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Is there any problem involved in opening or closing a door of a parked car (without a battery) on Shabbos? Is a car muktzeh? Let's assume no keys are involved to avoid the problem of carrying.

To make the question more specific, let's say one closed the door prior to the onset of Shabbos but then realized that the door wasn't fully locked on Shabbos. To prevent burglary, may one close it completely during Shabbos? Since the door is partially closed the lights are already off. I am not an expert in cars to know if any circuits are completed/broken during this action.

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I personally heard Rabbi Belsky sometime around 2004-2006(?) giving the following advice. The situation was that people were having a lot of guests for Shabbos and wanted to leave beverages in their car to keep cold. He said it was fine as long as this procedure is followed correctly. Of course the light must be disabled. The door itself is part of a kli shemilachto li'issur and the door has this din. As such, it can be moved litzorech gufo umikomo, for its use or to use the space it occupies. Therefore, it is muttar to open it, as the space it occupies is needed to pass through to get to the beverages. Closing it needs a haarama, a legal trick. One should place themselves in a position where they need to walk in the space where the open door is, and use that as a pretext to close it.

Edit: This was the answer I wrote for the original question. As per the clarification in the question, I would add that such an act would seem to qualify as moving 'meichamma li'tzel', a protective act for the item which is assur to do with a kli shemilachto li'issur. Unless of course a good pretence is found.

  • Yeah, year might make a big difference....I'm under the impression that opening/closing doors on most modern cars with break/close a circuit (to tell the lights to turn on [even if they are disabled], to know if it should tell people to buckle etc. ....) ....but that all might be something new, that wasn't the norm when you talked to Rav Belsky. – MTL Dec 21 '14 at 3:55
  • A car is a kli shemilachto li'issur and not muktza machmat chesron kis? – Daniel Jun 5 '15 at 20:57
  • @Daniel Intetesting. But, if you've ever leaned on your car or sat on the hood while talking to someone, it would probably be enough to be called milachto li'issur. The classic example of classification is whether you would use the item for a paperweight or not. Rabbi David Feinstein told me an electric shaver is milachto li'issur. It's just hard to think of an alternate use for a car, that's why I picked the leaning/sitting point. – user6591 Jun 5 '15 at 21:03
  • Fair enough. I was taught that the classification is whether you are particularly careful with it more than you are with other things. I guess it's hard to compare how careful you are with your car with how careful you are with your other stuff. Point taken about sitting or leaning on the car, though. I agree that that point seems to have merit. – Daniel Jun 5 '15 at 21:06
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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein addresses this (Igros Moshe O"C vol. 5 letter 21:11 [translated]):

"It appears that....it is permitted to open a car door and take out what you need (as long as no light is activated thereby). It appears to be permissible to close the door afterwards as well. For a car is not muktzah because when it is parked in his property, the owner often stores things in it....even in a place where people would be surprised/dismayed to see him open a car door on Shabbos, if they won't see him do it, it is not forbidden to do so."

His reasoning would seem to be based on the principle (found in Shulchan Aruch Harav 308:22 and in Mishna Brurah 308:26) that when something that should be muktzah currently contains the type of non-muktzah item which is frequently stored there, the muktzah object becomes tafel to the non-muktzah item and can be moved.

So in your specific case that you want to prevent burglary, presumably there are items being stored in your car, which would render the car halachically non-muktzah. However, it must be noted that you may only open and close the door if **a)**no electrical activation will occur, and **b)**noone is looking.

  • "no electrical activation will occur": what does electrical activation mean, and why did you write it if Rav Moshe wrote only "no light is activated"? – msh210 Aug 4 '16 at 18:07
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    Excellent, sharp observation! The original Hebrew was 'madlik ohr', which I think can mean either light or electricity. Since it seemed to me that even if 'light' was intended, it would be true of anything electric that would be triggered as well, I covered all bases that second time and wrote 'electrical'. – Jay Aug 4 '16 at 19:13

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