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What do I do if I can't get off work on Shabbat?

What do I do if I can't get off work on Shabbat?

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Question:

The past few years for me has seen a gradual return to my Jewish roots. I have slowly become more and more observant; I now keep kosher and don tefillin every day. My problem is that my current occupation requires a 7/365 commitment, working a variety of hours. I have been looking for a job that will allow me to properly observe the Sabbath while still offering the amount of compensation/benefits needed to support myself and my family, but nothing has come up yet. I am now caught in a dilemma to say the least. Any help/guidance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

G‑d gave us His eternal Torah as a guide book, one that we can use to steer us in the right direction, no matter the obstacle or difficulty we may be facing. Since G‑d, in His Torah, commanded us to keep the Shabbat holy, we therefore need to follow that directive, no matter the circumstance.

As I read your question I think of the immense challenge you must be facing right now. As you have seen on your gradual return to a Jewish way of life, each step is a challenge; one that needs to be faced with sincerity, commitment to what is important to you and good guidance. I'm in awe of the all the obstacles you have overcome thus far and of the challenge you currently face. I'm also confident that you have the ability to overcome this immense challenge. Why am I so certain of this? Because of the fact that you are faced with it. G‑d does not come with overbearing demands on His people. If He has presented you with this challenge, this means that you have the ability to face it in the eye and become better because of it. Had you not had this capability G‑d would not have put you in these circumstances.

Let me add to the above. Our sages tell us that the amount one is to earn for a given year is decided on the Rosh Hashanah of that year.1 Of course, one cannot sit back and wait to get what is "predestined" for him; that is not the way G‑d intended the world to run. He wants us to "earn" our living. Yes, our livelihood is a blessing from G‑d; and doing more than one needs to, more specifically, doing more than one is allowed, does not add to the blessings that G‑d has ordained for him for this year.

I am sure that you have put great effort into finding a solution, perhaps by finding a new job or by redefining your commitment with your employers. I can only encourage you to keep on trying. Certainly your efforts will bear good results. In fact, challenges are what make a person better, stronger and ready to face the next ordeal.

Let me conclude with the following suggestion. I do not know where you live and therefore cannot suggest a local rabbi to be in touch with. However, click here to find the Chabad Center closest to you, where you are sure to find a rabbi who will be a tremendous source of support and guidance, someone who will work with you one-on-one and give you that personal touch.

For more on the subject of tests and challenges, see Good Tests v. Bad Tests.

Most sincerely,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan
Chabad.org

P.S. I hope I did not sound insensitive to your dilemma; nor do I want to portray the Torah as such. Quite the contrary. The same Torah that teaches us to observe the Shabbat and refrain from working on this day also tells us that we must value the money and possessions of every person.

Let me give you an example from the Book of Leviticus. The Torah speaks of how a person, his garments, or house, may contract the ritual impurity of tzara'at (loosely translated as "leprosy"). When dealing with the form of tzara'at which can befall a house, the Torah instructs that prior to the Kohen coming to inspect the house -- only he can declare the home to be impure -- the house is to be emptied of all vessels and utensils.2

The Talmudic sages explain that the Torah is not concerned about expensive vessels such as those made of gold or silver -- for these can be easily purified through immersion in a mikvah (ritual pool). Rather, the Torah is concerned about the simple, inexpensive vessels made of pottery, which cannot be purified. Metals can be purified, not earthenware. From this the Sages deduce how careful the Torah is with a person's possessions and finances; instructing the Kohen to postpone his inspection until all vessels that may potentially be "ruined" are removed.

And this same Torah tells us to observe the Shabbat, and assures us that no financial harm will befall us because of this observance.

Footnotes
Rabbi Shmuel Kogan of Brooklyn, NY, is a responder for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi feature.
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Ezra Revere, ma September 21, 2014

Dilemma I can clearly see a dilemma. I teach math in the public arena. Shabbat is not an issue but all of the non work days, especially the new years to take so many days off. However I looked into teaching at yeshiva. The pay is not competive and the work is part time. There should be a section that deals with, so ok now I want to be religious, what are my career options. This topic needs to be addressed and not just tell people have blind faith. People's families, marriages and children are on the line. There needs to be a career network for people who wish to become observant, and work, or earn some kind of a living. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI February 7, 2014

What Do You Do if You Can't Get Off Work on Shabbat? Your situation isn't unusual - many people have this problem, and did you talk to your boss about this?

If you worked at a Jewish organization, this wouldn't be a problem. Ask your rabbi what to do. Reply

Anonymous thornhill November 24, 2013

you can say that you have to have religious rights Reply

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