Snow on Shabbos

From Shulchan Aruch

Urinating on snow:[1]

Due to the above [stringency in 1B] there is a Posek[2] who was careful not to urinate into snow as a result of the urine the snow melts and this is like one is melting it with his hands which is forbidden according to the first opinion despite that the melted [snow] is not individually recognizable[3] (and as well is going to waste[4]).

Other Opinions: [However] there is an opinion[5] who says that….. it is permitted to urinate onto snow.

Their reasoning is:[6] because this is something which is not possible to avoid doing during the winter when the entire earth is filled with snow and therefore the Sages did not make any decree against doing so.

The Final Ruling:[7] (It is proper to be stringent in an instance that one can easily avoid doing so.)     

Stepping on snow:[8]

However it is permitted to step on snow with ones feet being that it is possible that doing so will not melt and dissolve it, and thus even if it does [end up] melting and dissolving [since] it is done unintentionally it is [therefore] permitted being that it is not an inevitable occurrence.[9]

Other Opinions: [However] there is an opinion[10] which says that even if one’s shoes are wet in which case it will for certain melt the snow [that he steps on] [nevertheless] it is permitted. Likewise, [this opinion says that] it is permitted to urinate onto snow.

Their reasoning is:[11] because this is something which is not possible to avoid doing during the winter when the entire earth is filled with snow and therefore the Sages did not make any decree against doing so.


Q&A on snow from later Poskim

May one purposely step on snow for the fun of it on Shabbos?[12]

If ones feet are wet, or the ground is wet, and doing so will inevitably cause the snow to melt then it is forbidden to do so.


Is snow Muktzah?[13]

Snow retains the same law as rainwater, and is thus not Muktzah, even if it fell on Shabbos, if it is useable for eating or drinking [of even an animal[14]], or bathing, as stated above by rainwater. However, some Poskim[15] rule that snow that fell on Shabbos is Mukztah due to Nolad.

May one sweep snow or ice away from his lawn?[16]

Place without Eiruv: It is forbidden for a Jew to move the ice or snow four Amos even if it is not attached to the ground. It is permitted to move it for a space of less than four Amos, if the ice/snow is not attached to the ground as explained next. Whether one may ask a gentile to move the snow-see next!

Place with Eiruv or moving less than four Amos: If the snow or ice is attached to the ground then it is forbidden to break it due to the destroying prohibition.[17] If it is not attached to the ground then it may be moved.[18] In a time of great need, such as due to worry of falling and injury, many Poskim[19] are lenient to allow one to move the ice even if it is attached to the ground. Nevertheless, if possible one should do so through a gentile.

Asking a gentile:[20] It is permitted to ask a gentile to sweep away the snow or ice in order to prevent injury. This applies even if there is no Eiruv and the ice is attached to the ground.[21]


May one spread salt on snow?[22]

It is permitted to spread salt on snow or ice in order to prevent people from slipping.[23] If possible, however, one should only do so in private, or through a gentile due to Maaras Ayin.[24] [It is, however, initially forbidden to do so for no need at all, such as people anyways do not walk through that area.[25]]

May one pour water on the ice in order to melt it and prevent slipping?

Some[26] write that it is permitted to do so.[27]


May one make snow balls and snow men?

Making snow balls on Shabbos does not transgress the Molid prohibition.[28] Nevertheless, some Poskim[29]  rule it is forbidden to make snow balls on Shabbos.[30]

Children: Some Poskim[31] rule that by children below nine years old one may be lenient to allow them to make snow balls in an area where there is an Eiruv. If however there is no Eiruv then every child above Chinuch is forbidden to throw snowballs. Other Poskim[32] rule it is proper to refrain all children [which have reached the age of Chinuch] from making snow balls on Shabbos.

Snow man:[33] In all cases it is forbidden for even children [above the age of Chinuch] to make snowmen and the like.


[1] 320:20; Michaber 320:14

[2] Rosh brought in Tur; Michaber ibid

[3] Admur ibid; M”A 320:17

[4] From here we learn that the fact the melted liquid goes to waste does not suffice to permit the action of melting, and hence in 320:17 the reason of “goes to waste” was only used in combination of other reasons. This follwos the ruling of Rashi [who the Rosh evidently rules according to] that the entire prohibition against melthing is due to Molid Davar Chadash and hence going to waste does not make it permitted. This follows the first opinion in 320:19, the previous Halacha. However according to the the opinion of the Rashba:Ramban [which is the second opinion in the previous Halacha], if it goes to waste it is permitted. Hence, according to the Rashba:Ramban there are two reasons here to permit urinating on snow, as it mixes with water and goes to waste. [See Tehila Ledavid 320:15]

[5] Mahram Merothenberg brought in Tur; Michaber ibid; Tashbatz 65

[6] Admur ibid; Taz 320:11

[7] Admur ibid; Rashal on Tur; Bach 320; Shelah Shabbos Neir Mitzvah; Elya Zuta 320:8; M”B 320:40; Kitzur SHU”A 80

If the urine will become absorbed within the snow: Some Poskim rule that if the urine will become completely absorbed in the snow then it is permitted to do so, being the liquid is not recognizable. [Ashel Avraham Butchach 320; See Shabbos Kehalacha 17:57 who negates this matter being the Poskim did not mention any such leniency.]

[8] 320:20; Michaber 320:13; Tur in name of Mahrahm Merothenberg and the Rosh

[9] Admur ibid; Tur in name of Rosh, brought in Taz 320:11; Levush 320:11

[10] Taz 320:10

[11] Admur ibid; Taz ibid based on Tur; Brought in M”B 320:39

Other reasons: Some Poskim rule the reason is because one does not have any intent to melt the ice through doing so. [M”B 320:39 in name of Tosefes Shabbos; See Shabbos Kehalacha 17 footnote 147]

[12] Makor Chaim 320:13; Shabbos Kehalacha 3:59

[13] Rav SZ”A in SSH”K 16:44 footnote 110; Beir Moshe 6:30; Har Tzevi Kuntrus of 39 Melachos “Soser”, and so is implied from other Poskim who deal with the question of making snowballs on Shabbos.

[14] M”B 338:30

[15] Igros Moshe 5:22-37; The Peri Megadim Introduction to Hilchos Yom Tov 29 rules that snow that fell on Shabbos is considered Muktzah due to Nolad Gamur. The Beir Moshe ibid questions this ruling, bringing many proofs against it.

[16] See Shabbos Kehalacha 17:66

[17] This follows the ruling of Admur 320:18; Shabbos Kehalacha 17:66; However according to those Poskim which rule that doing so does not involve a destroying prohibition, then it is permitted to be done in a place with an Eiruv. So rules Mishneh Halachos 4:45; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338:13.

[18] Seemingly it may be moved even if it is dirty being that it is a Geraf Shel Reiy

[19] See Ben Ish Chaiy ibid; Kaf Hachaim 320:65; Shabbos Kehalacha 17:35 that allow this in a time of need, even though they hold of the opinion that breaking ice attached to the ground involves Soser. The Ben Ish Chaiy ibid rules that in such a case one may rely on the lenint opinion. However the Kaf Hachaim ibid writes that perhaps in a case of pain all agree that the Sages did not make their decree. Nevertheless, from the simple implication of Admur that rules like the M”A that doing so is forbidden it seems that this allowance does not exist even in a time of need, just like any other prohibition. This is unlike Shabbos Kehalacha ibid.

[20] Shabbos Kehalacha ibid

[21] As it is permitted to perform a Shevus Deshvus in a case of a great need, and breaking the ice as well as carrying today in a Karmalis is only a Rabbinical prohibition. [However in places like Manhatten that it is considered a Biblical domain according to many Poskim, seemingly one may not ask the gentile to clear the path in a way that he will move the snow or ice four Amos.]

[22] Beir Moshe 1:28; SSH”K 25 footnote 49; Shabbos Kehalacha 3 17:61

[23] The reason: As this is similar to placing ice near a fire which is permitted to be done in a time of need, as explained in Halacha D. [Shabbos Kehalacha ibid footnote 158] The Beir Moshe ibid also deals with the aspect of “Mashveh Gumos” in regards to spreading salt on the ice [See Admur end of 313], however he negates this matter completely. To note that according to science, salt does not heat up the ice but simpy lowers its freezing temperature from 0 celsius to -10 celsius.

If the ice is attached to the ground: It requires further analysis if this would be allowed according to Admur which holds there is a destroying prohibition by ice attached to the ground. Vetzrauch Iyun as in this case he is not actually breaking anything but rather simply causing it to melt. Veztrauch Iyun

[24] Beir Moshe ibid; Shabbos Kehalacha ibid

[25] Pashut, as we are initially stringent against placing ice near the fire

[26] Shabbos Kehalacha 3 17:62; Nishmas Shabbos Sechita 246

[27] The reason: As in a time of need one may rely on the lenient opinion [Rashba:Ramban] that rules it is permitted to even actively melt ice if it mixes with the water and is not individulally recognizable. [see above Halacha B] and it is precisely for this reason that their opinion was recorded in Admur ibid and optehr Poskim, to allow one to be lenient in a time of need. [Shabbos Kehalacha ibid footnote 160] 

[28] Shabbos Kehalacha ibid; Nishmas Shabbos 320:249

The reason: As all the reasons for permitting breaking ice on Shabbos is likewise relevant here.

[29] Makor Chaim [Chavos Yair] 320:9; Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 3 17:67; SSH”K 16:44; Beir Moshe 6:30

[30] The reason: Some Poskim rule that doing so is forbidden due to the building prohibition. [Makor Chaim ibid; SSH”K 16:44] Other Poskim argue that doing so contains no building prohibition being that it does not contain the building characteristics and does not last at all. [Beir Moshe 6:30] However the Beir Moshe concludes that it is nevertheless forbidden being that doing so causes snow to melt, which is forbidden. [Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol as from Admur [320:16 -18] who writes that the prohibition is only when one intends to use the melted water, while by a snow ball there is no intent for it to melt at all. Furthermore, the source of the Beir Moshe from 320:19 itself is dealing with crushing snow together within water when washing, and one thus certainly cares about having more melted water.]

[31] Beir Moshe ibid

[32] Shabbos Kehalacha ibid; In footnote 167 he writes that in truth there seems to be no reason to prohibit making snow balls, however he nullifies his opinion in face of the Makor Chaim which explicitly chastises those that make lads that make snowballs on Shabbos and throw them at each other.

[33] Beir Moshe ibid; Shabbos Kehalacha ibid

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