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How far am I allowed to walk on Shabbat?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Shabbat » Forbidden Activities | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A. Because driving is prohibited on Shabbat, we walk rather than commute to Shul. However, even walking on Shabbat has its limits.

B. Negative Mitzvah #321 sets a maximum walking range from one’s city. The rabbis established the limit to be 2,000 cubits (3,049.5 feet, 0.596 miles (960 meters). [However, this measurement starts 70 2/3 cubits (112.24 ft.) from the city limits.] Practically speaking, this means that you may not walk a straight line more than .598 miles (3161.74 ft.) in any direction in the wilds outside your city limits.

C. "City limits" are not defined by the map you carry in your glove compartment. Halachah considers all contiguous housing to be part of the same city. Therefore it would be permitted to walk hundreds of miles, from city to city, as long as the whole way is populated.

D. Therefore, this Mitzvah is usually not practicable if you live in the suburbs, and certainly if you live in any big city. Why? Because when G-d gave the Torah thousands of years ago, almost all of civilization lived in walled cities, with nothing but wilderness surrounding them. Today, you can walk for miles on end without seeing a single field or forest. Houses are everywhere, and cities just blend into each other with no spaces between, so you can’t really set where civilization ends and wilderness begins. However, if you live in Montana, Vermont or other place with lots of raw country, the techum (pronounced teh-KHOOM), or perimeter, rule is very much in force and you gotta be careful.


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Posted by: Blake on Feb 17, 2005

YOu can't drive on the Sabbath? Does that mean you have to stay at home all day if you shul is more than a few miles away?

Editor's Comment

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
(Yiddish) Synagogue.
The distance one is permitted to walk out of a city's parameters on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.