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Shalom Nathan,

You pose a very interesting and often asked question. Basically, the response according to Halakha, it is not permitted to operate a vehicle on Shabbos for a number of reasons. One being that you are causing a spark and, secondly, you are causing something on wheels to move.

There are a number of, otherwise observant people, who believe that it is "ok" to drive to and from shul as long as there are no deviations from the drive. You could not stop at a friend's house for lunch unless it is directly on your route home. There is yet another opinion that says "if you're going to drive anyway, drive to shul." Of course, these opinions are not halakhacally accurate or valid. I live in a small community in which people drive 15-20 miles to come to an Orthodox Shabbat service and they are all welcome and included in the service. So............

Orthodox = no driving under any circumstances (except pikuakh nefesh-in case of illness. It is expected that, even the rabbi, calls 911 if someone becomes ill on Shabbat while in shul.
Conservadox = not acceptable but, also, not frowned upon.
Conservative = not acceptable but, usually, expected to happen.
Reform = acceptable and most often the norm.
Reconstructionist = has so many opinions as a movement that it depends on the congregation. Some compare it to Humanism and less a "religious practice."

My opinion.........Better to drive to shul and, even, join friends for lunch, than to miss out on the spirit of Shabbos.

Rabbi Dan

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