Snow on Shabbat
As the snow/ice was falling right before Shabbat I realize a missed opportunity to write about a practical halakhic issue, so save the conclusion for next year. Living in an apartment building shoveling snow is not an issue, but for homeowners and shuls, the removal of snow on Shabbat raises a number of halakhic issues. The first is, what is the status of snow that falls on Shabbat? For a number of poskim snow is muktzeh and forbidden to move on Shabbat, while for others it is not (see here n. 12 for sources). The second is whether there is an eruv or not. Even if one were to designate snow as muktzeh, would one be able to shovel on Shabbat. R. Yehoshua Neubert has paskened that one is permitted to shovel snow on Shabbat because it is a public danger, comparing it to a “thorn in the public domain” which one is permitted to move on Shabbat (ShAr OH 308:18 based upon Shabbat 42a; see also Arukh ha-Shulhan OH 308:20). R. Neubert writes that even if there is no eruv, one is allowed to move it less than four amot (a little less than seven feet) at a time. He does say that one should do it differently than one does during the week, although the ShAr does not mention any need to move the thorn differently. In addition both the Talmud and the ShAr distinguish between a “public domain” (רשות הרבים) and a כרמלית, with there being fewer restrictions, if any at all, on how far one can carry it.
What about pouring salt on ice (R. Neubert prohibits one to pour water on snow in order to melt it on Shabbat)? Despite there being a prohibition of intentionally melting ice with one’s hands in order for to get its water on Shabbat (see ShAr OH 320:9; Arukh ha-Shulhan 320:21), in our case one is not interested in its water, just in removing what is a potentially very dangerous object from the public thoroughfare. So if my superintendent happen to be Jewish and asked me what I thought, I would say that he should also put salt down.
Sources: Peninei Halakhah, ed. Noah Landsburg, Ariel Publications.