Monday, June 29, 2015

Shabbos Bicycles?

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo advocates permitting the riding of bicycles on Shabbos. He argues that this will increase Shemiras Shabbos. See:

In this regard, I would like to share an old Mail-Jewish post that I wrote:

From: (Yosef Bechhofer) 
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 93 19:45:46 -0500 
Subject: Bicycles on Shabbos and Related Issues 

I don't wish to comment on the precise Halachic details of bicycles on Shabbos, rather I would like to use this issue to make a related point. There is a "reductionist" tendency in some Halachic circles, albeit not necssarily this one, but others, which is, basically: "If you cannot prove to me what precise definition of pre-established melacha/issur, etc. this fits into, it must automatically be permissible. In this regard it is important to note what the Chazon Ish zt'l says about umbrellas on Shabbos. 

In Orach Chaim 52:6 the Chazon Ish takes issue with the conventional wisdom, the Noda b'Yehuda, who bans umbrellas on Shabbos as temporary tents (ohel). Rather, he says, the opening of an umbrella is similar to "fixing" (tikkun mana), but even that is not a true comparison. He goes on to state that the reason one is forbidden to use an umbrella on Shabbos (even where there is an eruv) is because: 

"It is a very public workaday act (avsha milsa / uvda d'chol) and causes a breach in the sanctity of Shabbos... The determination of which public acts descrate the Shabbos to too great an extent is something that is given over to the sages [of each generation, obviously - there were no umbrellas, much less a prohibition at the time of Chazal] to erect fences in places of possible breaches, and such public matters of Shabbos sanctity are more severe than any private specific prohibitons, because this is a fence for the entire nation for all times."

(My free translation.)

I always understood the severity of a Jew's opening his store on Shabbos, despite the relative light nature of the ban on business transactions on Shabbos, as related to the Chazon Ish's fundamental concept.


  1. If I want to go to shul during the week and it's raining I just run to my car. If I want to walk to shul on Shabbos, an umbrella suddenly comes in very handy. So maybe we should look into changing its uvda d'chol status?

  2. I don't understand how something becomes uvda d'chol in the first place. I walk around on weekdays; is that uvda d'chol? I button my shirt on weekdays - how about that? What about carrying a sefer? Scratching my ear? All things I do on weekdays. What makes these permissible but using an umbrella not?

    1. It's not going to make you happier, but that is why the CI said it was given to the Chachamim of each generation to determine.

  3. I wouldn't call opening a store a "light" issue, as at least according to Ramban it borders on a d'oraysa of shabason, vayikra 23:24 ויהיה השוק מלא לכל מיקח וממכר, ותהיה החנות פתוחה והחנווני מקיף והשולחנים על שלחנם והזהובים לפניהם, ויהיו הפועלים משכימין למלאכתן ומשכירין עצמם כחול לדברים אלו וכיוצא בהן, והותרו הימים הטובים האלו ואפילו השבת עצמה שבכל זה אין בהם משום מלאכה, לכך אמרה תורה "שבתון" שיהיה יום שביתה ומנוחה לא יום טורח).
    It sounds like this Ramban is speaking in terms of 'lo masa'ro hakasuv elah l'chachamim,' which is essentially the same point the C.I. is making except for one crucial difference -- everything Ramban mentions as included in shabason is covered by an explicit gezeirah derabbanan; C.I. is suggesting the chachamim of each dor can wing it. Leads me to wonder whether the C.I. took uvdin d'chol to be a k'ein d'oraysa of the issur shabason.