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What is the status of a kli (object) whose primary use would be forbidden on Shabbos, but it is only used in a case of Pikuach Nefesh (danger to life, where all Shabbos restrictions become allowed) -- is it a Kli Shemelachto LeIssur (vessel whose primary use is forbidden) or Kli Shemelachto Leheter (vessel whose primary use is permitted)?

Examples:

  1. Defibrillator - it uses electricity (so it should be a kli shemelachto leissur), but the only time it's used is when someone is in a state of pikuach nefesh (so it should be a kli shemelachto lhetter). I heard that there is a machlokes (disagreement) if a kli shemelachto leheter can become muktza machmas chisaron kis (lit. "muktzah due to loss of money;" an object that wouldn't be used for anything except its [forbidden] use [sometimes due to expense]).
  2. Gas Mask (possibly) - it could be a kli shemelachto leisssur (it could be borer (sorting/filtering; a forbidden melacha on Shabbos), similar to a water filter). On the other hand the only time it's used is when there is a sakanas nefashos (danger to life).
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Perhaps it's a kli shemelachto l'issur shaino bo heter. –  Yehoshua Jan 28 '13 at 23:18
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The Machlokes whether a kli shemelachto leheter can become muktzah machmas chisron kis or not: Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:4-5 says it cannot, Chayeh Adom (Klal 65:3) seems to imply it could [see also Mishna Berura 308:8]. –  Michoel Jan 29 '13 at 4:48
    
@Michoel so if you pasken like the A"R you have a huge nafka mina. Is a defibrillator muktza machmas chisaron kis (and can't move it at all) or is it a Kli shemelachto lehetter. –  Shmuel Brin Jan 29 '13 at 4:51
    
Great question! –  Daniel Jul 10 '13 at 13:25
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Great question. ....no sources (so no answer), but [1] I've seen Hatzalah members play with their radios on Shabbos, practically wherever there are Hatzalah members; [2] OTOH, I've been told that an insulin pump is muktzeh when not needed. Will answer when I find good sources. –  Shokhet Nov 30 at 17:32

2 Answers 2

If I recall correctly the Nishmas Avraham says that a stethoscope is not muktzeh. (Citation needed.)

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How would that be Melachto LeIsur? –  Seth J Jan 29 '13 at 17:43
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@SethJ השמעת קול? :) –  Double AA Jan 31 '13 at 22:47

In lieu of an authoritative source which directly addresses this question I will offer the following hypothesis:

It seems to me that the status of a "כלי שמלאכתו לפיקוח נפש" (a utensil used for cases of pikuach nefesh) is dependent, in part, to the disagreement whether cases of Pikuach nefesh means Shabbos is הותרה (the action is permitted) or whether Shabbos is merely דחויה (pushed off).

If we say it is הותרה and the act is permitted then it would seem that the item would be a kli shemelachto l'heter since the activity is actually permitted when the item is in use.

Yet if we say that it is דחויה, pushed aside, then the act is still considered prohibited and it would seem that it would be a kli shemelachto l'issur.

There remains a few other considerations and it might help to compare a comparable case, a knife used for Bris Milah. While this case is similar, especially since there also seems to be discussion about whether Bris Milah is הותרה or דחויה, it is not exactly the same since a Bris Milah knife isn't used exclusively or even primarily for Brisim which over-ride the Shabbos (and whether it is הותרה or דחויה seems independent of whether pikuach nefesh is).

A milah knife is muktzeh mechamas chesron kis, due to monetary loss (O.C. 308:1). Since it retains this status even if it is stored in the general knife container (Rema, ibid) we can infer that not taking "chesron kis" into consideration it would be a kli shemelachto l'issur (see Graz 308:4) since the only kli shemelachto l'heter which can become muktzeh mechamas chesron kis is one which is given a special place to protect it (see SS"K 20:22). It would seem that it maintains this status even if Bris Milah is הותרה , but we have noted that unlike pikuach nefesh not every act of of milah is permitted on Shabbos. Even still we see that when a mohel has a bris scheduled for Shabbos then the milah knife is not muktzeh (Rema, Y.D. 266:2) because it wasn't muktzeh (set aside) during twilight since it was prepared for a permitted use.

From this we might infer that "כלי שמלאכתו לפיקוח נפש" equipment of a hospital or EMT where there is a reasonable expectation of its use would not be muktzeh (see also M.B. 318:15). This would seem to particularly true if the equipment was prepared (cleaned, stored, etc) in anticipation of Shabbos. It is possible that this consideration could even apply to an item stored in non-emergency locations for emergency use (such as a defibrillator in a shul). It would seem that in at least some circumstances a "כלי שמלאכתו לפיקוח נפש" would not be be muktzeh (even if we say Shabbos is only set aside because of pikuach nefesh) and there is need for a pesak to clarify when and if the likelihood it actually be needed has diminished enough that it can no longer be considered "muchan/prepared" for use.

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