Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To the rescue :)

The senior maintenance person of our local synagogue, being non-Jewish, has had many years of experience in functioning as a "Shabbos Goy" both for the synagogue and, when necessary, for our former rabbis. And he's a friendly guy, too, well known for escorting some of our seniors to and/or from synagogue on Shabbat/Sabbath, whether they're on foot or in a wheelchair. So when my husband cordially invited him home for dessert and "to show him something" last Friday night, he ambled amiably over to our apartment, and, without missing a beat, said, "Stuck?" Sheepishly, I admitted, "Well, we did forget to turn the oven off." He went straight to the kitchen and turned off our oven. We offered him dessert, which he refused. But we insisted that he had to have something, and, telling him that we assumed he'd eaten enough hamantashen to last him a year :), invited him to help himself to some butter cookies, which he did. We're lucky to have such a good and kind Shabbos Goy.


Blogger The Physicist said...

I continue to maintain that if a religion requires non-religious people in order for its observers to function in daily life, something needs to be rethought.

Wed Mar 14, 07:24:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

You have a point, which Israeli religious people probably figured out pretty quickly--in a country with a Jewish majority, I assume that there's a shortage of Shabbos Goyim (or, at least, Shabbos Goyim not likely to sabotage anything). That's probably why the Tzomet Institute is in Israel, not elsewhere. By the way, the linked webpage has an Electricity on Shabbat link that you might want to click, since you objected to the Shabbat restriction on electricity use in a comment to a previous post here.

Wed Mar 14, 11:42:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oops, sorry, the Electricity On Shabbat link is on the Tzomet homepage. Try here.

Wed Mar 14, 11:54:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

The fact that many of us make use of non-Jews to help us on Shabbat and Yom Tov (holiday) with jobs that a Jew is not allowed to do on those days makes me wonder what the rabbis were thinking. How did they expect us to manage? When we hint at what we want done, but refrain from requesting or ordering, we just avoid the issue. I don't have a good answer.

Wed Mar 14, 03:06:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

I've always found the "shabbos goy" concept, particularly in the context in which you used one (rather than a regular employee at a shul) very troubling. Is it really better to somehow lure a gentile into turning a switch rather than either (a) leaving the appliance on or (b)simply turning it off without assistance? Isn't this really a "form over substance" (for the lawyers in the audience) distinction? I can't help but think that it smacks of a "nudge nudge, wink wink" act.

Wed Mar 14, 07:18:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . it smacks of a "nudge nudge, wink wink" act."


This is one of the issues that Rabbi Ethan Tucker discussed at Mechon Hadar at this past Tuesday's presentation on "Pathways for Egalitarian Judaism--Sharing Burdens Equally in a World without Adjuncts." Unfortunately, Mechon Hadar hasn't posted the sources yet, though they've posted the video, so I'll have to describe part of the discussion from memory. Rabbi Tucker was discussing a text--I believe it was regarding the Rambam/Maimonides--in which the sage, at a Seder, explained slavery to his children (grandchildren?) by pointing to the family's servants. Rabbi Tucker thought it was ironic that the sage didn't seem to have had any problem with the idea that someone else was serving him so that he, himself, could feel free.

Here’s the link to the "Pathways for Egalitarian Judaism" lecture series. I suppose I should give you fair warning that each video is roughly 1 1/2 hours long. It's time well spent, though.

Thu Mar 15, 11:00:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

When Chazal codified the original rules, Jew-Gentile relations were VERY different than now.

More contemporary, compare the opinions in the Mishneh Beruah, from Eastern Europe, where Jews were poor, with the opinions from Rav Hirsch in Germany. Roughly the same time period, you get a totally different "tone."

Rav. Hirsch was concerned with your gentile servants taking the kids to Church with them on Sunday. Mishneh Beruah was more concerned with them stealing your Kosher meat.

Halacha evolved in a relatively practical manner, and the economics were very different than today.

Thu Mar 15, 02:14:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

It would be interesting to know how Chazal (Chachamim Zichronam L'tovah?/the Wise, may their memory be for good) thought we could manage to accomplish tasks that come under the halachic definition of work on days when we're not allowed to do halachic work.

Thu Mar 15, 04:35:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

The Shabbat goy has really been more of a case of legislation from beneath. The book The Shabbes Goy: A Study in Halakhic Flexibility discusses the ongoing war between the strictness of the rabbis and the leniencies of the average people.

I'll comment that the actual rules for amira l'akum (instructing a non-Jew to do something) are pretty restrictive in the individual case, with exceptions for cold and health. The rules loosen up considerably where the tzibbur (congregation as a whole) is likely to be inconvenienced. Personally I think that a lot of people who haven't studied the rules assume that things done by the shul janitor for the shul can be done for individuals as well. Without trying to tell someone how to practice, I have to say that isn't actually the case according to the halacha as written (as opposed to as practiced).

In your case, I would personally have shut left the oven on over Shabbat. In fact we do that routinely whenever we intend to have a hot meal for Shabbat lunch. We only use the timed shutoff if we are eating Friday night.

How do you subscibe to a comment thread here? The usual things I'm used to from several different systems aren't visible.

Mon Mar 19, 04:05:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...


I think that is more true of a universalist religion than of Judaism. Judaism looks forward to the day that all people acknowledge Hashem, but it does not anticipate a time when all people are Jewish. There is no reason that a Noachide (that is, a religious non-Jew) could not fill functions that a religious Jew could not.

Other Jewish sources agree with you. A lot of the early religious Zionist rabbis in Israel sought to find ways, for example, that an agricultural kibbutz could be entirely run with Jewish labor.

Tue Mar 20, 03:03:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, I would gladly have left the oven on were it not for the fact that our whole apartment would have felt like an oven within hours. :( Sadly, we have no cross-ventilation, so leaving the oven on for 25 hours creates what my husband calls "the hot-box." (We have a gas oven, and can't set a timer on it.) So, yes, we may very well have cheated a little by hinting to our shul's Shabbos goy that we needed help in our home on Shabbat. Oy.

"How do you subscibe to a comment thread here?"

Ms. Clueless has no clue. Sorry.

"Judaism looks forward to the day that all people acknowledge Hashem, but it does not anticipate a time when all people are Jewish."

That's an interesting point of difference.

"A lot of the early religious Zionist rabbis in Israel sought to find ways, for example, that an agricultural kibbutz could be entirely run with Jewish labor."

They probably had the right idea, but I don't think anyone's quite worked out all the details to enable that, which is where the Tzomet Institute comes in.

Wed Mar 21, 11:25:00 AM 2012  

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