Monday, May 07, 2007

Question From A Reader - An Index Of "Frumness"

(Painting by Venyamin Zaslavsky)

Received via e-mail:

A Simple Jew,

I saw your posting Shabbos & Emuna and I have a question for you. Why is observance of Shabbos seen as an index for one's "frumness"? Keeping strict kosher, especially in the workplace, is much more difficult than keeping Shabbos. Keeping kosher affects a Jew's choices every day of his life, not only one day a week. It also plays a role in where a Jew may travel or go on vacation. When you break it down, almost everything revolves around food in some way or other.

I know people who are Shomer Shabbos but eat dairy or vegetarian out and I know people who keep strict kosher but don't completely keep Shabbos. Why does it seem that keeping Shabbos is given more weight? Why is one's "frumness" judged just by this one thing? Does this go along with the statement in the Gemara in Shabbos 118a that says, "He who observes the Shabbos according to halacha, even if he worships idols, as did the generation of Enosh, will be pardoned for his sins" ?

Maybe you could post this e-mail and your readers could answer my questions. I am struggling with my observance and strict shmiras Shabbos has always been a big hurdle for me.


Shmuel B.


At May 7, 2007 at 7:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

"I am struggling with my observance and strict shmiras Shabbos has always been a big hurdle for me."

I was just curious if it is a bigger hurdle than Kashrut, if so, doesn't that answer your question?

But, on an explanatory note: Growing up in the united states or many modern countries, it's hard to understand just how controversial the idea of Shabbat is. People used to work seven days a week. There were no weekends. Weekends were a Jewish invention. The tremendous revellation that working six days and resting the seventh wouldn't result in one losing out on precious livelihood is something that we don't (usually) have to consider thanks to modern society.

The original goal was to be a testament to the fact that God runs the world and to show that everything will keep functioning without us.

Instead, nowadays, keeping Shabbat is (to my mind) an exercise in ego-negation. There are so many things that *I* might want to do with *my* life, but instead I'm devoting that time to serve God as He commanded me because *I*m not the most important part of *my* life, God is.

Once this step is surpassed one can invest one's time on Shabbat trying to get to the bottom of what one's life is all about.

my 2 cents

At May 7, 2007 at 11:29:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

The Chofetz Chaim, in his introduction to Hilchos Shabbos in the Mishna Berura says that Shabbos is the root of emunah, because through Shabbos we come to realize that the world was created by the Creator. By observance of Shabbos one shows that he believes that Hashem created the world and "rested" on the seventh day. So it doesn't really matter whether keeping Shabbos seems easy or not (actually the Mishna Brura in his intro to Shabbos quotes R' Yonason Eibeshetz saying that it's impossible to avoid violating Shabbos unless one studies and knows all the laws clearly), that is our declaration, saying - Hashem is the Creator.

At May 7, 2007 at 12:27:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. There are 39 melachos and I am trying to check one off at a time until I observe them all.

At May 7, 2007 at 2:48:00 PM EDT, Blogger Moshe David Tokayer said...

This is speculation but could be true. Similar to Yitz. Practically, Shabbos was once very difficult to keep. Unfortunately, many, many immigrants gave up Shabbos when they came to the U.S. because of the incredible difficulty of finding a job that allowed one to take the day off. Many people gave up Shabbos way before they would dream of eating non-kosher. I had relatives who came to the U.S. in the 20's, were not Shomer Shabbos but kept strictly kosher kitchens their entire lives.

Nowadays, of course, the situation is different. With a two day weekend it's relatively easy to keep Shabbos. On the other hand, considering how well integrated we are particularly in an office environment, the temptation not to enter and/or eat in a non-kosher restuarant is great.

At May 7, 2007 at 3:27:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moshe David Tokayer: This "integration" has nothing to do with restaurants. Unless one thinks that way.

At May 7, 2007 at 9:45:00 PM EDT, Blogger der ewige Jude said...

I believe that keeping Shabbos is considered more of a measure of frumness that eating kosher because Shabbos observance is so much more visible. Folks don't see into your home at mealtime to check out if you've got the shrimp and dip on the table or not, and if they do see you eating your meals, or your lunch while at work, they can only assume that it was prepared within the guidlines of kashrus. However, if you are out mowing the lawn on Shabbos, or they see your lights going on and off Friday evenings, or the flckering glow of the TV through the window shades, or you waving as you go driving by them on Saturday, then its fairly obvious what your level of observance is.

At May 7, 2007 at 10:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Just to add to what A Tamlid wrote, Shabbos was the finishing touch to the creation of our world. In a way it is the seal of Hashem (think about the authenticity holgram stickers on a box of a Microsoft product).

Shabbos recharges us and the world. It's a strugle at times. But worth it! Great question.


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