Driving to Synagogue on Shabbat: General - Principles Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Driving to Synagogue on Shabbat

I enjoy attending synagogue services on Shabbat, but the rabbi told me that it's better to pray at home than to violate a prohibition of Shabbat. I couldn't really see how that’s more important than attending synagogue, which gives me a good feeling of community and attachment. Wouldn't God agree with me?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Actually, the same God Who told us to pray with a community is the God Who told us not to drive a car on Shabbat. The problem with an automobile is obvious - ignition is fire, which is clearly forbidden by the Torah (Exodus 35:3).

So in answer to your question, it is better to stay home and not drive to Shul on Shabbat. Of course, by praying at home you also fulfill your obligation of prayer, though not communal prayer.

On a philosophical level, I believe that permitting "driving to synagogue" effectively destroys Jewish communal life. If everyone had no choice but to walk to synagogue, then they would make the extra effort to live in close proximity of one another. There would be Jewish stores, Jewish schools, and Jewish friends all in the area. As it was, I grew up being one of 5 Jewish kids in my high school. This was not an enriching Jewish experience. Many of my friends intermarried as a result of similar upbringing. I think in general this break-down of Jewish community has in large part contributed to the problem of assimilation we have today.

In communities where they still walk to synagogue, they have preserved a beautiful sense of common bond amongst neighbors and a rich Jewish lifestyle.

I suggest that you try to arrange for Shabbat hospitality near the synagogue, so you could sleep over and enjoy the full Shabbat experience. Many families are thrilled to have Shabbat guests in their home.

If you tell me where you live, I could suggest someone who will gladly help.

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