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Employing inspectors on Shabbat

Rabbi Jonathan Blass18 Nisan 5763
269
Question
I was surprised to learn that in Israel non-Jewish inspectors have been employed to write out tickets on Shabbat fining people who engage in commerce on Shabbat. Non-Jews who are aware of the commandment that the Sabbath should be a day of rest for one’s man servant, maid servant, ox and ass, may well think that the Jews are regarding them as less deserving of a day of rest than are animals. If the NRP are convinced that respect for religion will be increased by the Taliban-like interference in the actions of the public, then laws against commerce on Shabbat could be enforced like other laws. Witnesses could appear in court to testify that illegal activities have taken place. There is no need for tickets to be written on Shabbat. I am also puzzled as to why commerce on Shabbat is singled out as being illegal. Surely one should also have inspections of kitchens and bedrooms to ensure that kashrut and the sexual prohibitions are also being observed? Please can the Rabbis explain the different treatment of the different offences?
Answer
The Druze inspectors who write the tickets on Shabbat are no one's man servant or maid servant and would be insulted to be thought of as such. A Gentile is not commanded to observe the Shabbat. Public opinion polls have shown that most Israelis- religious and secular alike- want the Shabbat to be a public day of rest in Israel. The debate that is taking place in Israel is not whether the Shabbat should be publicly observed as a day of rest but what will be the nature of that day of rest. As opposed to an individual's kashrut or shabbat observance, the law forbidding work on shabbat legislates the nature of public life in Israel as a Jewish State. It is also important to note that the opening of stores on shabbat puts unreasonable economic pressure on those Israelis who for reason of tradition would want to keep their stores closed but feel they must open them so as not to succumb to their competition. Shabbat observers are not hired in those stores kept open on shabbat. This is a form of anti-traditional economic coercion and discrimination. You are correct in pointing out that legislation cannot take the place of education. But the majority of the Israeli public has the right to pass legislation that will ensure that Shabbat in the public domain does not become just another day of the week.
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