Shabbes Goy in Chosen Rabbinic Literature

Author: Roman Marcinkowski


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The sages of the Talmud determined the ways of treating aliens, especially in the case of the Sabbath during which Mishnah (Shab. 7:2) prohibits any of the thirty-nine types of labour. The question arose whether the alien may perform any type of prohibited work for the Jew. The Hebrew Bible most definitely prohibits this: “Remember the Sabbath day in order to sanctify it. Six days you shall work and you shall do your tasks. But the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your cattle, nor the resident alien who is within your gates” (Ex 20:9-10). The basic principle of the Talmud states: ”No work which the Jew is not allowed to do on the Sabbath may be done by the alien.” The Written Torah is a closed set which does not permit any addition or subtraction of books. The purpose of the Oral Torah is to interpret the meaning of the written Law and to bring it up to date.  Doesn’t life bring extraordinary situations and may we ask the alien to do the prohibited work in such cases, and if so, how can it be done? The author of the paper presents the Talmud’s treatment of this subject and modern-day attempts to solve the problem.


Sabbath, Shabbes Goy, Rabbinic literature, Sheelot Utshuvot, Responsa