There was a blizzard in my city and the garbage hasn’t been collected in many weeks (unfortunately). I woke up shabbos morning and my garbage that was (sitting by the street waiting to be picked up) on top of snow, had fallen over due to the melted snow. The garbage was now in the middle of a public walkway. This walkway is used by the public and on shabbos morning many elderly and mothers with strollers use the walkway and the garbage in my mind would be dangerous to leave there. There is basically ice and snow in all other directions, so this walkway was the only way for people to go to shul or anyplace else. What is the best advice to do in this situation? Can one pick up the garbage and move it back off the public walkway? My 3 options were to leave the garbage there and just step over it. Kick the garbage back onto my rented property but my non frum landlord who owns the property and lives right there would not have been happy, or pick it up and move it out of the way. I guess a 4th option would be to try to find a goy. What should I have done?
The Gemara discusses a similar case, in which a (large) thorn was left in the public domain, and threatens to cause damage. The Gemara states that under such circumstances, the Sages did not intend their rabbinic enactments to be binding, and it is therefore permitted to move the thorn to ensure that the public will not be damaged, provided one ensures to move it less than 4 amos in one go.
The question does not mention whether the area in question is a public domain (reshus harabim), or whether there is an eiruv. Either way, if the garbage presents a public danger, it is permitted to move it — less than 4 amos in one go if the area is a reshus harabim. There is no need to call a non-Jew under such circumstances.
If the area is a reshus harabim, it would not be permitted to move the garbage into one’s property, for this would be a Torah transgression, and the garbage would have to be moved out of the way elsewhere.
If the garbage is not a clear menace, one should move it with one’s foot, or by another indirect means.
See Shabbo 42a; Shulchan Aruch 308:18; Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah (and Biur Halachah), who discuss the question of a menace that was already present before Shabbos (not relevant to the case of the question), and the question of how great a public danger is required for this halachah to apply. See also Tashbatz (137); Eliyah Rabbah.