Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Do blue laws dovetail with Jewish observance? האם האיסור על קניות בשבת תואם לשמירת המצוות

Those who know me can attest to the extent of my caring about our planet and my loathing of the consumer culture. And those who know me can attest to my loathing of the mixing of state and religion. That's why I have a problem with the conclusions that Rachel Talshir draws עברית from the fact that our entire country goes into Consumer Paralysis Mode on Yom Kippur.

The explanation that the Orthodox give for their demand that retail establishments close on Sabbath and Yom Tovim is that if the latter were to remain open, other Jews (not themselves, heaven forfend) would then shop and violate the Sabbath. In other words, the problem isn't that they themselves would be thus tempted, but rather that violation of the Sabbath, by any Jews, would occur.

I find this reasoning offensive in its blatant paternalism: Though not Orthodox, I choose not to engage in retail transactions on the Sabbath because I see value therein; it's irrelevant whether others so indulge. Moreover, the demand that there be no retail engaged in on our Sabbath necessarily diminishes the human value of those non-Jews who wish to so engage. In other words, the Orthodox are saying, "Our need to prevent our Sabbath from being violated (as if that were possible in any case) trumps the needs or desires of anyone who isn't of our faith." It's unfortunate that few Orthodox will allow themselves to be exposed to a courageous Christian cleric like the one who said, " Any religion that must depend upon the state to do what it cannot do [i.e., force the citizenry to observe the commandments] is not worthy of existence...even Christianity." The very belief that any legislation reduces Sabbath-violating can fairly be described as madness.

I therefore admit to being positively gleeful when I read of the sweeping profits earned by those stores that did remain open on Rosh haShana [could not find link]. Of course it appears the Orthodox have no trouble looking the other way when such stores are where the goyim shop (referring to Tiv Taam, a chain patronized heavily by non-Jewish consumers); it's only us fellow Jews' abominations they're worried about.

While I'm all for consuming less, including of course less fossil fuel, I absolutely oppose the government piggybacking on religion to make it so. There are plenty of government interventions that I support solidly, such as investing in public transportation, levying tolls on cars entering cities, and mandating recycling (by the way, do the Orthodox lobby for these measures?), but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that blue laws are somehow a good thing for the entire Israeli public.


  1. ברור שהחרדים יהיו מודאגים ממעשי התועבה של אחיהם היהודים- הרי כל ישראל ערבין זה לזה!
    I feel compelled to post here an email from my non-religious sister to my (Charedi) mother, and her response:
    My sister: "I wish you did not approach every time we talked or met as an opportunity to dismiss my life choices, and try to reflect your own vision for my life on me. I wish we could just hang out casually and just enjoy each others company. I wish you could make peace with the choices I made and respect them."
    My mom: "If you saw a person stepping out into a busy street, wouldn't you try to stop them...wouldn't you consider it an obligation?
    That's how I view it except that is only physical annihilation rather than spiritual.
    Hashem should have rachamim on us for all our aveirot and for the spiritual destruction that we bring to the collective soul of Am Yisroel by our "choices" and aveirot."

    --I hope this gives you more of a sense of where the Charedim are coming from...

  2. FW, I'm glad you commented. By the way, I tried to visit Haven, Not Heaven, but it's restricted. Anyway, thanks for shedding light on the ultra-Orthodox mindset. I'm glad you used this example, because I'm familiar with this use of analogy; it's used heavily in efforts to attract young assimilated Jews to Orthodoxy, and I find it disturbing. While I suppose your mother has a right to use it on her own daughter, your sister on the other hand states her case quite articulately. By the way, how did you find my blog?