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Moving Electrical Appliances on Shabbos

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, is it mutar to move lamps, fans, and clocks towards the direction one wants them?

If an alarm clock goes off on Shabbos and one wants to move it to cover it up, may he do so?


1. Authorities dispute the status of electrical appliances: are they considered mukzeh (on account of cihsaron kis), are they considered a keli shemelachto isur (because their mode of operation involves violation of Shabbos), or are they keli shemelachto heiter (because their actual use involves no prohibition).

The general custom is to move them for the purpose of the use (or for the place they occupy). It is therefore permitted to move a fan and to direct is as desired. However, it is prohibited to move an electric lamp that has a light bulb, and likewise a heater that has a glowing filament is fully considered mukzeh, because the filament is considered a “fire”. An appliance that can also be used without electricity, such as an electric blanket, is certainly not mukzeh, and may be moved at will. Most poskim agree that a large appliance, such as a fridge or washing machine, is considered mukzeh (chisaron kis). 

2. An alarm clock, even if it is battery operated, may be moved for the purpose of covering it [unless it has a light bulb that is on].

Sources: Iggros Moshe (Orach Chaim 3:49, 4:91:5) permits the moving of a fan and the like, and also permits using an electric blanket (3:50). However, elsewhere (5:21) he writes that most appliances (with the exception of a kettle) are considered keli shemelachto isur, and some chisaron kis. Chelkas Yaakov (OC 119) writes that a hearing aid is a keli shemelachto isur and it may be moved only for its use (or its space), whereas Or LeZion (2:26:1) writes that they have the status of chisaron kis and may not be moved at all. Iggros Moshe (5:23) sums up his opinion by stating that even though an appliance draws its energy from electricity (something prohibited), this does not render it mukzeh, and only an appliance whose use involves a prohibition is a keli shemelachto issur. However, he does write that a lamp may not be moved because it is a basis (foundation/support) for the filament; see, however, shut Minchas Shlomo (Vol I, 14:1), who writes that it may be permitted to move, yet in his yeshiva he responded to a question concering moving a lamp that “a lamp is fire and one doesn’t play with fire!” See also Yalkut Yosef 308.

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    1. A crockpot works by means of red-hot filaments (I assume), which have the status of a fire, and therefore the crockpot would be considered muktzeh.

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