Rehabilitation Scooter on Shabbos

I know this all sounds self-indulgent, but that’s not the purpose. As I’ve always said, I post what happens to be “invading my head space”. One can see Chassidishe Rebbes, especially the rotund ones, or the graceful Ruzhiner types, walking with a fancy walking stick, which may have gold or silver on the handle. Looking back at old footage, there was a preponderance of people using plain old walking sticks. They were far more in use than today.

I believe the major reason was that a common injury, such as a medial meniscal tear, which isn’t operated on, will allow you to walk, but with a limp. There was also lots more Tragers (carriers) who bore loads which would breach our Occupational, Health and Safety Regulations.

If someone broke an ankle, as I did, I would imagine the resultant pain and arthritis would be life-long, and, again, the ubiquitous walking stick would make it’s entry.

What happens on Shabbos? One can’t carry of course. Is using a walking stick considered carrying? It’s certainly not a “garment”. This is an old question which Acharonim have discussed variously. My feeling is that the consensus is that it is permitted. The reason being that, if the person needed the stick to get around inside the house, it becomes part and parcel of that person’s being, and is permitted also outside the house.

I can well remember my late Zeyda Yidel Balbin ע’ה

I believe this picture was at the setting of the stone for Katanga
I believe this picture was at the setting of the stone for Katanga. My Zelda is in the front on the right, with Rabbi Chaim Gutnick looking into his Tehillim

and his reluctance to use the stick, even though he needed to. I could feel the “guilt” he seemed to exude, even as a little boy.

This now brings me to my situation. I no longer have a cast; I’m in that moon boot contraption. I’m not allowed to put weight on the foot (and boy did I break those rules at a recent Simcha and feel it after) and indeed putting weight on the foot, actually hurts. It makes no difference whether I am inside or outside. The situation is the same.

I also have fractured ribs, which B”H are improving, but this, and my general clumsiness meant that crutches were not an option for me. Enter the rehab scooter

Rehab ScooterThe idea is that I place my damaged leg horizontally on the “seat” and use the other leg to push me to my destination. There is a brake.

As well as I recollect, it is forbidden to ride a bike on Shabbos, Miderabonnon, because there is a concern the chain may come off, and various maintenance activities may be necessary.

I started to wonder whether this scooter, was included (perhaps it is not included because it wasn’t originally and the chances of any maintenenance being needed are close to zero) or whether it had the same Din as a stick. My feeling was that on Shabbos, even in a Reshus HoRabbim D’Orayso, it would be permitted, but I wasn’t about to pasken for myself, despite my self-assuredness.

Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter paskened I could use the contraption (his words).

Please note: I did not ask, nor did he comment about the use of scooters in a place which has an Eruv. That may involve עובדין דחול as well, and people need to ask their Moreh HoRo’oh.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

6 thoughts on “Rehabilitation Scooter on Shabbos”

  1. If I recall the Shulchon Oruch correctly, a stick which bears ones weight is considered like a “shoe”, and one may use it to walk on shabbos in a reshus horabim, while a blind man’s white stick, which doesn’t bear his weight, is not like a shoe and thus he may not carry it.

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  2. As you know, I object to the use of the word “gezeira” to describe the practice of not riding a bicycle on Shabbos – let alone the term “miderabbonon”. In any event, Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchoso permits the use of a child’s tricycle (within an eruv) on the grounds that it has solid wheels and is recognisably meant for play. I wonder if your Rov followed similar reasoning in permitting the rehab scooter?

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  3. I am just going to tell you some stories about Shabat. Some might find them amusing, but they are not Piske Halacha.

    On one Shabat in Manhattan I went to Karlebach’s synagogue on the upper west side. There is an Eruv at that part of town. One of the worshippers came on that Shabat on his bike.

    There are scooters for the ones that have difficulty in walking. In Israel they have a special device which makes it permissible to use on Shabat. I heard that a fellow living abroad wanted to buy one of these scootersץ As there was no Eruv there; he asked if he still can use it on Shabat. He got an answer: It is not you who are carrying the scooter, it is the scooter that carries you from one reshut to another.

    Once in England I told the people that I have no problem to carry a handkerchief (for the younger ones, it was before we adopted the paper ones) on Shabat. I just put it in the outside pocket of my jacket (as decoration). Then an OBER CHOCHEM said to me: If it is a part of your garment you cannot blow your nose in it. I answered: Really, can I wipe my nose on my sleeve and down my trousers [as the saying in England goes]?

    Have a Refua Schlema.
    האם בחג השבועות הלכת ברגל לרגל הרגל.

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  4. There are two schools of Jewish thought and they are: the House of Beis Hillel and the House of Beis Shamai. Beis Shamai holds the strict view and the letter of the law, and argues that a Halocho is a Halocho and there is no way around the very wording, the very intention, the very purpose and the very nature of that Halocho.
    Beis Hillel holds a more relaxed view, arguing the whilst the observance and the carrying out of a Hacholo is all-important, he does, however, acknowledges the fact that situatuions, namely, as in cases of emergencies happens to people every day, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov, there are alternate ways of carrying out the
    same Halocho.
    To illustrate this point, I’ll cite you three cases:
    a) A rabbi of a Shul and his Rebbitzen are expecting a baby. The Rebbitzen is going into labor any day. In fact, she is already in labor. So the rabbi rushes his wife
    to hospital. But that day happens to be Rosh Hashono
    b) On a Friday night, a man says to his wife that he literally could not breath.
    The wife rang her daughter and he was rushed to hospital. The man’s grandson
    and the grandson’s wife, who are both Shomer Shabbos, also drove to the hospital
    c) Someone that had an unfortunate and tragic accident, is paralysed on one side
    and is confimed to an electric wheelchair. Now, everyone knows that using electricity on Shabbos is obviously not permitted. But since we are talking about someone
    who is paralysed on one side, is unable to use his left hand and the only way
    that he can attend Shul, is only via an electric wheelchair. He is performing a Mitzvah by going to Shul on Shabbos, but he is doing it in an alternate way. And in
    that instance, he is performing the Mitzvah of going to Shul

    Since we are human beings and situations happens to us all the time, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov, Judaism stipulates that the health of a human being is paramount, and thus if the emergency is extreme enough, one can drive to the hospital

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    1. Dear George I appreciate your compassion and opinion but would suggest as you have intimated that we must ask Beis Hillel. Today this means consulting a competent posek

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