By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
One is required to ensure that even one’s general activities and comportment on Shabbat reflect the intended serenity of the day. The source for this requirement originates from the prophet Isaiah, who instructs us to modify our behavior on Shabbat in three very specific areas: the way we walk, the way we talk, and not to pursue our weekday interests. Those practices which were instituted by the Prophets are known as “divrei kabbala”.
One is required to walk differently on Shabbat than one does during the week. As such, some have the custom to take a different route when walking to the synagogue on Shabbat than one normally uses during the week. One should not run on Shabbat unless it is for the purpose of performing a mitzva. In fact, we are told that one should always avoid making large strides unless absolutely necessary, as doing so is said to weaken one’s eyesight. Going for long walks, however, is permitted on Shabbat. So too, it is permitted to engage in running or jumping which is clearly done for enjoyment and recreation. One is also permitted to run in order to escape rain or danger. Exercising or any other bodily exertion is generally forbidden on Shabbat.
One is not permitted to speak about things that run contrary to the spirit of Shabbat. It is especially forbidden to discuss one’s plans and intentions for the conclusion of Shabbat and the coming week. Some of the more common applications of such forbidden speech include: “I plan on driving downtown this evening”, “I’ll call you after Shabbat ends”, and “How much do you sell computers for?” One is permitted, however, to relate past events and adventures, even if they include mention of otherwise forbidden Shabbat activities. For example, one may say things like: “This week we went to an amusement park” and “I saved up over $500 in order to be able to purchase the camera I bought last week”.
It is interesting to note that merely thinking about one’s weekday affairs without discussing them is permitted. One is also permitted to speak about matters of a mitzva nature even if it entails mentioning things that are ordinarily forbidden to speak about on Shabbat. The custom of greeting others on Shabbat in a manner that is different than is done during the week is also derived from the requirement to speak differently on Shabbat. Therefore, instead of greeting someone with the customary “hello” or “good morning” one is advised to use “Shabbat Shalom” instead. Some authorities even suggest that one only speak Hebrew on Shabbat owing to the sanctity of the day.
It is forbidden to pursue one’s weekday interests on Shabbat even if one would not have to transgress any of the forbidden Shabbat activities by doing so. Similarly, one may not engage in any activity which is done in order to prepare for Shabbat’s conclusion or otherwise makes one’s post-Shabbat activities any easier. For example, it is forbidden to walk towards one’s place of employment on Shabbat in order to be able to immediately commence work the moment Shabbat ends. Likewise, it is forbidden for one to wait at a bus stop on Shabbat in order to be able to board the bus immediately at the conclusion of Shabbat. Nevertheless, much of what has been discussed above may be permitted if being done for mitzva-related purposes.