Opinion: Running on Shabbat, is it Kosher?

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By Laura Shaposhnikova

Attention to those among us who do not enjoy running: slowly place this article down and leisurely walk away.

To everyone else: what’s the deal with running on Shabbat? If you enjoy it, then it’s not work, right? If it’s not work, then it’s probably permissible, right? Not quite.

Let’s run through (last pun, I promise) what observing Shabbat is all about. First, we have to understand that it’s really not about rest and relaxation. Shabbat is a day to take things slow and to contemplate the week. It’s a day set aside for appreciation of the relationships we hold with our friends, family, and God.

There are, however, obligations and restrictions on Shabbat, which make it a completely unique and special day. Some of these restrictions are in place to help us optimize Oneg Shabbos, enjoying Shabbat.

When it comes to running, Halacha, Jewish law, states that a person can run to do a good deed (mitzvah) or if they are in immediate danger. So if there’s a serial killer chasing you down the street, run, do not walk, to shelter. You can also run to get out of the rain. If you happen to find yourself facing a rabid animal on a rainy Shabbat, feel free to sprint away.

Running from rain or danger is totally fine, but jogging for exercise is not permissible on Shabbat. Halacha clearly views health as a priority; however on Shabbat, non-essential health care is not permitted.

“Assuming that you don’t carry anything, the only issue is that it [running] is a weekday activity. This means that it just takes away from the spirit of Shabbat,” said Ben Shefter, an alum and rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York.

But what if you just really enjoy running? Halacha does make some distinctions between light and heavy exercise. Most sources state that light exercise, which doesn’t make you sweat is permissible on Shabbat, but everything else should be avoided.

Where does that leave people who like to fill their time with tons of activity? Lucky for them, our campus is full of Shabbat-friendly activities. Take a walk around campus and enjoy the scenery and natural entertainment which surrounds us.

Shabbat walks are a favorite activity for junior biochemistry major, Carly Davis, who can be found lounging on the Mall during a fair-weather Shabbat.

If you are so inclined, Shabbat can be the time to embrace your inner gamer. Play board games, card games, or word games. You can really never get too old to play games, I promise.

Play a game of Jungle Speed or Twister, said sophomore finance major Ariel Rogoff. “Hanging out with friends, reading, studying for tests sometimes, and going to Hillel. That’s really all I’ve done for Shabbos for the past two years.”

Senior psychology major Rebecca Redel said that Shabbat was her favorite time to walk around and explore campus. I walk all the way over to the farm, and walk to the Mall. There are people there and it’s fun.”

Hillel is a great place to meet people to spend Shabbat with. Having a community to enjoy the day with definitely improves the experience of keeping Shabbat.

“I debate to myself all the time if I’d really rather go out with my [non-Shabbat observing] friends, but I keep the community in mind and that I love to be in the moment with the people I love, even if it’s not going out with my friends,” said Redel when asked if the community enhances or stifles her Shabbat experience.

While Halacha is complex and much more multifaceted than we might initially realize, community life makes a Shabbat-observing lifestyle not just manageable, but also uniquely enjoyable.

“It’s a warm community, and Shabbos is always a time to see everyone,” said Rogoff. “You really feel like the community is resting as a whole and coming together to celebrate Shabbos.”

 

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