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
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:
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). =
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).]
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.
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.]
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
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).
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.
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
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
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,
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).
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).
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.