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In Judaism, there are two basic principles for Sabbath regulations: Do not create or lord over nature, and do not work. While modern society understands Sabbath as a time to rest from extended travel and work, it is important to remember that Sabbath regulations actually have a deeper meaning. True rest is about giving up control over your time, energy, and money.
Many Jewish businesses follow the principle of Sabbath-keeping by closing their doors at sunset on Friday evening and not reopening until after the Sabbath ends. According to the Jewish scriptures, the Sabbath is a day of assembly and holy convocation. While these days are not to be taken lightly, it’s worth considering what they mean to you and your business.
In the 1950s, Israeli kibbutz communities took advantage of a loophole in the law prohibiting businesses on the Sabbath day. They opened warehouse outlets and malls on kibbutz land. Today, there are literally dozens of commercial centers that are open on Shabbat. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Israel, the new laws are not a deterrent, as fines are usually small and not sufficient to stop business.
However, these laws are slowly crumbling. Today, private bus companies and foreign airlines operate public transportation on Shabbat, and the demand for high-tech jobs has led some to consider a new law allowing business to continue on Shabbat. A new law enacted by Israeli law allows for up to 32 employees in data security, and a Sabbath “club” quarter in Jerusalem has been developed.
The Talmud also debates the issue of whether or not the Sabbath commandment should be observed. In fact, a number of societal pressures are causing Jews to violate the commandment and miss Shabbat services. For example, in 21st century America, most businesses remain open on Saturday and many events are scheduled for Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Nevertheless, Jews still observe the Sabbath.
In order to comply with Sabbath regulations, some Jewish business owners close their doors at sunset on Friday and do not reopen until after the Sabbath is over. These people are often called “sabbath-keepers,” referring to their obligation to not work on the Sabbath. However, the Sabbath regulations have more complicated implications. These restrictions are also tied to the Fourth Commandment, which prohibits working on the Sabbath.
To comply with the Sabbath laws, one must refrain from undoing building operations on the Sabbath. This includes taking apart machinery and capturing living creatures. Other activities prohibited during the Sabbath include shaving, cutting wool, and eyebrow plucking. Taking part in building activities such as gardening and caring for livestock or animals is also forbidden. However, in order to be compliant with the rules of the Sabbath, one should make the necessary preparations before starting a business.
Businesses are not allowed to operate on the Jewish Sabbath, and those that do will be fined. But these fines are small and do not deter businesses from violating Jewish law. The government should create more effective legislation to make the Sabbath law more reasonable for businesses. In Israel, many people do not practice their faith in Shabbat, but the laws regarding Sabbath-keeping business are in force.
Another business that is prohibited on Shabbat is nursing homes. Nursing homes are difficult to run on Shabbos, especially when they employ non-Jewish staff. Similarly, a nursing home owned by a Jew who does not practice the law on the Sabbath may have to sell to someone who is not Jewish. The observant business owner should sell the property to a non-Jewish individual.
While the Jewish Sabbath was originally a day to rest and rejuvenate, today’s Sabbath is a time to work and play. Traditionally, Jewish people considered themselves the groom and bride of the Sabbath. Today, they observe Shabbat by lighting two candles, the zachor and shamor, at sunset. A woman of the house recites a blessing on two loaves of challah, which symbolize the zachor and the shamor. This meal is eaten over the course of the Shabbat and can be reheated.
The Sabbath is the supreme civilizational embodiment of rest. The ancient Greeks didn’t fully understand the Sabbath, and they thought Jews were lazily lazy. The Sabbath is a sacred period dedicated to activities that sustain the market economy, and it also includes time for family and community life, prayer, celebration, study, and worship. Without Sabbath-keeping business, a society becomes too busy to truly live. The first great principle of time management is to distinguish between the urgent and the important.
The traditional Sabbath shutdown time for an observant business is noon on Friday, which allows the employees to leave before sunset. In contrast, employers must make reasonable accommodations for non-observant employees and may even dismiss them if they fail to do so. However, some employers may not make such accommodations, and the laws that protect them are a good thing for everyone. Therefore, it is crucial to follow the Sabbath-keeping tradition.
In addition to respect for the Sabbath, the Jewish tradition places great value on the stewardship of the Sabbath. It includes concern for the powerless, and it is in this context that the Sabbath is deeply connected with the Jewish Sabbatical year. This year, meant to be observed every seven years, the Sabbath is supposed to be a rest for the land. This year was also meant to be a time for debt forgiveness.
The Jewish legal system has a number of precepts that deal with business. The Torah is the primary source of written law in Judaism, and many of the precepts concerning business are found there. The Talmud, the source of Jewish oral law, provides further clarification and interpretation of Torah law. The Talmud’s rabbinical authorities apply the halakha to the modern world, and often encourage individuals to go beyond the legal requirements in the “way of the pious”.
Israel is one example of a country that has been struggling to enforce its laws on Sabbath-keeping. Its blue laws have prohibited shopping on Saturday, which led to commercial activity on Sunday. Despite these restrictions, commercial activity continues to thrive in the country, even among those who observe Judaism. In response, the Haredim, a politically influential community of ultra-Orthodox Jews, have argued that the laws should not interfere with observing the Sabbath.
In the ancient world, the Sabbath vision was revolutionary. In an age where vast numbers of people were slaves, Judaism taught inner liberty and freedom from domination. But now, most businesses in the U.S. are open on Sundays. This means that Jewish businesses are competing on an even playing field with the rest of America. In fact, the laws have changed to allow businessmen to stay open on Sundays and Saturdays.
The poskim mention middas Chassidus, a general rule to refrain from ruining another person’s livelihood. This means that you may open a competing business in a larger city, a developing neighborhood, or even a suburb. Competition between locals and non-residents can lower prices for locals and improve the quality of products. Therefore, even though the Sabbath is a holy day, there is no prohibition on competing in a marketplace dominated by non-Jewish businesses.
In the torah, Jews were called to observe the Sabbath promote social justice. Prophets condemned ancient Israel for ignoring God’s Sabbath in favor of profit and self-aggrandizement. Today, a free market is making it harder for Jews to practice authentic Sabbath practices. People are increasingly forced to work longer hours, and productivity and self-aggrandizement have taken over the Sabbath.
Despite its importance in the world today, the Sabbath is also a fundamentally important part of the Jewish lifestyle. While the market may be driven by greed and self-destruction, it is not permitted to drive people off their land. The Sabbath keeps the market from self-destruction and ensures that wealth creation is a means, not an end in itself. If it does, it will be a blessing to the community.