Regarding the concern that the bicycle may break and the rider will be tempted to fix it, the Ben Ish Hai writes that it is not a common occurrence. Yet, many others disagree with the Ben Ish Hai’s ruling. Responsa Yaskil Avdi states that perhaps the Ben Ish Hai was not proficient in the workings of a bicycle since they were not common in his day. When alerted to the true facts, the Ben Ish Hai reportedly prohibited their use on Shabbat, even within an eruv.
Responsa Keren David (Orach Chayyim 96) disagrees with those who prohibit wheeling baby carriages in an area with an eruv because of metaken kli shir or uvdin d’chol. Although Tractate Beza (25b) prohibits a blind man walking with a stick and a disabled person being carried on the holidays for long distances, baby carriages are not used for distant transport. Rather, they are used to stroll in public places. The Machtzit Hashekel (Orach Chayim 522:1) cites numerous authorities who permit using a cane if there is concern that the person will fall.
Rabbi Goldstein concludes that wheeling baby carriages is permitted on Shabbat within an eruv, but riding bikes isn’t (because bikes are used for long distances). He notes, though, that those who opt for leniency have authorities upon whom to rely.
The Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 7:30) offers another reason to forbid riding bikes: a concern that one will violate Techum Shabbat. Kaf HaChayim (Orach Chayim 404:8) notes that many who ride bicycles on Shabbat are not b’nei Torah and, if given permission to ride within the town limits, will likely travel beyond them since one can traverse numerous amot quickly. He also writes that a flat tire may cause the rider to violate the labor of metaken manah and notes that the custom in Israel is not to ride bikes on Shabbat or holidays.
I noted that many strollers today have air-filled tires that occasionally require additional air. People use such strollers, however, without concern for metaken manah. I suggested that we abide by what our sages teach us in Berachot 45a – that we don’t seek to overburden people in matters where we can opt for leniency.
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You compare riding on a shuttle to riding on an elevator. The late Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ben Zion Hai Uziel, zt”l, discusses elevators in his Responsa Piskei Uziel (16:7). He writes: “The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 276:2) rules that a Jew may benefit from a candle lit by a gentile if the two were dining together and they are in a place where the majority of people are gentile. However, if the majority is Jewish or the makeup is 50/50, benefiting from the light is forbidden. If, however, there is reason to conclude that the gentile lit the candle for his own purposes – for example, we see that he is using its light – then even if the majority in that place is Jewish, it is permitted to benefit from the light.”
Rabbi Uziel comments: “From this ruling, we find reason to be lenient regarding…riding on an elevator with a gentile…. Since the gentile is also riding it, there is no greater proof that he is using it for his own need and benefit. Therefore, even if most of those going up or down are Jews, one may ride on the elevator. And for this reason, there is even reason to permit riding on an elevator with a gentile doorman since he is hired for this purpose [i.e., this is his livelihood].
“To be sure, we find that the Mechaber (infra 276:3) rules that it is not considered ‘the need of the gentile’ if a Jew told his non-Jewish servant or handmaiden to go with him and light a candle because – even though they both need the light – the main reason for their walking is for the Jew’s benefit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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