Is it permitted to go swimming on Shabbos?

  • 2
    Why might you think it is or isnt'?
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2015 at 18:17

3 Answers 3


The original statement of prohibition as brought in the Gemarah Maseches Shabbos against swimming on Shabbos has to do with concern that one may perform "Gibul" - mushing the dirt at the side of the body of water into mud which would be a toldah of lash, kneading. As Yirmiyahu said there is also the concern of making a raft. Therefore in an outdoor pool most poskim do not permit it, (although R' Leizer Silver seemingly did. See http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html). Indoor pools are permitted by a minority although most major poskim do not recommend it. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that the minhag is that one should not immerse even in cold water on Shabbos unless it is for a mitzvah. (Igroth Moshe, Even Haezer 2,13.) There is also the concern of wringing out one's hair. There are those who say that going into the pool with a bathing suit on is laundering. Also see http://www.dafyomi.co.il/shabbos/insites/sh-dt-041.htm .

  • 3
    Igros Moshe writes the swimming in a swimming pool is mutar on Shabbos. He then notes that in America, the minhag is not to. But he is quite clear that it is allowed, according to the law. And it seems to me that in many communities today in America, the custom has changed people do swim.
    – Curiouser
    Feb 28, 2012 at 20:23
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    @Curiouser--1. He says it is permitted when it is in an area it is permitted to carry and that even there it is forbidden to do so while wearing a bathing suit. 2. The minhag is NOT discussing "American" practice but Ashkenazi practice not to bathe, which is the authoritative Ashkenazi minhag.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Aug 26, 2015 at 3:50
  • 1
    This answer could really use some sources for its claims.
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2015 at 21:47
  • Any Sephardi authority discuss this? Jan 2, 2017 at 4:33

Mishneh Torah Hilkhoth Shabath 23:5 says:

אֵין שָׁטִין עַל פְּנֵי הַמַּיִם גְּזֵרָה שֶׁמָּא יְתַקֵּן חָבִית שֶׁל שַׁיָּטִין. בְּרֵכָה שֶׁבֶּחָצֵר מֻתָּר לָשׁוּט בְּתוֹכָהּ שֶׁאֵינוֹ בָּא לַעֲשׂוֹת חָבִית שֶׁל שַׁיָּטִין וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לָהּ שָׂפָה מֻקֶּפֶת שֶׁלֹּא יֵעָקֵר מִמֶּנָּה הַמַּיִם. כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הֶכֵּר וְהֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּינָהּ וּבֵין הַיָּם:‏


We do not swim in [open, natural bodies of] water [on Shabbat]. This is a rabbinic decree lest one come to construct a barrel of reeds [i.e. for a flotation device]. A [man-made] pool inside of a courtyard [i.e. enclosed with an eruv] is permissible to swim in as long as it has a lip surrounding it so that the water cannot run out of it [onto the ground around it], and in this way there will be a definite distinction between it and the sea.

So we see that it is indeed permissible to swim on Shabath, provided that it is in a pool, with a rim, within a valid `eruv.

[See also `Arokh HaShulhan, Hilkhoth Shabath, siman 339, se'iph 4 for a fuller explanation of the halakhic difference between swimming in a river or lake and swimming in a pool.]

Now, beside swimming itself there are several other issues raised by the occasion of swimming that have halakhic concerns, both regarding hilkhoth Shabath and otherwise:

  1. Swimming attire - In ancient times, swimming was done without a bathing suit. In other words, the one swimming would do so while nude. Therefore, this halakha is likely dealing with such a scenario. Given the prohibition on kibus (laundering), how can one wear an article of clothing while in the water, isn't this kibus?
  2. Wet hair - We know that it is prohibited to wring out things on Shabath (s'hitta as a derivative of disha), so wouldn't wringing out wet hair fall under this category?
  3. Tzeni`uth (modesty) - Is mixed bathing/swimming permissible? Can one go to a public pool on Shabath?
  4. Heating water - Most pools are heated and heating water is forbidden on Shabath so is it prohibited to swim in a modern "heated" pool on Shabath?

The answers to these questions are a bit complex in their explanation, but I will attempt to answer them concisely.

A. There are many issues with regard to kibus that could be discussed, but essentially the question is whether one can get clothing wet and for what purpose. A clean suit worn into clean water is not considered kibus since it essentially effects nothing. As for drying, the second part of kibus, since people do not seek to immediately dry their suits but instead remove them while still wet, there is no issue there either. As for wringing out a bathing suit, as long as it is made of synthetic materials (such as polyester or nylon) there is absolutely no issue since we have a principle of "ein disha ela b'gidule qarqa` - there is no concern for [the melakha of] disha except with articles made of [plant] materials that grow from the ground" (cf. b.Shabath 75a et al). Therefore, there is no prohibition of squeezing synthetic materials (more on this in the next section). And even if one were to wear cotton while swimming, it would be fine as long as one does not wring them out or squeeze them - provided they are clean and the water is clean.

B. Pursuant to the previous section, wringing out wet hair also does not present a halakhic issue. It states explicitly in Mishne Tora (Hilkhoth Shabath 9:11) that there is no prohibition of "squeezing" or "wringing" (s'hitta) with regard to hair or leather. There are those who maintain that the Rambam holds here that there is no isur of s'hitta min ha-Tora, but a mi-divrehem prohibition still applies, however this is incorrect as is explained by the pirush of Rav Yosef Qafih z"l (there, #32). The hair or beard may be squeezed and wrung out on Shabath without any concern at all.

C. Mixed swimming is not permissible. There are those who are liberal who will certainly argue on this, but it is nevertheless not permitted for modesty reasons. The sources for this are abundant and there is no need to list them here. However, it appears l`aniyuth da'ati that immediate family swimming together while clothed (i.e. not in underwear, bikinis, etc.) is perfectly fine. This may be derived from the laws permitting even qiruv basar while sleeping between nuclear family members in the same bed of the opposite gender. Once the child has shame, clothing or a blanket to separate between skin and skin is required. Swimming together while clothed in a private pool (without other people) should be fine, and the small children who are still toddlers unaware of their own bodies could swim in any bathing suit or even without clothing. [See MT Hilkhoth Isure Bi'a 21:6-7 et al].

D. The prohibition to heat water on Shabath is only in regard to the temperature of yadh soledeth bo (around 110 F). Thus, a slightly-warmed pool is not an issue. [See `Arokh HaShulhan, Hilkhoth Shabath, siman 326 , se'if 3]

In closing, there are those who claim that swimming is not in the "spirit" of Shabath. However, we must ask ourselves what determines this "spirit." It seems that Hazal felt that the "spirit" of Shabath was to be determined by the halakha - i.e. through prohibiting melakha, not discussing melakhoth, nor doing things that may lead to halakhoth. Swimming (within the guidelines set by Hazal) does not fit any of those descriptions. Instead, it seems that taking a permissible "dip" on the Seventh Day may actually fall into the category of `onegh Shabath (this view is also expressed by Rav Yisshaq Abadi shlit"a, as can be found on his website kashrut.org).

A helpful teshuva by Rav Rasson `Arusi shlit"a on this subject - containing much of what has been explained here - may be found here.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Aug 28, 2015 at 1:31
  • @Double AA - What is this? Leave my answers alone, please. If they are "off topic" then they will be voted down. Removing contextual statements does damage to my answer. Being this was written close to a year ago, I assume you chose to do this now for some other motivation. Please explain to me why you felt it necessary to do this.
    – user3342
    Apr 28, 2016 at 13:14
  • Are you going to be trotting out all the answers on Mi Yodeya and eliminating content you deem "off topic"?
    – user3342
    Apr 28, 2016 at 13:18
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    @Maimonist My job, actually, is to trot around Mi Yodeya and eliminate content I deem [based on community developed guidelines] is "off topic", among other things. I've been doing so for years and plan to continue doing so.
    – Double AA
    Apr 28, 2016 at 19:59
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    The jab at Charedim at the end was obviously unnecessary and probably falls afoul of our "be nice" policy. Indeed all the discussion in the beginning about the social function of various rulings about swimming is also just your social commentary where you impugn other's intentions, not an answer to the question. Finally the bit about forbidding the permitted is as irrelevant to this post as accusations of Bal Tosif are to rabbinic commandments. At best it belongs in a separate question.
    – Double AA
    Apr 28, 2016 at 20:03

Swimming is prohibited (in open bodies of water) out of concern that one might construct a [makeshift] raft.

Indeed, the prohibition against swimming is one of the reasons, as I recall, for the Ashkenazi practice not to bathe even in cold water on Shabbos (which itself precludes swimming in those situations where the prohibition isn't otherwise applicable). The prohibition against laundering prohibits entering the water while wearing clothes.

Shabbos 40b
Misnhen Torah: Shabbos 23:5
Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chaim 339:2
Igros Moshe Even HaEzer 2:13
Shemiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa 14:12

  • 2
    But if you look in the shulchan aruch there is an exception of if the pool has a lip (ledge that will hold the water from splashing out) of it is in a vessel then it is permitted
    – hazoriz
    Aug 26, 2015 at 2:41

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