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BrandonR
12-04-2008, 12:20 PM
Does using a toilet on the Shabbat result in any problems for orthodox Jews? I know that they're supposed to pre-tear toilet paper to use on the Shabbat (:eek:) but does the act of flushing amount to "labor"? Just wondering...

beowulff
12-04-2008, 12:37 PM
You're a day early...

GilaB
12-04-2008, 01:16 PM
No, flushing a toilet causes no problems as long as it's not an automatic flush toilet.

Why are people so agog over pretorn toilet paper? Most of the Orthodox Jews I know have a box of tissues in the bathroom for this very purpose, but I wouldn't think that the tissue would be such an alien device.

Tom Tildrum
12-04-2008, 01:31 PM
Why is tearing paper prohibited?

Snarky_Kong
12-04-2008, 01:36 PM
Why are people so agog over pretorn toilet paper? Most of the Orthodox Jews I know have a box of tissues in the bathroom for this very purpose, but I wouldn't think that the tissue would be such an alien device.

Because being forbidden to tear paper is really really weird.

GilaB
12-04-2008, 02:13 PM
Why is tearing paper prohibited?

The rules of the Sabbath about rest from 'work' do not define it in the sense of 'strenuous labor.' (I remember my Catholic neighbors, who very occasionally helped us out with issues on the Sabbath, being amused at the sight of my father shlepping dozens of folding chairs in our backyard on a hot Shabbos afternoon, setting up for a community lecture my parents were hosting.) Instead, work is defined as creative labor. In this sense, destructive tearing isn't prohibited, and if I happened to tear a tissue with the force of my mighty nose while blowing it, that's not a problem at all, since I haven't created anything through my ripping. Tearing toilet paper, on the other hand, creates a useful item, a short length of toilet paper that I could then use to wipe.

I grant that on the surface it's really weird, I've just found that people here tend to fixate a bit on the TP issue, above and beyond other issues that to me might seem odder from the outside. Search isn't working for me right now, or I'd give examples.

MOIDALIZE
12-04-2008, 02:14 PM
That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Tom Tildrum
12-04-2008, 02:31 PM
The rules of the Sabbath about rest from 'work' do not define it in the sense of 'strenuous labor.' (I remember my Catholic neighbors, who very occasionally helped us out with issues on the Sabbath, being amused at the sight of my father shlepping dozens of folding chairs in our backyard on a hot Shabbos afternoon, setting up for a community lecture my parents were hosting.) Instead, work is defined as creative labor. In this sense, destructive tearing isn't prohibited, and if I happened to tear a tissue with the force of my mighty nose while blowing it, that's not a problem at all, since I haven't created anything through my ripping. Tearing toilet paper, on the other hand, creates a useful item, a short length of toilet paper that I could then use to wipe.

I grant that on the surface it's really weird, I've just found that people here tend to fixate a bit on the TP issue, above and beyond other issues that to me might seem odder from the outside. Search isn't working for me right now, or I'd give examples.

Interesting, thanks. I don't think it's weird. It's different from what I'm used to, but presumably I do a lot of things that other people might think weird.

This has piqued my curiousity, though, if you don't mind my asking further questions. Would flushing be impermissible if the toilet had one of those devices that color the water?

Getting off the bathroom topics, is it permissible to make a sandwich? Or should one limit oneself to eating food that has already been prepared?

GilaB
12-04-2008, 02:42 PM
Tom, I'm not sure how complicated a discussion of Sabbath laws you want, so let's just say that yes, I could make a sandwich on Shabbos as long as it didn't involve cooking it (no grilled cheese!). On weeks when I've been very overloaded and haven't had much time to cook before Shabbos, we've eaten more salads (an uncooked item that I can make on the Sabbath) than we might otherwise :) There have been entire volumes written on the laws of cooking and food prep on Shabbos, as it's a complicated topic.

The little things that put dye in your water actually run up against a prohibition against dyeing.

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

I do think that's taking us well away from GQ territory, don't you?

Indistinguishable
12-04-2008, 02:49 PM
But isn't making a sandwich as much creating a useful item as tearing off a square of toilet paper?

Wiltshire
12-04-2008, 02:50 PM
and if I happened to tear a tissue with the force of my mighty nose while blowing it, that's not a problem at all, since I haven't created anything through my ripping.Snot?

panache45
12-04-2008, 03:02 PM
That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Is it any more stupid than believing in a virgin birth, or resurrection, or someone dying for everyone else's sins?

And then there's circumcision . . .

GilaB
12-04-2008, 03:03 PM
But isn't making a sandwich as much creating a useful item as tearing off a square of toilet paper?

As I said, food prep is a separate area within Jewish law from other stuff, with somewhat more complicated rules; you can cut up food and it's not considered tearing a new item into being in the way we've been talking about for toilet paper. Given that I can cut a loaf of bread or a tomato into slices without it being considered creating a new thing, a sandwich is a pile of previously existing items, arranged in a new pattern, while tearing toilet paper is making a new useful item (a short length of toilet paper) out of a much-less-useful item (an entire roll of toilet paper). Getting into the gradual developments of Jewish law that resulted in the difference between food and toilet paper is more technical than I can do off the top of my head, although perhaps Chaim or Zev do a better job than I.

muldoonthief
12-04-2008, 03:04 PM
FWIW, at my last job there was a Orthodox college intern who claimed that he could not flush the toilet on the Sabbath. He said he had "trained" his dorm roommate to go in and flush for him afterwards. When I asked the other 4 Orthodox Jews who worked there, they all claimed he was crazy. Of course, this was also the kid whose father told him to wear a baseball cap over his yamulke while at college so he couldn't be identified & targeted as a Jew. He went to Columbia University. In Manhattan. Quite a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

cmkeller
12-04-2008, 03:05 PM
I wrote a Staff Report on the subject of Sabbath about a year and a half ago, but I am sadly unable to find it in the archives.

In a nutshell, Indistinguishable, making a sandwich (without cooking, as GilaB gave the example of grilled cheese) is not effecting permanent change in the items involved. They could be unassembled with relative ease. I should also add, before a deluge of questions on the subject follows (e.g., slicing salami, mashing eggs into egg salad) that the laws of food preparation tend to be complex, there are fine distinctions to be made in regards to activities that might seem at first glance to be similar in nature. Most things done to food that merely change the shape or size of it, especially for immediate consumption, are permitted. Slicing bread from a loaf or salami from a bullet is permitted, even though ripping toilet paper from a roll is not, because food and non-food are of different natures in a detailed analysis of the laws of Sabbath work.

treis
12-04-2008, 03:08 PM
The rules of the Sabbath about rest from 'work' do not define it in the sense of 'strenuous labor.' (I remember my Catholic neighbors, who very occasionally helped us out with issues on the Sabbath, being amused at the sight of my father shlepping dozens of folding chairs in our backyard on a hot Shabbos afternoon, setting up for a community lecture my parents were hosting.) Instead, work is defined as creative labor. In this sense, destructive tearing isn't prohibited, and if I happened to tear a tissue with the force of my mighty nose while blowing it, that's not a problem at all, since I haven't created anything through my ripping. Tearing toilet paper, on the other hand, creates a useful item, a short length of toilet paper that I could then use to wipe.


Can you squeeze tooth paste onto a brush? How about creating a lather with soap?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 03:23 PM
But isn't making a sandwich as much creating a useful item as tearing off a square of toilet paper?I have to learn to type faster. Between GilaB and cmkeller, they wrote everything that I already typed, but didn't see it until preview. Oh well.

GilaB
12-04-2008, 03:27 PM
Can you squeeze tooth paste onto a brush? How about creating a lather with soap?

Toothpaste - no. It's considered smoothing (http://www.ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm#38). I either use a liquid toothpaste (made in Israel and marketed to an observant population specifically for Shabbos use) or a wet toothbrush followed by mouthwash. Growing up, I wasn't entirely clear on why a non-Sabbath-observant person would use mouthwash ever, since the only time I used it was as a toothpaste replacement.

Lather - Here we run into an issue that always seems to come up in these discussions, which is, in short, that there's no Jewish Pope. Different rabbis have ruled differently on the issue, meaning that while my rabbi says it's fine to make a lather out of soap, I know there are those who say it's not OK. (IIRC, they classify it as a kind of building.)

panache45
12-04-2008, 03:28 PM
Is it permissible to pre-tear the toilet paper into segments, prior to the sabbath?

Zsofia
12-04-2008, 03:29 PM
FWIW, at my last job there was a Orthodox college intern who claimed that he could not flush the toilet on the Sabbath. He said he had "trained" his dorm roommate to go in and flush for him afterwards. When I asked the other 4 Orthodox Jews who worked there, they all claimed he was crazy. Of course, this was also the kid whose father told him to wear a baseball cap over his yamulke while at college so he couldn't be identified & targeted as a Jew. He went to Columbia University. In Manhattan. Quite a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
I thought that getting a non-Jew to do stuff you're not allowed to do on the Sabbath for you was forbidden? That it's not okay for an Orthodox Jew to get me to turn his oven on?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 03:29 PM
FWIW, at my last job there was a Orthodox college intern who claimed that he could not flush the toilet on the Sabbath. He said he had "trained" his dorm roommate to go in and flush for him afterwards. When I asked the other 4 Orthodox Jews who worked there, they all claimed he was crazy.My guess is that the toilet in his dorm had one of those colors-the-water-when-you-flush disinfectant thingies, and that he would not have had objections otherwise. Some rabbis say those disinfectants are a problem, others say it's not.

GilaB
12-04-2008, 03:32 PM
FWIW, at my last job there was a Orthodox college intern who claimed that he could not flush the toilet on the Sabbath. He said he had "trained" his dorm roommate to go in and flush for him afterwards. When I asked the other 4 Orthodox Jews who worked there, they all claimed he was crazy. Of course, this was also the kid whose father told him to wear a baseball cap over his yamulke while at college so he couldn't be identified & targeted as a Jew. He went to Columbia University. In Manhattan. Quite a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

Yes, this guy was full of crap, in more ways than one. I pity his roommate.

GilaB
12-04-2008, 03:34 PM
Is it permissible to pre-tear the toilet paper into segments, prior to the sabbath?

Sure, if you want. Or you could buy a box of tissues.

cmkeller
12-04-2008, 03:34 PM
panache45:

Is it permissible to pre-tear the toilet paper into segments, prior to the sabbath?

Totally

panache45
12-04-2008, 03:36 PM
. . . the kid whose father told him to wear a baseball cap over his yamulke . . .

This is something I've wondered about: wouldn't a baseball cap by itself qualify as a head covering, without a yamulke?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 03:40 PM
I thought that getting a non-Jew to do stuff you're not allowed to do on the Sabbath for you was forbidden? That it's not okay for an Orthodox Jew to get me to turn his oven on?Depends on a lot of things.

Mainly, the more directly one asks, the more forbidden it is. "Please turn on the air conditioner" is a lot worse that "It's really hot! I wish the a/c was on!" This is because if I ask someone to do it, them I'm doing it indirectly through him. But if I hint without making a request, then he's doing me a favor of his own volition.

The importance of the issue is also a factor. Leaving a toilet unflushed all day is a major esthetic problem which hampers enjoying the Sabbath, and a health issue too. Different values conflict, and decisions have to be made. For a less-important issue one would have to just put up with it, but I can see how this could be an area where doing it via a non-Jew is allowed.

Other details too, but that'll do for now...

Keeve
12-04-2008, 03:46 PM
This is something I've wondered about: wouldn't a baseball cap by itself qualify as a head covering, without a yamulke?Yes, but some people seem to like having both on, for reasons I'm still trying to figure out. Some say that it is so that the head will still be covered even if the baseball cap comes off. But in real life, if one comes off then they both do. I think it might just be easier than putting the yarmulka in one's pocket.

Musicat
12-04-2008, 03:47 PM
I should also add, before a deluge of questions on the subject follows (e.g., slicing salami, mashing eggs into egg salad) that the laws of food preparation tend to be complex, there are fine distinctions to be made in regards to activities that might seem at first glance to be similar in nature. Most things done to food that merely change the shape or size of it, especially for immediate consumption, are permitted. Slicing bread from a loaf or salami from a bullet is permitted, even though ripping toilet paper from a roll is not, because food and non-food are of different natures in a detailed analysis of the laws of Sabbath work.I could add that not all rabbis agree on the fine details of such regulations, either, not even within orthodox sects.

I am not Jewish, but used to work closely with one of the rabbinical organizations that certified kosher food preparation. I was amazed at the violent infighting that took place between competing organizations, each accusing the other of misinterpreting or misapplying God's sacred laws.

If you start with only "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy" as your principal doctrine, most everything else must be derived from that. Leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

And for every prohibition, it seemed there was a loophole. Finding or creating one was considered a worthy task, and if all else failed, just hire a Shabbas Goy. *

* A gentile who could do it for you and not violate any laws for either. Funny how the mind of God works, eh?

tr0psn4j
12-04-2008, 03:47 PM
As I said, food prep is a separate area within Jewish law from other stuff, with somewhat more complicated rules; you can cut up food and it's not considered tearing a new item into being in the way we've been talking about for toilet paper. Given that I can cut a loaf of bread or a tomato into slices without it being considered creating a new thing, a sandwich is a pile of previously existing items, arranged in a new pattern, while tearing toilet paper is making a new useful item (a short length of toilet paper) out of a much-less-useful item (an entire roll of toilet paper). Getting into the gradual developments of Jewish law that resulted in the difference between food and toilet paper is more technical than I can do off the top of my head, although perhaps Chaim or Zev do a better job than I.

Seems to me that a slice of bread from a loaf is as different as a peice of paper from a roll.

So preemptive cutting of toilet paper is ok?

DanBlather
12-04-2008, 03:47 PM
Here we run into an issue that always seems to come up in these discussions, which is, in short, that there's no Jewish Pope.Well of course not, it'd be hard for him to shit in the woods without tearing leaves.

Tom Tildrum
12-04-2008, 03:47 PM
Tom, I'm not sure how complicated a discussion of Sabbath laws you want, so let's just say that yes, I could make a sandwich on Shabbos as long as it didn't involve cooking it (no grilled cheese!). On weeks when I've been very overloaded and haven't had much time to cook before Shabbos, we've eaten more salads (an uncooked item that I can make on the Sabbath) than we might otherwise :) There have been entire volumes written on the laws of cooking and food prep on Shabbos, as it's a complicated topic.

Thanks, GilaB. I don't mean to be a pest with goofy questions. I'm a government lawyer, and codes of little regulations are often fascinating to me.

Malthus
12-04-2008, 03:52 PM
That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Ritual is its own reason. It is neither more nor less "stupid" than any other ritual.

Malthus
12-04-2008, 03:55 PM
Thanks, GilaB. I don't mean to be a pest with goofy questions. I'm a government lawyer, and codes of little regulations are often fascinating to me.

Now you know why so many lawyers are Jews. :D

[Note: I myself am a lawyer, and Jewish].

I'm quite serious - as a culture, Judaism is very concerned with the skills that lawyers need - the focus is on literacy, study statutes (the Torah) and of precident (the Talmud), application of precident to new fact situations ...

Gfactor
12-04-2008, 03:56 PM
That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

I might make the same statement about your post. Instead I'll say don't do this again.

Gfactor
General Questions Moderator

Chronos
12-04-2008, 03:59 PM
Quoth GilaB:The rules of the Sabbath about rest from 'work' do not define it in the sense of 'strenuous labor.' (I remember my Catholic neighbors, who very occasionally helped us out with issues on the Sabbath, being amused at the sight of my father shlepping dozens of folding chairs in our backyard on a hot Shabbos afternoon, setting up for a community lecture my parents were hosting.)On the other hand, if he had been schlepping them into your neighbors' yard, that would (probably) have been a violation, correct? But your own yard was permissible, since it wasn't "public"?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 04:05 PM
I was amazed at the violent infighting that took place between competing organizations, each accusing the other of misinterpreting or misapplying God's sacred laws.Yes, it is unfortunate that some people let their sincerity take over. If it actually got violent, then I'd like to apologize on their behalf.Finding or creating one was considered a worthy task, and if all else failed, just hire a Shabbas Goy. - A gentile who could do it for you and not violate any laws for either. Funny how the mind of God works, eh?As I posted above, this doesn't work in all situations. I depends on how urgent the need is. But as regards "the mind of God", I should have pointed out that since Judaism does NOT require non-Jews to observe our Sabbath, it's not really "the mind of God" we're talking about. Rather, it's the mind of the Rabbis, who instituted a new law not found in the Torah itself, forbidding us to ask our non-Jewish friends and neighbors to do stuff for us willy-nilly. Doing so is similar to us doing it indirectly, and it detracts from the holiness of the day. But since God never said not to do it, they only prohibited it for ordinary circumstances; if there is an unusually important need, then they allowed it. Entire books have been written on where to draw the line.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 04:15 PM
On the other hand, if he had been schlepping them into your neighbors' yard, that would (probably) have been a violation, correct? But your own yard was permissible, since it wasn't "public"?Excellent point.

However, if the community was enclosed by an eruv (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruv), then it would all be considered "private", both one's own, and the neighbor's together.

GilaB
12-04-2008, 04:20 PM
On the other hand, if he had been schlepping them into your neighbors' yard, that would (probably) have been a violation, correct? But your own yard was permissible, since it wasn't "public"?

Well, the town in which I grew up has an eruv (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruv), meaning that one can carry within the entire space enclosed by the eruv, which includes both my parents' house and the neighbors.

On preview, I see Keeve has already discussed this.

Tom - you're not a pest, although I was beginning to wonder if you were planning on walking me through your entire morning bathroom routine! (Get your minds out of the gutter, people.) For the sake of study, though, we're going about this all wrong, starting from tiny modern examples rather than deriving it from first principles.

MOIDALIZE
12-04-2008, 04:53 PM
Lather - Here we run into an issue that always seems to come up in these discussions, which is, in short, that there's no Jewish Pope. Different rabbis have ruled differently on the issue, meaning that while my rabbi says it's fine to make a lather out of soap, I know there are those who say it's not OK. (IIRC, they classify it as a kind of building.)

So if there's no ultimate authority on this (unless you think God actually cares about this stuff), and rabbis can't agree on the correct interpretation of the rules, why bother adhering to this kind of thing? I mean, I can understand having a day of rest in your religion, but adherence to these kind of ultra-technical rules doesn't seem like it's within the spirit of Shabbos at all.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 05:21 PM
So if there's no ultimate authority on this (unless you think God actually cares about this stuff), and rabbis can't agree on the correct interpretation of the rules, why bother adhering to this kind of thing? I mean, I can understand having a day of rest in your religion, but adherence to these kind of ultra-technical rules doesn't seem like it's within the spirit of Shabbos at all.When I first read this, I didn't realize the significance of what you put in parentheses.

Indeed, if a person feels that God does NOT care about this stuff, then the reasons to follow the rules would be mostly cultural, I suppose. But if one DOES feel that God cares (as I do, and several others in this thread), then the rules become very important. What does God want me to do? What does He want me to avoid? Sometimes the difference between forbidden and required is very subtle, but if you consider it important, then you'll work hard to figure it out.

Any legal system will have rules, and the rules have to have clear definitions, or else it won't work. For example, see the thread currently here in GQ, titled "How does the IRS verify a church's validity?"

The fact that the rabbis don't agree among themselves does not prove the system to be flawed. It only means that the source material is vague. (The Supreme Court is made up a bunch of very smart and dedicated people, and they don't always agree on what the Constitution says.)

Musicat
12-04-2008, 05:28 PM
Yes, it is unfortunate that some people let their sincerity take over. If it actually got violent, then I'd like to apologize on their behalf.I didn't mean physical violence, but I used to see articles written by one Rabbi lombasting another Rabbi in terms that you wouldn't think a holy man would use, calling question to his knowledge, education or intentions.As I posted above, this doesn't work in all situations. I depends on how urgent the need is. But as regards "the mind of God", I should have pointed out that since Judaism does NOT require non-Jews to observe our Sabbath, it's not really "the mind of God" we're talking about. Rather, it's the mind of the Rabbis, who instituted a new law not found in the Torah itself, forbidding us to ask our non-Jewish friends and neighbors to do stuff for us willy-nilly. Doing so is similar to us doing it indirectly, and it detracts from the holiness of the day. But since God never said not to do it, they only prohibited it for ordinary circumstances; if there is an unusually important need, then they allowed it. Entire books have been written on where to draw the line.My "mind of God" comment was snarky -- I'm well aware that it's man's interpretation of what God thinks, but to some, if a "man of God" makes the interpretation, that's the official word just like a burning bush or a booming bombast.

Enderw24
12-04-2008, 05:56 PM
I thought that getting a non-Jew to do stuff you're not allowed to do on the Sabbath for you was forbidden? That it's not okay for an Orthodox Jew to get me to turn his oven on?

Well, you can get a Shabbat goy to do it for you. But even that has restrictions. You can't pay him to do it. You can't even ask him to do it. He has to volunteer his services and it's probably not wise to take advantage of such an offer.

So the crazy anti-flushing guy? The only way he wasn't breaking the Sabbath was if he lucked into the having as a roommate the one single guy in the known universe who would raise his hand and say "You can't flush? Dude, I'll totally watch your shit flow away. R0xx0r!"

Polycarp
12-04-2008, 06:19 PM
Seems to me that a slice of bread from a loaf is as different as a peice of paper from a roll.

So preemptive cutting of toilet paper is ok?

In a word, because you're not eating the toilet paper. As GilaB and cmkeller were at pains to distinguish, there are different rules for doing household work (even tearing off toilet paper) and preparing food. And I presume this has to do with the idea of the Sabbath as the day to rest from labor and rejoice, including giving thanks and praise to God. (Not saying that's a part of how YOU rejoice; just that it fits the Jewish concept.) To do a parallel, having to work on a holiday is disliked; being able to eat a big meal, not so much. Yet you may put as much effort into a holiday dinner as you might into a normal day's work -- but it isn't "work" in your mind. Same principle; different application.

Chronos
12-04-2008, 07:08 PM
However, if the community was enclosed by an eruv, then it would all be considered "private", both one's own, and the neighbor's together.Yeah, that was why I included the "probably". I was just guessing that not many Catholics live within the bounds of an eruv, and so was presuming that there was not one in this case.

zev_steinhardt
12-04-2008, 07:12 PM
Gee, I leave the board for a little while and I miss all the interesting questions. :)

Zev Steinhardt

Snarky_Kong
12-04-2008, 07:28 PM
Indeed, if a person feels that God does NOT care about this stuff, then the reasons to follow the rules would be mostly cultural, I suppose. But if one DOES feel that God cares (as I do, and several others in this thread), then the rules become very important. What does God want me to do? What does He want me to avoid? Sometimes the difference between forbidden and required is very subtle, but if you consider it important, then you'll work hard to figure it out.


This might be outside the scope of this thread, but does god care about these things specifically or is it following arbitrary rules to be disciplined kind of thing?

Shawn1767
12-04-2008, 07:46 PM
This type of thing continually leads me to believe that religion only serves to see how ingenious humans can be at getting around the rules they set up.

Can't tear toilet paper, so I'll tear it the day before. In the end, though, I still accomplish what I need to do. Can't use the oven, so I will use this one that I can set a day before to cook. I don't know, if you are going to develop all these work arounds, aren't you defeating the purpose (or spirit) of the original prohibition?

Telemark
12-04-2008, 07:48 PM
This might be outside the scope of this thread, but does god care about these things specifically or is it following arbitrary rules to be disciplined kind of thing?
Jews follow the laws because we are commanded to do so. We can (and endlessly do) discuss the deeper meaning, but the laws are followed because that is what Jews are commanded to do.

zev_steinhardt
12-04-2008, 07:53 PM
This type of thing continually leads me to believe that religion only serves to see how ingenious humans can be at getting around the rules they set up.

Can't tear toilet paper, so I'll tear it the day before. In the end, though, I still accomplish what I need to do.


I don't know what the problem here is. There is no prohibition on wiping oneself, merely on tearing paper. So we tear it the day before. What's the problem?


Can't use the oven, so I will use this one that I can set a day before to cook.


Actually, you can't stick raw food in your oven and set it to start cooking on Shabbos. The act of cooking on Shabbos is forbidden, even if you set it up beforehand.

Zev Steinhardt

MOIDALIZE
12-04-2008, 08:01 PM
Jews follow the laws because we are commanded to do so. We can (and endlessly do) discuss the deeper meaning, but the laws are followed because that is what Jews are commanded to do.

But who decides what Jews are commanded to do? The rabbis can't even agree on an interpretation. Isn't it possible that a religious law against tearing toilet paper on a certain day has no meaning other than what adherents decide to attribute to it?

I don't know what the problem here is. There is no prohibition on wiping oneself, merely on tearing paper. So we tear it the day before. What's the problem?

So what happens if you forget? Do you not wipe your ass? Do you wipe and then throw the entire roll away? If the garbage is full can you manipulate it to make it fit?

BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed
12-04-2008, 08:06 PM
Yes, this guy was full of crap, in more ways than one. I pity his roommate.

Did the guy think he was at least allowed to put the seat down after he was done, so as to not show off his latest "art?"

ETA: Even the perforated toilet paper tearing is taboo? It seems like you could just pull on it, and if it comes apart then it's God's will for you to have something with which to wipe. If not, you're SOL (pun intended).

Oh, and wasn't there some thread here awhile back about some guy in a hasidic neighborhood doing something for a woman who seemed distressed?

Snarky_Kong
12-04-2008, 08:15 PM
Jews follow the laws because we are commanded to do so. We can (and endlessly do) discuss the deeper meaning, but the laws are followed because that is what Jews are commanded to do.

That ignores the point of the question. Are you commanded to do that because not tearing the paper is important, or just to show that following directions is important?

I understand follow the orders of god. I'm asking if tearing TP is arbitrary or not. Could it just as easily have been something else that's forbidden?

Moriarty
12-04-2008, 08:20 PM
This type of thing continually leads me to believe that religion only serves to see how ingenious humans can be at getting around the rules they set up.

Can't tear toilet paper, so I'll tear it the day before. In the end, though, I still accomplish what I need to do. Can't use the oven, so I will use this one that I can set a day before to cook. I don't know, if you are going to develop all these work arounds, aren't you defeating the purpose (or spirit) of the original prohibition?
Sorry, no cite, but I've heard that Muslim prohibitions against the collection of interest leads to absurd financial shenanigans, all designed to create interest-like profits while technically complying with God's law. It's a similar idea.

treis
12-04-2008, 08:45 PM
Depends on a lot of things.

Mainly, the more directly one asks, the more forbidden it is. "Please turn on the air conditioner" is a lot worse that "It's really hot! I wish the a/c was on!" This is because if I ask someone to do it, them I'm doing it indirectly through him. But if I hint without making a request, then he's doing me a favor of his own volition.

Can you fold up a piece of paper and fan yourself with it?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 09:23 PM
This might be outside the scope of this thread, but does god care about these things specifically or is it following arbitrary rules to be disciplined kind of thing?Good question. Let's break it up into two parts.

First, we do believe that God does care about these things. If He didn't, then He wouldn't bother to tell us about them.

The second part is a lot more complicated. Namely: Why did He choose these things, and not other things? For example, why did He say Jews can eat beef but not pork, instead of the other way around? Does He have a particular reason, or reasons, - or was He just being arbitrary?

Jewish rabbis and philosophers have wrestled with this for thousands of years. Some of His commands have pretty obvious ethical reasons - like not killing or stealing. But others are a lot tougher. In many cases, the rabbis just give up and say, "I don't know. I'm sure it makes sense to Him, but we can't figure it out." In some cases, some rabbis go even further, and conjecture that perhaps He was indeed being arbitrary, and gave us certain rules for no reason other than to train us to have some self-control and learn how to follow directions.

But all the rabbis agree that we can never be sure about any of this. If someone finds some value in one (or several) of the things He told us, that's fine, but the bottom line is this: We follow these laws because He told us to.

Telemark
12-04-2008, 09:32 PM
That ignores the point of the question. Are you commanded to do that because not tearing the paper is important, or just to show that following directions is important?

I understand follow the orders of god. I'm asking if tearing TP is arbitrary or not. Could it just as easily have been something else that's forbidden?
I'm not particularly observant, so take what I say with a grain of (kosher) salt. But it is exactly the point. The Torah says not to do work on the Sabbath. That is why we don't do work on the Sabbath. Trying to explain if it is the act, or the following of directions is irrelevant. Jews follow the commandments because G-d said to do so. While it is interesting to discuss "Why" it has no bearing on whether you carry out the commandments.

Now, determining the definition of work is an exercise left up to the reader. It's complex because the commandment to not perform work is not open to question. In many cases the rabbis have concluded that its better to be safe then sorry, which is why you get some convoluted rules. And since there's room for interpretation and the Torah is not precise in many places we ended up with a whole book of rabbinic writings and commentaries. It's up to the individual Jew to decide which is right and which is not. There's no central authority in Judaism so you're never going to get the authoritative answer you are looking for.

An analogy might be how can you follow the Roman Catholic church's teachings on eating meat on Friday when the Baptists have no prohibition on it? Which is correct and why? You'll never get a definitive answer because there isn't one.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 09:41 PM
This type of thing continually leads me to believe that religion only serves to see how ingenious humans can be at getting around the rules they set up.

Can't tear toilet paper, so I'll tear it the day before. In the end, though, I still accomplish what I need to do. Can't use the oven, so I will use this one that I can set a day before to cook. I don't know, if you are going to develop all these work arounds, aren't you defeating the purpose (or spirit) of the original prohibition?My philosophy is that if a workaround seems to defeat the spirit of the law, then I'm making at least one of two possible errors:

One - My workaround might be faulty. Maybe it actually violates the letter of the law too.

Two - My understanding of the spirit of the law might be faulty. If this workaround is technically allowed, and God could have designed to law to forbid it, then there must be a reason why He included that loophole.

In most cases, people tend to mess up on #2. And this is a great example of it. You suggest that there is something inherently wrong with tearing toilet paper, and that's why you don't understand what gets accomplished by tearing it the day before. Actually, there's nothing wrong with tearing toilet paper in general. But there is something wrong with tearing toilet paper on the Sabbath.

Okay, now you want to improve your understanding of the spirit of the law. Great. One way of understanding it is that on the Sabbath we refrain from certain creative acts. Among these is cutting or tearing an object to be a specific size or shape. That is precisely what happens when we take a roll of paper hundreds of feet long, and tear off a useful piece. This is the sort of creative activity that God refrained from on the seventh day of Creation. Rather, He got everything done during the first six days. And that's what we do too, trying real hard to get everything -- including the toilet paper -- done by late Friday afternoon.

(Exactly which creative activities are banned and which are allowed is for another post.)

RickJay
12-04-2008, 09:53 PM
Is it any more stupid than believing in a virgin birth, or resurrection, or someone dying for everyone else's sins?
They're all pretty much equally stupid. No religion's any more rational than another, if that's what you're getting at.

faithfool
12-04-2008, 10:03 PM
So what if you are extremely observent and yet find yourself having to do one of the things mentioned here, like tearing toilet paper? How are you absolved of this transgression?

(And I apologize in advance if I'm phrasing any of that wrong. I know absolutely nothing of Judaism.)

Chronos
12-04-2008, 10:10 PM
First of all, almost all of the laws are waived if necessary to save a human life or soul. So if you have to do one of these things because someone will die if you don't, then you're in the clear.

And for minor transgressions, one of the Jewish high holy days, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is set aside for gaining forgiveness from God. In the old days, it involved a literal scapegoat, who was sent off into the wilderness bearing away the community's sins, but that part isn't much done any more.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 10:11 PM
Now, determining the definition of work is an exercise left up to the reader. It's complex because the commandment to not perform work is not open to question. In many cases the rabbis have concluded that its better to be safe then sorry, which is why you get some convoluted rules. And since there's room for interpretation and the Torah is not precise in many places we ended up with a whole book of rabbinic writings and commentaries. It's up to the individual Jew to decide which is right and which is not. There's no central authority in Judaism so you're never going to get the authoritative answer you are looking for.It's certainly true that there is no central authority in Judaism at this particular point in history. But it is equally true that such an authority did exist in the past -- Moses himself was such an authority, and his successors continued it for many generations.

On the one hand we have free will to interpret the Torah however we want. But on the other hand, not all interpretations are equally valid. It seems prudent to see what the classics say about new ideas that we might come up with.

For example, the word "work" is not the only source for deciding what to forbid on the Sabbath. Consider, please, the beginning of Chapter 35 of the book of Exodus. Keep in mind that from here to the end of that book is devoted exclusively to the instructions of how to build the Tabernacle -- the mini-Temple -- of the Israelites in the desert.

For six days, work will be done. But the seventh day will be holy to you, a great Sabbath for God. Whoever does work on it will be put to death.

The rabbis of the Talmud ask (rhetorically) why this concept is used to introduce the directions for building the Tabernacle. Their answer is that we must continue our work on the Tabernacle for all six days of the week, but to stop all that work on the Sabbath. In other words, if an act must be done for the building of the Tabernacle, then it is an act which must not be done on the Sabbath.

The rabbis' next step was to catalog and categorize all those activities, so that we'll know which ones to avoid. And because the wood of the beams needed to be cut to specific sizes and shapes, and the leather of the wall coverings had to be cut to specific sizes and shapes, one of those categories became known as "cutting to a specific size or shape". which is why I don't tear my toilet paper on the Sabbath.

(And, as my aunt remarked when I explained this to her: "And because they needed curtains, that's why I can't do my sewing!")

susan
12-04-2008, 10:19 PM
1. Hi, Zev.

2. Maybe someone would post a page of the Talmud in English translation so people can see how much argument (in the legal sense) goes into the decisions about how the commandments are to be enacted?

Shawn1767
12-04-2008, 10:22 PM
I was reading the Wikipedia entry on this (which I realize may not be the ultimate authority, but it was just to get an idea), but like you say, Keeve, apparently this can all be traced back to certain rules and it's just an extension. Like the example you give about wood beams=I can't tear toilet paper. It's almost as if they are trying to find ways to tie it in to the building of a tabernacle.

However, when I was questioning it earlier, I was saying you still get what you need. You need torn toilet paper on a certain day, tear it a day earlier. Regardless of whether you are prohibited from wiping yourself or not, you still have torn sheets of toilet paper available when you need it. Isn't it theoretically possible that one could say that because they had to paint the temple, that you shouldn't move your arm in a wiping motion? If you are prohibited from driving a car or flipping a light switch because the spark is akin to lighting a fire, couldn't you pretty much tie anything you wanted to these rules?

Just wondering.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 10:35 PM
So what if you are extremely observent and yet find yourself having to do one of the things mentioned here, like tearing toilet paper? How are you absolved of this transgression?Like Chronos said, if a life is at stake, that overrides all the Sabbath laws. So it isn't even a transgression that one would need to be absolved from.

Problem is, if I'm stuck on the toilet with no pre-cut toilet paper, no one is going to die. They might want to when the smell me, but that's not really enough to override God's law.

But in many situations, including this one, smelling like a decent human being is enough to override the laws of the rabbis. (No, that's not exactly right. Let me phrase it a little better: ) When the rabbis made their rules, the always included a few clauses that limited their applicability to normal situations, and never intended them to apply in extraordinary situations. These laws don't apply to people who are ill (even if not deathly ill), and other cases too.

What rabbi laws am I talking about?

In my previous post, and some other posts also, we've shown that the problem with toilet paper not the act of using it, nor the act of folding it, but only the act of tearing it from the roll to a specific size or shape. If one tears it in an unusually sloppy manner, this is not forbidden by the Torah on the Sabbath. What I've done on occasion is to put one part of the paper on my right leg and hold it in place with my right arm, and have another part of the paper held by my left leg and left arm, and then I snap the paper in two by moving my legs. The result is that I've torn the paper but not in a specific place. (It usually does tear along one of several perforated lines; other people have developed other procedures so that it doesn't even tear on the perfs, but I haven't gotten the knack of that yet.)

Using a procedure such as I've described avoids any technical violation of the law. But if one relies on it, he will eventually forget, and accidentally tear in the usual way. Therefore, the rabbis of several thousands of years ago (way before toilet paper was invented) made a general rule against tearing things even in a sloppy manner, to prevent someone from accidentally making a nice tear. But, like their other rules, this was intended only for normal situations, not for someone whose only alternative would be to walk around with a smelly rear end for the rest of the day.

BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed
12-04-2008, 10:39 PM
Like Chronos said, if a life is at stake, that overrides all the Sabbath laws. So it isn't even a transgression that one would need to be absolved from.

And right here this all makes far more sense than xtn scientists.

alice_in_wonderland
12-04-2008, 10:40 PM
I have a question and I'm not sure what it is so I'll give it a shot.

If each rabbi has a unique interpretation of the Torah regarding 'work' and his parishners(?!?!I'm sorry I don't know the word for a Jewish person in this context) follows that person's orders, does the Torah or any other teaching discuss what happens to those people if the rabbi has gotten it wrong?

If a group of Jews have been doing what they believe is the correct thing, but it turns out (when they die, I suppose) that it was something else entirely that god wanted them to do, is there any discussion anywhere about if they'll get a pass for screwing up because they tried their best? Or are Jews with a goofball rabbi pretty well SOL?

Keeve
12-04-2008, 11:01 PM
However, when I was questioning it earlier, I was saying you still get what you need. You need torn toilet paper on a certain day, tear it a day earlier. Regardless of whether you are prohibited from wiping yourself or not, you still have torn sheets of toilet paper available when you need it. Isn't it theoretically possible that one could say that because they had to paint the temple, that you shouldn't move your arm in a wiping motion? If you are prohibited from driving a car or flipping a light switch because the spark is akin to lighting a fire, couldn't you pretty much tie anything you wanted to these rules?Yes, you are correct. I like your example of the painting and moving one's arm. It's all a function of how far these ideas can be stretched. And in what directions. And how the different ways are linked.

For example, I have here a book titled "Halachos of Shabbos" by Rabbi Shimon Eider. (You can Google it for a zillion places to buy it online.) It was originally going to be many volumes, but he only published the first two 200-page volumes. Here are some concepts which appear on pages 7 and 8, to determine if an act is forbidden by the Torah or not:
Similar in action and purpose
Similar in action but not purpose
Similar in both but done to a different type of object
Done with a different sort of tool
Similar but only in result

Here are some more concepts. They are introduced on pages 19-20, and explained more fully on 21-40.
Done in the normal manner, in the normal way
Done for a constructive purpose, not destructive
Done for the usual purpose
Done deliberately, not accidentally
Permanent result, meant to last for a long time
Done directly, not indirectly

And that's a big part of why these rules are so complcated. Some things are more closely related and therefore forbidden (like turning a car key which makes a fire in the engine) and others are far apart and allowed (like moving one's arm in the same manner which would constitute painting IF that arm had a paintbrush in it).

Let's remember that to the people who care deeply about these things, we're not talking about cultural traditions that one can take what they like and leave the rest. Rather, to such people it is a legal system, with all the complexitiy that a legal system is expected to have. To compare it to another legal system: For most people, it is pretty clear what "income" is taxable and what's not; but for some people, there are whole books and court cases on the topic.

faithfool
12-04-2008, 11:12 PM
Thank you Chronos and Keeve. I hope you all don't consider it to be an insult when I say that this is incredibly fascinating. I'll continue to follow this thread with interest.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 11:23 PM
If each rabbi has a unique interpretation of the Torah regarding 'work' and his parishners(?!?!I'm sorry I don't know the word for a Jewish person in this context) follows that person's orders, does the Torah or any other teaching discuss what happens to those people if the rabbi has gotten it wrong?

If a group of Jews have been doing what they believe is the correct thing, but it turns out (when they die, I suppose) that it was something else entirely that god wanted them to do, is there any discussion anywhere about if they'll get a pass for screwing up because they tried their best? Or are Jews with a goofball rabbi pretty well SOL?Jews would tend to use "followers" or "congregants" rather than parishoners. Maybe there are some other words too. Thanks for asking. Questions are good.

Not every rabbi has his own unique interpretation. Most rabbis tend to follow the views of whoever it was that taught them, but they're also open to new ideas that they read or come up with on their own. Most questions have a rather limited number of answers. But that doesn't really change your main question, which is a very valid one.

Namely, what if I'm wrong?

This is such a good question that an entire volume of the Talmud ("Horiyos") is devoted to it. The Torah itself (Leviticus 4:13) even mentions the possibility that the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court) might issue a ruling and later discover that it was mistaken.

This possiblity is a motivation for many people trying to follow the stricter views, figuring that it is a safer bet. That sometimes boomerangs when two issues conflict and being strict on one means being lenient on the other.

I'm confident that God takes our good intentions into account, but I don't know to what extent. Forgiving honest mistakes is one thing, but making up for the undone good is another level up. I figure that this is a good reason to make sure that I'm putting in a good-faith effort at searching for the Truth myself, and not just rely on what I'm taught. I hope He agrees.

BiblioCat
12-04-2008, 11:26 PM
No, flushing a toilet causes no problems as long as it's not an automatic flush toilet.Why would an automatic flush toilet be a problem?

Hokkaido Brit
12-04-2008, 11:36 PM
Are you allowed to knit, or sew or anything of that kind on the Sabbath? (Just thinking about making things/changing the nature of things.)

Chronos
12-04-2008, 11:38 PM
Thank you Chronos and Keeve. I hope you all don't consider it to be an insult when I say that this is incredibly fascinating.Oh, I agree: There's something I admire in a system of rules so fully developed that they can handle even the arcane situations Dopers come up with. That's the only reason I follow these threads-- I'm not Jewish myself.

Keeve
12-04-2008, 11:55 PM
Why would an automatic flush toilet be a problem?Motion-detection sensors flush the toilet automatically after you leave. It is easy to argue that this is only an indirect operation of the electrical device, but since the result is beneficial, most consider it forbidden since you know for sure that it is going to happen. (If you don't know for sure, that might be a good loophole, but it will work only once at the most.)

And operating electric switches is a no-no, because it is considered the same as igniting a fire.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 12:12 AM
Are you allowed to knit, or sew or anything of that kind on the Sabbath? (Just thinking about making things/changing the nature of things.)No, no, and no. Good job!

I was looking at two of my favorite Jewish Education For Beginners websites (www.aish.com and www.ohr.edu) looking for a list of The 39 Categories Of Work. There's a pretty nice article here (http://www.aish.com/shabbatlaws/shabbatlaws/Laws_of_Shabbat_for_Beginners.asp), but it doesn't mention sewing, nor does it mention the 39 Categories.

I must admit that I wasn't surprised to find some pretty good stuff at Wikipedia. I didn't read the whole thing -- which could change by the time you see it anyway -- but it does look pretty good. Try these articles in particular: Shabbat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat) and The 39 Activities Prohibited On Shabbat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_prohibited_on_Shabbat).

Keeve
12-05-2008, 12:15 AM
Thank you Chronos and Keeve. I hope you all don't consider it to be an insult when I say that this is incredibly fascinating. I'll continue to follow this thread with interest.You're welcome!

No, not an insult at all. Thanks for joining!

But I gotta get to bed now. Lots to do tomorrow so that we'll be ready for Shabbos! (I won't be tearing any toilet paper, but I may have to buy some more tissues.)

See y'all in the morning. G'night!

Bacon Salt
12-05-2008, 02:15 AM
Ooh, ooh, I have a question! One of the prohibitions in the link GilaB provided specifically mentions that one may not kill mosquitoes or flies but one may kill a wasp or snake as they are deadly and you are specifically allowed to violate Shabbat in matters of life or death. But today we know that mosquitoes and flies are often disease vectors. So, is there a significant amount of rabbis who have a different opinion on this matter or would they pretty much expect Jews in insect-borne-illness-prone areas to go real heavy on the DEET?

Green Cymbeline
12-05-2008, 02:20 AM
I have a question. On this site (http://www.ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm) it list the following prohibited activities...2. Burning
In general, any use of electricity violates the spirit of the Sabbath, since it involves extracting energy from nature. According to many authorities, electricity has the same status as fire with regard to the Sabbath. In any case, the practice of all observant Jews is to avoid turning any electrical appliance on or off.

3. Extinguishing
This includes extinguishing or lowering a flame in any way. Thus, for example, one may not turn down the gas on Shabbos. Similarly, it is forbidden to turn off the lights or any other electrical appliance.
But they're contradictory... you can't use electrical appliances, but you also can't turn them off. So you can't turn the lights on, but you can't turn them off either?

What about heat or air conditioning? What if it's the dead of winter, are you just supposed to be cold?

Can you leave your refrigerator plugged in? What if you open your refrigerator and the light goes on?

Can you bathe on the sabbath? If so, do you have to use cold water since hot water would require the use of the hot water heater?

I also noticed tying is on the list... how do you tie your shoes? Does fastening your clothes count (zippers, buttons, belts, etc?) Can men wear ties? What about women or girls pulling their hair back with an elastic band?

Chronos
12-05-2008, 02:29 AM
But they're contradictory... you can't use electrical appliances, but you also can't turn them off. So you can't turn the lights on, but you can't turn them off either?You can't turn on an appliance, which is necessary to use many of them. But if it's already on at the start of the Sabbath, you can (and must) leave it on.

I also noticed tying is on the list... how do you tie your shoes? Does fastening your clothes count (zippers, buttons, belts, etc?) Can men wear ties? What about women or girls pulling their hair back with an elastic band?I don't know whether this is the official answer, but the prohibition is against "tying two pieces of string together". Technically, a shoelace is a single piece of string, already connected, so it might be acceptable. Another possibility would be special Sabbath garments designed to not need any sort of tying. At a guess, I'd say that tying one's shoelace would go against a rabbinical prohibition, one of those rules to keep you from getting into the wrong habits, but would be acceptable if necessary.

grimpixie
12-05-2008, 03:50 AM
You can't turn on an appliance, which is necessary to use many of them. But if it's already on at the start of the Sabbath, you can (and must) leave it on. Could you turn *down* an appliance without turning it off? E.g. adjust the volume on a stereo, use a dimmer switch on a light, etc... In other words, not start (or stop) the electrical device, but adjust it's performance?

As I understand it, the prohibition against using electrical devices derives from the prohibition against lighting a fire - would it have been permissable to feed a fire that was already lit when the Sabbath started? (Which would be the pre-tech equivalent to the above...)

Grim

Keeve
12-05-2008, 06:45 AM
Ooh, ooh, I have a question! One of the prohibitions in the link GilaB provided specifically mentions that one may not kill mosquitoes or flies but one may kill a wasp or snake as they are deadly and you are specifically allowed to violate Shabbat in matters of life or death. But today we know that mosquitoes and flies are often disease vectors. So, is there a significant amount of rabbis who have a different opinion on this matter or would they pretty much expect Jews in insect-borne-illness-prone areas to go real heavy on the DEET?This is a great example of a point I try to stress to my children, namely, making a distinction between a law itself, vs. a mere example of a law.

In this case, it is an error to say that the law prohibits killing mosquitos and flies. Rather, the law prohibits killing non-deadly insects, and these are examples of non-deadly insects in the places we live. Elsewhere they'd be examples of insects which are deadly. The distinction is made by what is generally accepted among the populace. If someone was strongly allergic to mosquitos, then I'd kill them anywhere that person might be near, but not elsewhere.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 07:12 AM
I have a question. On this site (http://www.ou.org/chagim/shabbat/thirtynine.htm) it list the following prohibited activities...
But they're contradictory... you can't use electrical appliances, but you also can't turn them off. So you can't turn the lights on, but you can't turn them off either?

What about heat or air conditioning? What if it's the dead of winter, are you just supposed to be cold?

Can you leave your refrigerator plugged in? What if you open your refrigerator and the light goes on?

Can you bathe on the sabbath? If so, do you have to use cold water since hot water would require the use of the hot water heater?

I also noticed tying is on the list... how do you tie your shoes? Does fastening your clothes count (zippers, buttons, belts, etc?) Can men wear ties? What about women or girls pulling their hair back with an elastic band?Turning appliances on and off: This is why I caution people against the word "using", in favor of "operating". Using them is okay, as long as we don't operate them, i.e., turn them on or off or adjust them in other ways.

Heat and a/c: We set them before the Sabbath. If one forgot or the weather is unexpected, it often becomes a big enough health issue to warrant asking a non-Jew's help. Especially in winter.

Refrigerator: You hit the nail on the head. Just leave it plugged in, and you're not operating the cooling elements. But the light is indeed a problem. We unscrew ours; some people put tape on the switch. If one forgot, it will depend on what foods are available outside of the fridge. If one can manage without the stuff inside, great. But if declaring the fridge to be off-limits will make a severe enough impact to ruin one's enjoyment of the day, it will probably be grounds for asking a non-Jew's help. This is an example of an area which is easily abused or misunderstood. If one lives alone and was only planning on a peanut butter sandwich anyway, he is not justified in asking a non-Jew to get the cold soda from the refrigerator. But if he has a whole family and guests, and the appetizer, main course, and side dishes are all trapped inside, that's another story.

Bathing: There's lot of details, but basically you nailed it perfect.

Shoelaces and ties: Sorry, Chronos, good guess but wrong. The distinction goes by the permanence of the knot. Two factors are critical: The intention for the knot to be temporary (i.e., one plans to undo it within 24 hours), and the style of the knot to be temporary (i.e., one does not need to pick the the strings, but simply by pulling at the right place the whole thing will fall apart).

The shoelace knots often in use (where two loops are joined by a simple knot) are a good example of this. If one pulls on either end of the lace, the whole thing becomes loose. Some people add an additional loop for security, and that pushes the whole thing into no-no territory.

Similarly, there are different styles of necktie knots. The one I use, if I reach under my collar and pull the narrow part of the tie up and out through the knot, the knot falls apart, and that is okay. With other necktie knots, if one does that he is left with a knot in the tie. That's no good. People who don't have the knack for my kind of knot will tie the tie on Friday afternoon, and then on Friday night they'll loosen it off their head without untying it, so that they can easily put it back on Saturday morning.

Elastic bands on a pony tail: No problem. Rubber bands of all sorts (and their even more modern cousins, the metal keep-tie) are great solutions for many Sabbath situations.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 07:20 AM
Could you turn *down* an appliance without turning it off? E.g. adjust the volume on a stereo, use a dimmer switch on a light, etc... In other words, not start (or stop) the electrical device, but adjust it's performance?

As I understand it, the prohibition against using electrical devices derives from the prohibition against lighting a fire - would it have been permissable to feed a fire that was already lit when the Sabbath started? (Which would be the pre-tech equivalent to the above...)Nope, and for the exact reason you suspect. "Lighting" includes adding fuel to an existing fire (such as adding a log to a fireplace, even if it will not catch fire immediately), and "extinguishing" includes removing fuel from an existing fire (such as removing a log from the fireplace, even if not burning yet).

If a flame is already burning on one's gas stove, and he turns it up or down, that's the same as above, but even worse because it is immediate. And ditto for a dimmer switch.

Malacandra
12-05-2008, 08:41 AM
Sorry, no cite, but I've heard that Muslim prohibitions against the collection of interest leads to absurd financial shenanigans, all designed to create interest-like profits while technically complying with God's law. It's a similar idea.

I used to work tangentially to the financial service industry, so I can give an informal confirmation of this. Broadly speaking, the Islamic mortgage is a deal whereby the bank (etc) buys the property at the sale price, then sells it back to you on an instalment plan for a higher price. No interest is being charged, naturally; it's just that part of the deal is that you will buy the property for the agreed higher price. ;) Meanwhile, you're allowed to live in it and so on.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 09:56 AM
Slight hijack -- what's a ballpark figure for the percentage of American Jews (lumping reform, orthodox, essentially non-practicing, etc. all together) who conscientiously follow the rules of the Sabbath as fastidiously as possible?

Does that percentage change appreciably if you exclude Jews who live in the major urban centers of the east and west coasts ot the U.S.?

I ask this because I've never heard of a lot of the fine points of these laws, even though there is a not-insignificant Jewish minority in the New Orleans metro area. The one and only thing I'd ever seen that was a clear expression of the Sabbath laws was that Jewish folks would walk to synagogue instead of drive.

Are there a significant number of Reform (?) Jews who essentially throw out all but the bare bones of the Sabbath laws, all the while feeling like they are in compliance? So they'll walk to synagogue, and maybe leave selected lights on in the house and not cook on Sabbath on the one hand -- but on the other hand, they'll open/close the fridge without regarding the fridge light or they'll tear TP without giving it a second thought?

jacquilynne
12-05-2008, 10:21 AM
It's clear that the rules evolve over time. Is there anyone looking at these rules and loopholes with modern constraints in mind? Keeping lights on throughout the Sabbath, so they need not be turned on or off, for example, seems like a waste of electricity. And we all know we're not supposed to be wasting electricity.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 11:27 AM
It's clear that the rules evolve over time. Is there anyone looking at these rules and loopholes with modern constraints in mind? Keeping lights on throughout the Sabbath, so they need not be turned on or off, for example, seems like a waste of electricity. And we all know we're not supposed to be wasting electricity.This is a good example of conflicting values, as I mentioned above. Wasting electricity is bad both for the environment and for the wallet. If one feels that strongly about it, he has the option of simply leaving all the lights off, and using just a few nightlights or candles for safety. But these reasons are not strong enough to justify violating the Sabbath by turning the lights off.

Modern times do give us these problems, but fortunately, we get solutions as well. I have quite a few timers scattered through the house, which are pre-set beforehand, to turn the lights on and off automatically, to save electricity as you point out.

gigi
12-05-2008, 11:31 AM
Can you bathe on the sabbath? If so, do you have to use cold water since hot water would require the use of the hot water heater?

Up here, cold water often means using an electric pump in the well. I guess folks would need to collect water ahead of time and sponge bathe on the Sabbath?

cwthree
12-05-2008, 11:36 AM
Motion-detection sensors flush the toilet automatically after you leave. It is easy to argue that this is only an indirect operation of the electrical device, but since the result is beneficial, most consider it forbidden since you know for sure that it is going to happen. (If you don't know for sure, that might be a good loophole, but it will work only once at the most.)

How about a automatic flusher that was rigged to go off at random intervals throughout the day? The result is beneficial, you know that it will happen, but you don't know for sure when it's going to happen.

Alternatively, what about a toilet that is constantly cycling water through the bowl so it need not be flushed? I'm thinking that this WOULD be kosher in the same way that Shabbat-kosher lamps are (the switch is turned on and the bulb is lit before Shabbat, and there's an opaque shade that can be opened or closed to let the light through).

Keeve
12-05-2008, 11:40 AM
I ask this because I've never heard of a lot of the fine points of these laws, even though there is a not-insignificant Jewish minority in the New Orleans metro area. The one and only thing I'd ever seen that was a clear expression of the Sabbath laws was that Jewish folks would walk to synagogue instead of drive.Most of the things we've mentioned here are done within the home, so its not surprising that the only one you've noticed is the outdoor activity of walking to synagogue. Please rest assured that those who walk to synagogue probably do most of this other stuff too.Are there a significant number of Reform (?) Jews who essentially throw out all but the bare bones of the Sabbath laws, all the while feeling like they are in compliance? So they'll walk to synagogue, and maybe leave selected lights on in the house and not cook on Sabbath on the one hand -- but on the other hand, they'll open/close the fridge without regarding the fridge light or they'll tear TP without giving it a second thought?If there are any Reform Jews in this thread, I hope they'll respond. But it is my understanding that the basic philosophy behind the Reform movement is that all or most of the laws we've been mentioning are outmoded and have no relevance today. They are unlikely to walk to synagogue unless they live so close that walking is more convenient than driving. They do stress synagogue attendance and some other rituals, but in general consider the Torah's laws to be man-made and non-binding.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 11:46 AM
cwthree, all your ideas are okay. In addition, the randomness is not needed - it can be programmed for a specific schedule, as long as the Jew is not adjusting the schedule on Shabbat. But even that is superfluous, except for the guy in the OP who thought that there's a problem with manual flushing. All the rest of us simply push the lever to manually bring new water in.

Then again, that could be a problem with gigi's wells. I have no idea what people in those areas do.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 11:55 AM
If there are any Reform Jews in this thread, I hope they'll respond. But it is my understanding that the basic philosophy behind the Reform movement is that all or most of the laws we've been mentioning are outmoded and have no relevance today. They are unlikely to walk to synagogue unless they live so close that walking is more convenient than driving. They do stress synagogue attendance and some other rituals, but in general consider the Torah's laws to be man-made and non-binding.
Thanks for your answers, Keeve. You've got my curiosity wound up :)

Are there a significant number of Jewish folks who (a) do not self-identify as Reform, but (b) nevertheless selectively apply the Sabbath laws. Kind of like the example I gave -- walking to synagogue and being aghast at the thought of using the stove during the Sabbath, while at the same time obliviously skipping over the subtler rules like toilet paper, soap lather, tying shoes, etc.

In Catholicism, this is known as being a "cafeteria Catholic" :D Take a bit of this ritual, and a bit of that ... but ignore what you don't care for.

whorfin
12-05-2008, 12:03 PM
cwthree, all your ideas are okay. In addition, the randomness is not needed - it can be programmed for a specific schedule, as long as the Jew is not adjusting the schedule on Shabbat. But even that is superfluous, except for the guy in the OP who thought that there's a problem with manual flushing. All the rest of us simply push the lever to manually bring new water in.

Then again, that could be a problem with gigi's wells. I have no idea what people in those areas do.

One related thing I've seen-many new york office buildings have one elevator that is sometimes called a "sabbath elevator"-it runs automatically, stopping at every floor on friday/saturday.

How does that fit into the rules? it seems to come from the same concept-having something set to run automatically so it requires no input when it would be impermissible to (I assume-it would be using electricity), press buttons.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 12:09 PM
bordelond - Yes, definitely, but it is very difficult to quantify, because as you noticed, a lot of the subtler stuff is more private. One common example is going to synagogue, but also going to work and not bothering at all with these "work" rules. A lot of people in the Reform and Conservative groups do this. Another would be following most of the "work" rules, but not bothering with the ones that appear too arcane, such as carrying objects outdoors. Or they wouldn't cook fresh food, but don't care about the rules on how to properly reheat food. There a definitely people in the Orthodox groups who do this. Sometimes this is because of not properly understanding the rules, and sometimes because of not caring; but most often one causes the other.

But it is really hard to give numbers because no surveys are done, and the eyes tend to focus either on what you don't want to see, or maybe on what you do want to see.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 12:12 PM
One related thing I've seen-many new york office buildings have one elevator that is sometimes called a "sabbath elevator"-it runs automatically, stopping at every floor on friday/saturday.

How does that fit into the rules? it seems to come from the same concept-having something set to run automatically so it requires no input when it would be impermissible to (I assume-it would be using electricity), press buttons.Yep, you figured out the logic right. But I'm surprised to hear that you've seen them in office buildings. I know they're in apartment buildings and hospitals, but offices surprise me -- unless some of the floors in the building are residential.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 12:25 PM
Another hijack, this time for gentiles ... especially New Yorkers:

How many of these Sabbath rules did you know about before reading this thread? Is this all common knowledge among pretty much all New Yorkers, or do many gentiles remain ignorant of the subtler points, even if you know many Jewish people?

Chronos
12-05-2008, 12:42 PM
Then again, that could be a problem with gigi's wells. I have no idea what people in those areas do.Such systems will often have an elevated tank, to keep the water at a useful pressure. When the tank gets too low, the electric pump will automatically kick in to re-fill it. So any given time that you draw water, you know that you'll be contributing to the pump eventually turning on, but you don't know that it'll turn on that particular time that you draw water. Is that good enough?

About timers, it looks to me like that's "putting the finishing touch" on something. Now, the timer is set before the Sabbath, but goes off during the Sabbath. I take it, then, that the relevant time is when a human initiates the action, not when the action takes effect?

Also, most interpretations seem to hold that monetary transactions on the Sabbath are forbidden. Which of the 39 categories does that fall under? And assuming it didn't violate any of the other categories, could a Jew do something to earn a living on the Sabbath, provided that he arranged for payday to be some other day of the week?

bordelond
12-05-2008, 12:50 PM
... could a Jew do something to earn a living on the Sabbath, provided that he arranged for payday to be some other day of the week?
Coming at this from a position of complete ignorance ... it seems at first glance that acting, singing, and playing sports may well be allowed during the Sabbath. How about teaching/tutoring -- both traditional academics and teaching of "non-work" skills such as acting and singing?

Then again, didn't Sandy Koufax not pitch during the Sabbath? But doesn't current MLBer Shawn Green play during the Sabbath (though he has taken some Jewish holidays off)?

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 12:54 PM
About timers, it looks to me like that's "putting the finishing touch" on something. Now, the timer is set before the Sabbath, but goes off during the Sabbath. I take it, then, that the relevant time is when a human initiates the action, not when the action takes effect?

It varies from one category of work to another. For example, one could set a timer the minute before Shabbos starts to turn on and off one's lights. However, you could not turn on your oven and stick raw food in it the minute before Shabbos starts. The laws of cooking are different, and other categories of work may also have different laws.


Also, most interpretations seem to hold that monetary transactions on the Sabbath are forbidden. Which of the 39 categories does that fall under?

Actually, it doesn't come under any of them. Monetary transactions are forbidden by rabbinic decree to preserve the unique identity of Shabbos and to not have one engage in activities that resemble those of weekdays.

And assuming it didn't violate any of the other categories, could a Jew do something to earn a living on the Sabbath, provided that he arranged for payday to be some other day of the week?

This is a topic in Jewish law that is relevant to babysitters, cantors and other people who must "work" on Shabbos. Usually, the solution involves some work that must be done during the week as well, or else being paid for the whole week, rather than specifically for the service rendered on Shabbos.

Zev Steinhardt

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 12:57 PM
Then again, didn't Sandy Koufax not pitch during the Sabbath?

Actually, that was Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, a similar principle is involved.

But doesn't current MLBer Shawn Green play during the Sabbath (though he has taken some Jewish holidays off)?

I think it's a fair assumption to say that Mr. Green is not Orthodox.

Zev Steinhardt

Keeve
12-05-2008, 01:16 PM
Such systems will often have an elevated tank, to keep the water at a useful pressure. When the tank gets too low, the electric pump will automatically kick in to re-fill it. So any given time that you draw water, you know that you'll be contributing to the pump eventually turning on, but you don't know that it'll turn on that particular time that you draw water. Is that good enough?I think so. It sound to me identical with opening the refrigerator door, which lets warm air in. Eventually the thermostat will kick in. Some rabbis do have a problem with it, but most say its sufficiently indirect.About timers, it looks to me like that's "putting the finishing touch" on something. Now, the timer is set before the Sabbath, but goes off during the Sabbath. I take it, then, that the relevant time is when a human initiates the action, not when the action takes effect?When I first started out, this "finishing touch" business made me worry that I shouldn't make my bed in the morning. Eventually I learned that the prohibition refers to the object's manufacture, not its normal usage. The classic example is removing stray threads from a new suit which should have been removed by the manufacturer.Also, most interpretations seem to hold that monetary transactions on the Sabbath are forbidden. Which of the 39 categories does that fall under? And assuming it didn't violate any of the other categories, could a Jew do something to earn a living on the Sabbath, provided that he arranged for payday to be some other day of the week?Hold on for this one. You're not gonna believe it. Monetary transactions do NOT fall under ANY of the 39 categories, and are ALLOWED on the Sabbath by Torah law. The rabbis forbade it, mainly to prevent someone from accidentally writing a receipt. (Writing IS one of the 39 categories.) Getting paid for doing permissible work on the Sabbath (such as a rabbi or babysitter) is subject to very complicated rules.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 01:24 PM
(Writing IS one of the 39 categories.)
Can Jewish students get extensions in college for term papers and such? I'm sure in reality, 99 out of 100 times, not writing during the Sabbath doesn't really impede the progress of a term paper ... but, you know -- hypothetically?

Come to think of it, though ... a mid-week Jewish holiday (assuming Sabbath laws are in effect for them [?]) could pose a problem for some types of school work. I used to get writing assignments that were handed out on Monday and due Wednesday, for example. If that Tuesday (sunset Mon-sunset Tues) were a Jewish holiday, might that pose a problem? Do Orthodox Jewish student routinely address such matters with professors beforehand?

Chronos
12-05-2008, 01:27 PM
How about teaching/tutoring -- both traditional academics and teaching of "non-work" skills such as acting and singing?Teaching might be allowed in general, but you'd have to be very careful about the writing prohibition. I know that in my field, at least, I couldn't teach any meaningful amount without writing.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 01:28 PM
Actually, that was Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, a similar principle is involved.

Ground level question: strictly, is an Orthodox Jewish athlete allowed to compete during the Sabbath? Does it make a difference whether or not the athlete is professional?

For instance, I am assuming that going out in the backyard and tossing around a football for fun is allowed. I am also assuming that if a few neighborhood kids show up, it would be OK for them to have a Saturday-morning football game in the backyard. Good assumptions, or no?

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 01:31 PM
Can Jewish students get extensions in college for term papers and such? I'm sure in reality, 99 out of 100 times, not writing during the Sabbath doesn't really impede the progress of a term paper ... but, you know -- hypothetically?

Come to think of it, though ... a mid-week Jewish holiday (assuming Sabbath laws are in effect for them [?]) could pose a problem for some types of school work. I used to get writing assignments that were handed out on Monday and due Wednesday, for example. If that Tuesday (sunset Mon-sunset Tues) were a Jewish holiday, might that pose a problem? Do Orthodox Jewish student routinely address such matters with professors beforehand?

Heh. I'm in grad school now.

The economics course I'm currently taking had in it's syllabus:

No make up exam will be give for the midterm exam. You are responsible for checking the exam date in the outline and avoiding any conflict with other commitments.

Sure enough, the midterm was on the holiday of Sukkos (a holiday with similar rules to Shabbos). I emailed the professor, explained the situation to him, and arranged to take the test another time. (I ended up taking it a week early.)

I have yet to run across a teacher who made my life difficult because of Shabbos observance.

Zev Steinhardt

Sigmagirl
12-05-2008, 01:33 PM
My husband and I judge middle-school writing competitions that take place on Saturdays. The students for an Orthodox school that competes write their entries on the day before and the essays are mixed in with the others, by the students who appear on Saturday to write. We never know which student wrote which essay.

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 01:34 PM
Ground level question: strictly, is an Orthodox Jewish athlete allowed to compete during the Sabbath? Does it make a difference whether or not the athlete is professional?

There are authorities who frown on athletic activities on Shabbos in general. Certainly any organized athletic activity would be deemed not in the spirit of Shabbos.


For instance, I am assuming that going out in the backyard and tossing around a football for fun is allowed. I am also assuming that if a few neighborhood kids show up, it would be OK for them to have a Saturday-morning football game in the backyard. Good assumptions, or no?

My kids sometimes shoot hoops in the backyard on summer Shabbos afternoons. But it's pretty much on an ad-hoc basis.

Zev Steinhardt

bordelond
12-05-2008, 01:34 PM
Teaching might be allowed in general, but you'd have to be very careful about the writing prohibition. I know that in my field, at least, I couldn't teach any meaningful amount without writing.
Yeah, I started thinking about examples in my head. ISTM that voice and acting coaches could get plenty done with a student.

For someone tutoring grade-school children in math or what have you, an Orthodox Jewish tutor could certainly view the child's work and visually monitor the child's efforts on paper, correct? Just not pick up a pencil and write something out.

...

Random thought -- are Jewish children, before their bar/bat mitsvah, exempt from any Sabbath laws? Can they write things, doodle, color in a coloring book, etc.

What inspired that question is that in Catholicism, before a child's Confirmation (around 8th grade), they are not on the ultimate hook for most categories of sins. After Confirmation, Catholics are expected to be fully responsible for their actions. I was wondering if the bar/bat mizvah held a similar significance (among others).

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 01:39 PM
Random thought -- are Jewish children, before their bar/bat mitsvah, exempt from any Sabbath laws? Can they write things, doodle, color in a coloring book, etc.

What inspired that question is that in Catholicism, before a child's Confirmation (around 8th grade), they are not on the ultimate hook for most categories of sins. After Confirmation, Catholics are expected to be fully responsible for their actions. I was wondering if the bar/bat mizvah held a similar significance (among others).

The idea is pretty similar in Judaism. Of course, we also view the period before Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a "training period." As such, we don't normally allow pre-BM kids to perform actions that violate Shabbos.

Zev Steinhardt

bordelond
12-05-2008, 01:50 PM
As such, we don't normally allow pre-BM kids to perform actions that violate Shabbos.

While at the same time, no one in an Orthodox household leaps across the room to prevent a 4-year-old from playing with Legos or Play Doh (purposeful construction). You just take them away and use it as a low-key teaching moment, right?

Come to think of it ... what are the common ways Orthodox children amuse themselves during Sabbath when the Leapsters and other electronic games get picked up? Sounds like construction/modeling toys would be out, too. No coloring books or doodling pads. Hmmm.

You did mention backyard sports is OK. Board games? Cards? Reading books is time-honored, and presumably allowed.

zev_steinhardt
12-05-2008, 01:56 PM
While at the same time, no one in an Orthodox household leaps across the room to prevent a 4-year-old from playing with Legos or Play Doh (purposeful construction). You just take them away and use it as a low-key teaching moment, right?

Well, you educate a child according to his or her level. If the kid is under two, you probably wouldn't even take it away at all because the child would not understand the significance of Shabbos anyway. As the child gets older, s/he is expected to follow the laws more closely.


You did mention backyard sports is OK. Board games? Cards? Reading books is time-honored, and presumably allowed.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Zev Steinhardt

Kyla
12-05-2008, 01:57 PM
If there are any Reform Jews in this thread, I hope they'll respond. But it is my understanding that the basic philosophy behind the Reform movement is that all or most of the laws we've been mentioning are outmoded and have no relevance today. They are unlikely to walk to synagogue unless they live so close that walking is more convenient than driving. They do stress synagogue attendance and some other rituals, but in general consider the Torah's laws to be man-made and non-binding.

In my experience, this is pretty spot-on, although of course it varies from person to person (a Reform friend of mine kept a kosher kitchen for years, which is a little unusual) and congregation to congregation. Although Reformim don't necessarily follow the Shabbas rules, it is common to treat the day differently from the rest of the week - ie, no working, no shopping, no running around doing errands, but maybe doing other pleasurable activities that may or may not violate the Orthodox Shabbas rules, ie, gardening, taking a hike somewhere pretty, relaxing with a good book.

As for Conservativim, in practice it seems like a lot of them follow the Reformim in practice, but in theory they're supposed to keep the Shabbas like the Orthodox. One Conservative friend horrified her parents when she became shomer shabbas. Another friend in college who was Conservative said she decided to become shomer shabbas because it's what the Conservative movement says you should do - I recently friended her on Facebook and she now identifies as Orthodox.

Musicat
12-05-2008, 02:19 PM
How about a automatic flusher that was rigged to go off at random intervals throughout the day? The result is beneficial, you know that it will happen, but you don't know for sure when it's going to happen.

Alternatively, what about a toilet that is constantly cycling water through the bowl so it need not be flushed? I'm thinking that this WOULD be kosher in the same way that Shabbat-kosher lamps are (the switch is turned on and the bulb is lit before Shabbat, and there's an opaque shade that can be opened or closed to let the light through).This reminds me of what a friend said happened in hi-rise buildings in Israel (so it's not a first-hand observation). Forbidden to "make a circuit", riders can't press a button to go to a particular floor or even summon the car. So the elevators are programmed to stop and open at each and every floor, which is OK.

stpauler
12-05-2008, 02:26 PM
In my experience, this is pretty spot-on, although of course it varies from person to person (a Reform friend of mine kept a kosher kitchen for years, which is a little unusual) and congregation to congregation. Although Reformim don't necessarily follow the Shabbas rules, it is common to treat the day differently from the rest of the week - ie, no working, no shopping, no running around doing errands, but maybe doing other pleasurable activities that may or may not violate the Orthodox Shabbas rules, ie, gardening, taking a hike somewhere pretty, relaxing with a good book.

As for Conservativim, in practice it seems like a lot of them follow the Reformim in practice, but in theory they're supposed to keep the Shabbas like the Orthodox. One Conservative friend horrified her parents when she became shomer shabbas. Another friend in college who was Conservative said she decided to become shomer shabbas because it's what the Conservative movement says you should do - I recently friended her on Facebook and she now identifies as Orthodox.

My partner and his family go to a conservative temple which is very loosey goosey with the Shabbas rules. For example, the parking lot has quite a few cars on Saturday, even in nice weather. The most egregious, I thought, was when our daughter had her bat mitzvah. Taking pictures was forbidden during the service but were allowed in the temple, right next to the Torah, after services as long as it was the temple's approved photographer (ie, the temple got kickbacks). It was ok to break the rules as long as it behooved the temple.

bordelond
12-05-2008, 02:29 PM
I didn't know what "shomer shabbas" referred to in Kyla's post above, so I went and checked it out on Wikipedia. I got some interesting information that is in the ballpark of some of my questions upthread:

Social dimensions
In the past, it was relatively uncommon to be shomer Shabbat in the United States, even among the Orthodox. Emanuel Feldman writes that it was a “rarity” in the American Orthodoxy of the 1950’s. Overall, political scientist Charles Liebman estimated that about 4% of American Jews were shomer shabbos in the 1960s. [3] Among other factors, Saturday had not yet been established as a day off from work, and many American Jews found that insistence on Shabbat observance would cost them their livelihood. During this period, to improve observance, Flatbush rabbis operated a Shomer Shabbat council and ran a Shomer Shabbat parade.[4]

According to the National Jewish Population Survey (2000-2001), about 50% of affiliated Jews (versus 8% of unaffiliated) light Sabbath candles. The first mitzvah in shomer Shabbat home each Friday evening, candle-lighting is performed by 85% of Orthodox, 50% of Conservative and 25% of Reform Jews (Ament 2005:31). [5] In total, Sabbath candle-lighting is practiced by 28% of NJPS survey respondents representative of 4.3 million Jews (United Jewish Communities 2003:7).

With the increasing observance among Orthodox Jews, the status of shomer Shabbat has become more important. For example, one of the key questions asked about Orthodox Jewish day schools is whether it allows children who are not shomer Shabbat. [6] The shomer shabbat distinction has been found to be a factor in the social integration of children and families. [7] Sabbath observance is a major priority among Orthodox Jewish families[8] and one scholar contends that shomer Shabbat status is the “functional equivalent” of Orthodox Jewish identity.[9]

Various organizations have accommodated the religious observance requirements of shomer Shabbat Jews. For example, after extensive appeals on their behalf, the U.S. National High School Mock Trial Championship made adjustments for observant Jews from the Torah Academy of Bergen County who were the 2005 state champions representing New Jersey.[10] Similarly, hospitals may allow a shomer Shabbat program for residents in medical training. Many municipalities have cooperated with observant Jews in creating a symbolic boundary for a neighborhood (eruv), in which a shomer Shabbat is permitted to carry or move items that would otherwise be prohibited, such as a baby stroller. In sports, observant Jews may be accommodated along with Seventh Day Adventists. Alternatively, groups like Tzivos Hashem has set up its own shomer Shabbat baseball Little League.

The bolded elements above are very interesting. AFAICT, almost all other major religions in the U.S. are undergoing a steady decrease in "devoutness" (not something I can cite).

gigi
12-05-2008, 02:40 PM
Such systems will often have an elevated tank, to keep the water at a useful pressure. When the tank gets too low, the electric pump will automatically kick in to re-fill it. So any given time that you draw water, you know that you'll be contributing to the pump eventually turning on, but you don't know that it'll turn on that particular time that you draw water. Is that good enough?Cool--this compelled me to call my friend and learn more about their well. You are correct--they have a tank in the basement that triggers the pump when it hits 30 pounds of pressure.

What inspired that question is that in Catholicism, before a child's Confirmation (around 8th grade), they are not on the ultimate hook for most categories of sins.

Hrmm?? This is new to me. Not that I was trying to get away with anything but...

Could you point to references for this?

Chronos
12-05-2008, 03:00 PM
For instance, I am assuming that going out in the backyard and tossing around a football for fun is allowed. I am also assuming that if a few neighborhood kids show up, it would be OK for them to have a Saturday-morning football game in the backyard. Good assumptions, or no?I would expect it to depend on the sport, too. Football (at least some positions on the team, and those are usually blurry in pickup games) might fall afoul of the prohibition on carrying, for instance.

Hrmm?? This is new to me. Not that I was trying to get away with anything but...It's not a question of sins so much as obligations. Young children are not bound by the Lenten observances (fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, no meat on Fridays, and a personal meaningful sacrifice for the rest of Lent), but those are set by specific ages, not Confirmation (which can be at any age from about 8 to 16). The elderly, the sick, pregnant women, and a few other categories of folks are also exempted.

gigi
12-05-2008, 03:35 PM
Ah, I did have to refresh my memory on fasting and abstinence age limits. Being not on the hook for "most categories of sins" is still an odd idea. I see there's something about "age of reason", but Confession is given starting at a young age and the examination of conscience includes a range of offenses.

Keeve
12-05-2008, 03:59 PM
Just a point of info to all: Over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, various points in the Eastern Time Zone of the USA will be starting Shabbat. I'll be shutting my computer right after sending this post, and won't be turning it back on for another 26 hours or so.

Europe and Asia already started a while back, and point west will be coming up soon. So y'all feel free to post what you like, but don't be surprised about who does the responding. To all, have a Good Shabbos, a Shabbat Shalom, or a Nice Weekend, each as the case may be.

DocCathode
12-05-2008, 04:36 PM
Just finished reading the thread. So far, some excellent questions. If you're a gentile with a question, please ask.

Here's my contribution. As I understand it once can solve a Rubik's cube on sabbath. You cannot however take it apart and put it back together again. You also cannot remove the stickers and replace them.

Tom Tildrum
12-05-2008, 04:39 PM
Now that the Sabbath is upon us, I'll throw in one more question: Suppose an Orthodox Jew is arrested on the Sabbath (presumably by gentile police officers). Must he refuse to cooperate with being fingerprinted? I.e., to the point where the police have to actually pick up his hands and press them onto the paper?

Chronos
12-05-2008, 04:47 PM
I suspect that any prohibition against fingerprinting would be rabbinical, since even if it's writing, it's not "two or more letters". As such, it can be set aside if it conflicts with a rule from the Torah itself. The Noahide commandment (the seven commandments considered binding on all humans, not just Jews) to form a civilized society would seem to apply, here.

Thalion
12-06-2008, 12:35 AM
Now that the Sabbath is upon us, I'll throw in one more question: Suppose an Orthodox Jew is arrested on the Sabbath (presumably by gentile police officers). Must he refuse to cooperate with being fingerprinted? I.e., to the point where the police have to actually pick up his hands and press them onto the paper?

Actually, that's how fingerprints are taken. If you let the person just do it themselves, the prints are invariably smeared.

There might be some problems with signing various forms, such as acknowledgment of rights, booking documents, etc..

In 21 years as a cop, I've never run into this (of course, there are very few Jews in this area).

C K Dexter Haven
12-06-2008, 09:45 AM
The Staff Report that cmkeller wrote should be found here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=495965

It apparently fell through the cracks in the conversion to the $#*@ing new system. I've asked that it be found and restated, so this link should work in a day or so. Sorry.

bordelond
12-06-2008, 10:23 AM
Hrmm?? This is new to me. Not that I was trying to get away with anything but...

Could you point to references for this?

On top of what Chronos wrote, here's some more info (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacraments_of_the_Catholic_Church#Confirmation):

Like baptism, confirmation may be received only once, and the recipient must be in a state of grace (meaning free from any known unconfessed mortal sin) in order to receive its effects.

You're right about Confession first taking place at a fairly young age (at least by age 8 or so). So going to Confession is meant to be a regular thing for children of Confirmation age (12-14 or so). So ... what you're supposed to do is go to Confession sometime before your Confirmation, clear your slate with God (thus getting off the "ultimate hook" of damnation), and then proceed with Confirmation.

CC
12-06-2008, 11:25 AM
This conversation is extremely refreshing. It is obvious that there are many cultures, ethnic groups - whatever - in this world that are viewed only through the lens of stereotype or naivite. Despite all the blather about the melting pot and assimilation, we continue to be a country of enclaves, probably more so today than ever before. And our national obsession with "being offended" has more and more limited our opportunities to truly know more about one another. Our ignorance is one of our biggest obstacles to growth and real understanding, but there are few places where people feel safe enough to converse. Fortunately, the SDMB is one of them, and this particular thread is a good example of that. Notice how many people apologize for asking questions. They are mannerly and deferential, which is nice, but that's how sensitive we have become, and it's not good. THIS is good. "Hey, what are you like? Why do you do those things? What's the point?" Except for one notably unenlightened poster, this has been a wonderful and open learning experience. Would that it could occur elsewhere, about all sorts of people, in other forums, in public, in conversation, in the media. Love it.

bordelond
12-06-2008, 12:24 PM
Football (at least some positions on the team, and those are usually blurry in pickup games) might fall afoul of the prohibition on carrying, for instance.
From a position of ignorance, that seems like a particularly hairy one becausing "carrying" is a broad, broad concept. Might a rabbi ever conceivably tell his congregates that they should not be "carrying" their clothing during the Sabbath, for instance?

Or upthread, when Keeve (I think) mentioned that making a PB&J sandwich during the Sabbath was OK: is picking up the sandwich to take a bite, which requires momentary carrying, expressly forbidden? I am assuming not, but I do not know how "carrying of type A" is reckoned against "carrying of type B". Is it something along the lines of "toting loads" versus "picking up a magazine"?

Or the mention upthread of the Orthodox Jewish man who was arranging folding chairs during the Sabbath, but doing so with in the bounds of an eruv. Would a pick-up football game be OK if the field were someone's backyard that was wholly enclosed within an eruv?

suranyi
12-06-2008, 03:41 PM
I have some cousins who are Orthodox Jews, and when I was a kid and played catch with them in their back yards on Shabbos, the rule we had was this: It was OK as long as we were inside the enclosed back yard. But if someone opened one of the gates, breaking the enclosure, we had to drop the ball. I don't know if the rabbi would have approved, but we were only eleven years old so it worked for us then.

Ed

Shinna Minna Ma
12-06-2008, 03:49 PM
From a position of ignorance, that seems like a particularly hairy one becausing "carrying" is a broad, broad concept. Might a rabbi ever conceivably tell his congregates that they should not be "carrying" their clothing during the Sabbath, for instance?

Or upthread, when Keeve (I think) mentioned that making a PB&J sandwich during the Sabbath was OK: is picking up the sandwich to take a bite, which requires momentary carrying, expressly forbidden? I am assuming not, but I do not know how "carrying of type A" is reckoned against "carrying of type B". Is it something along the lines of "toting loads" versus "picking up a magazine"?

Or the mention upthread of the Orthodox Jewish man who was arranging folding chairs during the Sabbath, but doing so with in the bounds of an eruv. Would a pick-up football game be OK if the field were someone's backyard that was wholly enclosed within an eruv?

Picking up a sandwich in the house is not a problem, because you are not moving it from one type or domain to another type. (The house is a private domain. You can carry within the house.) However, without an eruv, you could not carry the sandwich from the house (a private domain) outside to the street, because you are now taking it from a private domain to a public one.

And yes, Bordelond, reading books on Shabbat is fine. My wife returned a few days ago from a visit to the States, and she brought me fine, Shabbat reading material - the newest Garrison Keillor book. I curled up with it for most of the afternoon.

Chronos
12-06-2008, 03:51 PM
If it's wholly contained within someone's backyard (or house, in the sandwich example), no eruv is needed. The carrying prohibition isn't against all carrying, but only carrying within a public space. Carrying in a private domain is not a problem. One's own backyard is probably automatically a private domain, but a neighborhood of houses owned by many different people is not automatically private. The symbolic boundary of an eruv and certain associated actions (I believe sharing food is part of it) transform the public space in question into a private space, so carrying within that space is permitted, just as if it were your own backyard.

Keeve
12-06-2008, 08:24 PM
Good answers about the carrying, everyone. For more info, I had posted a link to the Wikipedia article on "Eruv".

Re fingerprinting: Yes, perfect logic why it is only a rabbinic prohibition, but I'm not sure whether the situation is enough of a reason to make it actually permitted. But as someone pointed out, the police actually do it, so I guess there's not much of a question.

On a related note, My wife went into labor with our first child late Friday night, well after Shabbat had begun. This is enough of a medical issue to justify driving myself. But for various reasons I planned in advance and made arrangements with a taxi company just in case. Two of the reasons are: (1) Driving to the hospital is justified as being a medical emergency; parking and turning the car off after she's out of the car, not so much. (2) I wasn't really sure how safely I'd drive under such conditions.

Anyway, once we arrived, I cooperated fully with the (presumably non-Jewish) staff at the admissions department, answering all their questions while they typed it into the computers. When we were all done it was time for me to sign, I explained about the Sabbath and asked if I could just give my verbal consent, and then sign the forms on Saturday night. She had to get an okay from the supervisor, who okayed it, and signed as a witness to my consent. All worked out okay, and my son was born that Saturday afternoon.

Shinna Minna Ma
12-07-2008, 01:07 AM
On a related note, My wife went into labor with our first child late Friday night, well after Shabbat had begun. This is enough of a medical issue to justify driving myself. But for various reasons I planned in advance and made arrangements with a taxi company just in case. Two of the reasons are: (1) Driving to the hospital is justified as being a medical emergency; parking and turning the car off after she's out of the car, not so much. (2) I wasn't really sure how safely I'd drive under such conditions.

The "Jewish" hospital where my wife gave birth had arrangements for taking care of the car for observant people arriving on Shabbat. My wife went into labor late one Shabbat afternoon, and I drove her to the hospital. The hospital has the guard on door duty park the car, and then give the keys back later. It's a good thing I drove, because if we had waited for a taxi, my wife would have given birth in the back seat! :eek:

schindler
12-07-2008, 10:37 PM
But who decides what Jews are commanded to do? The rabbis can't even agree on an interpretation. Isn't it possible that a religious law against tearing toilet paper on a certain day has no meaning other than what adherents decide to attribute to it?



So what happens if you forget? Do you not wipe your ass? Do you wipe and then throw the entire roll away? If the garbage is full can you manipulate it to make it fit?

A) This is following a line of reasoning that began with a rather simplistic view of the "will of God". The Talmud is loaded with statements about "70 facets of the Torah" and "These (opinions) and these (opposing ones) are the words of the Living God" (or perhaps, living words of God? Probably deliberately ambiguous phrasing). You assume that the arguments of the rabbis are simply to deduce the "will of God". Sometimes this may be the case-- simply defining a biblical prohibition, as well as placing rabbinical safeguard around it, more and more definitively, until "thou shalt not light a fire" becomes a point of contention regarding incandescent lightbulbs millenia later. Other times, though, the Bible has nothing much to say about a matter. The corpus of Halakha (Jewish law) has had a couple thousand years to evolve, always a more or less living tradition, adapting to circumstances while conforming to established norms. I suppose we all view this as the "will of God", but certainly we all readily acknowledge that it is a less directly manifest will than "thou shall not steal". A Jew is part of a system, a tradition, a civilization, whatever, and a halakhically observant one will bind himself or herself to the rules. I do not know how often I think directly about the "will of God" when I act. More often, I think about what it says in the second section of Shulhan Arukh, a codified book of Jewish law. The fact that this ruling goes against the contrary opinions, eventually rejected after consideration of the author, does not bother me, any more than it bothers me to go to an integrated school in spite of Supreme Court rulings about Separate but Equal. The difference, though, is that I could sometimes conceive of following the rejected opinion, and that is because a halakhic picture of truth is somewhat more pluralistic than any answer to "well, is segregation unequal or not?"


B) As Gila pointed out, this is a very backwards way of having this discussion. It should begin with first principles, IE the 39 basic prohibitions of Shabbat, and proceed to early rabbinic interpretation (Tannaitic, in the Mishna), later rabbinic interpretation (amoraitic, in the Gemara, which interprets and explains the Mishna), later rabbinic rulings throughout the first and second millenium CE, and contemporary "p'sak halakha" (Jewish legal rulings).

There is a simply staggering amount of literature on each and every sabbath prohibition. The issur (prohibition) of k'ri'ah al m'nat litpor (constructive tearing), to use the example we are dealing with, is considered biblical, but parameters for what fits into this biblical category are given by the Mishna, interpreted in the Gemara, commented upon and argued about by early and late rabbis, all to be studied by current Rabbis. Toilet paper wasn't an issue for anyone discussing it in the Talmud two thousand years ago. It is a recent innovation, but rulings regarding it are to be based upon the paradigms established far earlier. The reason why a layman would keep a box of tissues in his bathroom is not necessarily because of his extensive knowledge of this matter. It is, more likely, because his rabbi, who has far more expertise, has instructed him to do so, either directly or indirectly. Or because his father did so, and thus an ancient mimetic tradition continues.

Jragon
12-08-2008, 01:19 AM
What about downloading and other lengthy computer intensive stuff (i.e. huge calculations and rendering)?

I'll separate the two.

Downloading would involve data to be transferred from private domains, to several public (various routers), back to private (your house). It also involves constantly flipping switches in your computer (making and breaking tons of circuits, violating the igniting/extinguishing a fire, and/or the building prohibition, depending on what you go by). If you start the download beforehand is it still considered a violation. I understand setting a timer beforehand for something isn't prohibited, but it doesn't make/break connections all the time, nor does it "create" (meaning create a file on your hard drive).

Rendering and calculations can take weeks, and if you turn it off you can very well lose what you got and have to start over (meaning it'll never get done). However, rendering is all of downloading, except the transfer. It also is very much creative (it's essentially putting the finishing touches on your work, changing it from an unusable format into a stable, complete one). Is this a grey area, outright allowed? Prohibited? Again, assume you start beforehand.

Chronos
12-08-2008, 01:28 AM
I've asked about that before. The Sabbath applies to humans, not to machines, so your computer is free to continue carrying, making fires, finishing things, and all the rest.

Golems, however, if one believes the stories, generally take the Sabbath off, like humans.

Musicat
12-08-2008, 08:32 AM
I've asked about that before. The Sabbath applies to humans, not to machines, so your computer is free to continue carrying, making fires, finishing things, and all the rest.Apparently some believe differently. B & H Photo Video, (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/) a large Internet site, completely shuts down their WWW order taking from Friday night until Saturday night, even though it is entirely computer-automated. I've been told they are Jewish and it is for religious reasons, but I have not confirmed this.

gigi
12-08-2008, 08:49 AM
On top of what Chronos wrote, here's some more info (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacraments_of_the_Catholic_Church#Confirmation):

You're right about Confession first taking place at a fairly young age (at least by age 8 or so). So going to Confession is meant to be a regular thing for children of Confirmation age (12-14 or so). So ... what you're supposed to do is go to Confession sometime before your Confirmation, clear your slate with God (thus getting off the "ultimate hook" of damnation), and then proceed with Confirmation.Sorry to continue the hijack, but your original statement

What inspired that question is that in Catholicism, before a child's Confirmation (around 8th grade), they are not on the ultimate hook for most categories of sins. After Confirmation, Catholics are expected to be fully responsible for their actions.

isn't supported by what you quoted. There's nothing there that says children are not fully responsible for their actions. A Catholic of any age can avail himself of Confession, "clearing their slate with God", which presumes they were fully responsible.

bordelond
12-08-2008, 10:10 AM
There's nothing there that says children are not fully responsible for their actions. A Catholic of any age can avail himself of Confession, "clearing their slate with God", which presumes they were fully responsible.
Correct -- I was wrong about that.

RiverRunner
12-08-2008, 10:29 AM
Here's my contribution. As I understand it once can solve a Rubik's cube on sabbath. You cannot however take it apart and put it back together again. You also cannot remove the stickers and replace them.



Make up your mind!


(The only way I can solve a Rubik's cube is by taking it apart and putting it back together.)



RR

brazil84
12-08-2008, 11:55 AM
He went to Columbia University. In Manhattan. Quite a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

As a side note, I will point out that there is a huge amount of anti-semitism in the New York City area. (A lot of the time it's Jew on Jew antisemitism.)

For example, Jews who wear yarmulkes and who have Yiddish accents often have a hard time getting professional jobs and it's not uncommon for Orthodox Jews to leave the yarmulke at home when Job hunting.

As another example, there was a huge court battle in Bergen County, New Jersey over whether orthodox Jews could install an eruv. Basically the reform and conservative Jews did not want the orthodox Jews to move in.

zev_steinhardt
12-08-2008, 12:14 PM
What about downloading and other lengthy computer intensive stuff (i.e. huge calculations and rendering)?

I'll separate the two.

Downloading would involve data to be transferred from private domains, to several public (various routers), back to private (your house). It also involves constantly flipping switches in your computer (making and breaking tons of circuits, violating the igniting/extinguishing a fire, and/or the building prohibition, depending on what you go by). If you start the download beforehand is it still considered a violation. I understand setting a timer beforehand for something isn't prohibited, but it doesn't make/break connections all the time, nor does it "create" (meaning create a file on your hard drive).


Oh boy... let's try to break this down.

The first issue you brought up (carrying) doesn't apply here. The prohibition does not include electronic data as they are not physical objects.

The other prohibitions that you mention do not apply either. As someone pointed out later, the prohibitions do not include one's machines. My refrigerator, my air conditioner, my heater and my lights all continue to work on Shabbos, even sometimes turning on or off by themselves.

Zev Steinhardt

zev_steinhardt
12-08-2008, 12:15 PM
Apparently some believe differently. B & H Photo Video, (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/) a large Internet site, completely shuts down their WWW order taking from Friday night until Saturday night, even though it is entirely computer-automated. I've been told they are Jewish and it is for religious reasons, but I have not confirmed this.

B&H shuts down their ordering system so as to not be doing business on the Sabbath. This has nothing to do with the prohibitions that we have been mentioning. If it did, they'd have to shut down the entire site!

Zev Steinhardt

Chronos
12-08-2008, 12:22 PM
it's not uncommon for Orthodox Jews to leave the yarmulke at home when Job hunting.Oy, as if Job didn't have enough troubles already, now he's getting hunted by incognito Jews?

The first issue you brought up (carrying) doesn't apply here. The prohibition does not include electronic data as they are not physical objects.Honestly, if computers were subject to Sabbath laws, I'd imagine that the biggest problem would be with writing. Recording data on a disk is just a very modern form of writing characters.

zev_steinhardt
12-08-2008, 12:36 PM
Oy, as if Job didn't have enough troubles already, now he's getting hunted by incognito Jews?


Personally, I have yet to have a problem job hunting with a yarmulke.


Honestly, if computers were subject to Sabbath laws, I'd imagine that the biggest problem would be with writing. Recording data on a disk is just a very modern form of writing characters.

Nope, that's not an issue at all. Electronic "writing" (whether to disk or on a monitor) is not considered writing at all. If not, then we could never turn off our monitors when God's name appears on it.

Zev Steinhardt

Musicat
12-08-2008, 12:55 PM
The Sabbath applies to humans, not to machines, so your computer is free to continue carrying, making fires, finishing things, and all the rest.B&H shuts down their ordering system so as to not be doing business on the Sabbath. But "doing business" with a self-contained, Internet order-taking system sounds a lot like only the computer is doing the carrying, making fires, or finishing things. No human need pay any attention to it until the Sabbath is over. That sounds like it would be OK (but I'm not a Rabbi and the appropriate smiley is no longer available), so please explain the apparent lack of consistency if you can.

A non-modern analogy would be a Jewish shopkeeper, whose store is closed on the Sabbath. A regular customer slips a note under the door asking for some gefilte fish, lox and Manischewitz to be delivered the next day. Would the shopkeeper refuse the order because of the time the note was left?

DocCathode
12-08-2008, 03:44 PM
Recording data on a disk is just a very modern form of writing characters.

Actually writing on magnetic media is considered by most rabbis to lack a concreteness or permanence. One can erase the Name from magnetic media for example.

cmkeller
12-08-2008, 03:59 PM
Musicat:

But "doing business" with a self-contained, Internet order-taking system sounds a lot like only the computer is doing the carrying, making fires, or finishing things. No human need pay any attention to it until the Sabbath is over. That sounds like it would be OK (but I'm not a Rabbi and the appropriate smiley is no longer available), so please explain the apparent lack of consistency if you can.

I'm not sure that it is prohibited at all; I think the owners of B & H Photo wish, out of personal piety, to not benefit from profits of Sabbath business, even if it is technically permitted.

muldoonthief
12-08-2008, 04:05 PM
As a side note, I will point out that there is a huge amount of anti-semitism in the New York City area. (A lot of the time it's Jew on Jew antisemitism.)

For example, Jews who wear yarmulkes and who have Yiddish accents often have a hard time getting professional jobs and it's not uncommon for Orthodox Jews to leave the yarmulke at home when Job hunting.

As another example, there was a huge court battle in Bergen County, New Jersey over whether orthodox Jews could install an eruv. Basically the reform and conservative Jews did not want the orthodox Jews to move in.

I would humbly submit that one Jewish group acting against another Jewish group is not anti-Semitism. Not that I'm sure what to call it, but a good anti-Semite would hate them all. And as I understand it, the kid's dad was more concerned that he'd be targeted and assaulted if seen wearing a yarmulke. On Columbia's campus. In Manhattan.

schindler
12-08-2008, 04:54 PM
Musicat:



I'm not sure that it is prohibited at all; I think the owners of B & H Photo wish, out of personal piety, to not benefit from profits of Sabbath business, even if it is technically permitted.

I'm pretty sure you're right, but it is a hasidic company and their poskim (rabbis who rule on legal issues, for other readers) may have a different opinion from the ones I am familiar with. Perhaps it would involve the issur (prohibition) of making a kinyan (acquisition)?

o well. they just fired a ton of people, so their piety doesn't seem to be paying off in the short run :-(

tzimmerman
12-08-2008, 10:38 PM
This is the closet thing to debating the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin that I've seen in our modern world.
Being an atheist, I admitedly think all religion is pretty ridiculous. However, it just seems that at some point, an otherwise intelligent person would say to themselves, "why am I subjecting myself to this ritualistic nonsense?" I mean come on, pre-tearing toilet paper?

Musicat
12-08-2008, 10:52 PM
This is the closet thing to debating the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin that I've seen in our modern world.
Being an atheist, I admitedly think all religion is pretty ridiculous. However, it just seems that at some point, an otherwise intelligent person would say to themselves, "why am I subjecting myself to this ritualistic nonsense?" I mean come on, pre-tearing toilet paper?Sshhh...we all know that, but you'll disturb the serious debate. :)

schindler
12-09-2008, 02:00 PM
This is the closet thing to debating the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin that I've seen in our modern world.
Being an atheist, I admitedly think all religion is pretty ridiculous. However, it just seems that at some point, an otherwise intelligent person would say to themselves, "why am I subjecting myself to this ritualistic nonsense?" I mean come on, pre-tearing toilet paper?

really? and here I thought practical legal questions impacted people's lives, where metaphysical speculation was by its nature abstract. But then, maybe theism has left me too unsophisticated to avoid subtle (or glaring) distinctions.

pre-tearing toilet paper isn't the issue at hand. Sabbath observance is. Your objection on the basis of "but, seriously, toilet paper?" reminds me of the tinker-toy objection to the reductionist model of the brain raised by John Searle, if I'm not mistaken. When all is said and done, and the evidence is presented that consciousness and thought can emerge from a sufficiently powerful computer, Searle's objection amounts to: well then, I can build a computational model of the mind out of an infinite number of beer cans!

to which anyone who has followed the debate thus far goes... so? the point has been all along that the biological framework provided by the human mind isn't necessarily relevant to the discussion. I don't care that you're bothered by the notion of a Giant Alcoholic Brain, I care that consciousness is (from the reductionist perspective) software which can be represented a multitude of ways.

Similarly, when a person has resolved to commit himself or herself to the system that is halakha, the details which arise from strict observance of Sabbath laws do not bother them, whether they regard cooking (not allowed), building a raft to save people (allowed obviously), swatting a mosquito (generally not allowed to kill on the Sabbath), or pre-tearing toilet paper (not allowed to engage in constructive tearing).

Additionally, when one comes to view religion as a framework for ALL of life, and every action has religious significance, pre-tearing toilet paper before the Sabbath is not a "more" religious action than taking your morning piss on Tuesday. And indeed, there is a blessing following that as well, thanking God for providing us with a working "plumbing system". The religious lifestyle isn't afraid to embrace profane actions and elevate them to Divine service.

Auntbeast
12-09-2008, 02:01 PM
All of these workarounds to me, don't make sense for this reason. If you are keeping Shabbos, all this pre-planning seems to me, to subvert it. It's like me telling my child I don't want her to cross the street, so she books a round the world flight that lands across the street. Technically, she did not cross it, but the end result is the same, she is in fact, on the other side of the road.

Having pre-programmed elevators, lights, pre-torn toilet paper, prepared food, etc, seem to me, to be subverting the will for your own comfort. It is especially odd to have all these things done for/by the most observant, not the least. With the technology we have today, I can see that it would not modify your life at all on the day, just on the day before.

I do understand that the rituals and such are there to remind you of your faith, to keep you close to it, to make it be a part of your day and your life. I don't question those things or the desire to do them. I just absolutely do not understand the overwhelming ways they are subverted.

suranyi
12-09-2008, 02:51 PM
All of these workarounds to me, don't make sense for this reason. If you are keeping Shabbos, all this pre-planning seems to me, to subvert it. It's like me telling my child I don't want her to cross the street, so she books a round the world flight that lands across the street. Technically, she did not cross it, but the end result is the same, she is in fact, on the other side of the road.

Having pre-programmed elevators, lights, pre-torn toilet paper, prepared food, etc, seem to me, to be subverting the will for your own comfort. It is especially odd to have all these things done for/by the most observant, not the least. With the technology we have today, I can see that it would not modify your life at all on the day, just on the day before.

I do understand that the rituals and such are there to remind you of your faith, to keep you close to it, to make it be a part of your day and your life. I don't question those things or the desire to do them. I just absolutely do not understand the overwhelming ways they are subverted.

I didn't understand it as well, until it was explained to me by an Orthodox friend. As others have mentioned, a good analogy is with a legal system, such as the one we have for taxes. There are certain laws and regulations with regards to paying taxes -- based on some circumstances, you have to pay some amount. But you are perfectly entitled to arrange your affairs so as to pay as little as possible.

In the same way, Jewish law requires that certain specific acts be done, or not done. But if there's a way to follow the letter of the law that is not expressly forbidden, yet seemingly allows one to "get away with it", then there is nothing wrong with it. If it's allowed, then it's allowed for some reason. Otherwise it would also have been forbidden.

Ed

zev_steinhardt
12-09-2008, 04:11 PM
Having pre-programmed elevators, lights, pre-torn toilet paper, prepared food, etc, seem to me, to be subverting the will for your own comfort.


But you're assuming the purpose is "don't have toilet paper" or "sit in the dark." But that's not the purpose at all. The point is "don't tear on Shabbos" and "don't turn the lights on/off." So you prepare beforehand. Likewise, we're not allowed to cook on Shabbos, so we prepare food beforehand. Or is it your contention that God wants us to fast all throughout Shabbos?

It's not a subversion. You're simply making the wrong assumptions on what the intended goal is.

Zev Steinhardt

Keeve
12-09-2008, 05:13 PM
Similar to what Zev said (but I thought of it before reading his post) --

Presuming that the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest, and rest is most productive when necessary preparations have been taken care of beforehand, then what's wrong with making these preparations in advance?

(If one thinks that a prohibition against tearing toilet paper on the Sabbath is too nitpicky, that's a different discussion. But if one accepts that the religion does prohibit it, then I honestly don't see why advance preparation would seem like a devious loophole.)

Magiver
12-09-2008, 05:39 PM
Similar to what Zev said (but I thought of it before reading his post) --

Presuming that the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest, and rest is most productive when necessary preparations have been taken care of beforehand, then what's wrong with making these preparations in advance?
Because you're making extra work for yourself which is unproductive. If you wan to donate time to a Godly venture then volunteer at a soup kitchen. Going to the bathroom shouldn't require any mental thought beyond relieving yourself as needed.

The same philosophy applies to every other venture in life. I can't comment in this forum on the need to consult God on how to poop, which direction to poop or anything else regarding pooping. But planning everything in advance has the potential for wasting time and defeats the concept of taking time off to rest and reflect on life.

doreen
12-09-2008, 07:15 PM
Because you're making extra work for yourself which is unproductive.

How are you making extra work by tearing the toilet paper , cooking the food, etc on Friday before sundown rather than Saturday ? You've done the same amount of work, and only shifted the time.

As far as defeating the concept of taking time off to rest - that's absolutely not true. I'm not Jewish, but every so often, I wish my religion prohibited me from doing anything productive on Sunday. Right now, I use Sundays as well as Saturdays to catch up on whatever housework I haven't gotten to during the week. I've tried to get all the work done on Saturday, but because I'm not forced to, it never quite works out and there is still work left for Sunday. I can't fully relax when there is work to be done and no reason why I can't do it. I imagine Zev and his family get same sort of feeling every Sabbath that I only get when I'm away on vacation - sure, there are things that I might like to do that I can't do because I'm away from home, but who cares ? I won't spend a single minute cooking,cleaning,laundry,doing laundry or driving one of my kids somewhere. I don't have any commitments other than spending time with family and friends.

zev_steinhardt
12-09-2008, 07:28 PM
Because you're making extra work for yourself which is unproductive. If you wan to donate time to a Godly venture then volunteer at a soup kitchen. Going to the bathroom shouldn't require any mental thought beyond relieving yourself as needed.


But here you're assuming the goal is to minimize the amount of work we do throughout the week. But that's not the case. God told us not to do X, Y and Z on Shabbos. But there is nothing wrong with doing these things in preperation for Shabbos.

In fact, the Talmud puts it very succinctly: He who prepares before the Sabbath will eat on the Sabbath.

In short, the laws of Shabbos only apply to Shabbos itself. There is *nothing wrong* with preparing for it beforehand. Again, I have to stress, the goal is nto to "simplify going to the bathroom" or to not have toilet paper handy. The goal, very simply, is to avoid performing certain activities on Shabbos. If they can be done before Shabbos in preperation, then it's fine. It's not a deception, or a "workaround" or anything else of the sort.



But planning everything in advance has the potential for wasting time and defeats the concept of taking time off to rest and reflect on life.

Yes, but the time for resting in, specifically, *on Shabbos*. By preparing for it beforehand, we have the time to rest on Shabbos.

Maybe it's just me, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why this is a problem for some people.

Zev Steinhardt

CC
12-09-2008, 07:38 PM
[QUOTE=zev_steinhardt;10551473]...Maybe it's just me, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why this is a problem for some people...

I believe one answer to that is we have become a nation of people who are willing to do just about anything to "get over." The ends justify the means, and there is never a question about that relationship, nor whether the means or the ends are at all moral or ethical. Just do it. So when people become acquainted with a system that has moral underpinnings, that has a rationale, that is rooted in a literate tradition, that requires people to question and make some decisions based on their understandings of that system, they are nonplussed. They become lost, and find the adherants of those traditions and systems "stupid," "time wasters," and "foolish." I do not believe in god, and would never engage in behaviors that do not make sense to me, but I do understand why people do.
...
well, I know what I was trying to say, anyway

zev_steinhardt
12-09-2008, 07:43 PM
[QUOTE=zev_steinhardt;10551473]...Maybe it's just me, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why this is a problem for some people...

I believe one answer to that is we have become a nation of people who are willing to do just about anything to "get over." The ends justify the means, and there is never a question about that relationship, nor whether the means or the ends are at all moral or ethical. Just do it. So when people become acquainted with a system that has moral underpinnings, that has a rationale, that is rooted in a literate tradition, that requires people to question and make some decisions based on their understandings of that system, they are nonplussed. They become lost, and find the adherants of those traditions and systems "stupid," "time wasters," and "foolish." I do not believe in god, and would never engage in behaviors that do not make sense to me, but I do understand why people do.
...
well, I know what I was trying to say, anyway

CC,

That's an interesting idea, but it doesn't address the phenomenon I was identifying.

If a person thinks that organized religion is a complete waste of time and wonders why I spend one out of every seven days not working, I can understand that point of view. I don't agree with it, of course, but I can understand it.

What I can't understand is why people think that preparing for the Sabbath beforehand constitutes a "workaround" or a "deception;" even after it's been explained to them that the point is not to do without on Shabbos, but to just not engage in certain activities on Shabbos.

Zev Steinhardt

tzimmerman
12-09-2008, 10:19 PM
Similarly, when a person has resolved to commit himself or herself to the system that is halakha, the details which arise from strict observance of Sabbath laws do not bother them, whether they regard cooking (not allowed), building a raft to save people (allowed obviously), swatting a mosquito (generally not allowed to kill on the Sabbath), or pre-tearing toilet paper (not allowed to engage in constructive tearing).

Additionally, when one comes to view religion as a framework for ALL of life, and every action has religious significance, pre-tearing toilet paper before the Sabbath is not a "more" religious action than taking your morning piss on Tuesday. And indeed, there is a blessing following that as well, thanking God for providing us with a working "plumbing system". The religious lifestyle isn't afraid to embrace profane actions and elevate them to Divine service.


That is quite possibly the most ridiculous piece of sophistry I've ever read. "When a person has resolved to commit themself to the system ...the details do not bother them..." really? When an obsessive compulsive person has commited themselves to indulging their compulsions, do you think the quality of their life doesn't suffer? When a victim of childhood abuse commits themself to living in denial of their underlying trauma, does that trauma not affect them? Your operating under the same premise: that lying to yourself, denying a plain reality, works.
It is obvious to any person of average intelligence, with reasonable access to the modern free market of knowledge, that the idea of planning toilet paper usage to please an invisible man that lives in the clouds is absurd. Just like the idea of Santa Claus is absurd. So they lie to themselves. They are forced to deny on one level what they know is reality on another. The notion of an intelligent informed person who can "view religion as a framework for ALL life" is a fallacy. A person suffering from a cognitive dissonace in their own concept of existence can, by definition, NEVER have a truly holistic view of that existence.
Constant cognative dissonace creates constant tension, which creates obsession, which creates compulsion.

Is religion as bad as, say, drug addiction? It depends. If your talking about a religious zealot, say a radical Islamic terroist, who subjects himself to a constant state of self-abuse and fear for the sake of his delusion, and eventually turns that pain outward through hatred, I would say yes. From there, everything else is matter of degrees. It's all an attempt to deny the reality that you can plainly see.

At the very least, a very non-commital, passively religious person, is essentially giving themselves an excuse to ignore the questions of philosophical fulfilment that are rooted in all of us. This at least is somewhat understandable. People are lazy.

The real tragedy lies in people that are willing to work passionately and give real energy to pursuing that fulfillment, but who throw that energy away on fairy tales because they guarantee happy endings. They sacrifce the gift of reason to the fear of the unknown. Boundless energy turns into mindless waste. They spend their energy worrying about which way to tear the toilet paper, or how many angels can fit on a pin.

Can they find some measure of happiness living like this? Certainly, but, for a person who is actually willing to WORK for self-awareness, they are selling themselves short.

Junior Spaceman
12-09-2008, 11:27 PM
This thread is moving towards GD territory which is fine, but a bit tedious. It's a given that if you think religion is bunk, you're going to think every aspect of keeping Shabbat is bunk.

I can say that as someone who used to keep Shabbat, but does not at the moment, the whole idea of Shabbat is actually one of the most logical and enjoyable parts of living life as a religious Jew. Sure, there's a lot of work that goes into the leadup for everyone, but no more than goes into planning for a vacation (a link that someone else pointed out before).

You don't laugh at people and call them absurd for rushing around packing their suitcase, arranging visas and passports, planning and booking accommodation, and so on and so on, for their 'restful' trip overseas. It's just part of the process. Some vacationers, like some observant Jews, will get so caught up in the red tape and obsessiveness, that they'll miss the whole point of what they're doing, and end up dreading that time of year when they go away. On the other hand, for people who approach Shabbat from the right perspective, it is exactly like that longed for holiday.

In the same way as picking up on every little thing someone is doing in planning their world trip (Why do you have to get that form? Why do you think paying for a place to live when you already have a house is a good idea?) seems strange to the person looking forward to their holiday, asking about the tiny details of Shabbat for the purpose of finding absurdity seems strange to an observant Jew.

Having a day where there are no interruptions from the outside world, and where you can concentrate on your family, friends, and your own personal self-reflection is something that the modern world doesn't usually allow. Shabbat forces you to disconnect for 25 hours, but it's not a punishment, and that's why all the 'work arounds' are allowed.

I have plenty of problems with religion, but as I said before, the idea of Shabbat is one of the best things about it.

Keeve
12-10-2008, 07:30 AM
At the very least, a very non-commital, passively religious person, is essentially giving themselves an excuse to ignore the questions of philosophical fulfilment that are rooted in all of us. This at least is somewhat understandable. People are lazy.
...
Can they find some measure of happiness living like this? Certainly, but, for a person who is actually willing to WORK for self-awareness, they are selling themselves short.Yes, those who are passively religious are lazy, and are not working toward self-awareness, nor towards much else. Very sad.

But you seem to consider all religious people in that category. Several of the posters on this thread are actively religious, and have quite obviously spent a lot of time working on questions of philosophy and trying to understand it all. We've come to different answers than you have.

Cognitive dissonance? Not me, no thank you.

schindler
12-10-2008, 11:26 AM
It is obvious to any person of average intelligence, with reasonable access to the modern free market of knowledge, that the idea of planning toilet paper usage to please an invisible man that lives in the clouds is absurd. Just like the idea of Santa Claus is absurd. So they lie to themselves. They are forced to deny on one level what they know is reality on another. The notion of an intelligent informed person who can "view religion as a framework for ALL life" is a fallacy. A person suffering from a cognitive dissonace in their own concept of existence can, by definition, NEVER have a truly holistic view of that existence.
Constant cognative dissonace creates constant tension, which creates obsession, which creates compulsion.

At the very least, a very non-commital, passively religious person, is essentially giving themselves an excuse to ignore the questions of philosophical fulfilment that are rooted in all of us. This at least is somewhat understandable. People are lazy.

The real tragedy lies in people that are willing to work passionately and give real energy to pursuing that fulfillment, but who throw that energy away on fairy tales because they guarantee happy endings. They sacrifce the gift of reason to the fear of the unknown. Boundless energy turns into mindless waste. They spend their energy worrying about which way to tear the toilet paper, or how many angels can fit on a pin.

Can they find some measure of happiness living like this? Certainly, but, for a person who is actually willing to WORK for self-awareness, they are selling themselves short.

Can you educate me further? I never even thought to consider that there might not be an invisible man in the clouds... this changes EVERYTHING. "intelligent informed people"? You need to get out more. I can introduce you to some intelligent informed people with PhD's in philosophy who are observant Jews, and even more who are theists.

You keep on skipping multiple steps between the extremely specific paper-tearing, and "pleasing God". Like I said, the toilet paper is incidental, the issue is constructive tearing on the Sabbath, and that is, in turn, a category of prohibited work on the Sabbath, the observance of which is testament to God having created everything. If you start at the top of an edifice and it looks silly to you, having never seen its foundation, of COURSE you'll poke fun. But our building has stood for thousands of years, and not due to any shortage of "intelligent informed people".

Also, I admire your certainty that there is no God. I wish my theism came with the faith of your atheism. I've had to actually struggle with mine...

i didn't call religion a framework for existence (though I suppose it is that too). it's a framework for LIFE, ie, every action is governed by it. Before speaking I must ask "is what I am about to say consistent with my image of how a servant of God should speak?" Or any other action. I don't need to defend this system from you; it's worked for me and countless others, and it will only improve over time as the world moves forward. But it is unfortunate that you are intolerant of religion, where I am open to atheism.

obsessive-compulsive? HAH. There are laws that are difficult to follow at times, but one forces oneself, recognizing that the system is only valuable if one is consistent. That isn't an obsessive-compulsion, that is developing discipline.

I agree with the moderator (if that was a moderator), Theism/Atheism has turned into the new Nazism. It comes up in any discussion uninvited-- we need a God corollary to Godwin's Law.