Monday, January 28, 2019

Lego on Shabbat

One of the most recognizable toys in the world is Lego. As a matter of fact, in February 2015, Lego was determined to be the “World’s most powerful brand,” replacing the Ferrari automobile. Today, the Lego brand consists of movies, games, competitions, six Legoland amusement parks and over 600 billion Lego pieces that have been created. The modern Lego brick design was patented on January 28, 1958.

The Lego Group, a private company based in Bullund, Denmark, began marketing and creating Lego in 1949, but the company was born in the workshop of Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, who began selling wooden toys in 1932. Lego derives from the Danish “leg godt” which means play well.

Given the popularity of Lego all over the world, including in observant Jewish homes, the question arose whether one can play with Lego on Shabbat. One of the prohibited productive acts of Shabbat (m’lachot) is boneh, building, which is generally understood as being accomplished through creating a roof, and assembling various items together in a permanent way. Would playing with Lego bricks constitute boneh? Others have noted that by using smaller Lego bricks, one could actually sculpt, which falls under the forbidden category of writing.

When discussing the prohibited productive acts of Shabbat, an important factor to be considered is whether the resulting structure is intended to be permanent or temporary. This, of course, is a factor in using Lego. Most would argue that the normal use of Lego is to build and then to disassemble what was built in order to use the Lego blocks to build something else.

Most rabbis argue that connecting Lego bricks without any type of glue, nails or screws, and knowing that what was built is not meant to be permanent, does not fall under the category of boneh (building) and is permissible on Shabbat. Many feel, however, that games such as Lego, while technically permitted, should be avoided by adults and should be reserved for children.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with issues of halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one's local rabbi for practical application.

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