Today is National Hammock Day. Hammocking appears to be the ultimate celebration of the lazy days of summer. As we prepare for the onset of Shabbat later this afternoon, Jewish Treats will take this as an opportunity to discuss some interesting issues concerning trees and hammocks on Shabbat.

One of the 39 melachot (prohibited acts of creative labor) is kotzair, reaping (cutting for harvest). From a modern-day perspective, this m’la’cha 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’la’cha, the great sages expanded this prohibition to include using a tree for any purpose on Shabbat, lest a person come to snap off a branch or a flower. (“a person may not climb a tree; it is a preventive measure lest he pluck [fruit]” – Talmud Beitzah 36b.)

In order to make certain enjoyable outdoor activities permissible despite this prohibition, requires a bit of creativity. Thus, the question of a using a hammock or a child’s swing on Shabbat. 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 placing a person’s weight in the hammock has only an indirect effect on the tree.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), an individual should consult their local rabbi for practical application.

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