Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Day 16 -- Shabbos

Sarah is a dear old friend of mine. I've known her for years, ever since we went to school together. While Sarah and I are quite close, I have to admit that I don't tell her everything -- this blog, for starters, is a secret from her too.

Anyway, Sarah and I got together this past Shabbos as we do about every other week. We sit, shmooze, talk about husbands, babies, paying the bills -- just shooting the breeze in general. Rarely do we ever get into philisophical matters or topics that we would consider "heavy." However, she brought up an interesting point this past Shabbos.

Sarah works out of the house. She has a 9-5 job as an administrative assistant in a business. Very often, people in her business have to work over the weekend -- projects are due for "first thing Monday morning," clients need information over the weekend, whatever. People in the office complain about this, but, due to the nature of the business, it has to get done. She tells me that she is so thankful for Shabbos. It's a day that she knows that she's guaranteed to not have to think about the office at all. It doesn't matter if the place burns down -- she's "unavailable." As in "Do Not Call... if you do I won't answer."

I can certainly see the appeal in that and I suppose that is one of the good things about Shabbos. I work part-time as a freelance writer. I can certainly appreciate the fact that clients can't bother me on Shabbos (not that they don't try... after the first two months, I learned that I need to take my phone off the hook before Shabbos). Having a day per week where you have a forced separation from work is certainly a good thing. It's one of the benefits of being observant. Of course, that doesn't make it more spiritually fulfilling, but it certainly is beneficial. I never really quite looked at it the way Sarah does, but now that I think about it, it does make sense. It's a day where we are forcibly removed from our labors and (barring emergencies) come hell or high water, we're forced to take a break.

But what if you don't believe in God? Is it right to tell clients "no, you can't contact me on my Sabbath" if you don't believe in God? Is it moral to "take advantage" of the situation like that and impose restrictions on my clients? While they are willing to "put up" with my limitations for my religion, I don't think they'd do so because I just wanted a day off. For example, suppose I went to them and told them "Well, I'm no longer Sabbath observant, so I'll be available for you on Saturday, but I'd really like Mondays off, so don't contact me then," would they be so understanding? Personally, I don't think so -- I think they respect the fact that I profess to have deeply held religious beliefs and are willing to work with me based on that -- but absent those religious beliefs, they wouldn't be so understanding. That being the case, if I don't believe in God, is it moral to continue using this as a reason to not work on Shabbos.

What if I'm not certain what I believe? To be honest, I don't know if God exists. I don't know if He commanded us to keep Shabbos. It's within the realm of possibility that he did, but I think it's also in the realm of possibility that the whole thing is man made. So where does that leave me then?

The thought of having a day off where I'm "out of touch" is very appealing. The thought of using it as an excuse when it's not warranted is not. The fact that I don't what I believe at present just makes it all the more complicated.


Larry Lennhoff said...

As long as I was at least Orthopractic, I would have no hesitation in telling clients "I can't be reached on Shabbat."

Even afterwards, I personally think this falls into the category of socially acceptable white lies. You don't want to be contacted on Saturday, and anyone who does so is violating your personal time and space with business. If telling them that you can't be reached for religious reasons makes it more likely that they will respect your wishes, who is harmed by it?

Similarly, I have friends who when they go out to restaurants say things like "Does this dressing have anchovies? I'm allergic to anchovies." They aren't - they just don't like the taste. But experience has shown them that the restaurant staff cares about them not having an allergic reaction in the restaurant, but doesn't really care if they like the taste or not.

Jay said...

I think that you be practcing 'social orthodoxy' and there's nothing wrong with that. It's very understandable that you do not care for your family or with whomever you share a roof with to be aware of your preferences. If you have OJ neighbors, keeping up the charade keeps the peace. So, go with the flow and do what feels good.

Anonymous said...

Stay with it Sarah. Everyone is entitled to a day off. Even if only for good behaviour. I stopped believing in God a long time ago. But I still keep shabbos because it's easier that way. If you live in a Jewish community, you have no choice but to keep Shabbos....Avi

rejewvenator said...

First, you don't have to be Orthodox to not work on Shabbat. Second, most employers don't really care why you can't be reached on Saturday - they're not giving you a special break because you're so holy and committed. Come to whatever agreement you like about work that you your boss will stand by and elave it at that. This doesn't have to be about your Judaism.

Sharon said...

It's not unethical to insist on a day off, even if it's because you need a break. North American culture is really screwed up - labour movements of the 19th and 20th centuries had to fight long and hard for weekends, and now we just throw them away.

In addition, your husband, who lives with you, does observe shabbat for religious reasons, and he is entitled to a peaceful sabbath without the phone ringing all day.

I love your blog. I'm not frum, but I struggle with issues of belief all the time. Good luck.

The Chief said...

Do you have a choice but to keep Shobbos? Didn't think so. Therefore, you are taking the day off for religious purposes.

By the way, letting your husband in on your secret is dangrous. I would recommend doing it only when you are one hundred percent sure you want to leave. If you plan on living a double life, don't involve him.

tapkess said...

first, there are some odds in being "not reachable" on shaabes, some people just wont work with you.

and second, it would be a lie if you would do other things like traveling but not working under the fake religion.
since you are not doing thing that you would like to, it is ok.


"While Sarah and I are

'quite close',

I have to admit that
I don't tell her everything --

'this blog, for starters, is a secret from her'

Is it moral to "take advantage" of the situation?

tikunolam said...

I don't like the idea of white lies and I don't think it is necessary here. If you are unavailable on Saturdays because as a family you are observing shabbat, it does not matter why you are observing - is doesn't matter if you are choosing a tradition that you want to follow that is divinely perscribed or one that is man made - one that you believe in, or one that you are doing for shalom bait. It just doesn't matter. And I have to agree with another commenter here regarding what was said about your husband. Even out of respect for his observance - it is worth not being available on Saturdays.

Anonymous said...

I think there are 4 categories that face everybody in every situation.
1-Believing and doing
2-Not believing and doing
3-Not believing and not doing
4-Believing and not doing

This is not unique to Judaism. Example, a man may or may not believe in being faithful to his wife. Will he and why or why not? Does it make a difference why or why not?

FinallyMe said...

You are still keeping Shabbos whether you believe in it or not, so it's not a lie. And even if you are not keeping Shabbos, your husband is (unless he has a double life that you don't know about it) and according to Jewish law, the wife becomes the husband's possession, so your "real boss" keeps Shabbos and so you're not lying.

Urban Gypsy said...

Whether you consider yourself religious or not, you are born a Jew and stopping Shabbat observance will not change that. Everyone knows Saturday is the Jewish day of rest, so you are entitled to take the day off. However, if your clients see you at the beach or at the mall, you will have made a fool of yourself. Otherwise, I see nothing unethical about not working on Shabbos.

Lubab No More said...

Interesting post. I discussed a similar topic the other week:
Orthoprax Ethics in the Workplace: Shabbos & Yom Tov
I think the discussion in the comment section is worth reading.

Anonymous said...

I'm not religious, and I have no problem limiting my availability to my employer to the hours I'm in the office.
I don't give away my cell phone number, and I pick-up my home phone at my convenience.
It's a work/life balance. When I'm out of the office, I'm on my time and i owe it to no one.