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Oy! Ahoy! Cruisin' on a Shabbos Afternoon

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Topic: Boat, Departing before Shabbat

Gershon Minkow, Jerusalem wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

My family is planning its second family reunion for 1998, and they are considering having it on a small cruise ship (probably 100-200 people) over a weekend. If the ship were to take off on Thursday or Friday, would it be permissible to stay on it over Shabbat? Thank you for your response.

Dear Gershon Minkow,

The Talmud states it's forbidden to set sail within three days of Shabbat. The commentaries offer many explanations for this rabbinic prohibition. The Shulchan Aruch cites the reason offered by Maimonides, that there is a concern that one might become seasick and this will interfere with the celebration of Shabbat. It generally takes three days to 'get your sea legs.'

The Talmud, however, permits one to leave on a ship even within three days, if one is traveling for the purpose of a mitzva. Some authorities rule that in this regard, traveling for business or to visit a friend is considered a mitzvah, because it's a mitzva to provide for your family and to strengthen your bonds of love and friendship. Visiting your family is certainly no less of a mitzva than visiting a friend.

Furthermore, ships today are more stable than they used to be and motion sickness is less likely. Based on this, Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, shlita, permits traveling on such a ship within three days of Shabbat.

So if your family plans a weekend cruise, you're on 'solid ground' if you participate. Just don't rock the boat.


  • Tractate Shabbat 19a
  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 248

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