Is it permissible to canoe or kayak on Shabbos for pleasure if a non-Jew puts the boat into the water and takes it out?
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Rabbi Yair Chayim Bachrach (Chavos Yair Responsum 115), while rabbi of Koblenz in the mid-17th Century, was asked about a certain wealthy individual who lived on the other side of the Rhine as the main Jewish community. This individual, whose name is given as "Berman", wanted to come to synagogue on Shabbat and Holidays. During the summer, there were large fixed boats/platforms in the river to cross it, but these were removed in the winter to avoid damage from ice. The only way to cross the river during the winter was by paying a small boat to take you across. The question Mr. Berman asked was can he pay a boatman before Shabbat to take him across the Rhine so he could pray with a Minyan and hear the Torah reading. Rabbi Bachrach prohibited him from doing so, basing himself on the rabbinic restriction on riding in a boat on Shabbat (Mishna Beitza 5:2) which the Mishna even prohibits doing in order to get a Shofar on Rosh haShana (Mishna Rosh haShana 4:8). Accordingly, Rabbi Bachrach prohibited Mr. Berman from crossing the river by boat even if it meant missing hearing Shofar on Rosh haShana.