Playing games

Introduction- The spirit of Shabbos

Due to the holiness of Shabbos, adults should avoid playing games on Shabbos even if the game has no Halachic prohibitions involved. The Talmud states that the city of Tur Shimon was destroyed for the sin of playing ball on Shabbos. Some explain this to mean that the city was destroyed due to the sin of using their time on Shabbos for ball playing instead of learning Torah.[1] The Taz[2] writes in the name of the Rashal that it is a wonderment that playing ball is allowed on Yom Tov when in truth it is a game of children and not meant for adults. Thus he rules that it is an evil custom for adults to spend their time playing ball, and “if I had the power I would nullify it”. The Ketzos Hashulchan[3] explains how even during the week ball playing is to be avoided, as it is a mere women’s game, being that they are not obligated in learning Torah. As well it is to be avoided being that some of the games were taken from the gentiles.
In light of the above, the laws to be discussed are to be understood in relation to children below the age of Bar Mitzvah or to adults that are far from the spirit of Torah and Mitzvahs.

Games that involve prohibited actions:

Aside for the question of whether playing games negate the spirit of Shabbos, many games involve actions that are questionable whether they are permitted to be done on Shabbos. The following is a list of issues that may be involved.

List of issues to be aware of when playing games on Shabbos:

  • Does it involve having items role into an area without an Eiruv?
  • Does it involve rolling items on the ground?
  • Does it involve writing, or putting words together?
  • Does it involve gambling which is defined as any true loss and gain?
  • Does it involve Borer?
  • Does the game contain batteries?

The rules involved in determining whether a certain game is allowed or not:

  • If the game involves writing it is forbidden to be played even if one chooses to play it without writing due to a decree one may come to write.[4]
  • If the game involves rolling items on the ground it is forbidden to be done on a dirt floor, and is disputed if may be done on a tiled floor.[5]

It is forbidden to play any ball game in an area without an Eiruv.

1. Playing games on Shabbos:[6]

Games which involve rolling on the ground: One may not play games which involve rolling items[7] on the ground[8], even if the ground is tiled[9]. It is however permitted to play with them on a table. [This applies even if the floor of all the houses of one’s city is tiled.[10] However some Poskim[11] rule one may play these games on the floor of a tiled house, however not on the floor of a courtyard.]  

Playing chess/5 stones: It is permitted to play a game using [pre-designated] bones[12] so long as one is not doing so for gambling purposes.  [Some[13] explain this to refer to chess. Others[14] explain this to refer to “five stones” or “Kugalach”.]

Gambling: It is forbidden to play any gambling games on Shabbos due to that this appears like business. A gambling game is defined as any game which involves actual loss and gains.

Those who transgress: Women and children which transgress and play games that are forbidden, such as a game involving rolling items on the floor, are not to be protested, as certainly they will not listen and it is better they do so out of ignorance then do so advertently.


2. Doing a lottery on Shabbos:[15]

One may not make a lottery to give out items to different people on Shabbos.[16] This applies even amongst one’s households, such as to see which member will get which item. It is however permitted to make a lottery for one’s household to see what portion of food each person will receive, if the portions are all approximately the same size. If however the portions are of recognizably different sizes then doing so is forbidden even during the week.[17] However there are opinions which rule that amongst one’s own family it is permitted to make a lottery of even large portions, as all the portions belong to the head of the household.

Making a lottery for the Mitzvahs in Shul:  It is permitted to make a lottery in order to give out Mitzvahs in Shul such as who will pray for the Amud, and who will get an Aliya.[18] [However others[19] hold doing so is forbidden even for Mitzvah matters. The main opinion follows the lenient opinion.[20]]

3. May one play ball on Shabbos?[21]

Some opinions rule it is forbidden to play with a ball on Shabbos or Yom Tov because a ball is Muktzah, being that it does not have the status of a vessel.

Other Opinions: [However] there are opinions which permit to move a ball and play with it in a private[22] domain.

The final ruling:  It is an old custom to be lenient and they were not protested in doing so being that they have upon whom to rely. See Q&A for practical application!

4. Running and jumping games:[23]

It is permitted for lads who enjoy running and skipping to run or skip on Shabbos. [Thus they may play “chase” , hop scotch, jump rope and the like.[24]] It is forbidden for adults to run or jump on Shabbos for mundane purposes. See “The Laws of Mimtzo Cheftzecha” for further details on this subject.

5. Reading Books:[25]

Books of history and novels which do not contain themes involving morals and fear of heaven are forbidden to be read on Shabbos, even in one’s mind without verbalization, due to Mimtzo Cheftzecha. Furthermore, even during the week they are forbidden to be read due to Moshav Leitzim. Those history books and novels which do contain morale messages are permitted to be read on Shabbos

Medical books and other books of wisdom:[26] The custom is to allow reading books of wisdom and medicine on Shabbos.

For further details on this topic See “The Laws of Reading on Shabbos”!

Books permitted to be read:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Encyclopedia
  • Math
  • Medicine 

Books forbidden to be read:

  • Novels
  • History books

General Q&A

May an adult play games on Shabbos?[27]

Due to the holiness of Shabbos, adults should avoid playing games on Shabbos even if the game has no Halachic issues involved. It is forbidden for anyone over Bar or Bas Mitzvah to play with games that contain possible Shabbos prohibitions.


Are games which adults may not play considered Muktzah?[28]

Games which are permitted for children to play with are not Muktzah for adults.


May one play with play dough on Shabbos?[29]

No. It is forbidden even for children to play with play dough and the like on Shabbos due to the smearing prohibition. It is thus Muktzah.


May one play ball on Shabbos?

Although it is ruled in Shulchan Aruch that one may play ball on Shabbos, nevertheless it is forbidden to do so on a steady basis as part of one’s Shabbos schedule, as doing so is a great belittling of Shabbos, and is what caused a great city[30] to be destroyed.[31]

A ball which is inflatable with air: Some Poskim[32] rule that all inflatable balls are forbidden to be played with on Shabbos, due to a decree that one may come to inflate it with air upon noticing its need of air, and he will thus transgress the fixing prohibition. According to other Poskim[33] however it is even initially permitted to inflate a ball with air on Shabbos, and thus it remains permitted to play with such balls. [Furthermore perhaps today even according to the stringent opinion it would be permitted, as it is not common to inflate the balls with air but rather to purchase new ones.]

Playing on a dirt floor:[34] It is forbidden to play ball on a dirt floor due to a decree that one may come to smoothen holes in the ground and thus come to transgress the building prohibition. Hence playing soccer is forbidden. [35]

Playing in an area without an Eiruv:[36] It is forbidden to play ball in an area without an Eiruv.


May one play ping pong on Shabbos?

Some opinions[37] rule that it is allowed, as the custom is to allow playing with a ball on Shabbos and not to consider it Muktzah.

Others[38] rule that it is forbidden to play ping pong on Shabbos according to all opinions as it is belittling of Shabbos.


May one inflate a balloon?[39]

Some Poskim[40] rule it is allowed to inflate balloons, even if the balloon contains pictures. Others[41] rule doing so is forbidden.  According to all it is forbidden to tie the top of the balloon.[42]


May a child play building games such as Lego and the like?[43]

Some Poskim[44] allow this in all cases[45], as the built structures are not meant to last at all, as they are assembled and disassembled constantly.[46]

However other Poskim[47] forbid playing with Lego and other building games of the like which involve attaching pieces strongly together.

Others[48] forbid it only in cases where the structure forms a roofing [due to the Ohel prohibition[49]] or an actual vessel like a ship and the like.

Assembling structures which are meant to last:[50] According to all opinions those building games which are meant to be left intact [in their built state] for a while are forbidden to be assembled on Shabbos.

Regarding adults playing with the above games: Besides for it not being the spirit of Shabbos[51], it is not considered a Shabbos need, and is thus seemingly forbidden. As even building non-temporary structures was only allowed for a Shabbos need.[52]


May one form a ship, plane, and the like from [non-Muktzah] paper?[53]

Some opinions[54] allow this to be done. Others[55] are stringent.


May one blow bubbles on Shabbos?[56]

Children may blow bubbles on Shabbos.[57] However adults are to refrain from doing so[58] Some however are stringent that even children are to avoid blowing bubbles on Shabbos.[59]


Is snow Muktzah?[60]

Snow retains the same law as rainwater, and is thus not Muktzah [if useable for eating drinking etc, as said above by rainwater].


May one make snow balls and snow men?

It is forbidden to make snow balls on Shabbos.[61]

Children: Some Poskim[62] rule that by children below nine years old one may be lenient to allow them to make snow balls in an area where there is an Eiruv. If however there is no Eiruv then every child above Chinuch is forbidden to throw snowballs. Other Poskim[63] rule it is proper to refrain all children [which have reached the age of Chinuch] from making snow balls on Shabbos.

Snow man: In all cases it is forbidden for even children [above the age of Chinuch] to make snowmen and the like.[64]


May one ride a bicycle on Shabbos?[65]

Children below Chinuch: May ride any bike on Shabbos.

Children above Chinuch: May ride a bike on Shabbos, although it is proper to refrain them from riding a regular bike.[66] They may ride a tricycle without restriction. If the bike contains training wheels there is more room for a father to be lenient to allow his child to ride it on Shabbos.[67]

Adults: May not ride bikes on Shabbos.[68]

Fixing the bike: One may not fix a bike on Shabbos due to the prohibition of :Tikkun Keli”. However some Poskim allow a child to replace the chain onto the wheel as doing so is not really considered like fixing. Nevertheless an adult should not help a child do so.


May one ride roller blades?

Doing so has the same status as riding a bicycle in terms of being a mundane activity, and hence should not be done due to the holiness of Shabbos.


May one play in a sand box on Shabbos?[69]

Yes. However one may not add liquid to the sand due to the kneading prohibition.


May one put together puzzles on Shabbos?[70]

  • Placing together word or number puzzles: [Meaning that the individual pieces contain complete letters and numbers and do not form a letter or number when compiled]. So long as one does not strongly fasten the pieces to each other or to a background in a way that the puzzle sits firmly together, it is permitted to put it together. This applies whether it creates words or numbers.[71]
  • Placing together letter or picture puzzles: If placing the pieces together creates new letters or pictures which did not exist individually, as is common by most puzzles, some Poskim[72] rule that it nevertheless has the same laws as a word puzzle mentioned above and may be put together so long as the pieces are not firmly attached.[73]Others[74] however rule that in such a case doing so is forbidden[75].

May one play chess?[76]

Yes. However it is improper for one to spend his Shabbos day doing such activity.[77]

May one play scrabble?[78]

Yes. See “The Laws of Writing and Erasing” for the full analysis on this subject.

May one play Monopoly?

Yes.[79] However some Poskim[80] have discouraged doing so being it appears like gambling.

May one play dreidel?[81]

One may only play dreidel if it does not involve gambling, which refers to loss and gains.

May a child play with toys that make music or noise?

Some Poskim allow giving a child noise[82] making toys for the child to play with up until the age of 6.[83]

However according to Admur it is seemingly forbidden to allow a child who has reached the age of Chinuch to play with such objects even if the objects merely make noise and not music.[84] The age of Chinuch in this regard is defined as the age that the child can understand being told not to do something. Practically this is near the age of three.[85]  Furthermore, according to Admur, even a child below the age of Chinuch, such as a mere infant, may not be given any toy which is designated for making music[86] or noise[87].

May one use a swing which is attached to a tree?[88]

If the swing is directly attached to the tree from above 10 Tefach from the ground it is forbidden to be used in all cases. If it is attached to a metal pole and the like which in turn is attached to the tree then it still remains forbidden to be used if doing so will cause the tree or its branches to shake in the process. If no part of the tree will shake in the process then from the letter of the law it may be used.[89] however some Poskim[90] forbid its use entirely under the claim it is difficult to ascertain whether such action causes the tree to shake.
If the swing is attached to the tree from below 10 Tefach to the ground, it may be used in all cases.

May one watch a game on a neighbor’s television or go see a game in a stadium?[91]

Even if doing so involves no actual transgressions, it is forbidden being that it desecrates the spirit of Shabbos.



Halachic status























Pick Up Sticks










Ping Pong


Play Dough



[1] Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16

[2] 518/12

[3] 110 footnote 16

[4] Chayeh Adam 38/11; SSH”K 16/32

[5] 338/6

[6] 338/6

The M”A 338/8 brings R”A Sasson which forbids playing any games on Shabbos being that they do not bring one to a needed wisdom. Admur omits this opinion from his Shulchan Aruch.

[7] Such as apples and almonds [ibid]

[8] Due to a decree that one may come to consciously smoothen ditches in the ground in order to properly roll the almonds or apple on the ground [ibid]

[9] Other opinions [Aruch Hashulchan 338/12] however rule that on tiled floors it is allowed and no decree was made due to dirt floors as was done by sweeping, as it is not common to play these games.

[10] Ketzos Hashulchan 146 footnote 60; Shevisas Hashabbos,  as these games are also played outside on dirt floors, and hence there is worry if we allow it on tiled floors, one may come to do so on dirt floors. However regarding sweeping, on Shabbos, it is not common to sweep the courtyard as it was already swept before Shabbos. [ibid]

[11] SSH”K 16/5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338/9 rules that according to Rav SZ”A it is even permitted to play on a tiled courtyard.

[12]As although they make noise during the form of play, one has no intent to make this noise. [ibid]

[13]Minchas Yitzchak 1/33

[14] Chelkas Yaakov 1/71

[15] 322/6

[16] If the items are not similar to each other then this is forbidden due to the gambling prohibition even during the week. If however the items are similar to each other, then during the week it is permitted as there is no gambling involved. However on Shabbos it is forbidden due to a decree that due to jealousy one may come to measure the individual portions to see which portion is in truth larger. [Michaber ibid] Gambling is likewise forbidden on Shabbos due to it being similar to business. [338/6]

[17] Due to the gambling prohibition [ibid]

[18] M”A 322/9

[19] Nezer Hakodesh, as he understands Shevus Yaakov, brought in M”B 322/24; Ketzos Hashulchan 146/32

[20] Ketzos Hashulchan 146/32 based on Tzemach Tzedek

[21] 308/83

[22] In other printings it says “Public domain”, however this version makes no sense as it is forbidden to carry in a public domain. Thus the Rebbe says [in Igeres Hakodesh 3 page 27-28] that the correct version is “private domain”. To note that the Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16 explains: On Shabbos they allow to play ball in a private domain, and on Yom Tov even in a public domain.

[23] Michaber 301/2

[24] Beir Moshe 6/33

[25] 307/30

[26] 307/31

[27] SSH”K 182

[28] Beir Moshe 6/27

[29] SSH”K 16/13; Piskeiy Teshuvos 314/6; Beir Moshe 6/34

[30] The city of Tur Shimon was destroyed, according to one opinion, for the sin of playing ball on Shabbos, which according to the lenient opinion means due to the sin of using their Shabbos for ball playing instead of learning Torah. [Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16]

[31] Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16; Taz 518/2 writes in name of Rashal that it is a wonderment that playing ball is allowed on Yom Tov when in truth it is a game of children and not meant for adults. Thus he rules that it is an evil custom for adults to spend their time playing ball, and “if I had the power I would nullify it”.

The Ketzos Hashulchan explains how even during the week ball playing is to be avoided, as it is a mere women’s game, being that they are not obligated in learning Torah, as well as that some of the games are taken from the gentiles. 

[32]Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16

[33] Yesod Yeshurun 4 page 270; Betzeil Hachachmah 4/92; Beir Moshe 2/20

[34] 338/6; Ketzos Hashulchan Ibid in name of Mishneh Berurah 308/158.

[35] Due to decree of “Mashveh Gumos”. 338/6;  SSH”K 16/7. It is forbidden even to play on a concrete court as rules Ketzos Hashulchan 146/60 However SSH”K 16/5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338/9 rule that according to Rav SZ”A it is permitted to play on a tiled courtyard.

[36] Mishneh Berurah 308/158

[37] SSH”K 16/6

[38] Beir Moshe 2/27; Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16 that it was only allowed to play ball on Shabbos occasionally and not on a steady basis as doing so is a belittling of Shabbos.

[39] Piskeiy Teshuvos 340/23

[40] So rules Beir Moshe 2/20; 6/23 that it is allowed.

[41] Sheivet Haleivi 9/78

[42] Beir Moshe ibid; As this is considered similar to double knot as one is making a single knot on a single end, as explained in “The Laws of Tying”.

[43] Piskeiy Teshuvos 313/4

[44] Beir Moshe 6/25; Tzitz Eliezer 13/30

[45] Even to build ships and vessels of the like.

[46] As well for a child it is considered a Shabbos need and thus fulfills all the conditions required by a not even temporary vessel.

[47] Shalmei Yehuda 85/1

[48] SSH”K 16/20

[49] Michzei Eliyahu 69

[50] SSH”K 16/20

[51] Beir Moshe 6/24

[52] See Volume 2 “The Laws of Building and Destroying”.

[53] Piskeiy Teshuvos 313/4

[54] Beir Moshe 6/102

[55] SSH”K 16/20; Sheivet Haleivi 5/35

[56] SSH”K 16/30; Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 3 17/79

[57] As they are not made to last at all and hence have no real content. [ibid in name of Rav SZ”A]  Refer to Ketzos Hashulchan 138 footnote 31 that bubbles have no real significance.

[58] As in truth one does intend to make the bubble unlike the case discussed regarding soap bubbles in which case one has no intent for them to be made. [ibid]

[59] Koveitz Mibeiys Haleivi from Rav Shmuel Wozner, brought in Shabbos Kehalacha ibid footnote 192

[60] Beir Moshe 6/30; Har Tzevi Kuntrus of 39 Melachos “Soser”, and so is implied from other Poskim which deal with the question of making snowballs on Shabbos.

[61] Makor Chaim [Chavos Yair] 320/9; Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 3 17/67; SSH”K 16/44 rules that doing so is forbidden due to the building prohibition. Beir Moshe 6/30 argues that doing so contains no building prohibition being that it does not contain the building characteristics and does not last at all. However he concludes that it is nevertheless forbidden being that doing so causes snow to melt, which is forbidden. Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol as from Admur [320/16 -18] which writes that the prohibition is only when one intends to use the melted water, while by a snow ball there is no intent for it to melt at all. Furthermore, the source of the Beir Moshe from 320/19 itself is dealing with crushing snow together within water when washing, and one thus certainly does care about having more melted water.

[62] Beir Moshe ibid

[63] Shabbos Kehalacha ibid. In footnote 167 he writes that in truth there seems to be no reason to prohibit making snow balls, however he nullifies his opinion in face of the Makor Chaim which explicitly chastises those that make lads that make snowballs on Shabbos and throw them at each other.

[64] Beir Moshe ibid; Shabbos Kehalacha ibid

[65] Beir Moshe 6/16-17; See also Rav Poalim 1/25; Yaskil Avdi 3/19; Ketzos Hashulchan 110 footnote 16
There is no explicit prohibition stated in Shulchan Aruch against riding a bike. Nevertheless Poskim prohibit riding it due to a number of reasons. The issues are as follows: 1. Perhaps the bike may break and one will come to fix it. This is similar to the prohibition against playing musical instruments. 2. It is a mundane act. 3. Perhaps he will end up going outside the Techum Shabbos. [ibid]

[66] As by a regular bike then all the suspicions applicable to a bike apply. Nevertheless from the letter of the law a child even below Chinuch may ride it as there is no suspicion that he will come to fix the bike or ride outside the Techum.

[67] As in such a case everyone can tell the bike is meant for children.

[68] For reasons mentioned in previous footnotes.

Other Opinions: Rav Poalim ibid allows riding a bike on Shabbos in an area with an Eiruv, although later Poskim write he retracted his ruling. [See Yaskil Avdi ibid]

[69] SSH”K 16/4

[70] Piskeiy Teshuvos 340/16-footnote 51

[71] So rules Chayeh Adam and Ketzos Hashulchan 144/10 regarding cases brought there [to sew letters onto a peroches, that if they are weekly sewn they contain no writing prohibition]. So rules also Igros Moshe 1/135; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340/7 and 16; Beir Moshe 6/26; Avnei Neizer, brought in Ketzos Hashulchan 144 footnote 4,  rules that placing letters near each other has no prohibition.

[72] Beir Moshe 6/26; Yesod Yeshurun 1/53; SSH”K 16/23

[73] As they hold that this is similar to closing a book with writing on its edges which is allowed. These Poskim similarly rule that one may place a torn page together to read it-See Halacha 8 Q&A there!

[74] Shalmeiy Yehuda 5/1; Seemingly Az Nidbaru 5/18 and Bris Olam regarding the prohibition in placing torn pages together would also agree that this is forbidden.

[75] As it is not similar to closing a book being that there the pages are bound together and is already considered to be very close.

[76] Minchas Yitzchak 1/33; Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 3/15; See Halacha 1 above!

[77] The Igros Moshe ibid states that if losing the game will make one feel sad then it is forbidden from the letter of the law to play it on Shabbos.

[78] Beir Moshe 6/26

[79] Rav SZ”A in SSH”K 16 footnote 84; Beir Moshe 6/26

[80] SSH”K 16/32; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338/11

[81] SSH”K 16/32; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338/11

[82] In contrast to music, see next footnote.

[83] Beir Moshe 6/27; SSH”K 16/3. As the entire reason behind the noisemaking prohibition-in the opinion of M”B- is because of Uvdin Dechol, which is not so applicable by such toys. However according to Admur which rules the reason behind the prohibition is due to a decree one may come to fix the vessel, then it would seemingly be forbidden. Seemingly according to all it would be forbidden to give the child music making toys as it is forbidden due to a Rabbinical decree according to all. [So also concludes Piskeiy Teshuvos 338 footnote 2]

[84] So seems to be the opinion of Admur, as the reason behind the prohibition of intentionally making noise is because one may come to fix the item. Hence this is a typical Rabbinical prohibition which applies to all children above the age of Chinuch. However Tzaruch Iyun as noise making items are disputed if they are forbidden to be used even by adults and hence perhaps by children there is room to be more lenient.

[85] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 343

[86] 301/21 regarding giving a child clothing with bells to wear. This ruling is based on the understanding of Chikrei Halachos 4 p. 54, and other alternative explanations of this ruling. However according to the explanation of Hearos Ubiurim 831 p. 79 so long as the adult has no intent for the child to make noise with the object, such as the objects can be used in a different way to entertain the child, then giving him the object is allowed.

[87] Tzaruch Iyun regarding noise making objects as bells can be defined as an item which makes music, as well as that noise making items is a dispute if forbidden even by an adult.

[88] Based on Beir Moshe 6/29; SSH”K 16/16; See “The Laws Relating to Plants and Trees”

[89] SSH”K 16/16

[90] Beir Moshe 6/29

[91] Biur Halacha 301/2 “Kol”

[92] Beir Moshe 6/25

[93] Due to decree of “Mashveh Gumos”. 338/6;  SSH”K 16/7. It is forbidden even to play on a concrete court as rules Ketzos Hashulchan 146/60

[94] According to the Ketzos Hashulchan this is forbidden even in one’s home as it is a rolling game. However according to SSH”K it is allowed inside one’s home.

[95] SSH”K 16/6

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