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Is it permitted to go swimming on Shabbat?

by Rabbi Zalman Abraham

  

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


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Taking a splash on a hot afternoon is a great way to cool down and have fun; but not on Shabbat. The sages1 prohibited swimming in a river or lake on Shabbat since it could lead to repairing a raft (which would fall under the forbidden labor of “Makeh B’Patish” “administering the final hammer blow. [See What are the 39 melachot?])

This prohibition extends to all situations, even in a scenario where there is no likelihood of repairing a raft, since rabbinic ordinances generally apply even when the original considerations and reasons for the prohibition are no longer applicable.2

Although there is some basis in Jewish law to distinguish between rivers and certain swimming pools, not all pools could be excluded from this law.

Wetting a bathing suite is prohibited (wetting a fabric is considered “Melaben” - laundering).

Moreover, there is a widespread custom not to immerse in (even cold) water if it is not for the purpose of a Mitzvah.3

Footnotes

  • 1. See Maimonides Laws of Shabbat 23:5.
  • 2. See Talmud Beitzah 5.
  • 3. Igroth Moshe, Even Haezer 2,13.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(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.