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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q21.2.7 TOC Q21.3.2 >

Question 21.3.1:
Playtime: Can I let my kid swim on Shabbat?

Answer:

There are two documented concerns for traditional Jews. First, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaiim 326:7) discusses washing (presumably for hygienic reasons) in a river, and permits it provided that the person dry him/herself completely before walking four amot in a karmelit (i.e., the banks of the river). The Mishna Brurah (loc cit., note 21) points out that other (later?) authorities have ruled against washing in a river on Shabbat, because of the possible wringing out of the towel (an av m'lakha -- major category of activity forbidden on Shabbat). Hence, there appears to be concern about wringing out a towel after swimming.

More directly, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaiim 339:2) rules against swimming (recreational?) in a pool on Shabbat, on the grounds that a person might make a "havit shel sha'yatin" (raft, float), and that swimming might force water out of the pool and outside the eruv. But if there is a rim around the pool (so that there is no possibility of water spilling over the edge), there is also no concern that the swimmer will make a raft or float.

There are also some other potential violations, but these are the two clearly documented ones.

To Conservative Jews, this concern is not relevent today; when swimmers wish to use such devices in modern society, they purchase them ahead of time, and do not actually build one on the beach.


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