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Umbrellas on Shabbat

 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin 

It is well-known that one is forbidden to use an umbrella on Shabbat. This is because the use of an umbrella is considered to be a violation of the melacha of “boneh”, the prohibition of erecting any type of tent, structure, or protective covering.[1] In fact, the use of an umbrella might even be a violation of a number of other Shabbat prohibitions, as well.[2] An umbrella may not be used on Shabbat even if it was opened before the start of Shabbat. This is primarily due to the prohibition of ma’arit ayin (“the appearance of a sin”) lest onlookers be led to believe that one had opened the umbrella on Shabbat itself.[3] 

It is interesting to note that the Chatam Sofer was of the opinion that it is essentially permissible to use an umbrella on Shabbat.[4] He argued that an umbrella is only a “temporary structure” and as a general rule only permanent structures are forbidden to be assembled on Shabbat. He also notes that since an umbrella is portable, not fastened to the ground, and has no walls, it cannot be considered a structure which should be forbidden, at all.                                       

There are other possible reasons for permitting the use of umbrellas, as well. It is argued that an umbrella should be no different than a folding chair which is permitted to be opened and closed on Shabbat. However, others disputed this assumption arguing that a folding chair is not comparable to an umbrella. This is because an umbrella is opened with the express intention that it serve in a protective (“tent-like”) manner in order to protect one from the elements. A chair, on the other hand, does not serve in a similar capacity. It is also noted that a chair folds and unfolds directly into the desired position. An umbrella, however, must be fastened or locked into place in order to assume the desired position.[5]  

Even though there have been authorities in the past who supported the use of umbrellas on Shabbat, the familiar ban on using them is one which has been universally accepted.[6] In fact, the Chafetz Chaim writes that “one who is careful with his soul will refrain from using them”.[7] Not only is it forbidden to use an umbrella on Shabbat, but they are muktza and may not even be moved.[8] Furthermore, our sages decreed that one should avoid assembling all forms of tents and canopy-like structures on Shabbat, even permitted ones, lest it lead to handling forbidden ones.[9] Nevertheless, one need not overly rebuke those less-learned who use an umbrella which was opened before Shabbat.[10] One may open and close garden umbrellas on Shabbat which are permanently implanted into the ground or some other base.[11] 

……..with prayers for a very wet winter in Eretz Yisrael       


 

[1] Noda Beyehuda, OC 1:30. 

[2] Chazon Ish, OC 52:6. 

[3] Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 24:15 note 53. 

[4] Chatam Sofer, OC 72. 

[5] Biur Halacha 315:7. 

[6] Rivevot Ephraim 7:105, 2:115:61. 

[7] Biur Halacha 315:7. 

[8] Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 24 note 54 

[9] Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 22:27 

[10] Salmat Chaim 295. 

[11] Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 24:15

 

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About the author

Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series” (6 Vol.) among other works of halacha. rabbiari@hotmail.com

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

43 Responses

  1. “One may open and close garden umbrellas on Shabbat which are permanently implanted into the ground or some other base”

    why? i would have assumed that this is more of a “structure” than a rain umbrella is

    also, perhaps umbrellas should be assur all week long and not just on shabbat because of
    1) “beged ishah” (umbrellas are considered by many to be feminine and in the army and marines a soldier in uniform may not carry one)
    2) hukkot ha-goyim (for some christians the umbrella is a priestly garment or otherwise a religious icon and for some it is used in religious ritual)

  2. Ari Enkin says:

    Dear Abba-

    Once the umbrella is implanted the “binyan” has been made and then opening the umbrella is simply its “manner of use”.

    Regarding begged isha and umbrellas — there is no issue even if the umbrella is clearly feminine in style. Shevet Halevi Y.D. 61, Chochmat Adam 90:1.

    Regarding your point #2. You tackle shtreimels and bekeshes and then Ill tackle umbrellas. ;-)

    Ari Enkin

  3. shmuel says:

    Once the umbrella is implanted the “binyan” has been made and then opening the umbrella is simply its “manner of use”.
    Would that then permit covering and uncovering a sukkah with a tarp if the grommets were tied down before Shabbos/Yom Tov even though the tarp was rolled up?

  4. Ari Enkin says:

    Yes. It is also permissible (in most cases) to manipulate the covering of a baby carriage and similar things.

    Ari Enkin

  5. zach says:

    So we can’t use a folding table that locks into place? And why not permit a parasol that is fixed in an open position, or an umbrella that doesn’t lock?

    Once again, rabbonim who prefer to be strict will find justification for their position regardless of logical consistency.

  6. Guest says:

    “It is well-known that one is forbidden to use an umbrella on Shabbat. This is because the use of an umbrella is considered to be a violation of the melacha of “boneh”, the prohibition of erecting any type of tent, structure, or protective covering.[1] ”

    You know full well – or should know – that the idea that opening an umbrella is melacha de-oraysa is NOT the consensus.

  7. Charlie Hall says:

    “the idea that opening an umbrella is melacha de-oraysa is NOT the consensus.”

    Not only that, I can’t understand why anyone would think that it is melacha de-oraita, for all the reasons the Chasam Sofer gives.

  8. Ari Enkin says:

    Zach-

    Folding tables are ok.

    Boneh is actually one of the hardest melachos to master. (they say that too about borer and bishul — but I dont buy it…it’s boneh)

    Ari Enkin

  9. Ari Enkin says:

    Where did I say that it was a melacha d’oraisa??!??!

    Ari Enkin

  10. Seth J says:

    The notion that it is Boneh implies Issur DeOraitha.

  11. Philo says:

    Is the issur of boneh only for the act of unfolding the umbrella, or even just putting it over one’s head? What if it’s opened before shabbat (leaving muktzah aside for the moment)? Or what about the original umbrella, which didn’t fold up – it was built to stay open (the folding feature wasn’t invented till later.)

  12. Ari Enkin says:

    Alex-

    Just putting the umbrella over one’s head can be classified under boneh (“assiyas ohel”) to some opinions. There have been poskim in the past who even forbade Boralino-type hats due to the brim being an ohel!

    Ari Enkin

  13. joel rich says:

    There are mlachot that have fundamentally different understandings in the rishonim which then become next to impossible to summarize in a simple algorithm that people can use to guide themselves and it becomes a memorize or look up every possible permutation in a cookbook. I accept that is what the system has become but I have to wonder if this is truly what HKB”H would have preferred.
    KT

  14. Ari Enkin says:

    Seth J-

    Ok. But not necessarily. Halachic discourse generally doesnt distinguish between d’oraisa and derabanon when it comes to Shabbos prohibitions.

    Ari Enkin

  15. yitznewton says:

    I recall vaguely from yeshiva (six years ago) that a distinction may be made between antique and modern umbrellas, inasmuch as antiques required more assembly to deploy than modern ones. I don’t recall when the change happened, but my impression is that it was at least 75 years ago. My maggid shiur framed it thus: they are still not permitted, but perhaps the real halachic basis to forbid applied only to earlier designs.

  16. HAGTBG says:

    Wikipedia:

    That the use of the umbrella or parasol—though not unknown—was not very common during the earlier half of the eighteenth century, is evident from the fact that General (then Lieut.-Colonel) James Wolfe, writing from Paris in 1752, speaks of the people there using umbrellas for the sun and rain, and wonders that a similar practice does not obtain in England. Just about the same time they seem to have come into general use, and that pretty rapidly, as people found their value, and got over the shyness natural to a first introduction. Jonas Hanway, the founder of the Magdalen Hospital, has the credit of being the first man who ventured to dare public reproach and ridicule by carrying one habitually in London. As he died in 1786, and he is said to have carried an umbrella for thirty years, the date of its first use by him may be set down at about 1750. John Macdonald relates that in 1770, he used to be greeted with the shout, “Frenchman, Frenchman! why don’t you call a coach?” whenever he went out with his umbrella.

    Since this date, however, the umbrella has come into general use, and in consequence numerous improvements have been effected in it. In China people learned how to waterproof their umbrellas by waxing and lacquering their paper Parasols. The transition to the present portable form is due, partly to the substitution of silk and gingham for the heavy and troublesome oiled silk, which admitted of the ribs and frames being made much lighter, and also to many ingenious mechanical improvements in the framework. Victorian era umbrellas had frames of wood or baleen, but these devices were expensive and hard to fold when wet. Samuel Fox invented the steel-ribbed umbrella in 1852; however, the Encyclopédie Méthodique mentions metal ribs at the end of the eighteenth century. Modern designs usually employ a telescoping steel trunk; new materials such as cotton, plastic film and nylon often replace the original silk.

    In 1969, Bradford E. Phillips, the owner of Totes Incorporated of Loveland, Ohio obtained a patent for the first “working folding umbrella”.[16]

  17. davidwag says:

    Regarding the “garden umbrellas… which are permanently implanted into the ground or some other base.” – how “permanent” do they need to be? We have heavy iron bases, and the umbrella pole is tightened in place with a thumb screw. One of ours in placed through the hole in the center of a patio table as well. But the umbrellas can be removed – we remove them for sukkot, and sometimes for the winter (we use them for shade, not rain protection). So when they are fastened into their bases, can they be considered “permanent” enough to open & close on Shabbat? Thanks in advance for your answer.

  18. Ari Enkin says:

    David-

    I’ve never seen or used a garden umbrella, and I am not familiar with the different varieties, but by what you describe, it would certainly have the halachic status of “permanent”.

    Ari Enkin

  19. gest says:

    A new angle on the umbrella I just thought of, and curious if anyone brings this up.

    Normally, I have heard that a person should not carry an item that they do not intend to use at their destination. (This is especially true when there is no eruv and it is yom-tov.)

    Since the umbrella is only carried for the trip, and is not wanted or needed at either end of the path, could this be a stronger reason why it is not allowed? The classification of an umbrella as an ohel always bothered me.
    That is, the only reason you could ever want an umbrella is when you are outdoors between point A and point B, and seems to better mirror the prohibition based on the carrying of the beam posts between two carts.

  20. dave says:

    There are mlachot that have fundamentally different understandings in the rishonim which then become next to impossible to summarize in a simple algorithm that people can use to guide themselves and it becomes a memorize or look up every possible permutation in a cookbook. I accept that is what the system has become but I have to wonder if this is truly what HKB”H would have preferred.
    KT
    Joel,
    That is the most succinct explanation of the brain fog that I get when I try to master these complicated halachos.

    “Tanya, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said, Chas Vesholom that Torah will be forgotten from Yisroel, for it says.’ for it will not be forgotten from his children’. What does it mean ‘they will wander to seek the word of Hashem and they will not find it’? They will not find clear halachos and clear teachings in one place.”(Rashi-clear halachos-with reasons that don’t have disagreements) Shabbos Daf 138b

    One more reason to hope for Mashiach.

  21. thanbo says:

    Rabbi (later Lord) Immanuel Jakobovits, when he was rabbi of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in the 1950s, mattired umbrellas, specifically under the conditions that applied to his Upper East Side congregants.

    1) the Manhattan eruv allowed one to carry the umbrella;

    2) many/most apartment buildings have awnings outside the front door, which are themselves effectively ohalim;

    3) apparently, he believed that erecting a tent inside a tent is so meaningless as to be a non-act. Therefore:

    one may put up the umbrella under the awning of one’s apartment building, and take it down under the awning of the synagogue. Reverse upon returning home.

    I imagine he was relying on the Chasam Sofer, as well, to say that there is a basis for using kulot in this case.

  22. Ben says:

    IIRC R’ Neuberger (YU) once said in shiur that really umbrellas are permitted on Shabbos, but because of the Noda Beyehuda’s powerful and demonstrative teshuva [footnote 1] no one else has been willing to go against his psak and actually permit it.

  23. Rufus says:

    > “This is primarily due to the prohibition of ma’arit ayin (“the appearance of a sin”)…”

    Don’t you mean, mar’it ayin (“the casting of the eye”)? What is ma’arit?

  24. Ari Enkin says:

    Rufus-

    I see it spelled both ways.

    Ari Enkin

  25. Ari Enkin says:

    Gest-

    Its a nice idea but as a general rule, “there is a good chance I will need it” justifies taking the object in the first place.

    Ari Enkin

  26. Martin says:

    Using the same logic as Rav Jakobovits I learnt that the Succa raincover was mutar because the succa is already an ohel and so putting a tarp over the top of it doeasn’t change its status.

    On a different note, am I correct that putting on a wide brimmed hat (eg a sombrero) is making an ohel and therefore assur?

  27. Ari Enkin says:

    There was a thought to ban hat-brims on Shabbat, but they are permitted universally for a number of reasons.

    See Mishna Berura 301:152.

    Ari Enkin

  28. MDJ says:

    >>“there is a good chance I will need it” justifies taking the object in the first place.

    But the point of the question is that even if you need it, it will only be on the way and not at the destination. You answer doesn’t respond to this.

  29. Ari Enkin says:

    …if it was raining on the way there it will likely be raining on the way back.

    Ari Enkin

  30. emma says:

    re: gest, MDJ, and ari enkin: my understanding is that when people say “you can only carry something you will need at your destination” they don’t mean davka “at” your destination as opposed to “on the way to” your destination. they mean as opposed to something you don’t need at all, but are carrying for some other reason (like wanting it with you after shabbat). if that’s so then carrying the umbrella because you need it, whether at your destination or on the way there, is fine. what would not be ok is carrying it on a sunny day because you left it at someone’s house and want to bring it home. (please correct me if i missed something.)

  31. MDJ says:

    Emma,
    In that case, it becomes an issue of hachana. That may be it, of course. I was unaware of this “halacha” the one couldn’t carry something one didn’t need on one’s destination, but was only going based on what gest and R. Enkin said.

  32. emma says:

    agree. it seemed to me r enkin’s failure to focus on the “on the way” vs “at” distinction in the original question suggests that r enkin doesn’t know this halcha either, which further suggests to me that the rule gest was thinking of was not quite what he thought. but i would be happy to hear otherwise (with a source, ideally) from gest.

  33. gest says:

    It is very possible that the halacha does not distinguish between “on the way” and “the destination”, however my bad memory of the Gemorah on Shabbat regarding transferring from one rishut to the other made me think it might be important.

    So to put this more into halachic language:
    You take your umbrella from your rishut a yachid, into the karmalit/rishus harabim, use it in the rishus harabim/karamalit, and then no longer need it when you get to the next rishut ha yachid.

    You will NEVER need an umbrella inside of a rishut ha yachid that has a roof. So my theory was that taking the umbrella from the outside into the inside at any point during shabbos would not be allowed.

    If my theory was correct, the only way around this would be to always have your umbrella left outdoors where it might rain. I imagine doing that would be difficult, but not impossible.

    Granted that wasn’t my original question, but thinking about it more closely, thats all I can justify :)

    My original idea was based on the law of carrying for yom tov, which according to this article, makes no distinction between the path and the destination (as seen in the example of carrying a rain coat)

    http://www.torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5763/bamidbar.html#

  34. avraham etzion says:

    In the German kehillah in washington Heights they allowed use of open umbrellas on Shabbat-as it is not boneh but mosif al binyan

  35. Ari Enkin says:

    Dear Gest-

    Two things.

    a) I think you are confusing Shabbos concepts and Yom Tov concepts.

    b) No poskim discuss this consideration with regards to the umbrella issue which makes it seem that they did not consider it an issue.

    Ari Enkin

  36. Ari Enkin says:

    Avraham-

    Mosif al habinyan -as a concept- is usually assur. It can be the let it for *this* consideration. It’s like saying you’re allowed to carry a pen because it is *only* muktz.

    Ari Enkin

  37. Steve Brizel says:

    R Ari-as a follow up-is there an issue of Hachanah in opening an umbrella on Erev Shabbos if one lives in an area with an eruv ( Paging Lineman!) or can the MB’s comments be understood in such an instance as a Lo Plug on a rabbinical level?

  38. Ari Enkin says:

    Steve-

    Im not sure I understand what you are saying.

    How could there be hachana on something done BEFORE shabbat?

    Ari Enkin

  39. baby says:

    What about the one on my carriage ?

  40. Ari Enkin says:

    Permanent carriage covers can be bent in and out of “cover” on Shabbat.

    Ari Enkin

  41. [...] to carry an umbrella if the eruv were created. But is that Orthodox practice? Here’s Rabbi Ari Enkin:It is well-known that one is forbidden to use an umbrella on Shabbat. This is because the use of an [...]

  42. BasTzion says:

    The halacha clearly and unequivocally states that it is permissible to open a folding table or bed. However the reasoning given seems to rely on the fact that these are OHEL ARAI. Perhaps the way they are described in SHULCHAN ARUCH that the table top is merely a board placed on the legs and not connected to the legs, they had no long term KIYUM. But today one might assemble a folding table once and for all – or at last to stay erect for more than 8-9 days. The HETER mentioned in connection to folding chairs – that since they are all connected and only need to be unfolded so it is not considered as though anything significant had been done, also clearly applies only to an OHEL ARAI. So in the final analysis, what is the HETER for us to do this?

  43. aenkin says:

    Good points. Tzarich iyun.

    Ari Enkin

 
 

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