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According to Jewish Law and tradition, is it acceptable, discouraged or totally unacceptable for a Gentile to keep the Sabbath according to the regulations spelled out in the Torah and the Talmud and expounded upon by the Rabbis?

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Why not? So God will punish me if I rest on Shabath? I must forget the shabath and desecrate it? –  Jim Thio Sep 29 '12 at 15:30
@JimThio See Alex's comment to the question below (…) –  b a Sep 30 '12 at 3:12

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

A non Jew is not allowed to keep Shabbos. Those that are in the process of converting make sure to do at least one thing on Shabbos that would normally not be allowed. For example they might carry something in their pocket.

משנה תורה לרמב"ם, ספר שופטים, הלכות מלכים ומלחמות, פרק י, יא - י"ב

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There is a famous Joke about this. Once someone told his friend in Yeshiva that he was pretending to be a Jew but really wasn't. The friend told him "You know that you can't keep Shabbos, what did you do?" The friend told him that he always carried a handkerchief in his pocket. The other told him back "But their is an Eiruv in the city!" He answered "Bah... I don't hold of this Eiruv." –  Shmuel Brin Jan 19 '12 at 18:00
@ShmuelBrill, true story told by Rabbi Yisrael Reisman (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and recounted here by me as well as I can remember it, which may not be perfectly: Someone studying for gerus was told by his rabbi that he had to do something, e.g. strike a match and put it out, each Shabas. When another student of the rabbi's asked him (the rabbi) why that particular act was sufficient, in light of the fact that it would constitute a m'lacha sheenah tz'richa l'gufah, the rabbi replied that a non-Jew can rely on the Rambam, who holds m'sheetz'l'g is forbidden mid'oraysa. –  msh210 Jan 19 '12 at 18:39
@ruakh, the Talmud derives this from a verse said to Noah, "They shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22) - implying, besides its plain meaning that the natural divisions of time will never be suspended, that people "shall not cease" performing melachah (creative work). (For Jews, of course, this was rescinded later when they received the commandment to rest on Shabbos.) It's not counted as one of the Seven Laws, though, because there is no statutory punishment for it. –  Alex Jan 19 '12 at 23:03
@Alex: That makes perfect sense. Thank you so much! :-) –  ruakh Jan 20 '12 at 0:20
But if a non-jew isn't allowed to keep shabbes, then wouldn't keeping shabbes be something they aren't allowed to do... on shabbes? Therefore, by keeping shabbes, they are violating it, which means... help! (Kidding!) –  neilfein Jan 20 '12 at 6:05

The Torah says "The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in a six-day period Hashem made the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:16,17 Artscroll Translation).

The Sabbath was given as a sign and covenant to Israel, a Gentile is forbidden to observe the Sabbath or to make a Sabbath of their own, a halachah codified in the Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 10:9.

It is important to realize, however, that it is generally forbidden to instruct a non-Jew to to preform anything on Shabbos that a Jew is prohibited to do by law (Orach Chaim 307:2).

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I agree with Gershon Gold's answer.

I have had several Christian guests in our home over the years. Many of them wish to experience authentic Jewish practices, since they view Judaism as the source of their own religion.

I asked, on a practical level, if I have violated anything by allowing a non-Jew to keep shabbos in my house.

The answer I received was; the obligation to not keep shabbos is incumbent upon the Gentile. Therefore, I was not responsible in any way to encourage my Gentile guests to break shabbos while in my home.

(In every case, they all used their cell phones and / or computers at some point during shabbos, which may or may not be a d'oraisa, but certainly removes them from the category a shomer shabbos.)

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The source for the Halacha is Talmud Sanhedrin 58B:

ואר"ל עובד כוכבים ששבת חייב מיתה שנא' ויום ולילה לא ישבותו ואמר מר אזהרה שלהן זו היא מיתתן אמר רבינא אפי' שני בשבת

Soncino Translation:

Resh Lakish also said: A heathen who keeps a day of rest, deserves death, for it is written (Gen. VIII, 22), And a day and a night they shall not rest, and a master has said: Their prohibition is their death sentence. Rabina said: Even if he rested on a Monday.

Interestingly, the simple meaning of Bereshit 8:22 is not referring to people working, but rather that the heavenly bodies will never cease to function again (as they did in the flood).

Rashi on the Talmud says that the verse also refers to people (in addition to the heavenly bodies).

There is a Sicha (in Yiddish) (Likutei Sichot 15, pg 49) from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, which discusses the connection between the simple meaning of the verse and the prohibition of a gentile to keep Shabbat according to the Rambam.

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Yeah. I read the pasuk again, and it says nothing about goyim not ceasing their works. As you mentioned, it's evidently about זֶרַע וְקָצִיר וְקֹר וָחֹם וְקַיִץ וָחֹרֶף וְיֹום וָלַיְלָה not ceasing. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 24 '12 at 1:04

RMB"M writes that gentiles are not allowed to rest during any day of the week, be it shabbat, sunday, or even wednesday.


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Can you include a specific source reference for this RMB"M? –  Double AA Sep 9 '12 at 3:36
הלכות מלכים ומלחמות פרק י יא [ט] גוי שעסק בתורה, חייב מיתה; לא יעסוק אלא בשבע מצוות שלהן בלבד. וכן גוי ששבת--אפילו ביום מימות החול--אם עשה אותו לעצמו כמו שבת, חייב מיתה; ואין צריך לומר אם עשה מועד לעצמו. ( –  Adam Mosheh Sep 11 '12 at 22:49
@DoubleAA - See comment. –  Adam Mosheh Sep 11 '12 at 22:50
What about if the gentile already have enough money to enjoy life? –  Jim Thio Nov 19 '12 at 3:13
@JimThio - Good question, why don't you ask it? –  Adam Mosheh Nov 22 '12 at 16:52

protected by Double AA Nov 18 '13 at 9:33

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