As spring takes hold of the northern hemisphere, and the hours between sunrise and sunset lengthen, people often spend the long Shabbat afternoon enjoying the outdoors. Even as one soaks in the sense of kedusha, holiness, on a restful Shabbat afternoon such as this, one must still remember to guard the Sabbath day. Almost all of the 39 m’la’chot, the creative works that are prohibited on Shabbat, are related to agriculture, and thus to nature. So here are a few quick tips for observing Shabbat while enjoying the outdoors:

1) Most people will easily conclude that mowing the lawn on Shabbat would be prohibited. The ma’la’cha of kotzair, cutting, however, also includes “plucking” at the grass, a habit most people develop in their childhood. Not only does refraining from this sort of “harvesting” of grass, flowers or even weeds uphold the observance of the Sabbath, but it encourages an environmentally friendly attitude towards plant life, if only for the day.

2) Every woman enjoys the sweet gesture of a bouquet of wildflowers, whether from a partner, child or friend. But, gathering wildflowers (assuming that they were already plucked, see above) falls into the category of m’amair, gathering things that grow.

3) A refreshing cup of lemonade or iced tea is perfect in the yard. But one should be careful not empty the cup in the rhododendron bush. People often casually spill their drinks on the ground. But this actually constitutes watering the plants…which is part of the ma’la’cha of zorey’ah, sowing.

4) Bugs are God’s creations too. On Shabbat one should avoid trapping and/or killing insects (an exception is made for dangerous insects such as bees and hornets, although one should not use a specially designed trap) as both acts are ma’la’chot (tzad and shochait).

This Treat was last posted on May 27, 2011.

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