Ask The Rabbi: Can I Use Bike Share During The High Holy Days?

By Micheline Maynard

Our Jewish friends are getting ready to celebrate the High Holy Days, which kick off Wednesday with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and continue next week with Yom Kippur.

Bay Area Bike Share bikes at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Bay Area Bike Share bikes at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

This year’s festivities mark the start of 5774 on the Jewish calendar. Last year, when 5773 kicked off, neither New York, Chicago or San Francisco had bike share systems. This year, Citi Bike, Divvy Bikes and most recently, Bay Area Bike Share have become new transportation choices.

But some Jews, especially those who follow the Orthodox tradition, observe restrictions on travel during the High Holy Days. We wondered if that includes bike sharing.

For an answer, we contacted Rabbi Allen Schwartz, at Congregation Ohab Zedek in New York. He was kind enough to provide his guidance about the Orthodox approach to technology during holidays (which include every Sabbath (sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Pesach and Shavuot).

Said Rabbi Schwartz,

“On all these days, observant Jews refrain from practically all forms of technology. These days are set aside for contemplation of what we are as human beings and is becoming more and more challenging in a vastly changing world.

The farmer refrains from planting and harvesting to evaluate the great gifts the earth has for us. The builder refrains from erecting edifices in order to evaluate the heights we have attained and the humility we must continue to demonstrate, nonetheless. The artist and musician refrain from their creations in order to appreciate the gifts of their talents.

It is not labor that we avoid on Shabbos, it is creativity, and creating new things. Flicking on a light switch is hardly laborious, but it is creative, so we avoid it. The music I make must come from my own voice or the voices of those around me. The places I go must be reached with my own feet, and for that reason, we avoid travel on wheels.

On these days we return to the simplest days of human history , before technology, and noise and air pollution. We return to the moment after creation, when the Bible proclaims that God looked over all that He had done and it was very good.

Certainly, bicycles bring us closer to that day than cars, buses and trains. But to reach the purity of that moment we return to a time so simple, it even predates the invention of the wheel.”

Thank you, Rabbi Schwartz, and L’Shana Tovah!


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