The "Shabbes Goy": A Study in Halakhic Flexibility

By Jacob Katz; Yoel Lerner | Go to book overview

6
The Economic Involvement of Polish Jewry

During both the last few centuries of the Middle Ages and the early part of the modern period, when tradition was still predominant in Jewish social life, there developed no new problems pertinent to our subject that could not be solved through the halakhic precedents of previous generations. The major rulings of these problems had already been summarized in the Sabbath and festival regulations codified in the Tur Orah Hayyim, and in greater detail in R. Joseph Caro Beit Yosef. More or less unambiguous decisions were cited in the Shulhan Arukh and in the accompanying rulings appended by R. Moses Isserles. On the basis of these summaries, any rabbi could instruct the general public concerning desirable everyday conduct. Jews who participated in the development of new kinds of industry or integrated into economic fields in which they were not previously found would appeal for counsel to the outstanding halakhic authorities of the day.

R. David ben Zimra was asked about a Jew who "had to buy oxen to process sugar; if the processing were not carried out on the Sabbaths and festivals, everything would be lost."1 A scholar in Constantinople

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1
R. David ben Zimra, Responsa ( Venice, 1749) 1:13.

-87-

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