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More on Shabbath

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On June 18, 2013 @ 9:14 am In fundamentalist Judaism | 1 Comment

Rabbis find proof for extra-biblical interpretations of Shabbat in the Sinai episode in which a man found to be collecting wood on the day of rest was stoned. They reason thus: since the Torah doesn’t specify wood-gathering as a prohibited activity on Sabbath, the people must have had an extraneous legal source (the Oral Law) which allowed them to condemn the transgressor. Such an interpretation is hardly warranted. Suffices to note that Jews brought the man to Moses, and he inquired God about the punishment. There was no standing prohibition at the moment, no Oral Law. The law had been developed ad hoc.

The Torah law bans working on Sabbath, and Jews at the time understood wood-gathering as hard work. In a secular analogy, the law just states that you should not beat another person; it doesn’t specify that such-and-such manner of beating constitutes a crime. Just as case law evolves, so the Jewish tradition can also prohibit specific actions on Sabbath: but such prohibitions are not divine. Just as case law can be overturned by later decisions, so the interpretations of prohibited work should adhere to contemporary common sense.

Tearing toilet paper is not work, surely not creative or exhausting. On the contrary, people must be creative to work around the absurd prohibitions, and doing so is exhausting. Instead of enjoying Sabbath as a time to stop and smell the roses, Jews are burdened with myriad superstitious taboos invented by rabbis.

Turning on electric light is not meaningfully related to making a fire. Besides, the Torah’s prohibition against starting a fire should be viewed in the context of the times and the general prohibition of exhausting work on Shabbat. The Torah essentially says, “Do not start a fire on Sabbath by hard ancient methods.” Myriad hypocritical tricks are unnecessary. It’s not better to freeze than to turn on a heater.

The issue of electric light is moot, anyway, because Sabbath, like any day, starts at dawn and finishes at dusk. The rest is night, not covered by Sabbath prohibitions.

The Torah prohibits everyone in your house from working on Sabbath. The rabbinical opinion which tolerates aliens doing essential tasks in Jewish homes on Sabbath is hypocritical nonsense. True, the aliens are not obligated to observe Sabbath. But the Jewish owners of the household must make sure that no one works in their house on Sabbath. Far from implicitly encouraging the aliens to perform household work on Sabbath, the Jews must ensure that even aliens or animals don’t work in their house on that day. The goyim’s work is the Jews’ transgression. The Torah’s rule is commonsensical and practical, as always. It is absurd for a religious Jewish family to observe Sabbath while a few meters away under the same roof a Shabbat goy works for their benefit. That absurdity was made necessary by superficial rabbinical prohibitions. If we stick to the commandment, which only prohibits exhausting work, Jewish households would not need the Sabbath goyim.

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