You may not believe this, but today is National Hammock Day.

Many consider relaxing in a hammock to be the ultimate celebration of the lazy days of summer, especially when you have an opportunity to enjoy Shabbat, the “day of rest”, under the shade of the trees gently swaying in a hammock. You might be surprised to learn that there are special Jewish laws to keep in mind if you want to lay in a hammock on Shabbat. Today’s Jewish Treat, discusses some of these interesting issues.

One of the 39 m’la’chot (prohibited acts of creative labor) is kotzair, reaping (cutting for harvest). From a modern-day perspective, this m’lacha includes plucking flowers and picking fruit, as well as inadvertently tearing off leaves and flowers as one passes. In order to protect people from accidentally violating this m’lacha, the great sages expanded this prohibition to include using a tree for any purpose on Shabbat, lest one come to snap off a branch or a flower. (“One may not climb a tree; it is a preventive measure lest he pluck [fruit]” – Talmud Beitzah 36b.)

This prohibition makes it so that certain enjoyable outdoor activities require a bit of creativity, most notably, the question of a hammock or a child’s swing. To be “kosher” for Shabbat use, the hammock may not be directly attached to a tree, whether by nail or by rope. If, however, the hammock or swing is attached to a peg that is attached to the tree, this one degree of separation will make the swing or hammock acceptable for use on Shabbat, since now, the person’s weight in the hammock has only an indirect affect on the tree.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one’s local rabbi for practical application.

This Treat was originally posted on July 21, 2017.

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