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Home » Shabbos

Shabbos: Rabbinical Additions and Enactments

Submitted by on November 4, 2005 – 1:34 amNo Comment | 2,523 views
Our sages have instituted many additional enactments that help safeguard the original thirty-nine Melachos. There are two forms of protective legislation that our sages have put into effect concerning the laws of Shabbos.

A. Safeguarding the laws of Shabbos.

The first form of legislation is one that safeguards the biblical prohibitions of Shabbos. This form of legislation is actually divided into two categories
1. Prohibition of activities that would lead to a violation of the original thirty-nine by virtue of habit.
For example, our sages prohibited conducting business on Shabbos because business transactions are invariably recorded in writing. Writing constitutes a violation of the 32’nd Melacha of Shabbos. Though one may possibly refrain from recording a transaction our sages recognized that sheer force of habit would invariably cause violations of this rule.
2. Prohibitions of activities that would lead to a violation of the original Thirty-nine, by virtue of the act itself.
For example, our sages prohibited climbing on trees during Shabbos. Since it is almost impossible to climb a tree without snapping a branch or twig, we would inevitably be in violation of the third Melacha. The third Melacha prohibits reaping. Breaking a branch is forbidden as a derivative of the reaping Melacha.

B. Safeguarding the Spirit of Shabbos

The second type of legislation that our sages have enacted is one that would safeguard the spirit of Shabbos.
This legislation prohibits all “weekday” activities that can be described as not keeping with the spirit of Shabbos.
This includes activities such as running, exercising, professional sport, reading business correspondence, and watching a pre-set TV program.

C. Mukzah – Pre-designated prohibitions

Although this particular enactment falls under the first category of protective legislation, it is important to make brief mention of this enactment since its implications are so wide spread.
One of the most comprehensive rabbinical enactments is called Mukzah (pre-designated). This law prohibits the moving or handling of any object whose use is forbidden on Shabbos. Under this sweeping legislation, we are prohibited from handling the phone, electric switch, computers, pens, hammers, etc.

D. Shabbos and Gentiles

Our sages prohibited the use of gentile employees, maids or housekeepers on Shabbos. It is forbidden to ask a non-Jewish person to perform a task on Shabbos that a Jew is forbidden to perform.
This enactment falls under both categories because both concerns apply to it. Being accustomed to having these types of work performed by a non-Jew may lesson the awareness of the prohibition upon the Jew. It also undermines the spirit of Shabbos when all prohibited activities occur in the home through the services of the non-Jew.
This law has tremendous ramifications in many areas of Jewish life, however, a detailed analysis of this law lies beyond the limited scope of this booklet.
It is important to note that these rabbinical prohibitions are just as binding as the original thirty-nine. Time and experience have shown that people who were lenient on the rabbinical prohibitions, later turned from the biblical ones too.