Taking a walk on Shabbat can be one of the day's simplest pleasures. It's a chance to slow down, connect with friends and family, and enjoy the world around us without the hustle and bustle of the workweek. You've probably walked to the synagogue or paid a friendly visit to the neighbors without giving it much thought.

But did you know that even something as simple as a stroll on Shabbat has its own special considerations? Isaiah, one of the major prophets back in the day, gave us a hint. He said, “If you restrain your feet because of the Shabbat . . . and you honor it by refraining from following your ordinary ways.”1

So, how do we walk in a way that honors Shabbat? Let's dive in!

Taking It Easy on Your Shabbat Stroll

When Shabbat comes around, we switch gears from our weekday rush to a Shabbat saunter. That means no running, jogging, jumping, skipping or long strides.2 Instead, take calm and measured steps. But if there's a puddle or another obstacle in your path, go ahead and leap over—no stress!3

Need to dash to the synagogue or do a mitzvah? That’s a green light to pick up the pace. And kids, don't worry, you can still run around and play tag. There’s just no serious exercise like going for a jog, since that’s more about staying fit than enjoying Shabbat.4

Carrying and Checking Your Pockets

On Shabbat, we don’t carry outside of an eruv (read up on that here). So there’s a mitzvah to check your pockets before Shabbat to make sure you won’t carry anything accidentally.5 You should also check your pockets before you go out on Shabbat itself.

What if I’m already outside when I discover something in my pocket?

There are a few options if you discover that you’re carrying something in a public domain. (This doesn’t mean that there are halachic loopholes through which you can intentionally carry; it just means that sometimes you have to pick the “less bad” option if you’re already unintentionally carrying.)6

Take note that:

  • The prohibition of carrying in the public domain kicks in once you’ve transported the item 4 cubits (approximately six feet)
  • The prohibition of transporting from one domain to another must include both lifting and setting down.
  • We do whatever we can to avoid triggering these results.

Your options may thus include:

Keep Calm and Carry On: If you’re uncertain about what to do, keep walking and don’t stop, ideally in the same area within four cubits, until you figure out your next step.

Dump Trash: If the item is inexpensive or disposable, the best option is not to stop and let it drop as you walk.7

Pass It On: You can pass the item to a non-Jew while both of you walk, but this is often impractical.8

Guard and Wait: You can drop the item indirectly and stay to guard it until nightfall. Or, you can ask a non-Jew to guard it without explicitly asking them to carry it.9

Break It Up: After you’ve dropped the item indirectly,10 you can pick it up and carry it less than four cubits, take a breather, walk another four cubits, and so on. (When you reach a private domain, toss the item into the area in an irregular manner, without properly putting it down.)11

Pass It Back and Forth: Pass the item to someone else, walk a few steps, and have them pass the object back to you, remaining within four cubits of each other. (Again, when you reach a private domain, toss the item into it in an irregular manner.)12

Run, Run, Run: If you can’t transport the object by walking less than four cubits at a time because you’re afraid that thieves will rob you, etc., you can run while carrying the object until you reach your home. Then, before you stop, toss the object into the house in an irregular manner. This would not be an option once you’ve stopped.13

For more on each one of these options, and how and why they work, see What If I Found Something in My Pocket on Shabbat?

Remember, these options involve picking “the lesser of the two evils” and are not ideal. So it’s best to make it a Shabbat habit to check your pockets before going out.

Shabbat Boundaries

Heading out for a longer walk? The concept of techum Shabbat, “Shabbat boundary,” comes into play. Techum Shabbat defines the distance you can walk outside an inhabited area on Shabbat. The rabbis14 explain that this is hinted to in the verse “Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day . . .”15

What are some general guidelines for techum?

Essentially, you should stick within 2,000 amot (approximately 3,149 feet, following the approach that each amah is 48 cm or 1.57 feet) from where you were when Shabbat started. But let’s break it down:16

  • If you’re in a city, the 2,000 amot are measured from the city's boundaries, even if there is no surrounding fence, since the entire city is considered a single dwelling place.17 So in a very urban setting, techum would usually not pose an issue unless you want to walk outside of the city (or perhaps over a very long bridge). However, as you get more into suburbia, techum Shabbat may pose an issue.
  • If you’re in an open area outside the city, the 2,000-amot count begins after creating a virtual box of 8 amot (4 amot in each direction) around yourself.
  • If you’re in a house or fenced area outside the city, the measurement starts from the surrounding fence or wall (except for large unfenced areas exceeding 133 square feet that aren't used for dwelling, such as parking lots or farms).18

Note: These measurements and calculations are intricate and location-specific, so a knowledgeable rabbi should be consulted on a case-by-case basis.

How do I determine the boundaries of the city?

Wondering where the city ends? Look for a gap between homes. If it’s more than 70 amot and four tefachim (approximately 111 feet), that’s probably the city limit. It's a bit like drawing a box around the city and then stretching the sides out by 111 feet before you start measuring your 2,000-amot walking limit.19

How do I extend the boundaries?

Sometimes, you know you'll need to go beyond your usual Shabbat stroll range. That's where an eruv techumin comes in. By placing food for two meals at your 2,000-cubit mark before Shabbat, you're saying, "This spot is my home base for the day." Now, you can walk another 2,000 cubits from there!20

Just remember, with an eruv, it's like you're drawing a circle around your new spot. You can go 4,000 cubits in one direction, but you can't go beyond your starting point in the opposite direction.

For all the nitty-gritty details on the laws of techum Shabbat and how to set up an eruv techumin, check out What Is Techum Shabbat? and A Practical Application of Techum Shabbat

There you have it—everything you need to know about taking walks on Shabbat. Enjoy your Shabbat stroll!