Reprinted from Halacha Hotline of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway
In this article we will discuss several halachos related to snow and salt – or ice melt – on
1) According to most Poskim (halachic authorities), clean (i.e., not dirtied) snow is not muktzah
on Shabbos (see note)1
– whether it fell on Shabbos or before Shabbos;
nor is salt (fine or
It would seem that ice melt should also not be muktzah.4
2) Nevertheless, according to most Poskim, shoveling snow on Shabbos is generally forbidden
due to the principles of uvdin d’chol,
and zilzul Shabbos.7 Moreover, if the area that one
wishes to shovel is not paved, shoveling on Shabbos is prohibited8
due to the g’zeirah (Rabbinic
decree) of ashvuyei gumos.9 Also, if the area in which one is shoveling is not enclosed by an eiruv
(or the eiruv is not operational due to the snowstorm),10 shoveling snow on Shabbos could entail
1 As long as the snow – after it melts – is still fit for bathing or for an animal to drink (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 338:8
with Mishnah Berurah #30).
2 Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 16:45 with note 118; Sh”ut Be’er Moshe 1:20; Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 68:1; Chazon
Ovadyah, Shabbat, Dinei Nolad #3. Cf. Igros Moshe O.C. 5:22 #37 who writes that snow is muktzah. (Interestingly, The
Halachos of Muktzah (Rabbi Bodner) o.e. page 165 note 10 cites Rav Moshe Feinstein as ruling that snow is muktzah
regardless of whether it fell on Shabbos or before Shabbos; whereas, Sefer Hilchos Shabbos (Rabbi Eider) writes that Rav
Moshe Feinstein told him that snow is not muktzah.)
3 Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 67:15.
4 The reason is that it is designated for a purpose (melting ice and snow), which is permitted on Shabbos (see below in the
article); see S.A. O.C. 308:38.
5 Literally: weekday actions. Actions that appear to be mundane, weekday type actions are often prohibited on Shabbos and
Yom Tov even when they involve no melachah (labor prohibited on Shabbos). See, for example, M.B. 333:1.
6 Literally: toil/bother. Actions that are strenuous or involve excessive toil are often prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov even
when they involve no melachah. See, for example, M.B. ibid.
7 Literally: disrespect of Shabbos, which includes doing “non-Shabbos” actions in public; see Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah
n.e. 25:11, with note 59; Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 68:17.
8 Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 25:11, with note 58.
9 Literally: leveling indentations. Leveling a dirt floor outdoors entails the melachah of choreish (plowing); see M.B. 312:24.
(When performed on a dirt floor indoors it entails the melachah of boneh – building). Chazal (our Sages, may their memory be
blessed) prohibited any activity that could possibly lead to leveling dirt surfaces, even if the particular surface in question is
level and has no indentations. Moreover, even if the area is paved such activities are generally prohibited for fear that one will
not differentiate and level out surfaces that are not paved as well. See S.A. O.C. 337:2 with Rema, and note 20 below.
10 When snow freezes on tree branches, they are weighed down and become susceptible to breaking and falling. As they fall,
they can break the eiruv wire. In addition, depending on the nature of the wire, when snow freezes on the eiruv wire, the wire
can possibly sag sufficiently so as to render the eiruv invalid.
21 Teves, 5779 516.239.2500 Halacha Hotline-Parshas Shemos
the melachah (labor prohibited on Shabbos) of hotza’ah (carrying), when carrying the shovel or
transporting the snow or ice melt. See note.
3) If ice or snow on the walkway presents a risk of injury to the public (see note),12 one may have
a non-Jew apply ice melt even if the area is a real reshus harabim.
13,14 If a non-Jew is not
available, and the area is not a reshus harabim, most Poskim15 rule that a Jew may apply ice
melt16 even without employing a shinui;
17 but see note.18 There is a dispute in the Poskim whether
one may put down sand or straw (or the like) on a walkway – even if they were designated before
Shabbos and thus not muktzah.19
4) In cases of need (e.g., there is concern that the snow will melt and freeze over, or if the large
amount of snow makes it difficult to walk), if the walkway is paved (see note),20 one may have a
non-Jew shovel the snow manually (i.e., without the use of bulldozers or snow blowers), even if
the area is a reshus harabim.21 One should commission the non-Jew before Shabbos to shovel on
Shabbos. If one did not make arrangements before Shabbos, one may even commission a non-Jew
on Shabbos to shovel on Shabbos if one does not use any terminology of hiring and no price is
discussed.22 One may say “I’ll take care of you after Shabbos” or “We’ll discuss particulars after
5) If one has a contract with a company to remove snow on one’s property with plows or snow
blowers, one should stipulate that they should not come on Shabbos. If they do come on Shabbos,
11 However, carrying the shovel or transporting the snow or ice melt is not considered zilzul Shabbos (Sh”ut Machazeh
Eliyahu 68:17). There is a discussion in the Poskim (based on the Magen Avraham 320:15) whether breaking up ice that is
attached to the sidewalk or ground could entail the melachah of sosair (destroying), since breaking up the ice could possibly
be considered removing part of the ground (see The 39 Melochos vol. 4 page 1098 note 47a, citing Sh”ut Har Tzvi). The
consensus of the Poskim (Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 67:8 and Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 25:11 note 57) is that it is not
considered sosair. Several reasons are offered for this lenient ruling, one being that the connection of the ice to the sidewalk –
at least in most locales –is only temporary since the ice will melt within a few days. It should be noted that this leniency
applies only in cases of need on Shabbos; otherwise, one should not break up ice due to a possible prohibition of sosair (see
12 Defined for these purposes as three or more people (Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 25:9).
13 A halachic public domain; see O.C. 345:7-13 with Mishnah Berurah for the criteria necessary for an area to be considered a
14 Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 25:11. See Mishneh Halachos 4:45 at length.
15 Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 25:10; Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 67:14.
16 The reason is that: 1) doing so does not involve any Biblical prohibitions since the area is not a reshus harabim and putting
down the ice melt does not constitute boneh (building) since it dissolves (Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu 67:12-13); and 2) although
doing so should involve various Rabbinic prohibitions (including carrying), in cases of a risk of injury to the public, Chazal
waived their restrictions and allowed one to perform actions that would generally be prohibited Rabbinically, such as uvdin
d’chol, tircha, zilzul Shabbos, carrying in a karmelis (which includes most non-enclosed areas that are not reshus harabim),
moving muktzah, et al.; see S.A. O.C. 308:18; Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah (n.e. 25:10 with note 52).
17 Literally: change. That is, doing so in an unusual manner.
18 Sh”ut Beer Moshe (1:28) disagrees and rules (based on S.A. O.C. 313:10 and M.B. 313:56) that a shinui is necessary. An
example of a shinui is turning a utensil upside down and placing the ice melt on the underside of the utensil, then shaking it to
apply the ice melt.
19 Sh”ut Machazeh Eliyahu (67:13) prohibits doing such since placing these items on a walkway could be tantamount to the
melachah of boneh (building); see note 9. Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah (n.e. 25:10, with notes 53 and 53*), however, allows
doing such (even though the sand and straw are mukztzah; see note 16), but only if the walkway is paved so there is no issue of
ashvuyei gumos (but see note that follows).
20 It would seem that it would be permitted only in locales in which the majority of walkways are paved; see Bi’ur Halacha
337:2 s.v. v’yeish machmirin.
21 See sources cited in note 13.
22 See S.A. O.C. 306:6, M.B. 306:14; Bi’ur Halacha 307:2 s.v. asur; and Sh’miras Shabbos K’hilchasah n.e. 28:65. See also
ibid. 30:34 with note 116.