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bicycle on Shabbat


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

Nisan 4, 5769
Good morning. I read the answer you brought from the Tzitz Eliezar z"l as concerns cycling on Shabbat. Please clarify further the three objections he raises. 1. The possibility of going outside the eiruv: it seems to me that if there is clear knowledge of where the eiruv is, it is very simple to avoid it. Furthermore, this objection limits the point of the eiruv, for one could then forbid carrying for the same reason. 2. Lest one come to fix it: I am an avid cyclist for 11 years, both for commuting to work and for recreational purposes. In 11 years, I have had three flat tires, and my chain has never come off. It seems to me that this is not a realistic concern, given the infrequency with which it occurs. Furthermore, this same halakhic concern should leave me unable to open the kitchen cabinet, as it has come of the hinge no fewer than five times in the last four years, two of which were on Shabbat. 3. As concerns weekly activities, this seems subjective. Please clarify further. I enjoy a cup of tea every evening. Is this a weekly activity and thus something one should avoid on Shabbat? Thank you very much. Rav Sean Gorman
Shalom Rav Our sages are in charge of putting boundaries so no one would unintentionally break Shabbat law. As for cycling, it is not to say you will definitely break Shabbat on a Torah level but only it is more likely. Therefore, for the Eruv problem you are right, one can pass the boundaries walking but the sages did not rule against it since we can't avoid walking, similarly you are more likely to step out of the Shabbat boundaries riding than walking. In terms of fixing, not all bikes are as good as yours, many people worldwide need ongoing maintenance to keep their bike in riding condition, the risk of doing this unintentionally on Shabbat is a risk we do not want to take. For simple reasons it is impossible to allow some bike to be ridden and others not. As for the weekday activity, our sages were concerned about the Shabbat atmosphere and not only the legal Halachot, which is the reason for some prohibitions one of which is cycling. The unique and very special Shabbat feeling is due to these kinds of restrictions, cycling, understand our rabbis, would ruin that special atmosphere, drinking tea would not.
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