Assuming one is inside an eruv which generally permits transferring between domains on Shabbat, may one use an umbrella on Shabbat? If not, why not?

Follow-up question: What about other things that fold up/out (e.g. strollers, portable chairs, tables, or an extendable canopy)?

  • 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

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
  • 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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 17:14
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    @Shmuel Most umbrellas which I've seen need to be locked to stay open. Have you seen others? – Shmuel Sep 29 '14 at 17:10

I've seen a bunch of people bring umbrellas to shul on Shabbat and leave them open during in the coat room during service. I know you're not supposed to open an umbrella on shabbat but there's a different rule for carrying an already open umbrella. If you open the umbrella before shabbat it's permissible in an erev. The torahmusings link suggests that you may give the appearance of breaking shabbat rules. That varies from shul to shul. In areas where it rains a lot, more observant people know the umbrella nuances.

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    If you could source your claim that there is a different rule for carrying an already open umbrella, that would make this answer more valuable. – Y     e     z Sep 29 '14 at 4:00
  • @YEZ - Comments on the Torah Musings link (above, also here ) mention that Chief Rabbi Jakobowitz permitted carrying already-open umbrellas on Shabbat. Now if only I could find a reliable source to back up those comments... <<||>> Tatiana - Thank you for your answer. Indeed, it appears logical to me that carrying an already-open umbrella should be fine, but I'm no rabbi. – Shmuel Oct 1 '14 at 3:01
  • This may be a case of "ignorance marit ayin". I.e., few people would know about this rule, and even if they did, I think most people would not know that the person carrying the umbrella had it opened prior to Shabbat. I think the marit ayin issue here may be a large factor. Re the last sentence, please explain how climate factors would influence things, here. If the umbrella is normally forbidden, what difference does the climate make? – DanF Feb 13 '18 at 21:22

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