Shabbes goy is an expression likely to conjure up some jocular association in the mind of people whose knowledge of Yiddish or of Jewish religious practice is slight or even nonexistent. Having heard that a book had been published on the subject, many friends and acquaintances expressed their wish to see it translated into English. I warned them that the treatise was not folklore but the tracing of a metamorphosis in religious law, the halakhah, reflecting changes in the life of the Jewish community through the ages. It is based on analysis of rather involved source material, the very translation of which would be a formidable task. Still, seeing that the Hebrew version of the book had attracted the attention of reviewers in English periodicals, I overcame my hesitation. I hope that the result presented in this volume will justify the decision.
The rendering into English is the work of Yoel Lerner, Jerusalem; it has been reviewed by Moshe Sherman, New York. Professor Nahum M. Sarna, academic consultant for the Jewish Publication Society, also reviewed the manuscript and contributed substantially to its readability.
January 1988, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem