Chapter 2: Using Muktzah materials to clean oneself from a bowel movement

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Using Muktzah materials to clean oneself from a bowel movement


The following chapter will discuss the laws of Muktzah items as they relate to being used for cleaning purposes after going to the bathroom. In addition other laws regarding using the bathroom are dealt with in this chapter. One must keep in mind that the bathroom usage back then was much different then today, and thus the laws as set forth here are to be taken in that context. For practical application of these laws see the summary and Q&A.


1. Using stones to wipe oneself with:

A. When having a bowel movement in an open area:

Pushing off the Muktzah laws:[1] Out of respect for humanity the Sages permitted to move stones to use to clean oneself with upon going to the bathroom. Even if one had a bowel movement on ones roof and carrying up the stones [to clean oneself with] involves much effort, [nevertheless] it is permitted.[2]

How many stones may one bring with him if he has a designated bathroom area? [3] One who has a designated area used as a bathroom, which means that he always uses one specific area to have a bowel movement in, then he may enter into there as many stones as his hand can grasp, as [even] if there will be stones left over from the night [of Shabbos, as he did not need to use all of them,] he will use them to clean with in the morning, and thus [these leftover stones] were not moved for no need.

The Reason:[4] [Now,] even though other people also enter into this area to have bowel movements, and there is thus chance that they will use these leftover [stones] to clean themselves with, [nevertheless] this does not pose a problem, as [even if they do use the leftovers, the stones were still] in the end of the day moved for the use of others, which is not considered moving them for no need, as what difference does it make if one moves them for his own use or for the use of others.

Now even though others can make their own effort to bring stones for themselves, nevertheless since it is possible that all these stones that he is entering will be needed to be used by him himself, [such as] if the others will not precede him in using the [stones] leftover from his current cleaning to clean themselves with, [it thus ends up] that he is now troubling [himself in bringing all these stones] for his own use.[5]  

How many stones may one bring with him if he does not have a designated bathroom area? [6] However one who does not have a set area to use as a bathroom, meaning that at times he goes to one place and at times to another, then he [may only] enter with him the amount of stones [that would correspond to the size] of the head of a spice crusher[7] and not anymore. As if [he will take more than this amount and] there will be leftovers from these [stones] and he will then go and use the bathroom elsewhere, it ends up that he [originally] moved these [leftover] stones for no need.

Stones that have already been used to wipe with:[8] If it is recognizable on the stone that it had already previously been cleaned with [at least] once in the past, then it is permitted to enter it even if it is very large, or even if they are a lot more than a handful he may take all of them, as since they were [already] cleaned with and a stain from the cleaning is recognizable on them, they are [therefore] prepared and designated for this use, and are [thus] not considered Muktzah.

Stones that are designated to be used to wipe with:[9] The same applies for stones which one designated to clean with from before Shabbos, even though he has never actually cleaned with them before, it is permitted to enter them into [any] bathroom, even if they are a large amount, as long as one permanently designated [these stones] for this use. However if they were only designated for one Shabbos, then this does not help [to remove its Muktzah status], as was explained in Chapters 259 [Halacha 5] and 308 [Halacha 53].


B. The law by a private bathroom used only by oneself:[10]

One who has a bathroom near his house which is not used by any other person it is forbidden for him to enter into it stones on Shabbos, unless they are prepared and designated for this use.

The reason for this is: because one is expected to have prepared [the stones] there from before Shabbos, as he certainly had knowledge before Shabbos that he would need to use [the bathroom] on Shabbos, [and thus he should have already entered stones there] being that there is no other person which will enter the bathroom to use it for bowel movement. 

However when other people, including even his household members, also use that bathroom for bowel movement, [the Sages] did not trouble him to need to prepare the stones there from before Shabbos based on a mere doubt [if he will even have a chance to use these stones on Shabbos, as] perhaps on Shabbos [when he goes to that bathroom] he will find it in use by someone else and will thus need to go elsewhere to have his bowel movement, as well [even if the bathroom is empty] perhaps they will [have preceded him and] cleaned with the stones that had been prepared by him [and he will thus not end up using the stones that he prepared, and therefore the Sages allowed him to bring stones with him on Shabbos].


C. Carrying stones to clean oneself with, within a Karmalis and Public domain: [11]

First Opinion: There are opinions which say that [the Sages] only permitted carrying stones to clean oneself with inside a Private domain, or [to carry them] within a 4 cubit radius inside a Karmalis.

Second Opinion: [However] other opinions say that it is permitted to carry them even [more than] 4 cubits in a Karmalis, and [may even be carried] from a Karmalis into a private domain if one needs to do so.

Their reasoning is: because the [carrying in a] Karmalis prohibition is also only Rabbinically just as is the Muktzah prohibition, and [the Sages] thus also removed [the Karmalis prohibition] out of respect for humanity.

The Final Ruling: The ruling is that by a dispute regarding a Rabbinical prohibition one may follow the lenient opinion.


D. Removing the stones from mud:[12]

If rain fell onto the stones [which were previously prepared to be used to clean with[13]] and they sunk [into the mud as a result of the rain] then if they can still be seen[14] [from above the mud, meaning that they have not completely sunk into the ground[15],] they are permitted to be taken to clean oneself with. This poses no problems of “Destroying” [the flooring of the outside where the stone was on[16]], or of “Grinding” [the mud that the stone is removed from[17]]. 


E. Using a stone that has mold growing on it:[18]

The law: A stone which has grown [thick green] mold[19] due to the grounds moisture is permitted to clean oneself with, and we do not [prohibit it due to a] suspicion that one may come to remove the mold from the stone [in the cleaning process], being that even if one does remove it, there is no prohibition involved [in doing so] as this is something done unintentionally.

The reason that this is not prohibited due to the prohibition to uproot a plant from the ground: Now, although the mold nurtures off the ground [and thus it should be prohibited to pick up the stone as by doing so it is like uprooting a plant from the ground, nevertheless] there is no prohibition of detaching and uprooting a plant from its source involved here by him lifting [the stone] up from the ground, as even [when the mold is] in the air they benefit and grow from the vapor of the grounds moisture, and are thus considered like they are still attached to the ground. Thus this lifting [of the stone] involves no Biblical prohibition, and is only [normally] Rabbinically prohibited to be lifted due to that it appears like one is uprooting as will be explained in chapter 336 [Halacha 12], and [thus] here [it is permitted as] out of respect for humanity [the sages] did not apply their decree.


F. May one polish the stone on Shabbos?[20]

One may not rub a stone to be used for cleaning, in order to smoothen it so that it not scratch his skin, in the same way that he does during the week, as this carries with it the prohibition of grinding. However one may rub it in an irregular manner such as [is done when] using the back of his hand.


G. Until what point in cleanliness may one use the rocks to clean himself?[21]

It is permitted to carry smooth rocks on Shabbos for purposes of cleaning oneself even though that they are Muktzah. One may carry up to a hands full to clean himself with one after another. Once there is no more remnant of excrement on the rocks one can no longer continue using them to clean on Shabbos, as even by weekday one only needs to clean himself when sitting to the point that there is no more excrement seen on the material that he is using to clean. As this is a sign that there is no more remnant of excrement by the area which can be seen when sitting [which is prohibited from having excrement left there when praying].


2. Using other Muktzah materials to wipe oneself with:

A. Using a piece of earth to clean oneself with:[22]

One may not move a thick piece of earth to use to clean himself with as it is not useable to clean with being that it breaks apart.


B. Cleaning oneself using pieces of pottery:[23]

Rough earthenware: It is forbidden to use earthenware [which has a rough surface[24], to clean oneself with] even during the week as doing so is dangerous being that it can tear the membranes of the rectum. [Rather only smooth rocks and other smooth materials may be used.[25]]

Using smooth earthenware during the week: [Furthermore] even smooth earthenware, such as a [broken] handle of a vessel which are smooth and do not tear the skin, one may not clean with it during the week out of fear that they have [had] a spell [cast upon them]. [However] it was already explained in chapter 3 [Kama Halacha 16] that in today’s times we no longer suspect for sorcery.

Using smooth earthenware on Shabbos rather than using a stone: However on Shabbos if one has [available] in front of him smooth earthenware and a stone he should clean himself with the earthenware, even during the times that they did have a suspicion of having a spell, being that [earthenware pieces] have a status of a vessel on them being that they are fit to be used to cover the mouth of vessels, and thus override cleaning oneself with the stone which is Muktzah. As [the Sages] only permitted one to clean himself with pebbles and stone if one has no other permitted [non-Muktzah] material available. 


C. Using blades of grass over using stones:[26]

One who had in front of him a stone and grass that is still attached to the ground, in which case both are Muktzah, then he should clean himself with the grass, [making sure] not to move them with his hands [but rather with his body]. He should not clean himself with the stone which he will need to move with his hands [in order to use].

The reason it is allowed to clean oneself with grass attached to the ground: There is no prohibition in cleaning oneself with the grass of “[not to] use items attached to the ground”, as this was only forbidden by [using] trees however not by plants, as will be explained in chapter 336 [Halacha 4].

The law by dry grass: However the above only applies by moist grass, however dry grass is not used to clean with being that one who cleans himself with flammable material causes his lower membranes [of his rectum] to fall off. [Furthermore] even in today’s times that we are no longer careful against using flammable material to wipe with, as was explained in chapter 3 [Kama Halacha 16], [nevertheless] we [still] do not wipe with dry grass being that they are sharp and lacerate ones skin, as explained there [in Halacha 16]


D. May one use a tree to wipe if he has nothing else available?[27]

If one does not have available in front of him even pebbles and stone to wipe himself with then there are opinions which permit to clean even using a tree that is attached [to the ground], as in a situation that the respect of a person [will be disgraced, the Sages] did not decree against using [trees] attached to the ground.

Using the leaves of the tree: Even if one needs to cleans himself with the leaves, it is allowed and we do no suspect that he may come to pull off [the leaf in the cleaning process], as [even if he does so] it is done unintentionally [and thus not prohibited].


3. Miscellaneous laws involved with a bowel movement on Shabbos

A. Rubbing a stone on ones skin to treat constipation:[28]

The law: One who feels the need to have a bowel movement but is constipated, in which case his treatment is to rub his rectum with a stone and the like, on Shabbos he may not rub it the same way he rubs it during the week, meaning by holding the stone within his entire hand and rubbing.

The reason for this is: because this form of rubbing tears membranes and although he does not intend to do this, nevertheless [it is forbidden on Shabbos] because it is inevitable to occur, as with certainty this form of rubbing tears off membranes. (And this rubbing was only permitted [with an irregularity on Shabbos or even regularly during the week] due to that constipation[29] can lead to the Droken illness).

Practically how does one rub with it? Therefore it was required to be done with an irregularity, meaning to hold the stone with two fingers and rub gently.

Using a rod to rub with:[30] Rubbing a [wooden[31]] rod by ones rectum has the same law as rubbing a stone, that it should only be held with two fingers.

Carrying items that are inserted in one’s body into a public domain[32]: It is forbidden to go out [to a public domain or Karmalis] with this metal rod even if it is completely inserted into one’s body, as since one constantly enters it there in order to return and take it out, it is not nullified to the body, and is like carrying it in ones mouth and by ones elbow, which is Rabbinically forbidden. However an item which was swallowed into the body is permitted to go out with, such as to swallow a jewel or gold and go out with it into a public domain.

B. Making a bowel movement in a plowed field:[33]

It is forbidden to make a bowel movement in a plowed field on Shabbos due to a decree that [one may come] to fill up gaps [that are in the field]. As he may take a stone from an earthy area to clean himself and will then throw it onto a hole [in the field], thus equalizing the plowing [ground] which is an offshoot of [the Biblical prohibition] of plowing.

In someone else’s field: [Furthermore] if the field belongs to someone else, then it is forbidden to enter it even during the week, as he stumps on the plowing and ruins it.  


C. Making oneself a toilet out of stones:[34]

Large stones which are organized to create a seat with a hole which one sits on in fields by the area designated to be used as a bathroom, is permitted to be organized on Shabbos, being that [doing so] is a temporary structure that is not made to last, and a temporary structure is only prohibited to [be made] Rabbinically, and due to respect of humanity they did not apply their decree [in this case].[35]

Nevertheless, to make a form of a tent with a roof is forbidden even though it is only a temporary tent. 


Summary of the Muktzah items that may be moved to clean oneself with on Shabbos:

Muktzah material may never be used on Shabbos if:

1) If one has non-Muktzah material available [that he does not care to use[36]] to clean himself with then he must use it and may not use any other Muktzah material.[37]

Included in non-Muktzah materials are all stones previously used for wiping and all stones that have been permanently designated for wiping.[38]

2) If one has a private bathroom used only by him then he must prepare wiping material before Shabbos, and is not allowed on Shabbos at all to use a Muktzah material.[39]

If one does not have any non-Muktzah material available, and one does not have a personal private bathroom, [such as when camping out over Shabbos] then the following materials may be used in the following precedence :

1) Moist grass or plants that are attached to the ground are to be used without moving them with ones hands but rather only by rubbing against them with one’s body.[40]

2) Stones: If the above is not available then one may use stones[41] even if they have mold growing on them, although it is forbidden to remove the mold.[42] Even by a non-moldy stone one may not smoothen it down in the same way that is done during the week, rather it must be done in an irregular form.[43]

3) Trees: If even stones are not available then one may use a smooth branch or leaf of a tree even if it is attached to the ground.[44]

The following materials may never be used:

1) A clump of earth[45].

2) Dry plants or grass may not be used even during the week as they lacerate ones skin.[46]

3) Rough earthenware may not be used even during the week as they lacerate ones skin.[47]


Summary of how many Muktzah[48] stones one may enter with him to the bathroom:

-If one always uses that same bathroom: A handful[49].

-If one uses different bathrooms: Amount that corresponds to the head of a spice crusher.[50]

-If one has a private bathroom that no one else uses: No Muktzah stones or other items may be entered as already explained.[51]

In all cases one may not continue wiping using a fresh stone if he cleaned himself to the point that there is no more remnant of feces on the previous stone.[52]


Summary of if one may carry the stones into a Karmalis or Public domain?

One may carry them into a Karmalis and walk with them more than 4 cubits.

One may not carry them from a private domain into a Public domain, and if they are already in a public domain one may not carry them 4 cubits or more.[53]



May one cut the toilet paper on Shabbos if he has no precut toilet paper from before Shabbos?[54]

Doing so is forbidden due to the tearing prohibition [even according to Admur[55]] [as well as the fixing a vessel prohibition[56]], and if it is cut by the perforated lines then it also possibly contains the cutting prohibition[57].

If one has nothing else available, then he should use writing paper [even if Muktzah] to wipe with.[58] If this too is not available then some Poskim[59] allow one to cut [a larger than needed piece of[60]] toilet paper not on the vertical lines using an irregularity. Others[61] say that one is to wipe with it and without tearing it, place it into the toilet and then flush.


May one use paper to wipe himself with if he has nothing else available?[62]

Yes[63]. However one may not use any papers that have drawings or writing on it.[64]

[As well seemingly even blank paper is only allowed if one does not have his own personal bathroom that only he uses, as otherwise it would fall into the same category as Halacha 3 [see there], which prohibits one from using Muktzah items in such a case]  

[1] 312/1

[2] Seemingly the novelty here is that in addition to the regular Muktzah decree being removed, the Sages also did not refrain one from doing so even if it makes one place in a lot of effort on Shabbos and thus makes it seem more similar to a weekday, as explained in 308 Halacha 1 as being one of the reasons behind Muktzah. Vetzaruch Iyun

[3] 312/1

[4] 312/1

[5] It seems from here that the explanation above  that “one may trouble himself for others” does not suffice and that it is only because there is also a chance that he will come to use it, that he is allowed to do so.  Vetzaruch Iyun

[6] 312/2

[7] This follows the explanation of the Rif and Rosh in the Gemara Shabbos 81a. However Rashi and Tosafus both learn that it is the amount of the leg of a spice crusher. The Michaber plainly mentions a “small spice crusher” without detailing its leg or its head.

[8] 312/2

[9] 312/2

[10] 312/3

[11] 312/4

[12] 312/5

[13] Mishneh Berurah 9, and so is implied from the Alter Rebbes wording of “The stone”

[14] Lit. “Their mark is recognizable”

[15] Mishneh Berurah 10

[16] Mishneh Berurah 11

[17] Mishneh Berurah 11

[18] 312/6

[19] Lit. herbs or grass

[20] 312/11

[21]  Basra 3/8

[22] 312/7

[23] 312/8

[24] Chapter 3 Halacha 6 in Kama, and 8 in Basra

[25]  Siddur Seder Netilah: “In the times of the Mishnah  they would clean with small smooth stones”

[26] 312/9

[27] 312/10

[28] 312/12

[29] Lit. A back up of one’s feces.

[30] 312/13

[31] Mishneh Berurah 22

[32] 312/13

[33] 312/14

[34] 312/15

[35] Regarding the problem of Muktzah there are opinions that say that this is only referring to stones that have been designated before Shabbos to be used for this purpose. However others learn that even if not predestinated the Sages allowed one to move it. [Mishneh Berurah 25] [It seems from the Alter Rebbe like the latter as a) Why didn’t the Alter Rebbe mention the case is referring to designated stones, and b) if the stones were designated for this, then the structure made out from them is permanent not temporary.

[36] This is evident from the fact that the Sages did not require one to use his clothing to wipe himself with rather then move Muktzah stones. The same then can be applied to all materials that one is not willing to use to clean himself with, such as a smooth pot or plate. Although Tzaruch Iyun as perhaps clothing has more of an aspect of disgrace when used, and thus specifically using ones clothing was not required by the sages, however when vessels are available perhaps the sages applied their decree against Muktzah, and here the only reason this was not mentioned is because back then they went to the bathroom in areas that no vessels are found. In any event, practically from the fact the Poskim allow to use blank paper to clean oneself with when he has no cut toilet paper or tissues [see Q&A 2], one sees that there is no obligation to use items that one is not comfortable with using in order to avoid using Muktzah.

[37] 312/8

[38] 312/2

[39] 312/3

[40] 312/9

[41] 312/1 and 9

[42] 312/6

[43] 312/11

[44] 312/10

[45] 312/7

[46] 312/9

[47] 312/8

[48] By non-Muktzah stones there are no restrictions [Halacha 2]

[49] 312/1

[50] 312/2

[51] 312/3

[52] Basra 3/8

[53] 312/4

[54] Piskeiy Teshuvos 340/28

[55] As the toilet paper is made up of many different pieces. [Nishmas Adam, Az Nidbaru 2/31, as opposed to Chelkas Yaakov 3/123 which stated that according to Admur there is no tearing prohibition involved with paper.]

[56] Pashut

[57] Chelkas Yaakov ibid; Sheivet Haleivi 1/115

[58] SSH”K 23/16; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340/28

[59] Chelkas Yaakov ibid; SSH”K 23/16

[60] To avoid the fixing a vessel prohibition.

[61] Az Nidbaru 2/79

[62] Shemiras Shabbos Kihilchasa Vol. 1 page 296

[63] Vetzaruch Iyun why this is not prohibited being that it is rough material can tear ones bottom.

[64] As doing so is a problem of “Erasing”

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