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Author Topic: Question on the Sabbath in Judaism
JennaDean
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I've been curious about this for a while now, and seeing other recent threads about Judaism gave me the courage to ask.

Compared to many Christian denominations, the LDS church is pretty strict about the Sabbath (or what we call the Sabbath, although it's on Sunday instead of Saturday). But I find variations in how strictly I personally observe the Sabbath. For example:

There are some Sabbath "rules" I won't break at all - working on Sunday, such as mowing the lawn; or seeking certain kinds of recreation, such as going to a pro-football game.

There are some rules I almost always try to adhere to, but will occasionally break if need arises, such as not spending money on the Sabbath (because you're causing others to work). I always do my shopping and get my gas on Saturday, but if I'm travelling and have to eat out or get gas on Sunday I will do that; or if a child gets sick on Sunday I'll go to the Pharmacy for their medicine.

There are some rules that I try to keep but break more often than I like to admit, such as not doing homework on Sunday (it is work after all), but sometimes (too often) it just doesn't get done in time and I'll do it on Sunday.

And there are some rules that I think would probably be a good idea if I could get myself to keep them, such as not watching TV (except for the BYU channel of course [Wink] ), preparing only simple meals, etc. But I'm lousy at even trying to keep those rules.

It isn't my intention to debate other Mormons about how many of these "rules" are actually Church rules; I just think that if I personally kept all of them, my Sabbath observance would be more on track. My point is, I have read a lot of comments from Jews here about travelling on the Sabbath, or about preparing food, or about not visiting Hatrack, etc. I'm also aware that not all Jews would necessarily follow the same rules. For those who do strictly observe the Sabbath, I'm wondering if you'd share on a personal level how strict you are about keeping those rules? Are there some rules that you'd never break, and some rules that you think you ought to keep but find yourself breaking more often than you'd like? Or are you able to keep them all with the same level of "strictness"?

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Tante Shvester
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I am pretty strict in my Shabbos (Sabbath) observance. I will not use electricity, cook anything, use hot water, carry anything in a public place (i.e. outside of the home), use any mode of transportation besides my feet, use the telephone, watch TV or listen to radio, handle money, or discuss business. The only thing that would motivate me to violate these rules is if adhering to them would put life or health in jeopardy.

So, if I had a medical emergency, I would phone 911 and ride in the ambulance to the hospital.

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JennaDean
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quote:
carry anything in a public place (i.e. outside of the home)
Okay, forgive my curiosity, but I had not heard that rule. What happens when you have a baby and you're going to synagogue? Do you not bring a diaper bag? [Smile]
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Kayla
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Is this where the ervu comes into play? Could you explain them? Are they only for certain types of Jews?
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Shmuel
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Kayla: The short answer regarding the sort of eruv you're asking about is that it involves enclosing an outdoor area so that it gains the status of a communal private courtyard. These boundaries might include natural barriers, walls, and doorways. There are limits to how large such an enclosed area can be, what it can include, and how much traffic can pass through it; it needs to be regularly inspected to make sure the boundaries are intact; and the permission of those who own the property containing said boundaries needs to be obtained in the first place.

The eruv is well within the bounds of normative Orthodox Judaism. Some Orthodox communities have them, some don't, the latter often due to logistical issues. Some prefer not to carry items even within one, often so as not to get used to carrying outdoors and then accidentally do so when in an area without an eruv.

(More here. Way more, with technical detail and lots of Hebrew/Aramaic terminology that'd probably be incomprehensible to those not familiar with the subject matter here.)

Edited to add: JennaDean: it's worse than that. You can't carry the baby. Which is largely why setting up an eruv, when possible, is looked upon as a good thing.

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Tante Shvester
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You can't carry the baby OR push it in the stroller. So, what lands up happening, lots of times, is that the father will go to synagogue while the mother stays home with the little ones. Once they are old enough to walk the distance, then the Mom and the kiddies come along, too. And you can leave a diaper bag at the synagogue before Shabbos.

Some people leave their good shoes at the Synagogue before Shabbos so that they can walk in their comfortable shoes and then change to the nice ones once they arrive.

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imogen
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Huh. I would have assumed (in complete ignorance!) that going to the Synagogue on the Sabbath would be one of the most important rules.

It seems (again, to me, in ignorance) odd that one of the effects of observing the rules would prevent someone from attending the Synagogue.

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Tante Shvester
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The center of Jewish life is not in the synagogue, anyway. It is in the home. And G'd is pretty clear about following the commandments. Remembering and observing Shabbos even made it into his Top Ten List.

And you can go to synagogue every day of the week -- not just Shabbos.

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Shmuel
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What Tante said. [Smile]
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imogen
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quote:
The center of Jewish life is not in the synagogue, anyway. It is in the home.
I didn't know that. [Smile]

(Told you I was ignorant. )

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JennaDean
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Wow.

I didn't know what an eruv was, but I had seen a program about that on TV before, so I recognized it when I read about it. The first article didn't mention the synagogue at all; is that considered public domain or private?

And while I find it incomprehensible to not be able to carry my baby on the Sabbath anywhere but in my home, I am very intrigued by the idea of not carrying anything else on the Sabbath.

You should see what I lug to church! [Big Grin]

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JennaDean
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quote:
And you can go to synagogue every day of the week -- not just Shabbos.
I didn't know that, either. Is that like Catholics where they can go to Mass every day? Or is there a Shabbos service that's different than other days?

I like what you said about the center of Jewish life being in the home. That sounds very familiar to me.

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rivka
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quote:
Or is there a Shabbos service that's different than other days?
Yep.
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Tante Shvester
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You see, to the uninitiated, the rules of Shabbos seem like a whole lot of "Thou shalt nots" and bother. But it is actually liberating. If you are a busy mom, lugging everything with you everywhere you go, constantly fixing food for the family, driving everyone everywhere, and competing with the TV for your family's attention, what wouldn't you give for one day a week of peace and quiet, no schlepping, no cooking, no cleaning, no driving everyone everywhere, and a family who sits around the table talking and singing through a leisurely meal? Not to mention, you get hot, delicious food (the best of the week!), already prepared and waiting for you.

A taste of heaven on Earth. That's what Shabbos is like to an observant Jew.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
You can't carry the baby OR push it in the stroller.
If you padded the baby effectively, could you hypothetically kick it down the road? Does dragging count as carrying?
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JennaDean
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Tante, I agree: a lot of converts to our faith also feel the Sabbath rules are a bunch of restrictions (it's the same way the kids feel, no birthday parties, no swimming pools [Frown] ). But as an adult, when I follow our own set of Sabbath rules, it's a blessed day of rest. I love looking at the laundry on Sunday and knowing that no matter how much I ought to put in a load, I can just not do it because it's Sunday and I'm not supposed to work. Which is why I need to be more observant about my own "day of rest", although in order to do so, I have to do a lot more preparing earlier in the week.

Although I will say that the responsibilities I have at church require a lot of energy, and work, and carrying. I guess it's a different kind of work than the rest of the week; it's the Lord's work, but it isn't restful. [Smile]

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Ela
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In some families who live in communities without an eruv, the father will go to an early Sabbath service and come home and watch the baby so that mom can go to synagogue. I have friends who have done that.

And I agree with Tante Shvester about how liberating the Sabbath rules are. I love it. [Smile]

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Minerva
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Even if there is an eruv, a lot of people try to do as much carrying as possible pre-Sabbath. For example, I am part of a group that does potlucks for Saturday lunch. I always try to bring my dish to the host's house Friday afternoon (usually in a mad rush to get the dish there and then get to shul on time).

It really is liberating. There is always a sigh of relief and a lot of excitement on Friday afternoon. The thing to remember is that you are almost always surrounded by other people. Friends, family, etc. We also have hospitality programs so if you are travelling, you can usually find a group to spend the Sabbath with. This is often really, really fun and interesting. We try to have a hospitality guest at our potluck every week.

It is also over at sunset, so this time of year, it's basically "Wake up, walk to shul, service, walk to lunch, long lunch, walk to shul, service." And then it's done. During the longer Sabbaths in the summer, I take my one and only nap of the week.

Oh, and since I'm guessing someone is wondering this, if you kid is old enough to walk but can't for some reason, you are allowed to carry them. You don't have to abandon them on the street [Smile] .

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ctm
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quote:
Originally posted by Tante Shvester:
Not to mention, you get hot, delicious food (the best of the week!), already prepared and waiting for you.

Wait a minute, did I miss something? If you aren't cooking or using electricity, where is the hot food coming from?

(Because if there is a way to have hot delicious food without cooking, I want to know about it!)

I haven't posted in any of the threads on Judaism, but I've enjoyed reading them and I'm certainly learning a lot.

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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by ctm:
If you aren't cooking or using electricity, where is the hot food coming from?

We do all our cooking before Shabbos starts on Friday. And we leave a big pot of soup and a big pot of cholent over a low, covered flame (or in the crockpot), where it stays hot all Shabbos.
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Lisa
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I remember when I was in college, before I became Orthodox, I went up during the summer to visit some friends at an Orthodox Jewish summer camp called Camp Moshava.

I had a friend from school named Danny who was there. We shared an interest in science fiction, so we talked a lot. Danny, while still in high school, had designed a role playing game based on Dune.

So that Shabbat, we're walking in the middle of the camp, talking, and Danny had all of his game with him. Notebooks and board and whatnot. And someone came up to us and said, "I don't know if you heard, but the eruv is down."

And without a blink, Danny put his game stuff down on the sand and dirt path, and kept on walking.

I was stunned. I mean, I probably didn't act stunned at the time, but the Judaism I'd grown up with wasn't the kind of thing that was such an integral part of your life that you'd do something like that. At least not without hesitating.

He went back after Shabbat and retrieved it. Needless to say, no one had touched it, and luckily, it was neither windy nor rainy, so it was fine.

Rules seem intrusive when you're not used to them. I read a book (I think it was by Robert Sawyer, but I may be misremembering) where this alien who'd come to Earth was simply astounded at the way in which everyone stopped at red lights and went at green ones. And how people would stop at a stop sign even if there were clearly no other cars or pedestrians in sight. He figured we must be an extraodinarily disciplined race. It's just a matter of what you're used to.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by ctm:
quote:
Originally posted by Tante Shvester:
Not to mention, you get hot, delicious food (the best of the week!), already prepared and waiting for you.

Wait a minute, did I miss something? If you aren't cooking or using electricity, where is the hot food coming from?
Well, aside from Tante's answer, we do use electricity. We just don't turn it on or off. Same with fire. If it's on before Shabbat, that's fine.
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JennaDean
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I love my crock pot. We also start our Sunday dinner on Saturday, in the crock pot; we don't do all of it, but the hard work is done when we get home from church, and we just have to make some rice or throw some frozen biscuits in the oven. I love coming home to a hot cooked meal without having to think about what to have or do (much) work to have it. (Our rules just require that we don't do elaborate meals, rather something simple that doesn't require much work.)

I did want to ask about the travelling - I noticed Ela was going to Nerdfest but was going to be restricted in her activities while there. I prefer not to travel on Sunday, but sometimes we do, so as to avoid missing too much work or school. Would you travel on the Sabbath at all? Or would you just always take Friday off work to get where you need to go before Sabbath starts?

Edited to add: I agree about the rules, Lisa. Some people can't imagine a life without coffee, or alcohol for that matter. If you've grown up without it, you don't miss it. Or if you do miss it once in a while, it's not worth what you'd miss if you gave up your standards.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I don't know if you heard, but the eruv is down.
Can eruvs(?) go down? Is there some sort of eruv mechanic for these situations?
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Tante Shvester
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Yup. Eruvs go down. An eruv is like a fence. A fence can fall down or get blown down. So, then it needs to be repaired. In communities that have them, there are volunteers from the community who will inspect the eruv before Shabbos to make sure that it is intact, and to alert folks if it is not.

Used to be the alert would go out by being announced in shul. Nowadays, they still announce it in shul, but also, a mass email and/or an automated phone message to each member of the community alerts people as well.

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ctm
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quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
Well, aside from Tante's answer, we do use electricity. We just don't turn it on or off. Same with fire. If it's on before Shabbat, that's fine.

Ah. Thank you for clarifying. I remember this being discussed in one of the other threads but hadn't caught on.
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Tante Shvester
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We used to live a few blocks outside the eruv, and our son was really too little to walk the 3 miles to shul. He would walk the few blocks until we got inside of the eruv, and then my husband would carry him the rest of the way.
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Minerva
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
Would you travel on the Sabbath at all?

In general the answer is, "No." Other than walking, which really doesn't count as travelling. No driving.

If you are on a ship that is already moving before the Sabbath, operated by a non-Jew, you can stay on it. No need to swim for 25 hours [Smile] .

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Dagonee
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quote:
We just don't turn it on or off. Same with fire. If it's on before Shabbat, that's fine.
Is it just the starting of a fire that's prohibited? Can you add fuel to an existing fire?
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Stephan
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What was the deal with the Sabbath elevators at the hotels in Israel? As long as one doesn't press the button to make it go, its ok to use?
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Tante Shvester
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Adding fuel to the fire is not allowed, unless it is done automatically, as with your gas stove.

Shabbos elevators run automatically stopping on each floor on the way up and down. Most observant Jews are OK with using them, as you are doing nothing to make the elevator go. But I know observant Jews who prefer to take the stairs if possible. If an elevator must be used (say, for a wheelchair user) and no Shabbos elevator is available, the thing to do is to hang out by the elevators until a non-Jew comes along who happens to be going on the elevator. When the non-Jew summons the elevator, you can hop on, too, and get off at your floor. But you can not push any buttons, or ask for them to push the buttons for you. But usually there is no need to ask. If you get on an elevator and don't go near the buttons, the person at the buttons will invariably ask "What floor are you going to?" and you can answer "42!"

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JennaDean
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Not to be disrespectful, but wouldn't it be a lot more work to climb x-number of stairs than to push an elevator button?
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Tante Shvester
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quote:
wouldn't it be a lot more work to climb x-number of stairs than to push an elevator button?
Ah! Now we get into the definition of work! This question has been addressed by our sages, way back. Don't work on Shabbos seems straightforward enough, but who is to say what "work" is? Cooking is work. But what if you really enjoy cooking and find it relaxing? Is it work then?

Here's what they figured out. When the Jews were wandering around in the desert after they left Egypt, they had to build a kind of Port-a-Temple called the Mishkan. G'd gave them detailed instructions on how to do this, and they were to do all the work that goes into its construction 6 days a week, but not on Shabbos. So what is not allowed on Shabbos? The kinds of work that was needed to build the Mishkan. Scholars counted up the different categories of work and found there to be 39 of them. They ranged from shearing sheep to spinning yarn to weaving to dying to lighting fires, etc. Now that we had those categories, we can extrapolate whether doing something would fall into that category. And to be on the safe side, if there is any doubt, we will err on the side of caution and avoid the activity.

So, lighting a fire is not allowed. Is electricity fire? Kind of. Let's avoid that, too! Is pressing elevator buttons OK? Well, probably not, so let's not do it.

Walking is permitted. So even though walking up 42 flights of stairs is much more strenous than pushing an elevator button, it doesn't count as "work" in the context of what is or is not permitted on Shabbos.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
They ranged from shearing sheep to spinning yarn to weaving to dying to lighting fires, etc. Now that we had those categories, we can extrapolate whether doing something would fall into that category.
Couldn't just one of those categories have been the problem, but God decided to give everyone the day off so as to not appear to favor the sheep-shearers?

quote:
Adding fuel to the fire is not allowed, unless it is done automatically, as with your gas stove.
Here's my problem with this one: most gas stoves add fuel to a fire "automatically" by electrically metering a valve. Exactly the same logic which prevents someone from opening a fridge on Shabbos to avoid accidentally starting the fan and thus causing an electrical circuit to be completed should prevent anyone from continuing to use a modern gas stove, even if it were started the day before.
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breyerchic04
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how is judaism related to hitch hikers guide, aren't you allowed off on floors other than 42?


Edit: sorry about the mistake, messed up the funny.

[ January 19, 2006, 12:29 PM: Message edited by: breyerchic04 ]

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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by breyerchic04:
how is judaism related to monty python, aren't you allowed off on floors other than 42?

Monty Python? Isn't 42 more of a Douglas Adams thing?
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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Couldn't just one of those categories have been the problem, but God decided to give everyone the day off so as to not appear to favor the sheep-shearers?

Could be. He doesn't alway tell us the reasons for everything, just what he expects us to do.

quote:
most gas stoves add fuel to a fire "automatically" by electrically metering a valve. Exactly the same logic which prevents someone from opening a fridge on Shabbos to avoid accidentally starting the fan and thus causing an electrical circuit to be completed should prevent anyone from continuing to use a modern gas stove, even if it were started the day before.
As long as I am not doing anything on Shabbos to affect the functioning of the stove, it can do what it wants. Similarly, I can set the thermostat in my house so that it stays at a comfortable temperature, even though this will involve the furnace firing up periodically throughout Shabbos. I can not, however, turn on the hot water taps, since this will cause cold water to flow into my water heater, which will cause the heater to fire up, DIRECTLY BECAUSE OF MY ACTIONS.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
He doesn't alway tell us the reasons for everything, just what he expects us to do.
But specifically what he told you to do was not to work, a command which includes but is not limited to those things which are necessary to manufacture a makeshift temple, one day a week. Everything else is extrapolation, right, just to be super-safe?
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JennaDean
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You can't open the fridge on Shabbos? That's news.

Thanks for clarifying that about the elevator. I was trying to understand the "greater law" that would prompt that kind of a rule.

Another question (now that I've got you), what do your little children do on Shabbos? I'm struggling with that issue myself, because as was said before, they seem to only see the "no's".

I thought I was pretty good, actually, but I can see I've got a lot of work to do to make my Sabbath really a day of rest, and a day apart from the rest of the week. Although I don't think I'll be giving up elevators any time soon. [Smile]

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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
You can't open the fridge on Shabbos? ...what do your little children do on Shabbos?

The people I know will open the fridge on Shabbos, if the little light inside has been fixed so that it won't go on and off. Some people will make an effort to open the refrigerator in an unusual fashion -- like by pulling on a dish towel that is hanging off the handle.

Little children get together and play with each other or with their siblings. They look at books, play games, have stories.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
quote:
And you can go to synagogue every day of the week -- not just Shabbos.
I didn't know that, either. Is that like Catholics where they can go to Mass every day? Or is there a Shabbos service that's different than other days?
There are three services a day. Shachrit in the morning, Mincha in the afternoon (usually the late afternoon), and Maariv in the evening.

On Shabbat and biblical holidays, there's an additional service called Musaf (which means "additional" <grin>) after Shachrit.

Men are required to do all of these. Women... well, it's a matter of dispute whether women are just obligated to pray every day, or whether we're obligated to do all of those services.

What isn't disputed is that men have an obligation to pray with a minyan (a quorum of 10 adult Jewish men) if at all possible, and that women have no such obligation. That's why if there's no eruv, women stay home with the baby, and not the men.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
You can't carry the baby OR push it in the stroller.
If you padded the baby effectively, could you hypothetically kick it down the road? Does dragging count as carrying?
Cute. I once heard a joke about how it is that the Conservative movement allows driving on Shabbat. Basically, once you buckle yourself in, the car becomes an article of clothing.

Kind of an inside joke, I guess...

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Tante Shvester:
Yup. Eruvs go down. An eruv is like a fence. A fence can fall down or get blown down. So, then it needs to be repaired. In communities that have them, there are volunteers from the community who will inspect the eruv before Shabbos to make sure that it is intact, and to alert folks if it is not.

We have a hotline and a website here in Chicago to check the status.

One summer when I was on staff at camp, it was my job to walk around the entire camp to check the eruv on Friday afternoons. It was a string, about 6-6.5 feet off the ground, and it literally ran the entire circumference of the camp, except for the lakefront, which is a natural boundary.

I used to get eaten alive by mosquitos every time I did it.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Minerva:
quote:
Originally posted by JennaDean:
Would you travel on the Sabbath at all?

In general the answer is, "No." Other than walking, which really doesn't count as travelling. No driving.

If you are on a ship that is already moving before the Sabbath, operated by a non-Jew, you can stay on it. No need to swim for 25 hours [Smile] .

Same with spaceships. In theory. <grin>

Also, there's a limit to how far you can even walk on Shabbat, outside of an inhabited area. It's roughly a kilometer, I believe.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
They ranged from shearing sheep to spinning yarn to weaving to dying to lighting fires, etc. Now that we had those categories, we can extrapolate whether doing something would fall into that category.
Couldn't just one of those categories have been the problem, but God decided to give everyone the day off so as to not appear to favor the sheep-shearers?
<grin> Actually, these were the 39 categories of activity necessary to construct the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

Here's a link that describes the 39 categories.

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Adding fuel to the fire is not allowed, unless it is done automatically, as with your gas stove.
Here's my problem with this one: most gas stoves add fuel to a fire "automatically" by electrically metering a valve. Exactly the same logic which prevents someone from opening a fridge on Shabbos to avoid accidentally starting the fan and thus causing an electrical circuit to be completed should prevent anyone from continuing to use a modern gas stove, even if it were started the day before.
No, because you aren't doing any action with the stove. Nothing you do will change the amount of gas that goes through. While opening the fridge does lower the temperature inside, and can cause the motor to start sooner.

That said, not everyone worries about opening the fridge on Shabbat. I don't.

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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
But specifically what he told you to do was not to work, a command which includes but is not limited to those things which are necessary to manufacture a makeshift temple, one day a week. Everything else is extrapolation, right, just to be super-safe?

Not so much extrapolation as interpretation, and He's the one who provided the directions for that interpretation, so it amounts to the same thing.

(Also, there are now ovens designed with a "Shabbos mode" specifically to avoid the sort of issues raised here. And it should be noted that "you can turn it on before Shabbos and keep it going" is a simplification; the full set of rules is extremely complex.)

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Tante Shvester:
Similarly, I can set the thermostat in my house so that it stays at a comfortable temperature, even though this will involve the furnace firing up periodically throughout Shabbos. I can not, however, turn on the hot water taps, since this will cause cold water to flow into my water heater, which will cause the heater to fire up, DIRECTLY BECAUSE OF MY ACTIONS.

There are probably people who won't set a thermostat in the house if they're going to be opening or closing doors or windows. I'm pretty sure the Chumra of the Week Club had that a while back. <grin>
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Minerva
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As for what kids do, it was always a good day for me when I was little. My shul always had a story hour thing that continued until we were in middle school or so. When we got older, it was stuff like fiction about young Jewish immigrant families.

But it was the one day a week that my mom did not nag me to empty the dishwasher or do my homework.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
He doesn't alway tell us the reasons for everything, just what he expects us to do.
But specifically what he told you to do was not to work, a command which includes but is not limited to those things which are necessary to manufacture a makeshift temple, one day a week. Everything else is extrapolation, right, just to be super-safe?
Except that He didn't say anything about work. What's forbidden is melacha, which is ordinarily translated as "work" for the sake of convenience, but is actually technical jargon.

There are many subcategories of melacha that are part of the original commandment. But there are certain things that were added by the rabbis.

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ketchupqueen
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I just wanted to share another instance of an exception. Tante mentioned that if her life or health was in danger, she'd call 911 and ride in an ambulance. My mom works with a few Sabbath-observant doctors, and they try not to be on call on the Sabbath, but if they are, the exception for saving a life or health applies to them, too, saving the life or health of another-- if they are paged to the hospital, they can drive or call a cab or whatever they have to to get there, and turn electricity on and off and work and write while in the process of treating the patient/s they were called to help with. And then, after the emergency is over, the exception is over. So they can't drive back. They either take a nap at the hospital until the Sabbath is over, or walk to a synagogue if there's one in walking distance to attend services, or otherwise rest, depending on what time they were paged and the circumstances and how far from everything they are and all.
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