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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 the director of Lubavitch Archives, a freelance journalist and public speaker. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Discussion (20)
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.
Indian
India
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.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
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.
Steve
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.
Gershon McGreevey
Wichita, KS
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)?
sorro
Montreal, Canada
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...
Marc COe Mancherster UK
Manchester, England
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.
Anonymous
Toronto
May 4, 2011
Question
What if there is an eruv?
Anonymous
OH, 45013
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.
Matthew Rand
Staten Island, NY
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.
martin levine
voorhees, NJ
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