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Is it permissable to use an umbrella on Shabbat, assuming you're inside an Eruv, so there's no issue of carrying? If it is not permissible, then why is it prohibited?

Follow-up question: What about other things that fold, like strollers, portable chairs and tables, or an extendable canopy?

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I've heard various reasons mentioned, such as muktzah, melacha of creating an ohel, and simply minhag yisrael, but don't know of any definitive answer. –  Shmuel May 19 '13 at 19:19
Why do you assume it is prohibited? –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 19:21
Reworded, but it is generally assumed to be prohibited in every community I've spent Shabbat, both in the US and Israel. –  Shmuel May 19 '13 at 19:24
"it is generally assumed to be prohibited in every community I've spent Shabbat, both in the US and Israel" Then just say that. You can make assumptions as long as you are clear what they are. –  Double AA May 19 '13 at 19:27

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Opening an umbrella on Shabbat is generally considered to be forbidden because of building. The linked article notes that while the g'mara (not specifically cited) does permit opening a folding chair, even though that creates a "tent" over the ground below, the purpose of opening the chair isn't to create the tent, while the purpose of erecting a structure above oneself is:

Accordingly, the Noda Be-Yehuda (work of responsa by Rabbi Yechezkel Landau of Prague, 1713-1793), among others, forbade opening umbrellas on Shabbat. This is the position taken by the vast majority of recent and contemporary authorities, as well, including Rabbi Moshe Halevi, in his work Menuchat Ahava, and Chacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Yechaveh Da'at. It should be noted that once Halacha forbids opening an umbrella, closing an umbrella becomes forbidden, as well.

In addition, this article notes that

a chair folds and unfolds directly into the desired position. An umbrella, however, must be fastened or locked into place in order to assume the desired position. (Biur Halacha 315:7)

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Additional details can be found at torahmusings.com/2010/11/umbrellas-on-shabbat, and an overview of the process by which this ruling was accepted can be found at torahmusings.com/2012/08/umbrellas-on-shabbos –  Shmuel May 19 '13 at 20:14
@ShmuelL, thanks for the additions! –  Monica Cellio May 19 '13 at 20:19
I brought an umbrella on Monday that doesn't have to be locked. You push a button, it opens. And clearly the intent when opening an umbrella is NOT to "build" anything. You generally in point of fact open the thing hurriedly while exiting a door, simply to keep from getting soaked, not to build a tower of babel out of umbrellas. –  david brainerd Apr 17 at 3:54
@david - I don't remember where I read this, I think it was one of the links above, but umbrellas in the 1800's had to be locked to stay open. That is no longer true, but Halacha has a lot of inertia and is resistant to change. –  Shmuel May 1 at 17:12
It should also be noted that some,rabbis permitted using an umbrella if it was opened and closed under an awning, since creating a tent under a tent is like doing nothing, and thus isn't prohibited. –  Shmuel May 1 at 17:14

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