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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?


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.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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