Why are the bells on the Torah crown not muktzeh (forbidden to handle) on Shabbat?
Dear Henry Soussan,
I've never met you, but your question rings a bell. The Shulchan Aruch forbids sounding any type of musical instrument on Shabbat. Why, then, do some synagogues use Torah scrolls which are decorated with crowns that have bells attached? These bells clang against the crown when the Torah is taken from the Holy Ark. Shouldn't this be forbidden on Shabbat?
Actually, some authorities did forbid using these ornamental bells on Shabbat. The common custom, however, is to permit them. Why?
The answer is that the bells are not intended to ring musically; rather they are intended to alert the congregation to the fact that the Torah is being removed from the ark. The people can then stand in honor of the Torah and ready themselves for the Torah reading. So, since this is done in order to honor the Torah, plus the fact that there is no "musical" intention, it is permitted.
- Aruch Hashulchan 338:3
- Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 338:1, Mishna Berura 6
- Mishna Berura 339:8
- See also Rema 339:3