Halacha for Sunday 12 Adar 5782 February 13 2022

Running and Exercise on Shabbat

Approximately two weeks ago, we learned that it is forbidden to run on Shabbat and that our Sages derived this from the verse in Yeshaya (Chapter 58), “If you turn your foot away on the Shabbat, from pursuing your affairs on My holy day; if you call the Shabbat ‘delight,’ Hashem’s holy day ‘honored.’ And if you honor it and go not in your ways, nor looking to your affairs, nor strike bargains.” Our Sages taught (Shabbat 113a) that this refers to the fact that one’s walking on Shabbat should not be the same as the way one walks during the week. Thus, one should not run on Shabbat, whether it is a fast sprint or a brisk jog. The Rif, Rosh, Tur, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 301) rule likewise.

We mentioned the opinion of the Samag, which is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim, that young men (and certainly children) who enjoy running may run on Shabbat. This means that running is only forbidden on Shabbat for most people for whom running is a burden. However, people who enjoy running as part of a game or just for sheer enjoyment may do so. Similarly, girls who enjoy jumping rope may do so on Shabbat.

Nevertheless, the Acharonim disagree regarding whether the practice of running on Shabbat for enjoyment is appropriate or not. The Bayit Chadash writes that it is preferable not to run on Shabbat and only if one sees youngsters running already, one need not scold them so as not to impede their enjoyment. However, if one asks to begin with, one should be told it is preferable not to run at all on Shabbat. Most Acharonim, on the other     hand, disagree and rule that if one enjoys running, it is perfectly permissible for him to run on Shabbat. The Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berura (ibid, Subsection 5) rule likewise.

The Bet Yosef and Rama write that just as running for enjoyment is permissible on Shabbat, it is likewise permissible to take walks on Shabbat. This is even the case when one’s intention is to do exercise, for it is not noticeable that one is doing so to increase strength; rather, people see it as just taking a walk.

It is likewise permissible to perform a workout regimen on Shabbat by lifting weights and the like, for such activities are not forbidden on Shabbat for healthy people just wanting to remain in shape. (Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 3, page 387 and Ohr Le’Zion, Volume 2, Chapter 36)

Nevertheless, the great Rishon Le’Zion writes in his Yalkut Yosef that one should not spend too much time taking walks on Shabbat, for Shabbat and holidays were given to the Jewish people so they can delve in Torah study. He quotes Rabbeinu Avraham ibn Ezra who writes that Hashem sanctified Shabbat so that the soul can acquire more divine wisdom than any other day of the week.

Based on the above, many G-d-fearing people have the custom that even if they usually run during the week, they do not do so on Shabbat and just make do with a nice walk since regular weekday activities are deemed inappropriate on Shabbat, the holiest day of the week. One should merely focus on tranquility of the soul and the spiritual enjoyment of the day through Torah and prayer.

In the past few years, many synagogues around the world have arranged Torah classes on Shabbat afternoons; some even make sure to arrange Torah classes for women delivered by righteous women. Some actually have the custom to complete the book of Tehillim on Shabbat in order to utilize every spare moment of Shabbat to the fullest.

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