The "Shabbes Goy": A Study in Halakhic Flexibility

By Jacob Katz; Yoel Lerner | Go to book overview

1
Talmudic Sources

The basis of the problem of the Sabbath Gentile is that only Jews are obliged to observe the Sabbath, non-Jews being exempt from this requirement. On the contrary, the Talmud states ( Sanhedrin 58b) that "if a Gentile observes the Sabbath, he is liable to the death penalty."1 This means that a Jew having a Gentile perform creative labor on the Sabbath is not encouraging transgression, whereas a Jew would be liable, were he to have a Gentile rob or eat flesh torn from a living animal, acts included in the seven Noachide prohibitions.2 Thus it was never dis-

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1
In the printed texts the wording is "an idolator who observed the Sabbath," but in Haggadot ha-Talmud the word used is "non-Jew." Ha-Meiri, ibid., Sanhedrin 58b ( Beit ha-Behirah to Sanhedrin, ed. A. Sofer ( Frankfurt am Main, 1930], 229), paraphrases the item: "A Noachide whom we see . . . setting aside for himself rest days [like] Sabbath or festivals . . ."
2
The example of a limb taken from a living animal is brought explicitly in Pesahim 22b. Another example involving emasculation, according to the opinion that non-Jews were warned of this, may be found in Bava Metsia 90b. In this connection Or Zarua, Bava Metsia 286 rules that "any precept about which the non-Jew is not warned, a Jew may ask a non-Jew to do, whereas a precept about which the non-Jew is warned, a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to do because we are commanded not to put a stumbling block before the blind."

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