Halacha for Wednesday 1 Adar 5782 February 2 2022

Riding a Bicycle on Shabbat

Many of the great Acharonim discuss the issue of whether or not it is forbidden to ride a bicycle on Shabbat. Hagaon Harav Yosef Mesas zt”l (Chief Rabbi of Haifa) writes that riding a bicycle is forbidden on Shabbat, for we are concerned that the bicycle will break as one is riding it and the rider will then come to fix it on Shabbat. We must therefore enact a decree prohibiting riding bicycles on Shabbat just as our Sages prohibited playing musical instruments on Shabbat, lest one come to repair them on Shabbat.

It is correct that our Sages outlawed playing musical instruments on Shabbat because they were concerned that one would come to fix them on Shabbat as is actually the case where many musicians, even nowadays, tune the cords of their instruments anew every time they play, which indeed constitutes a Torah prohibition on Shabbat. Thus, our Sages decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat.

The same should seemingly apply to bicycles in that were our Sages to prohibit riding them on Shabbat lest they break down, we would surely comprehend the reason for their decree and we would absolutely prohibit riding bicycles for this reason. However, since bicycles did not exist in the days of the Sages of the Talmud and the Torah luminaries of our generation do not have the authority to make new decrees on the Jewish nation, this cannot be the premise for prohibiting bicycle-riding on Shabbat.

Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l, author of Ben Ish Hai and Rav Pe’alim, writes likewise that since we do not have the authority to enact new decrees like the Sages in the time of the Talmud did, we cannot compare the decree prohibiting playing musical instruments on Shabbat to riding a bicycle on Shabbat. He therefore concludes that according to the letter of the law, one may ride a bicycle on Shabbat.

Hagaon Harav Azriel Hildsheimer zt”l writes that it is prohibited to ride a bicycle on Shabbat because the wheels of the bicycle make ditches in the ground and this constitutes the forbidden work of plowing on Shabbat. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rejects this view and writes that since the ditches in the ground are not being made by a plow, rather, they are being made indirectly by riding a bicycle, in addition to the fact that that the ditch is being made does not interest the rider, there is no need to be stringent on account of this claim.

Nevertheless, halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat Part 4 page 43, as well as in his Responsa Yabia Omer Volume 10 in his comments on the Responsa Rav Pe’alim) agrees that riding a bicycle on Shabbat is prohibited based on what the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (113a) writes, “’If you shall turn away your foot because of the Shabbat-by not making your ways,’ your mode of walking on Shabbat shall not be like your mode of walking during the weekdays.” The Poskim derive from this Gemara that one may not run on Shabbat, as we shall discuss in the following Halacha.

Thus, since bicycle-riding is meant for traveling long distances which is not the usual way of walking on Shabbat, it is forbidden to ride bicycles on Shabbat. He proceeds to bring many sources to defend his opinion, one of which is based on the Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (25b) which states that one may not go out in a chair on Shabbat. This refers to the custom of an important figure sitting in a chair and being carried around by people to his destination of choice (as is common in some lands in the Far East even today). Our Sages prohibited this practice on Shabbat, for this is not respectful to the Shabbat as this is considered a weekday mode of travel. Maran zt”l quotes other reasons to be stringent as well.

Thus, halachically speaking, one should not ride a bicycle on Shabbat; even if one is doing so for the purpose of performing a Mitzvah, one should still act stringently regarding this matter. We shall, G-d-willing, discuss the laws regarding bicycle-riding for children in a following Halacha.

Ask the Rabbi

8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha

Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Frying Fish in a Meat Pot, Baking Fish and Meat in the Same Oven, and Maran zt”l’s Custom

There is a well-known prohibition of eating fish and meat together, as discussed by the Gemara and Poskim. Cooking Fish in a Meat Pot Although it is prohibited to cook a dairy dish in a meat pot as we have discussed in a previous Halacha, nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writ......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha