammai rules more leniently than Beis Hillel; usually, Beis Hillel is the more lenient (see Eduyos, Chapter 4).

Which came first, the chicken?

The Gemara inquires why Beis Hillel prohibits eating an egg laid on Yom Tov. After all, it is permitted to shecht a hen on Yom Tov and, thereby, eat its as-yet-to-be-laid egg. To resolve this conundrum, the Gemara (Beitzah 2a-3a) presents four approaches:

A. The Mishnah is discussing a hen that is a professional, designated egg-layer, not yet ready for retirement to the pot. Since this hen is still considered more valuable for its egg- laying talents, it would not be used typically for meat, which will permanently hamper its ability to produce eggs. This protected status renders the hen muktzah as a meat source on Yom Tov, since we assume that its owner does not consider it a candidate for the Yom Tov pot. Because of a concept called nolad — that the egg makes its grand appearance from a muktzah hen on Yom Tov — Beis Hillel considers not only the hen muktzah and not for Yom Tov consumption, but also its egg.

On the other hand, Beis Shammai does not consider this hen to be muktzah, since every farmer and homeowner always realizes where a hen’s retirement home is and never loses track of its ability to be a source of Yom Tov meat. Therefore, they permit shechting this hen on Yom Tov, and, as goes the hen, so goes its egg, even one laid on Yom Tov. Anything laid by a hen that is not muktzah cannot be muktzah.

Although a great scholar, Rav Nachman, explains the dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai in this fashion, the Gemara calls a technical foul (or should I say “fowl”?) on his reason — the wording of the Mishnah seems to indicate that the status of the hen is not the source of the dispute between the two esteemed academies.

Or the egg?

B. The second great scholar to explain Beis Hillel’s position is Rabbah. He contends that Beis Hillel prohibits any egg laid on Yom Tov, regardless of whether the hen is muktzah or not. Rabbah’s rationale is based on a concept called hachanah. When the Torah describes preparing the mann on Erev Shabbos to eat it on Shabbos, it uses seemingly unnecessary words. Rabbah derives from these words that there is a category of muktzah that is prohibited min haTorah.

Rabbah understands that Beis Hillel accepts this halachic genre, which teaches that a food that did not exist in edible form prior to the onset of Shabbos or Yom Tov is muktzah, and a freshly laid egg fits this category. Beis Shammai does not accept the concept of hachanah – and this explains why the latter academy permits an egg laid on Yom Tov.

The fruit does not fall…

C. The Gemara (Beitzah 3a) ultimately concludes that not all amora’im accept the halachic status that Rabbah calls hachanah. Among those who reject it are Rav Yosef and Rav Yitzchak. Since they also did not accept Rav Nachman’s approach, they present other approaches to explain why Beis Hillel banned consumption of an egg laid on Yom Tov.

Rav Yosef interprets that Beis Hillel prohibits any egg laid on Yom Tov because it was included in a rabbinic prohibition banning fruit that fell off a tree on Yom Tov. These fruits are prohibited because of concern that someone might pick produce on Yom Tov. As I explained above, failure to harvest fruit, vegetables or grains on the day of Yom Tov itself will not disturb the festivity or pleasure of a Yom Tov repast (Tosafos, Beitzah 3a). As such, although most food preparations are permitted on Yom Tov, picking fruit is not. Not only that, but Chazal prohibited eating fruit that fell off a tree on its own, out of concern that someone might pick fruit on Yom Tov. This is itself very curious, because it is not clear whether harvesting fruit on Yom Tov is prohibited min haTorah or only miderabbanan. (Rashi [Beitzah 3a s.v. Veyitlosh] and many rishonim understand that harvesting fruit is prohibited min haTorah on Yom Tov, whereas many other rishonim disagree and contend that it is prohibited only miderabbanan [Tosafos 3a s.v. Gezeirah; Rambam, Hilchos Yom Tov 1:5-7; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 495:2].)

Not far from the tree

At this point, we can answer our opening question: “An apple fell off my tree on Shabbos or Yom Tov. May I eat it?”

The answer is that, because of a rabbinic injunction, I must wait until after Shabbos or Yom Tov to eat it.

Free-run juice

D. Rav Yitzchak disagrees with Rav Yosef’s approach that the reason why Beis Hillel prohibits an egg laid on Yom Tov is because it is included in the rabbinic prohibition banning fruit that fell off a tree on Yom Tov. Rav Yitzchak agrees that the fallen fruits are prohibited, but he contends that freshly laid eggs are not included in that prohibition. Instead, Rav Yitzchak includes eggs laid on Yom Tov under a different rabbinic prohibition – that which bans consuming juice or oil that flows out of a fruit by itself (called “free-run juice”) on Yom Tov, until Yom Tov is over. This juice is prohibited, because of concern that someone might squeeze fruit on Yom Tov. All halachic authorities prohibit squeezing fruit such as grapes, olives or pomegranates on Yom Tov, although it is disputed whether this prohibition is min haTorah or miderabbanan. Beis Shammai agrees that free-run fruit juice or oil is prohibited on Yom Tov. According to Rav Yitzchak’s opinion, Beis Shammai does not include eggs in this prohibition, whereas Beis Hillel does.

Yom Tov stricter than Shabbos?!

In the course of the above lengthy debate, the Gemara points out that the Mishnah’s principles regarding the laws of muktzah are stricter on Yom Tov than they are on Shabbos. The Gemara (Beitzah 2b) then asks, why did Rebbi, the author of the Mishnah, treat Yom Tov more strictly than Shabbos? Should not Shabbos, where the laws of melacha are more severe (see Mishnah, Megillah 7b), have stricter muktzah rules than Yom Tov?

The Gemara concludes that, since Yom Tov has many halachic leniencies, people might bend its laws when forbidden to do so. In order to reinforce the proper observance of Yom Tov, certain categories of muktzah were made stricter on Yom Tov than they are on Shabbos.

Many early halachic authorities rule this way. Here are a few examples of items that are muktzah on Yom Tov, notwithstanding that they are not muktzah on Shabbos:

Edible merchandise

Edible merchandise that you intend to sell, such as fruits, vegetables or treats, are not muktzah, should you decide that you want to eat them on Shabbos. However, on Yom Tov these items are muktzah and cannot be consumed, since, when Yom Tov started, you intended to leave them as items to be sold in your business and not consumed at home (Mishnah Berurah 495:20).

We can now answer the second of our opening questions: “We live in an apartment right above our grocery store. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, may we help ourselves to items that are in the store?”

The answer is that on Shabbos this is permitted (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 310:2), whereas on Yom Tov it is not!

Partly dried fruit

Another example of an item that is muktzah on Yom Tov but not on Shabbos is fruit set aside to dry which is not fully dried when Yom Tov begins. If they are not yet dry enough for most people to eat them, it is not permitted to eat them on Yom Tov. However, if they are dry enough that some people would eat them, they are not muktzah on Shabbos, notwithstanding that most people would not eat them (Shaar Hatizyun 495:31).

Will these bones live?

Yet another example is leftover bones. The case would be that on Shabbos or Yom Tov you ate meat and you want to give the leftover bones to your dog. If the bones were considered part of a “people food” when Shabbos or Yom Tov started and are now considered animal food, they have a status called nolad,a category of muktzah that most poskim prohibit on Yom Tov, but not on Shabbos. Nolad means that the item changed status during Shabbos or Yom Tov – in this case, it changed from being food to feed.

This allows us to answer the last of our opening questions: “May Fido’s Yom Tov seudah include leftover bones?” The answer is that you may not feed Fido leftover bones on Yom Tov, although it is permitted to feed him the bones on Shabbos, because the laws of muktzah are stricter on Yom Tov (Mishnah Berurah 495:17).

Muktzah only on Shabbos

On the other hand, because the melachos of food preparation, such as shechting, cooking and kneading, are permitted on Yom Tov, sometimes something is muktzah on Shabbos but not on Yom Tov. In order to explain this adequately, I need to digress a little and explain some of the general rules of muktzah that apply every Shabbos and Yom Tov. There are three levels of muktzah:

K’li she’me’lachto le’heter

This is an item whose primary use is permitted, such as a chair or a pillow. These items can be moved on Shabbos or Yom Tov in order to accomplish one of three purposes:

(1) To use it.

(2) To use the place where it is located.

(3) To avoid it becoming stolen, lost or damaged.

However, it may not be moved without any reason (Shabbos 123b-124a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:4).

K’li she’me’lachto le’issur

This is an item whose primary use is forbidden, such as a hammer (primary use is to hammer nails, which violates the melacha of boneh) or a needle (primary use is to sew, which violates the melacha of tofeir), although you might have a permitted reason to use it. Items in this category may be moved to accomplish one of two purposes:

(1) To use it. If there is a need to use it for a purpose that is permitted and there is no k’li she’me’lachto le’heter readily available to do the job (Shabbos 124a). For example, it is permitted to use a hammer on Shabbos or Yom Tov to open a coconut, or a needle on Yom Tov to sew closed a chicken or turkey that you are baking with its stuffing inside.

(2) To use the place where it is located. For example, you accidentally left a hammer on a chair that is needed on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Under normal circumstances, k’li she’me’lachto le’issur may not be moved for any other purpose, including concern that it may be stolen, damaged or lost.

Completely muktzah

These are items that may not be moved on Shabbos. This includes items that are not considered “utensils,” such as stones, wood and animals.

Differences between Yom Tov and Shabbos

Because it is permitted to cook and prepare food on Yom Tov, the definition of what fits into each category on Yom Tov is often not the same as it is on Shabbos. For example, cooking utensils are usually categorized as k’li shemelachto le’issur on Shabbos and can be moved only if you have a Shabbos use for them, or you need their place for something else. However, these same items are k’li shemelachto le’heter on Yom Tov, since it is permitted to cook with them. Therefore, on Yom Tov, they can be moved, even if your only reason to move them is that you are afraid that they might become damaged where they are. In other terms: If the Torah permitted us to cook on Yom Tov, pots and stoves are therefore not muktzah on Yom Tov, although they have the status of k’li she’me’lachto le’issur on Shabbos.

Here is another example of a type of item that is muktzah on Shabbos, but not on Yom Tov. On Shabbos, charcoal, pieces of wood and other items that can be used as fuel are muktzah because they have no use. On Yom Tov, however, when cooking is permitted, charcoal and wood are usually not muktzah. Wood that fell or was chopped from a tree on Yom Tov is muktzah.

Moving muktzah to cook on Yom Tov

There is another leniency that applies on Yom Tov that does not apply on Shabbos. It is permitted to move a muktzah item on Yom Tov in order to enable the preparation of food or to enhance simchas Yom Tov (Rema, Orach Chayim 509:6 and 518:3). For example, a completely muktzah item was left or placed on top of a stove or a counter that you need to prepare food. You are permitted to pick up the muktzah item with your hands and move it, in order to cook and prepare food (Mishnah Berurah 509:31; 518:23). Since on Yom Tov it is permitted to cook and prepare food, if the prohibition of muktzah would disturb the ability to cook or otherwise prepare food on Yom Tov, it is permitted to move the muktzah item.


The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as Mo’eid. Just as the word ohel mo’eid refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashemand the Jewish people, so, too, a mo’eid is a meeting time between Hashem and the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Although on Shabbos we are to refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permitted melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a mo’eid. Permitting the preparation of delicious, freshly prepared meals allows an even greater celebration of the festivities of the Yom Tov, as we honor our unique relationship with Hashem.