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Can I ride a bicycle to synagogue on Shabbat?

Can I ride a bicycle to synagogue on Shabbat?

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Question:

Can I ride a bicycle to synagogue on Shabbat? It's a long walk to and my knees aren't what they used to be...

Answer:

Allow me to preface my response with a short introduction:

Firstly, I'd like to express my profound admiration. Your desire to attend synagogue services every Shabbat, coupled with your commitment to meticulous Shabbat observance is truly inspiring.

Shabbat is primarily a day of rest. We desist from all creative and mundane activities and spend our day immersed in holiness and rest. The word "Shabbat" itself expresses this idea; its literal translation being "rest."

Spending time in the synagogue on the holiest day of the week is beautiful. We connect with the souls of our friends and neighbors, which lends intensity to the prayers and the spiritual experience which is Shabbat. In the synagogue we also can hear the public Torah Reading and usually hear words of Torah from the rabbi.

Nonetheless, this all is "icing on the cake," all intended to augment and enhance our Day of Rest. It is clear that violating the day of rest in order to go to the synagogue would be quite incongruous.

See our articles on Prohibition of Work on Shabbat for more on this topic.

Now to answer your question:

Riding a bike on Shabbat poses several problems:

1) It is prohibited to carry objects in a public domain on Shabbat. Transporting an object by riding it is tantamount to carrying it.

2) Fixing a device on Shabbat is prohibited. If the bicycle breaks down, for example if the chain falls off, there is concern that the rider may fix it.

3) Riding a bike is considered a mundane weekday activity, one that we refrain from on Shabbat.

Click here for more on Shabbat rest.

Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski,
Chabad.org

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Avraham gauteng October 31, 2017

So the answer to the question is : Stay at home Reply

Benyamin Israel October 19, 2017

Why not mention that there are poskim (I believe the Ben Ish Chai) who seem to think that riding a bike in the Eruv would be ok? Reply

Mark VA July 23, 2017

Sorry, but this is all quite unpersuasive to me.

"Riding a bike is considered a mundane weekday activity" - So is walking, but no objection there!

"there is concern that the rider may fix it." Hardly the only temptation to violate! And we don't appreciate that Big Government nanny state kind of condescension.

"riding it is tantamount to carrying it." A real stretch. A worse disgrace than carrying my keys? [not that I justify either] Reply

Anonymous June 24, 2015

comments (2) Some of these comments illustrate why the amateurs should stay out of the poskening business. (Including me!)

I have heard that there was a widespread cherem that applied to bicycles on shabbos but I've never seen it. Is this correct? I'm not talking about decrees issues for certain chassidic groups or local communities. Reply

Anonymous June 24, 2015

comments >>It seems that in the 19th century bikes were very prone to having their chains fall off. Thus, it was inevitable that a bike rider would end up fixing it.<<

The modern bicycle with a drive chain was not invented until near the end of the 19th century, so you may have been misinformed. Reply

Anonymous Den Haag May 11, 2014

Isn't the bike carrying me in stead of the other way around? My bike never breaks and if it would I would walk the rest and pick it up after Shabbat. Or maybe I'd walk with the bike, I won't carry it. You can walk your grandma in her wheel chair on Shabbat, no? I think that's the same idea...

Isn't walking a week activity? Therefore we shouldn't walk to shul either... I walk every day... Reply

david chicago May 9, 2014

@Martin Levine It's not common for a person to walk and fall and break a bone. If it is for you then you should be in a wheelchair or with a walker. As Jews we are required to keep the torah laws and to make personal fences in order to prevent ourselves from committing sins. Not riding a bike will prevent the possibility of fixing the bike which is a common occurrence while riding. It's not like you are going to leave the bike and continue walking...
If you are a doctor and need your cellphone to save lives then once you explain this to your local orthodox rabbi I am sure you will be permitted to carry it with you. What use do you have of your wallet when walking to Synagogue on the Sabbath? If you care about the rules then it isn't something you should carry as you aren't going to be purchasing anything anyway. G-d obviously determines what is in your heart but if you kill someone who you care about to ease their suffering you are still a murderer even if you had the best intentions. Reply

Indian India September 13, 2013

Times have changed... Times have changed..... rules may prop up so many questions.... which means it is about time some rules need amendment

For the religion to be progressive it should take up meaningful amendments with times. Reply

medfriend October 19, 2017
in response to Indian:

Torah and Torah Laws have no expiration date and do not change to suit the "progressive" Reform or Conservative assimilated Jews who care nothing about proper Torah observance. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC August 7, 2013

Re: High Holidays I realize it's hard to live far from a Jewish community. One idea is to stay in a nearby hotel or motel for the High Holidays. Have you looked into this option?

The other possibility is staying as a guest in someone's home who lives nearby. There are options out there, I encourage you to reach out to the Rabbi and the community out there to see which solutions can be found. Reply

Steve August 6, 2013

Any suggestions? Is there one authority out there who can advise what one should do if the walk round trip to the closest shul would be upwards to 12 miles and the Days of Awe are fast approaching? No shofar makes for an extremely incomplete Rosh Hashana. If all you can offer is a boiler plate response please don't reply. If you have a real suggestion or solution I'd appreciate hearing it. In a 21st century world what percentage of Jews does anyone realistically think live within walking distance of their shul? The standard rejection response is seriously separating Jews from their fellows not just on Shabbat but on the Days of Awe, Passover and much more. Reply

Gershon McGreevey Wichita, KS January 22, 2012

To sorro(w) Here are some other things to keep in mind:
* It seems that in the 19th century bikes were very prone to having their chains fall off. Thus, it was inevitable that a bike rider would end up fixing it.
* The sages specify what is uvdin dechol, weekday work, and one such thing is running. This is because the verse from which we learn the concept of uvdin dechol specifically mentions not walking in a non-Shabbat-like manner. If running is not Shabbatl-ike, biking is certainly not either.
* Code of Jewish law tells us that a ball is muktzeh, something which may not be moved or handled on Shabbat, since it has no function. This may have changed since the ball has become a standard plaything in the past few hundred years. Ask your local rabbi.
* I once asked a respected rabbi about roller-skating. He told me that you are considered to be *carrying* the blades. Reply

sorro Montreal, Canada January 19, 2012

1. HOTZAAH (CARRYING): An eruv certainly solves this issue

2. SHEMA ITAKEN (MAYBE WILL NEED TO BE FIXED) -- What about shoes that can break? What about clothes? What about

3. UVDIN DE'CHOL (MUNDANE ACTIVITY) -- It's only considered "mundane" because people don't do it on Shabbat. If it would be incorporated into the "atmosphere of Shabbat" (i.e. people will start riding bikes on Shabbat) it would be a Shabbat activity. Besides, there are plenty of activities we do during the week that are also done on Shabbat: eating, walking, talking, getting dressed, washing hands etc. Should we ban them also on Shabbat as uvdin de'chol?

A few questions on the same topic (and probably generating the same discussions):

1. Can we play ball on Shabbat (within an eruv)?
2. Can we roller-skate to shul (the roller blades are worn, not carried)?
3. Can we play frisby (within an eruv)? Reply

Marc COe Mancherster UK Manchester, England December 18, 2011

Being disabled and cannot walk at all I cannot not walk at all. So I'm either in a non motorised wheelchair for local day to day life, or drive a car to go greater distances, Is it better that I neither go to Shul or should I pray at home in order that I do not break the Shabbat,
Or can I drive the 30 plus miles and pray to G_D and ask his forgiveness and understanding or is in doing so being presumptuous... At the moment My family life is being torn as some family say I observe from home others say G-D knows I have only him in my mind and heart and I make the effort to attend Shul... Reply

Anonymous Toronto May 25, 2011

So if there is an eruv then really the only isue is fixing the bike if it breaks. I suppose this is the same a pushing a carriage on shabbat. Thus I would conclude that going to shul by bike which is not a mundane activity such as going for a bike ride for excercise, where there is an eruv would be as permissable as pushing a carrige to shul. Reply

Anonymous OH, 45013 May 4, 2011

Question What if there is an eruv? Reply

Matthew Rand Staten Island, NY March 1, 2011

It's about Shabbat not synagogue Hello Martin,

The main idea behind Rabbi Zalikokowski's article is that keeping Shabbat should be the primary focus. Going to synagogue is a nice way to spend Shabbat, but it is not mandatory. To focus on the synagogue is like throwing away the steak to eat the parsley garnish.

That being said the intent on Shabbat should be to sanctify it, not to do what "feels good". We should strive instead to be pleasing to G-d. It was G-d who laid down how Shabbat should be observed, and we should turn our intent towards pleasing G-d by not violating the Sabbath.

Praying at home is laudable, as well as discussing G-d and Torah with others, and brings an atmosphere of Shabbat holiness.

While walking is work in the physics sense of the word, it is not work in a halachic sense, otherwise it would be better to just stay in bed!

As far as you breaking down (heaven forbid!), for saving a life, one is actually commanded to violate Shabbat. Reply

martin levine voorhees, NJ February 27, 2011

Riding a bike to Synagogue on Shabbat Walking is work. Walking involves carrying. If I walk but am too tired to pray is that good? I can break down walking just like the bike can break down. I am carrying my wallet to Synagogue. I assume I cannot bring my cell phone (what if I am a doctor). What is missing here is intent and only G-d can determine what is in your heart. Reply

Shulem G Monsey, NY November 4, 2010

stroller like antwan, I am very curious as to how "ivdeh d'chol" (mundane weekday work) is actually determined.

assuming there IS a generally accepted kosher Eruv. - then why are wheelchairs and strollers OK? strollers too can have flat tires (mine is 'air based') in which case you'd probably get off your bike and simply 'walk' it home (same for chain coming lose).

I have seen in VERY religious shuls people coming in on wheelchairs - I am talking very CHASSIDISH type shuls - religious jews who unfortunately need to be pushed in on wheelchairs (eruv being active)

needless to say, strollers are common place.

also - how about a 'scooter'? - no chain here?

which rabbi today has the power to make 'gezeiras d'rabonon' (rabbinic decree)? - i.e. we have to make a 'gezeira' if the chain comes off one might come to fix it? Reply

Anonymous January 7, 2010

The Halacha Most Halachic authorities forbid bike writing on Shabbat. However, there is one opinion of the Ben Ish Hai in his responsa book (Rav Pealim) where he allows it. A Torah scholar shouldn't really rely on this because basically all other opinions hold against it, but it definitely is better than lets say driving because at least there is the one opinion who allows it Reply

Matthew Rand Staten Island, NY August 23, 2009

A reply to "Shabbat Bike Riding?" I admire, dkornels, that while you don't agree with Rabbi Zaklikowski, you still offer an alternative mode of transportation that may be acceptable. It shows that you have compassion.

I do disagree with your analysis, however. Riding a bicycle is essentially carrying it. It this case, however, you are not picking it up with your arms, but you are using your feet to make the bicycle move. The end result of a synagogue trip would be that you've arrived with an object in a public domain.

As for your assertion that a well maintained bicycle doesn't suddenly breakdown, I would say that a tire could blow out no matter how well the bike was maintained. There could be a sharp object on the road, such as a thick nail, that could cause a problem.

I think your question about the Heelys is interesting, and I would be curious to know if those are permitted to use on Shabbat. I hope it gets answered. Reply

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