Sunday, 14 April 2013

Question! About Shabbos . . . .

In the comments of my last post, Anonymous (and I) asked how Orthodox Jews hire people on Shabbos. JRK answered that question beatifully (thanks JRK!), so here's another one  . . . with a bit of a preamble . . .

According to Jew in the City (see above): "The resting that you do on the Sabbath comes from emulating what God did when he finished creating the world . . .When God rested on Shabbos all creative activity stopped. Therefore when we rest on Shabbos, we stop creating too". If this is the case, then: Why is it a mitzvah to have sex on Shabbat ? (unless - I presume -  the sex is premarital, extramarital, homosexual, and whatever other categories are prohibited). What's more creative in a God-like way than making a baby?  I don't quite get the jump from the "theory" of resting based on emulating to God, to the "practice", of not emulating the tabernacle builders.

An aside on the topic of Shabbos, my 4 year old son is SUPREMELY interested in figuring out how things -particularly mechanical and electronic ones-  work. He is therefore a little "dangerous" to have around our Shomer Shabbos friends/relatives on Shabbat/Yom Tov. Today we had to really suppress our laughter when we learned that while we were having Friday night dinner at my in-laws, Mini CL had managed to reset the light timers in the den,  turn the TV to a low buzz, and set my FIL's wristwatch to go off every hour. If for nothing else, mixed religious observance in families is good for occasional comic relief. We've tried to explain that we don't push buttons at Bubbie and Zaide's on Shabbos, but  clearly the message didn't quite go through.  Admittedly, some of the messages are very mixed . . .we can't call Bubbie on Shabbos, but when Zaide is out at Shul, she can call us. Bubbie won't drive, but she'll take a ride from us, or the bus . . . etc.


  1. > Why is it a mitzvah to have sex on Shabbat ?

    Some kabbalistic thing, I think. I never learnt about it. It may also just be practical. When else do you have nothing else that you need to be doing?

    > I don't quite get the jump from the "theory" of resting based on emulating to God, to the "practice", of not emulating the tabernacle builders.

    Keeping Shabbos is mentioned in the Chumash next to the instructions for how to construct the mishkan (tabernacle). In the rules of extrapolating laws from the text, this means that the two are related, and we can learn about one from the other.

  2. I found the answer here:

    The short answer is:

    1. It's not one of the 39 tasks associated with building the tabernacle.

    2. Pleasure between husband and wife is a good thing to encourage on Shabbat.

  3. You're assuming that the theory generated the practice. Whereas in reality the practice is based on the legalistic considerations of the Talmud with little concern about what the "spirit" of Shabbos is about. The Bible says that "melacha" (=labor) is forbidden on Shabbos. The Rabbis were concerned with defining this word and figuring out what legally constituted labor. To do this they relied on the fact that the building of the mishkan is also described with the Hebrew noun "melacha" (=melechet hamishkan). This being so the Rabbis figured that labor related to the mishkan was forbidden on shabbos.

    In later centuries people wanted to justify the practices of Shabbos and came up with cute theories as to why God would care whether we rip toilet paper or not but (as far as we know) these theories were not instrumental in generating the legal parameters of Shabbos. They are merely post hoc explanations for laws which were decided for other reasons. (This of course applies to many religious practices in Judaism and as well as other religions)

    Sex on shabbos doesn't break any of the 39 categories as mentioned above. The Kabbalistic reason for it (put very very briefly) is that the male Sefirah Tiferet is united (sexually) with the female Sefirah of Shechinah on Shabbos (because Shechinah is identified with Shabbos). Having sex on shabbos corresponds to the divine union above.

    1. My understanding is that it's a mystical thing, as you suggest.

    2. Great points Shilton! Can you give a quick translation of Sefirah Tiferet and Sefirah of Shechinah, please? My knowledge of Kabbalah is non-existent.

  4. As for your 4 yr old - he's being a 4 yr old. While we try to teach our kids Shabbat rules, they are kids. My nephew - who gets into everything in general - has been known to blow out Shabbat candles while signing Happy Birthday, hack into our computer to watch Justin Bieber on YouTube, and get into other assorted mischief on Shabbat. There is a reason that little boys aren't actually held responsible for keeping mitzvot until they hit 13.

    Many religious people also have kids, so chances are that they can relate. [If they are so uptight that they can't, you don't want to be around them. I've been known to choose synagogues based on the antics of the rabbi's own children - if his kids are running on the bima or hanging from the rafters, chances are that nobody will have a fit if my kids act human.]

  5. A few thoughts...

    1. I'm just speculating, but maybe the kabbalists made it a "mitzvah" to have sex on Fri nights because that was when they were actually home to do it? Maybe it was a practical thing or maybe they were trying to be thoughtful of their wives?

    2. If a Jewish babysitter on shabbos can be permitted by claiming that intent is irrelevant, how is it ok to permit actual shabbos melacha because of lack of intent, such as sweeping the floors on shabbos (gathering)?

    3. IMHO, the closest thing we have today to "building the temple" is raising money for the shul. This mostly happens on shabbos and holidays...


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