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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Flying a Kite on Shabbat

Rav Daniel Mann

Question:  Is it permitted to fly a kite on Shabbat?  


Answer:  The mishna (Beitza 36b) lists several matters that are forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov as gezeirot, rabbinical injunctions, lest one come to inadvertently violate a Torah prohibition. One may not climb a tree or ride an animal (lest he pull off a branch), float in a body of water (lest he build a raft), or bang to a beat (lest he fix a musical instrument). The list goes on. Probably, if people flew kites in Chazal’s time, they would have forbidden it on Shabbat. After all, kites often need adjustments, whether to the frame or in tying knots, many of which include Torah prohibitions.

Should we follow the spirit of Chazal and forbid things we intuit they would have forbidden? Our general approach is that just as we do not dismiss gezeirot whose reasons are weak in our times, so too we do not institute new gezeirot. Nevertheless, there are some things, including riding bicycles, that almost all observant communities forbid, even though most of the reasons given resemble gezeirot. These are apparently matters that the general rabbinic community felt are against the spirit of Shabbat or are very likely to cause violations. (There were times when bicycles were a major means of transportation with the potential to change the nature of life on Shabbat, not necessarily by making it more restful.)

We feel that a consensus will not emerge against kite-flying, given its recreational nature and our assumption that allowing it will not affect the nature of Shabbat observance. In searching for sources, we found a few short responses with the expected content: some rabbis forbid flying kites because it is not in the spirit of Shabbat or because of the possibility of violations. Others said that there are no set grounds to forbid it, and therefore it is permitted. We add our voice to the latter approach. Of course, there must be an eiruv so that the kite can be carried outside, and the kite, strings, and knots must not be adjusted on Shabbat.

Individually, we suggest for those who do not know what they may and may not do or are likely to forget themselves to refrain from kite flying as a personal precaution. Those who take kite-flying very seriously would do best to refrain so as not to infringe on the spirit of Shabbat. However, for others, we do not discourage it as an occasional activity, when it is apparently not taking away from a better use of the precious gift of Shabbat. We do not reject those who feel it is bad idea but are not convinced that our communities are likely to be negatively impacted by permission to fly a prepared kite.

Let us deal with two specific halachic issues. What happens if you fly the kite near the end of a reshut hayachid (private domain, based on fences or an eiruv) and it goes over? As long as this happens only in the air there is no problem, because the area above 10 tefachim outside the private domain is a makom p’tur (an area that is a halachic vacuum) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 345:19). It is permitted to move an object from a reshut hayachid to a makom p’tur (ibid. 346:1). However, throwing something from a reshut hayachid to a reshut harabim (public domain) through a makom p’tur is forbidden (ibid.), which is what happens if the kite lands outside the eiruv. There is much to discuss regarding carrying by means of the wind (see Yabia Omer IV, OC 35) and the fact that the kite’s string remains in reshut hayachid. However, as long as this is not a certain outcome and one does not intend it to occur, he need not be concerned if it happens accidentally. (If it does happen, he should not retrieve the kite).

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:45) says that one may not play with a ball on Shabbat because it is muktzeh since it does not have a “real purpose.” The Rama (ad loc.) argues. Some Sephardim are stringent on the matter, and some extend it to game pieces of different sorts (Yalkut Yosef 308: 26, 27). If one is stringent on that matter, the stringency should apply also to a kite.


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