The "Shabbes Goy": A Study in Halakhic Flexibility

By Jacob Katz; Yoel Lerner | Go to book overview

10
Galicia: The Use of a Bill of Sale

The drastic change that occurred in Jewish history during the modern era is clearly reflected in the different rates of development experienced by western European and eastern European Jewry. From a broad historical perspective, one may distinguish similar internal and external factors nibbling away at the foundations of traditional society in both regions. The weakening of institutions of feudal government and the absorption of rationalist ideas accompanying this development eventually reached eastern European lands as well, with the consequential fundamental change in Jewish society. But the fact that eastern Europe lagged behind the western part of the Continent led to the emergence of a gap between the two Jewish groups, which, until the beginning of the modern era, in the second half of the eighteenth century, might very well have been considered two wings of one and the same society, that of Ashkenazic Jewry.

The difference in the rate of change does not negate the similarity in the substance of the development, as demonstrated by the fact that the same problems facing the Jews of western Europe eventually came to trouble their eastern brethren as well. And matters of Sabbath observance, of the kind we are considering, can serve as an example of this parallelism.

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