Limmud NY Notes: Shabbat as labor law

I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.
I’m at Limmud NY 2011! Here are some notes from a session called Creating an Egalitarian Day for God, taught by William Friedman. There is another note about a liturgical oddity that came up in the session at my blog, The Reform Shuckle, but here’s the guy’s main point:
By prohibiting not only field work (Exodus 34:21), but also housework (Exodus 35:3), the Torah creates a gender-egalitarian model of rest. In other words, what the Torah sees as male work and what the Torah sees as female work are both forbidden on Shabbat.
Further, by prohibiting employers or slave-owners from having their employees or slaves work on Shabbat (Deuteronomy 5:13-14), the Torah creates a labor law. “Shabbat creates social egalitarianism for the day,” Friedman said.
One participant added, anticipating Friedman’s next point: “Rest is the context in which human equality can occur.”
Friedman again: “Shabbat is an opportunity to break out of the social status and group” they’re usually in. It counteracts the social disenfranchisement we experienced in Egypt. “Hewing too close to the text leads to things like the Shabbos Goy. It’s prohibited! It makes me vomit to see Hispanic workers on Shabbat serving at a Bar Mitzvah.”
So that’s cool. There was a little more the session, but I had to run to a shift at the check-in desk.

4 thoughts on “Limmud NY Notes: Shabbat as labor law

  1. I’m “the guy” and just want to issue a slight clarification. I emphatically do not think that Shabbos goy is an insitution that exists because of “hewing too close to the text.” Shabbos goy makes sense in an environment in which Jews are not in a place of societal power, and therefore any “employment” of non-Jews on Shabbat will not result in large-scale employment of non-Jews on Shabbat. However, in an environment in which Jews do have significant societal power (such as the environment imagined by Devarim), they have a responsibility to ensure that workers are getting a day off from work. I do stand by my comment about my revulsion about large-scale employment of workers at Jewish functions on Shabbat without concern that those workers are compensated such that they have day(s) off from work.

  2. ‘It makes me vomit to see Hispanic workers on Shabbat serving at a Bar Mitzvah’
    And who do you suppose is going to cleanup your spill? Or are you going to wait for sundown? Apparently ‘hewing too close to the text’ has certain advantages.
    Perhaps it would be simpler not to accept such invitations in the future.
    PS To those who believe Friedman was speaking metaphorically when he spoke about vomitting, shame on you. As we have heard non-stop for the past week, speaking metaphorically is hugely evil and will lead to the mass killings of Jews all across America.
    (see HuffPo/Palin, S.)

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