I am an atheist who happens to be Jewish, and would like to work for a business owned by a religious Jew.

  • Is he allowed to pay me for my work on Shabbat?
  • What if the payment is global (e.g. 10% of a full time job), and not for specific hours, but the owner knows that most likely, a lot of the work will be done on Shabbat?
  • If I were a gentile, would he have an easier time paying me for work on Shabbat?
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    It's frustrating because I feel like I'm discriminated against by a Jew for being a Jew.
    – ripper234
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 12:53
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    This sounds more like a question for that individual. I would say CYLOR (see your local Orthodox rabbi) but this is really a case of "THTCHLOR" (tell him to see his rabbi). Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 18:37
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    @CharlesKoppelman - he actually asked me to talk to his rabbi. Why is this so open to interpretation?
    – ripper234
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 5:48
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    It's just that none of us know much about the situation or that person's particular beliefs. Just about everything is open to interpretation and this community isn't "fact" or "law". Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 4:51
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    (As an aside, civil law might have something to say about this. You can probably speak with a lawyer on this if you feel you're being discriminated against.) Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


The difficulty you are experiencing comes about because according to the religious viewpoint, one who does not observe the commandments is a sinning Jew, but still a Jew. The Sages stated, "A Jew, even if he sins, is a Jew" Sanhedrin 44a.

As Rabbi Yaakov Menken expresses it:

A person who is born into the Jewish people, even a sincere convert who later turns away from Judaism, remains a Jew. Even if he sins, he remains one of the Children of Israel.

You sincerely feel that you are an atheist; according to the religious viewpoint, you remain a Jew.

The result is that your employer cannot enable you to work on Shabbat, still less pay you for that.

You ask “If I were a gentile, would he have an easier time paying me for work on Shabbat?” The employer might find some permission to employ a gentile on Shabbat. But in line with the discussion above, you cannot become a gentile.

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    Accepted. This is just so ... great.
    – ripper234
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 23:30
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    I guess there are two different frustrations. There's the fact that someone else's attitudes towards God cause them to live their life in a certain way, which has affected you. Those choices are costly for them too, but felt to be important, and in a more neutral situation it might be easier to respect. But there's also a feeling of discrimination against you personally, in the form of someone judging your beliefs in a way that attacks your heritage, or of imposing what you can and can't do with unwanted aspects of that heritage. Keeping the two frustrations separate may help at least a bit.
    – Annelise
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 0:43
  • @Annelise - Actually, I don't feel the 2nd frustration you wrote about. However, I do feel 2 frustrations, the second being that a religion that is closer to me than all other religions (my sister is religious), is built in this intolerate rigid way (Of course, it's not the first time I encounter Judaism, so I'm not surprised). I'm not blaming anyone here ... Judaism is what it is ... I just don't understand people who choose to practice it, and doubt I ever will.
    – ripper234
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 6:35
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    I'm sorry I misunderstood, though maybe what you say here is kind of close to what I was trying to say as well. I could have been clearer. I'm not Jewish so I don't really know what to say, and I already said too much... but I really hope that you can find more understanding with the religious people you encounter, and ways to share the elements of kindness, respect, and goodness that both you and they are valuing and living in.
    – Annelise
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 10:27
  • I didn't know being an atheist is sin. I mean where in the Torah does it say, thou shall not be an atheist. Looks like the other way around, namely worshipping many gods, is the main concern
    – user4951
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 5:43

The Mishneh Berurah (448:11) writes that regarding chametz owned by a Jew over Pesach, from which one cannot benefit normally, if the chametz was sold to an apostate Jew because he is a friend and you know that he will return the chametz to you after Pesach, and you figured (in error) that an apostate Jew is for all matters considered to be a non-Jew, then b'dieved (after the fact) and in a case where there is a large financial loss possible, the Mishneh Berurah provides a way of benefiting from the chametz, by selling it or trading it and then benefiting from the profits or the exchange.

From this we see that for rabbinic prohibitions, there is some room for benefiting from the improper behavior of an apostate Jew, in cases of loss. Although the exact particulars of to apply this din will depend on individual circumstance (and from the Taz there #4 it appears that this might be limited to the case of chametz). But here too, the question is about benefiting from work done on Shabbos, which is also a rabbinic "fine" like benefiting from chametz.

The Sheilas David OH #5 writes that lifnei iver only applies to regular Jews or sinning Jews who might do tshuva, but not to a mumar (apostate Jew) who has no expectation of doing tshuva. For such a person, in a case of an issur d'rabanan, he writes that we can rely on the view that there is no problem of lifnei iver, because there never was a gezera of "aiding sinners" for such an apostate.

(Layman's summary: One cannot benefit from leavened food that was owned by a Jew during Passover. But according to some authorities, if the Jew in question was an apostate, then one can benefit from that leavened food. The reason is that the prohibition on benefiting was established as a fine to prevent people from sinning and keeping their leavened food, but an apostate is already sinning anyway, so the fine was never applied to such a person, and thus others can benefit from leavened food owned by the apostate. Extending this rule about Passover to other cases is not a simple matter, but may be possible)

  • Sounds more like the issue here is lifnei iver than maaseh shabbos.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 16:33
  • You refer to the "Sheilas David OH #5." Who is this? It's not on HebrewBooks and I can't find a reference to it in a Google search.
    – b a
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 18:43
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    Look harder on Hebrewbooks: hebrewbooks.org/1110
    – Curiouser
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 19:07
  • @Curiouser How do we judge the likelihood of the person to do teshuvah? Would his own assertion be sufficient? Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 19:46
  • @AvrohomYitzchok He doesn't say in the tshuva, but I would guess that his own assertion is enough -- that is how he became a mumar to begin with.
    – Curiouser
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 19:56

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