I know little about Judaism and it's a first time question, so please forgive any mistakes.

According to this question non-Jews are forbidden from keeping Shabbat. What is the reasoning behind this? I would have expected keeping Shabbat to be a God-honouring thing, especially in the cited case of a person considering conversion.

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    Not exactly the same question, but some of the rhetoric in this answer gets part of the way to answering this one.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 15:38
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    Oh, also: welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing your curiosity with the rest of the community!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 15:54
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    Also very related: this question that asks the "what" to which this question is the "why." Some of the answers there say a bit about "why."
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 16:00
  • See: thesanhedrin.net/forums/…
    – Seth J
    Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 18:58
  • @SethJ That's a little technical for me. Any chance of a summary? Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 19:01

3 Answers 3


This article brings several reasons why gentiles are forbidden from observing Shabbos:

1. The Rambam in codifiying this law (Melachim uMilchamot 10:9) explains that the issue is in gentiles innovating their own laws:

Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die. Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a festival for himself. The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them.

2. The Maharsha (Sanhedrin 58b) compares Shabbos to the bride of the Jewish people, and compares gentiles observing it to adultery:

The Maharsha explains that the Sabbath is, metaphorically, a bride. Indeed, the Talmud refers to the Sabbath as a bride and the Shabbos is greeted in the same way that a bride is greeted. This imagery was immortalized by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (a 16th century poet and Kabbalist from Tzfas) in his classical liturgical song, Lecha Dodi, which is sung just before the reception of the Holy Shabbos. Rabbi Avraham Sperling writes, based on this allegorical comparison, that “Shabbos” is the female companion to the Israelite nation. The Jewish Nation is “married” to Shabbos. Therefore, when a non-Jew follows the rules of Shabbos, it is as if he is committing “adultery” with the married bride “Shabbos”, and so he is liable for the death penalty.

3. He suggest (based on Rashi's explanation) that the resting of Shabbos is an exclusive gift to the Jews:

When Adam sinned by eating the Forbidden Fruit, he was punished by all future males having to work, “with the sweat of his brow.” This implies that HaShem expects man to work continuously without rest. However, two thousand four hundred and forty-eight years later, HaShem granted the Jews a special present, namely, the Holy Sabbath, with which they can rest, in contrast to the remainder of society. Therefore, world society is not allowed to rest because of the curse of Adam, while the Jews are allowed to rest because the Torah specifically calls for a Mitzvah of Shabbos, which was a unique gift granted to the Jewish Nation . . Rabbi Meir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia (1170-1244) explains that the gift of Shabbos was given specifically to the Jews, and therefore if a Noahide keeps Shabbos, he is actually stealing from the Jews and is therefore liable for the prohibition of stealing (which is one of the Seven Noachide Laws).


The Talmud, Sanhedrin 58B, learns it out from Bereshit 8:22 (I went into more detail here)

כב עֹד, כָּל-יְמֵי הָאָרֶץ: זֶרַע וְקָצִיר וְקֹר וָחֹם וְקַיִץ וָחֹרֶף, וְיוֹם וָלַיְלָה--לֹא יִשְׁבֹּתוּ.‏

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.'

"And day and night shall not cease" is interpreted as an injunction to Bnei Noach not to cease from working for a day.

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    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 3:20
  • I think the drasha is from just לא ישבותו not the יום ולילה.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 3:35
  • @DoubleAA: The Talmud quotes the verse starting from "and day...' - and from Rashi it seems that that is part of the limud. Otherwise we would think it was referring the 6 seasons mentioned earlier in the verse.
    – Menachem
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 3:40
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    This explains the source of the law, not the reason it is forbidden.
    – Michoel
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 4:55
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    @user2467 See judaism.stackexchange.com/a/13489/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 3:50

Although I haven't had time to look at the sources mentioned, there appears to be an opinion by Rashi (cited here) that people dwelling the land of Israel who are obligated to keep the 7 Noahide Laws, must also keep the Sabbath, and apparently Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (cited in that forum thread) wrote that gentiles in the diaspora today have the same status as gentiles living in the Land of Israel in ancient times, including keeping the Sabbath (referring back to the aforementioned opinion of Rashi).

I have NOT heard of either of these opinions quite as stated above. I'd have to look at the sources mentioned, and I don't have time right now. There is, however, a verse about the Sabbath that includes the language "and the stranger within your gates" (Zachor). It does sound from here that non-Jews in Israel may not perform any work on the Sabbath (and I've heard this as a potential problem in modern-day Israel).

But, in a nutshell, it is widely held, at least outside of Israel, that non-Jews are specifically not allowed to keep the Sabbath because the Sabbath is called an eternal "sign" (some render this as "covenant") between G-d and Israel. (See here, for a short discussion on the topic.)

  • The first two paragraphs would be more suitable as an answer to this question
    – Michoel
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 16:40
  • See hebrewbooks.org/… for some relevant sources
    – wfb
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 3:32

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