You may not believe this, but tomorrow, July 22, is National Hammock Day. It appears to be the ultimate celebration of the lazy days of summer. One might think that Hammock Day occuring on a Saturday is the ultimate fortuitous combination, what better way to enjoy the “day of rest” than by relaxing under the shade of the trees while gently swaying in a hammock. Today’s  Jewish Treat, however, will take this as an opportunity to discuss some interesting issues concerning trees and hammocks on Shabbat.

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 placing one’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), one should consult one’s local rabbi for practical application.

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