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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Ki-Savo

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


If it will be that you will not listen to Hashem... all these curses will come upon you (28:15)
This admonition relates to the destruction of the Second Temple (Ramban)

BALL PLAYING ON SHABBOS

Among the many transgressions which are enumerated throughout Talmudic literature as causes for the destruction of the Second Temple, we find one very puzzling. Our Sages report that the city of Tur Shimon, a large city in the Judean hills, was destroyed on account of ball playing(1)! According to many commentators, their sin was that they played ball on Shabbos(2).

But could so "minor" an infraction have such disastrous consequences? Perhaps our Sages are alluding to an overall spiritual malaise in Tur Shimon. People who can while away the precious, sacred hours of Shabbos on a mundane sporting activity like ball-playing are surely wanting in their commitment to Torah and Mitzvos in general. Their choice of diversion is symptomatic of a dismal spiritual state; they lack entirely the concept of what is required from a Jew on Shabbos; how a Jew is to spend the Shabbos day. Thus, the decree of destruction, originally issued for many other, greater sins, was sealed.

Indeed, all of the poskim frown on any type of ball playing on Shabbos, for it blemishes the aura of holiness that sets the Shabbos day apart from the other days of the week. In recent years, however, with the proliferation of eruvim in many communities, more and more children are seen playing ball on Shabbos. Since many of these children are of chinuch age, the question arises: May parents permit their children to play ball on Shabbos? If the children are already playing, must the parents stop the game?

THE HALACHIC CONSIDERATIONS:

There are six halachic violations that may possibly result from playing ball on Shabbos and Yom Tov:

  1. CARRYING: Obviously, playing ball can only be allowed where carrying is permitted (a kosher eruv, an enclosed courtyard(3), inside a house)(4). On Yom Tov, however, this restriction does not apply(5). =

  2. MUKTZEH: Although some poskim are of the opinion that a ball is muktzeh since it serves no purpose [similar to a rock], the Rama clearly rules that balls are not muktzeh(6). This ruling is accepted by all of the poskim(7). [Ball-playing equipment, such as bats, gloves, rackets, etc., are not muktzeh either(8).]

  3. EXERCISE: If the purpose of playing ball is for exercise, it may be prohibited as all exercise is prohibited on Shabbos(9). When the exercise is medically necessary, a rav should be consulted.

  4. LEVELING OF THE GROUND: Games which require that a ball [or another item, e.g., nuts] be rolled on the ground, such as soccer or marbles, are Rabbinically prohibited to play, since playing those games can easily lead the player to level the playing field, which is a Biblically forbidden Shabbos Labor(10). Some poskim hold that a paved court is also included in the Rabbinical decree(11), while other poskim are lenient with a paved court or floored surface(12). Games played on a table [ping-pong(13)] or on a mat are permitted according to all views(14). Games which are played on the ground but do not require that the ball be rolled on the ground (e.g., baseball, basketball, football), are not included in this Rabbinical decree(15). [Obviously, though, it is clearly Biblically forbidden to actually level any playing area.]

  5. TREES AND BUSHES - If the ball gets stuck in a tree or in a bush [which is over 10 inches high], it is forbidden to retrieve or remove the ball, even if the removal can be accomplished without shaking the bush or climbing up the tree(16). If the ball falls out of the tree or bush by itself, it may be picked up and played with(17).

  6. INFLATING A BALL - Many poskim hold that it is forbidden to inflate a ball (e.g., a basketball, soccer ball) on Shabbos. Some forbid it because it is a week-day activity(18), while others hold that it is considered as fixing [or creating] an object (tikkun mana) and may be Biblically prohibited(19).

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

As stated earlier, beside the possible halachic violations listed above, there is an additional consideration when it comes to playing ball on Shabbos. The poskim are almost unanimous in condemning ball-playing on Shabbos as being frivolous and inappropriate behavior(20), a waste of time(21), and a practice befitting shallow individuals(22). Accordingly, even when not expressly in violation of a Shabbos prohibition, adults over the age of bar/bas mitzvah are strongly discouraged from participating in any type of ball playing on Shabbos(23).

It is praiseworthy, therefore, for parents to instill in their children the proper understanding of the spirit of Shabbos. Even if it is not technically forbidden for children to play ball(24), they should be taught that it is not fitting and proper to do so.

It would be ideal, of course, if the children were given some positive and constructive Shabbos activities to take the place of playing ball. Simply prohibiting children from playing ball and then allowing them to aimlessly roam the streets or to read material of dubious value, is not the way to imbue them with the holy spirit of Shabbos.



FOOTNOTES

1. Yerushalmi Ta'anis 4:5, quoted by the Bais Yosef O.C. 308.

2. Rokeich 55, Pnei Moshe and Korban Eidah on Yerushalmi ibid. See also Medrash Eicha 2:4 where it specifically says that the ball playing took place on Shabbos.

3. Ball playing should not take place if the ball is liable to leave the enclosed area, since in one's eagerness to retrieve the ball, he can easily forget that he is carrying outside the eiruv.

4. Mishnah Berurah 308:158.

5. Rama O.C. 518:1. See Igros Moshe O.C. 3:94 who explains why carrying a ball is considered shaveh l'chal nefesh.

6. O.C. 308:45 and 518:1.

7. Although the Shulchan Aruch O.C. 308:45 rules stringently on this issue and Kaf ha-Chayim 308:257 notes that Sefaradim should follow his opinion. It is possible that his ruling referred to an item such as a rock, etc. which was later designated for play, not to a modern-day ball which is manufactured as a ball (Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in Shevus Yitzchak, pg. 89). Refer to Tosfos Shabbos 308:109 and Pri Megadim 308:72 for possible sources.

8. Harav M. Feinstein (Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 26).

9. O.C. 328:42. When the exercise is enjoyable, it may be permitted (Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah, pg. 189).

10. Mishnah Berurah 308:158. Harav S.Z. Auerbach is quoted as suggesting that the Rabbinical decree does not apply to a standard playing field which is usually used as such, since playing fields are usually prepared in advance (Kovetz Beis Aharon v'Yisrael 3:39).

11. Shulchan Aruch Harav 338:6; Mishnah Berurah 338:20.

12. Pri Megadim 338:3; Aruch ha-Shulchan 338:12. In addition, nowadays when most of the ground in or near our homes is paved, all poskim may agree that paved courts are not included in this decree (Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 91).

13. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Kovetz Beis Aharon v'Yisrael 3:39); Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 16:6.

14. Mishnah Berurah 338:20.

15. Teshuvos Salmas Chayim 1:71; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Kovetz Beis Aharon v'Yisrael 3:39).

16. Mishnah Berurah 336:3. For additional details, see The Weekly Halachah Discussion to Parashas Shelach, 5757.

17. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah, pg. 183).

18. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 92).

19. Chelkas Yaakov 3:159; Minchas Yitzchak 6:30; Machazeh Eliyahu 69-2. Note, however, that Harav S.Z. Auerbach (see Minchas Shlomo 11-5, Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah, pg. 184 and pg. 477, Binyan Shabbos, pg. 137) holds that once a ball has been inflated, it is permitted to inflate it again, even with a pump, as long as no tying is involved.

20. Mishnah Berurah 518:9.

21. Kaf ha-Chayim 308:259

22. Aruch ha-Shulchan 518:8

23. See also Mishnah Berurah 338:21.

24. Note that Shulchan Aruch 301:2 allows children to jump and run for their enjoyment and pleasure. Accordingly, there would not seem to be any difference between playing ball and playing tag, hide and seek, jump rope, etc. Somehow, though, ball-playing is associated with Shabbos desecration more than these other activities.


Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross jgross@torah.org.

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra


 






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