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Colorful "parachutes" are used for various kinds of pre-school games. The parachute, in this context is a large (many feet in diameter), strong, circular cloth, usually with handles around the edges. Typically, it is completely unfurled on or parallel to the floor, and players stand around its circumference and hold it up by its edges. Then, they collectively manipulate it, to raise and lower it, to make waves in it, to make the center descend and pop up, etc. Some games include some or all players going underneath the unfurled parachute; in many of these games, the parachute is referred to as a "tent."

I am wondering whether parachute games, as described above, particularly the ones that involve going under it as a "tent," are permitted on Shabbat. It certainly sounds a lot like "building a tent," which is one of the activities prototypically banned under the category of Boneh (Building). Halachipedia says:

  1. It’s forbidden to set up the roof of a tent, permanent or temporary, on Shabbat, even if one there are no walls. ... (Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:1-2)

  2. It is forbidden to set up a tent out of blankets even if it is meant to be temporary. (Menuchat Ahava vol 3, 23:8, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:1-2)

Footnotes imported and enhanced with links for presentation here.

On the other hand, the only supports used for this "tent" are people, and the structure is inherently temporary. I don't know whether these mitigations matter in this context.

  • Are parachute games, in general, permitted on Shabbat?

  • Does it matter if people are going underneath or not?

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It seems from Shulchan Aruch O.C. 315:12 that this is forbidden.

He quotes the Rambam's position (Shabbat 22:32) that when hanging a curtain and the like we must be careful not to make a roof (ohel) while spreading it. Therefore if it is a large curtain, only two people may put it up, but one person may not.

הַנּוֹטֶה פָּרֹכֶת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהּ צָרִיךְ לְהִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲשֶׂה אֹהֶל בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנּוֹטֶה לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיְתָה פָּרֹכֶת גְּדוֹלָה תּוֹלִין אוֹתָהּ שְׁנַיִם אֲבָל אֶחָד אָסוּר.‏

The Mishna Berurah (315:45) explains that with a large curtain, one person will not be able to ensure that a hand-breadth (tephach) of material does not fold over and make a temporary roof (ohel aray). Two people will be able to be careful. Still, the M.B. adds that due to this concern, we generally abstain from hanging a curtain at all on shabbos.

The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 315:16) also discusses the issue. He first points out that this idea of the Rambam seemingly contradicts a gemara (Shabbos 138b) which posed this type of situation as being obviously allowed. The wording in the gemara states it is obviously allowed to place ones talis over one's head even though this will make a roof of a tephach. The A.H. differentiates between the two cases by saying the gemara was not discussing someone involved in making a structure at all. The Rambam's case of the curtain was someone who was involved with some type of ohel, so he was stringent.

I think from all of the above we can assume a parachute where one is involved in making a temporary ohel would not be allowed.

It should be noted the Chazzon Ish (52:5) wrote that the words of the Shulchan Aruch are not understandable ("stumim") and the explanation of the M.B. did nothing to help understand them, as we find that one is allowed to hang a curtain for shade. He did not however go on record as arguing and saying it was allowed.

  • Your interpretation I find confusing. My understanding of the Rambam (per your translation) is that a single individual must perforce "tuck in" part of the curtain in order to hang it up buy himself. This piece forms the ohel a width of a tefach being affixed to a solid structure. The Gemara seems to clearly hold that an ohel supported solely by a human isn't a problem. This might put me at odds with your A.H., but it fits all the other sources and the parachute wouldn't be boneh. – Isaac Kotlicky Aug 9 '16 at 14:09
  • No tucking. Imagine holding up a paroches and at some point your hand is lower than a tephach from the top and that top piece flops over. That piece that flopped just made an ohel. – user6591 Aug 9 '16 at 14:15
  • This conversation has been moved to chat. – Double AA Aug 9 '16 at 21:36

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