Should Jews Be Embarrassed about the Institution of the “Shabbos Goy”?

It was once common for synagogues and Jewish families to employ a Gentile—known as a shabbos goy—to perform tasks prohibited on the Sabbath, a phenomenon that was the subject of a book by the outstanding Jewish historian Jacob Katz (1904-1998). Allan Arkush reflects on the book and on the halakhic loophole it describes:

Why, one might wonder, should there be a book about something like the shabbos goy? Isn’t the whole concept just a silly piece of rabbinic hypocrisy, nothing but a legal ruse to get around problems posed by the divine prohibitions of labor on the Sabbath by having a Gentile do the work for you? How much can there possibly be to say on the subject?

Well, it is a fairly short book—but it is rich in content and should disabuse any of its readers of the idea that the shabbos goy is a bit of a disgrace to Judaism. It is not a wink-wink subversion of God’s law. The main problem the rabbis faced, according to Katz, was one that they believed to be of their own—not God’s—making. “In the original terminology [from the talmudic tractate of Shabbat], telling a Gentile [to perform creative labor for a Jew on the Sabbath] is a rabbinic prohibition.” It “is not included in the Sabbath observance as laid down in the Torah,” which pertains only to the people of Israel. What they struggled to get out of, when it was necessary, was a trap of their own making.

The subtitle of Katz’s book is A Study in Halakhic Flexibility. His subject is the way in which leading rabbis over the centuries, from ancient Babylonia to 19th-century Russia and Hungary, endeavored both to maintain as much of the traditional law as possible and to accommodate themselves to changing economic, technological, and social circumstances. . . .

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Halakhah, Jewish history, Shabbat

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela