- Question: [Thursday, 17th Kisleiv 5781]
Is it permitted on Shabbos for me to rest my Siddur on a pot plant? I have many pot plants in my yard sitting on the gate and they are a perfect height for me to rest my Siddur on when I Daven there on Shabbos. May I do so?
Resting just on the actual pot without touching any of the plants: Is permitted.
Resting it on the actual plant: It depends on the type of plant, as well as the height of the plant, growing within the pot. If the plant has grown taller than 24 cm then you may not rest your Siddur on top of the area that is higher than 24 cm if the plant contains a hard stem which if bended will break. However, if the plant is less than 24 cm tall, or if the plant is soft and its stem is flexible and will not break when bent, then you may rest items on top of the actual plant, although making sure not to touch the plants with your actual fingers and hand, unless necessary for the sake of the resting of the item.
The explanation: There are two halachic issues with making contact with plants on Shabbos; 1) Muktzah 2) Making use of a tree. All plants that are attached to the ground are Muktzah on Shabbos, and thereby may not be moved with one’s hands. However, not all plants contain the second prohibition of making a use with them in other ways [without moving them with your hands] and this depends on whether it is a tree, or bush with branches, or a plant with a hard cane in which case it is forbidden to make any use of it from 24 cm and higher, versus if it is a soft plant in which case it is permitted to make a use of it [without moving it with one’s hands] even if it is taller than 24 cm. Even by trees and bushes with branches and plants with hard stems that cannot be bent without breaking, they are only prohibited in use from a height of 24 cm while below this height it is permitted to be used.
Now let’s discuss pot plants: Regarding the second prohibition of making use of a tree, pot plants follow the same law, and hence one may not make use [i.e. rest a siddur] on any area of the plant that grows to a height of 24 cm if its stem is not flexible, [although it remains permitted to rest it simply on the pot itself without it touching any of the plants]. However, one may rest it on top of flexible plants, or areas of the plant that do not reach 24 cm, as even if we were to define pot plants as Muktzah [the first issue above], it is permitted to rest an object on top of a Muktzah item on Shabbos. Furthermore, a pot plant is not defined as actual Muktzah, but rather as a Keli Shemilachto Lissur [or even Heter], if the plant is less than a height of 24 cm or is flexible as explained above. Thus, in such a case, one may even bend the plant for the sake of resting one’s Siddur on top of it as is the law by any Keli Shemichato Lissur that it may be moved for a use or for its space.
Sources: Regarding the prohibition of making use of trees/plants on Shabbos: Admur 336:1, 4-6; 312:9; Regarding the Muktzah status of plants attached to the ground: Admur 312:9; 336:4; M”A 312:6; See Peri Megadim 312 A”A 6; See also: Elya Raba and Tosefes Shabbos brought in Machatzis Hashekel 312:6; so rules also M”B 312:17; Shaar Hatziyon 336:42; Regarding Muktzah status of pot plants: Admur 336:12; P”M 636:10; Tiferes Yisrael Kalkeles Shabbos Zoreia 1; Shevisas HaShabbos Kotzer 5 and 7; Shaar Hatziyon 336:38; Tehila Ledavid 636:6; Regarding the allowance to rest an object on top of a Muktzah item when it is not for the sake of the Muktzah item see: Admur 308:14; 310:10; Terumos Hadeshen 1:67; M”A 310:3; Taz 301:5; Ketzos Hashulchan 142 footnote 5; Minchas Shabbos 80:194; Az Nidbaru 1:15; Piskeiy Teshuvos 336:16 footnotes 123-125