[Avodah] carrying an ID card on shabbat

Zev Sero zev at sero.name
Thu Feb 28 15:43:18 PST 2013

[Copying in pieces of Areivim discussion for context.

RET reported yesterday:
> Holland requires carrying an ID card even on shabbat
> http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4350022,00.html

To which I replied:
> Sew it into your clothing?

> I think that's what Refuseniks did in the USSR.

-ad kan ha cut-n-paste. -micha]

I don't believe that would change anything; it adds nothing to the
clothing so the fact that it's sewn on doesn't stop it from being
a burden. Just as one can't just pin a key to ones clothing and
call it a button, but must either make it genuinely decorative (and
gender-appropriate) or an integral part of a garment, one would have
to do the same with the ID card. (And even with decorative keys or key
belts, although the widespread minhag is to be lenient, if you look in
SA you see that it's not so poshut.) Nor do I think one can compare
the card to a scrap of fabric, such as a yellow disk that Jews must
wear to identify themselves, which is permitted because it's batel to
the garment; here the card is an entity of its own, and not even made
of the same material as the garment.

A key belt might work, but then there's another problem: we have a
whole chapter of mishna dealing with actual garments that may not
be worn because the wearer might remove them in the street; the most
common example of this is the list of expensive and fancy jewellery
that women may not wear outside on Shabbos, because it's normal and to
be expected that their friends will want to examine it more closely, and
they will take it off to show them. It seems to me that an ID card falls
*precisely* into this category -- the only reason one carries it in the
first place is to show it to a policeman when asked. On a weekday one
would take it out and hand it to the policeman; can one guarantee that
on Shabbos one will make the policeman look at it while one is wearing it?

Maybe the very fact that it's on the belt, which is a very unusual way of
carrying it, will remind one of that. And in point of fact there would
be nothing wrong with removing the belt and handing it to the policeman to
look at. The problem is not the taking off, but what one does afterwards
when it is returned; will one remember to put the belt back on, without
walking four amos? One may well argue that one is certain to remember,
because a card on a belt is so unusual that the very sight of it reminds
one that it's Shabbos.

I just want to point out that heterim that were given in the past, in
other countries and times, were usually given because of sh'as had'chak.
There was no alternative, the authorities were hostile and the penalties
significant. Such heterim become much weaker when the most one is risking
is a 60 Euro fine, and despite this ruling the chances are good that one
could argue oneself out of even that. Some policemen understand and not
issue a ticket, some supervisors will dismiss the ticket, and some judges
will find differently than this one did. I would think it appropriate for
the Jewish community of the Netherlands to announce that it will pay the
fines of any Jew who is issued such a ticket and can't get it dismissed.
Besides anything else, this alone would impress the authorities with the
legitimacy of the issue; but even if it doesn't, upholding shmiras shabbos
is IMHO a proper expense of the kehillah, and the burden shouldn't fall
on the few individuals with the bad luck to be caught.

Zev Sero
zev at sero.name

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