Chilul Shabbos in Tzfas Leads to Strife


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tzefatThe chareidi community in Tzfas is up in arms over the recent opening of the Tzfas Country swimming pool on Shabbos, a move they view as violating the city’s long-standing status quo.

The situation is not clear however for some residents insist the pool has opened on Shabbos for the past 30 years. Chareidi who do not feel this is so were out protesting. Veteran city resident Baruch Adler is quoted telling Kikar Shabbos that he too favors preserving the city’s religious status quo but the opening of the pool does not represent a change in that status, insisting the pool has operated on Shabbos for over 30 years.

For those who feel opening the pool on Shabbos represents a new unwanted reality, they point a finger of blame at Mayor Ilan Shochat, insisting he is directly responsible. They feel that today, with eight chareidim on the city council, they no longer have to kowtow to the mayor and the secularists and they are not going to permit the pool to operate. Officials in City Hall insist the mayor has absolutely nothing to do with the pool opening on Shabbos.

Over 200 people took part in a Shabbos protest against the pool. They conducted kabolas shabbos outside the pool area and the incident deteriorated into a verbal confrontation before the mispallalim disbanded.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)


  1. Swimming in a river or pond on Shabbos or Yom Tov is a Rabbinical Ordinance Prohibition, because swimming could lead to ‘makeh b’patish’ (the melacha against completing or fixing a vessel.) swimming was taught with the aid of a life-preserver made of reeds. The reeds were woven into a barrel-shaped float that was completely enclosed and air-tight. This buoyant device served much the same purpose as a modern life-preserver. The Talmud refers to this float as a ‘chavis shel shayatin’ – a swimmer’s barrel.

    According to some commentaries, the barrel referred to by the Talmud is a hollow earthenware vessel shaped like a barrel. Apparently, these floats would frequently become damaged or punctured and lose their buoyancy. It seems that repairing them was something that most people could do easily. However, even a simple, minor repair would be the forbidden Torah-prohibition of ‘makeh b’patish’.

    Because Chazal understood that persons engrossed in swimming activities were likely to forget themselves, and on the spur of the moment, make a quick and simple repair on a life-preserver, they imposed a strict ordinance forbidding swimming on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

    The prohibition on swimming in a river or pond extends to all situations even when there is little or no likelihood that this could lead to any type of repairs. Swimming is forbidden even in modern times when the early-day type of life-preserver is no longer ever used.

    There is technically some Halachic basis to distinguish between a river and a swimming pool, thereby permitting swimming in certain pools. However, not all pools could be permitted. Moreover, even in cases where the specific Rabbinic ordinance against swimming could be circumvented, any leniency is not very practical for at least two reasons:
    a. Swimming will cause the swimming garments to become wet, thereby transgressing the melacha of ‘melabain’ (laundering)
    b. Even if one could contrive a non-absorbent swimming outfit (e.g. plastic, vinyl, etc.), there is nevertheless a widely-held custom not to immerse (i.e. bathe) in even cold water for any other purpose other than for a mitzvah as Mikvah.

  2. You cannot force shmiras Shabbos or any religiosity for that matter. You only alienate people even further that way. The best thing is to try and educate people about observing mitzvos and hope for the best.

    And #2 happens to be correct, Charlie.

  3. #4- And in your learned opinion posting a comment on YWN with no other goal than to defame/embarrass/speak ill of a fellow Jew is halachically correct?

    Furthermore, #1 is not entirely incorrect. The Rambam (Shabbat 23:5) and the Mechaber (OC 329:2) both pasken lehalacha that the issur miderabanan that #3 mentioned is not applied to enclosed pools (at least in reshut hayachid). Later Ashkenazi poskim (such as the Igrot Moshe) have indeed raised additional issues with swimming and paskened leissur, but harav Ovadia was careful to note that while Sefardim should also not swim on Shabbat for various reasons – meikar hadin it is not assur.

    #1- The psak regarding immersing in a mikveh on Shabbat is different than that of using swimming pool because, amongst other reasons, we are meikel for dvarim shebikdusha.