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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Q & A: Sabbath Shuttle? (Part V)

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Question: Is it permitted on the Sabbath or holidays to take a shuttle to synagogue? The neighborhood shuttle runs from 9-5 daily, is driven by a gentile, has a designated stop schedule, and is free of charge.

In my case, it would be very helpful as I have major difficulties walking the almost one-mile distance from my apartment to shul due to a medical condition known as peripheral artery disease. I am close to 80 years old.

I live in the Bal Harbor area of Miami Beach, FL, and I know that many Orthodox Jews who live in high-rises use a Sabbath elevator or take regular elevators and allow someone else to press the button. Several people sit in wheelchairs (including a local Orthodox rabbi who is ill and cannot walk) and are wheeled to shul.

I fail to see why taking the shuttle bedi’eved is different than taking a Sabbath elevator or being pushed in a wheelchair. Although I know I should ask my shul rabbi, I would appreciate hearing your opinion.

Hershele L
(Via E-Mail)

Summary of our response up to this point: My uncle, Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, discussed this matter many years ago based on a responsum of the Chatam Sofer, who addressed a query from a Jewish physician who had to travel on Shabbat to deliver a gentile baby. The Chatam Sofer noted that we are prohibited from riding an animal or in a coach on Shabbat because of the command to rest one’s animals on this day (Exodus 20:10). Furthermore, we might tear off a branch to use it as a whip. We are also prohibited from traveling more than 2,000 amot on Shabbat (Techum Shabbat).

The Chatam Sofer argued, however, that these concerns don’t apply to the case at hand. The animal belonged to a gentile, not a Jew, and the doctor was asked to ride in the coach, not on the coachman’s seat (and so there was no concern that he would tear off a branch to use as a whip). Techum Shabbat is also not a problem because the wagon was higher than 10 tefachim, and the air above that height is considered a makom petur.

We are generally prohibited from telling a non-Jew to violate Shabbat. But the doctor in this case was not asking for anything. As far as the rule about not violating Shabbat for non-Jews is concerned, the Chatam Sofer argued that it does not apply to our times when we dwell amongst gentiles. Because of darkei sholom, we must do everything to help them as we would our own. Thus the Chatam Sofer ruled that the doctor was permitted to attend to the non-Jewish patient on Shabbat.

We considered the argument that being pushed in a wheelchair is comparable to riding in a shuttle on Shabbat. Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchatah (vol. 1, 34:27) states that a disabled person may be pushed in his wheelchair, or wheel himself, if the area he is in has an eruv. There is no problem of performing an uvdin d’chol (a weekday-like activity) or a concern of metaken kli shir (that one will fix the wheelchair on Shabbat if it breaks). Since this person cannot ambulate without a wheelchair, the wheelchair is considered an extension of his or her body. Thus, these concerns don’t apply.

However, Rabbi Neuwirth notes that it is prohibited to use the motor of a motorized wheelchair on Sabbath. We argued, therefore, that riding in a vehicle on Shabbat should surely be forbidden.

Hagaon Harav Tuvia Goldstein, zt”l (Responsa Emek Halacha, vol. 1:26), quotes the Ben Ish Hai’s ruling permitting the use of a non-motorized bicycle on Shabbat in an area with an eruv. The Ben Ish Hai rejects the argument that riding a bike should be prohibited due to mar’it ha’ayin since mar’it ha’ayin only applies to cases where the action appears like a biblically prohibited act (e.g., eating meat with almond milk). Riding a bike, however, is not such an act since it is clear that the person is moving via peddling, not via a motor.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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12 Responses to “Q & A: Sabbath Shuttle? (Part V)”

  1. I know what the rabbis say, but I feel it is more important to attend shul than how you get there. I live 25 miles from shul, so I actually have to drive myself. I guess one could argue it would be more preferred for me to obey the Sabbath and stay at home just to avoid diving, but then I wouldn’t be able to learn, ask questions or participate in the Jewish community, which are also very important, at least to me. Thoughts?

  2. Ideally, you should move closer to a shul so that you can take advantage of its benefits to you without violating the shabbos.

  3. Dick Farrel says:

    who cares…just do it…God will forgive you…Sheet…we were let out of temple at noon on Yum Kippah in 2004 when Jean was about to clobber us three weeks after Francis did…and guess what…WE HAD TO EAT , drink and bathe…ON Yum Kippah…we did it! and I am sure The Almighty forgave us…

  4. Dick Farrel says:

    OH… I always DRIVE ON YUM KIPPAH…OTHERWISE I CANNOT GET TO SHUL… so, the only driving I do on that day is for that and nothing else.

  5. Ideally yes, but financially/economically not possible. So the question remains, in the absence of no alternative other than to drive to shul, is it better to observe the sabbath by not driving and thus not going to shul at all, or to drive the car and make it to shul? There is no right or wrong answer in my opinion, it’s all about how you feel you need to observe the Sabbath. Perhaps my vews are too liberal for this page, though.

  6. If you can ride a Sabbath-mode elevator then you can ride a Sabbath-mode shuttle. Right?

  7. Haa haa good point David!

  8. That’s between you and god, no one shall judge you, not even rabbis!!!

  9. I think you answered your own question, and yes, your views are probably too liberal for any orthodox Rabbi to condone. We all have to do what we feel is right for us but you’re not going to get a “dispensation ” from an orthodox Rabbi.

  10. I Am Catholic, I dont conciser it a crime

  11. Eduardo Mazo says:

    good Samaritan bless it of our Lord which he is the Lord of Sabbath too. the Sabbath made to the people not people made to Sabbath, written in the holy scriptures.

  12. Allan F. Hyatt says:

    As a secular Jew I see the need/desire to attend out weighing the fine letter of Jewish law. In the end it will be G-D who decides who acted from their heart and who was really wrong.

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