Ivanka, Jared and the Jewish Sabbath

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Ivanka, Jared and the Jewish Sabbath
What Employers Need to Know

by R. Gil Student

The media frenzy surrounding President Trump has included reports about his daughter and son-in-law’s observance of Jewish ritual, including resting on the Jewish Sabbath. On a few occasions, the media have noted puzzling exceptions to Ivanka and Jared’s observance, exceptions that raise questions about the necessity of refraining from work on the Jewish Sabbath. But employers should understand that their Jewish employees who devoutly observe the Sabbath can make exceptions in only the rarest cases, which have been voluminously delineated in a literature tracing back thousands of years.

From sunset on Friday night until dusk on Saturday night, traditional Jews observe what they count as the fourth of the Ten Commandments, by refraining from creative labor. This includes writing, driving, turning on lights, speaking on telephones, and otherwise using electronic devices. A long line of argument, following millennia of discussion, connects the biblical command to the smartphone. It need not detain us here. Normative Orthodox Jewish practice is to refrain from using any electronic devices from Friday night through Saturday night. Instead, we go to synagogue multiple times, eat joyous meals with family and friends, study religious texts, and otherwise rest on this biblical day set aside for religious devotion.

In the early years of the twentieth century, observant Jews frequently heard from their employers on Friday that if they did not show up to work on Saturday, they were fired. Consequently, many Jews had to look for a new job every week until they found an accommodating employer who respected religious conviction. Eventually, laws were passed to protect the freedom to observe the Sabbath. Today, observant Jews can work in most fields without fear of having to choose between earning a living and observing a biblical tradition…

Continued on First Things: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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