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The Shabbat Limit

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Nothing is more enjoyable on a Shabbat afternoon than a leisurely stroll with friends and family. Certainly those who are Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) and attend synagogue spend a great deal of time walking – so how does general Shabbat observance incorporate what is written in Exodus 16:28-30: “And God said to Moses: … He [God] gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:28-30)?

Since, in Exodus 16,  the Israelites left their encampment to try and collect manna on Shabbat (instead of accepting God’s word that the double portion of the previous day would suffice), the techum Shabbat (Shabbat limit) is thus defined as 12 mil (24,000 amot, about 7.5 miles), the size of the Israelite camp. Seeking to ensure that the laws of Shabbat would not be broken, the sages redefined the perimeters of the techum Shabbat according to the dimensions of the outskirts of the cities of the Levites as defined in Numbers 35, 2,000 amot (.62 of a mile) on each side.

In today’s more urban/suburban lifestyle, a Shomer Shabbat Jew can easily walk a great distance without leaving the city. The question of techum Shabbat does, however, often affects those who vacation in small towns or isolated cabins where there are no contiguous dwellings.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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