From the Rav’s Desk: Riding on shoulders

  1. Question: [Wednesday, 14th Teves 5781]

Is it permitted for one to pick another man up on one’s shoulders as is commonly done by weddings where they pick up the Chasan and other relatives on the shoulders and the like? I heard that there are opinions who prohibit this and would like to know the details.


Indeed, this matter is under debate amongst the Poskim, with some siding that it is absolutely forbidden to do so and others saying that it is permitted from the letter of the law. Practically, the widespread custom today is to be lenient and those who do so should not be protested, although certainly one has the right to choose to be stringent and avoid doing so, either to avoid doing so to others or to avoid being lifted up. To mention, that there have been cases that the person lifted on the shoulders fell and injured himself as a result, and therefore aside for the halachic question one should also take in consideration this factor as well, and not turn this custom of lifting the Chasan onto the shoulders as an obligatory wedding practice of rejoicing the groom and bride. A simple alternative which is both safer and circumvents any halachic question is to simply lift him up on a chair rather than on the shoulders in this we can say that it is Noach Lashamayim and Noach Labriyos.

Explanation: It is forbidden for a man to ride a horse without a saddle due to that the friction of the movement can lead to Zera Levatala or its accessory prohibitions. Accordingly, some authorities argue that it is therefore likewise prohibited [and perhaps even more so] to ride on someone’s shoulder due to the same reason. Other authorities however argue that the cases are not the same, as a shoulder ride does not last very long and likewise the rider has an inherent fear of falling off and therefore is not to be suspected of it leading to any accessory prohibition of Zera Levatala. Likewise, if a person is married and his wife is in the city the prohibition does not apply. Furthermore, they say that the mere fact that the widespread custom is to do so by weddings and that it has been done in the presence of many elderly Rabbanim who do not protest, is itself a proof that they accepted it as permitted.

Sources: See regarding riding on a horse: Michaber E.H. 23:6; Otzer Haposkim 23:19 in name of Semak 292 that it does not apply for one who is married or if there is fear; Poskim who prohibit riding on shoulder: Ruach Chaim O.C. 669:8; Otzer Haposkim 23:19; Tzitz Eliezer 12:73-3; Mishneh Halachos 6:229 discourages doing so and says it is not an act of piety; Rav Mordechai Gross prohibits it and says that it is only recently being done in this generation; Shevet Halevi 6:203-2; Nachals Pinchas 1:122 Poskim who permit riding on shoulder: Az Nidbaru 13:59 based on Nida 13a [and Shabbos 41 with Rebbe Zeira] and Semak ibid that when there is fear one does not entertain forbidden thoughts argues that it is completely permitted and perhaps that there is even no act of piety involved in being stringent; Olas Yitzchak 1:146; Mishneh Halachos 6:229 rules that it is allowed from the letter of the law; Rav SZ”A, brought in Vealeihu Lo Yibol 2:184, is brought to rule leniently due to the inherent fear; Sefer Beis Chasanim in name of Harav Bentzion Aba Shaul and Harav Elyashiv that they both rule leniently due to the above reason of fear; Yalkut Yosef Chuppah Vikidushin  14:7 says those who are lenient should not be protested; Mori Verebbe Harav Yaakov Yosef z”l although due to the possible danger he says to do it on a chair

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