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I am a Catholic who lives near Philly. However, I am interested in seeing how others' practice their faiths. I learned about the concept of the Shabbos Goy. That sounds like exactly what I am looking for. I don't necessarily want to participate in Shabbot as it feels too intrusive to me. But I do think that assisting with someone's faith is a great thing and I would love to help. I know it may be a bit outdated these days but I am sure some people would enjoy the nice hands-on touch one could provide.

Does anyone have any advice as to how I can become a Shabbos Goy?

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    Sounds like it would be as simple as approaching a Jew and asking him if you can help him. I would recommend, perhaps, that you obtain some guidance from a competent rabbi on some nuances of the task. For example, you should be aware that in most cases, you cannot perform any task for a Jew if he directly instructs you to do it. So, e.g. if a Jew says, "It's hot in this room." you have to know that this is a hint that he wants you to turn on the A.C. You can't ask him, "Should I turn on the A.C.?" because he can't answer you. – DanF Jun 27 '17 at 3:04
  • @DanF What about the concern that he's doing it for the Jew? Especially if he makes that obvious. – Ploni Jun 27 '17 at 3:25
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    @DanF Why can't the non-Jew do it if the Jew asks him to? – Double AA Jun 27 '17 at 3:35
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You must first understand that there are laws concerning a non-Jew performing work for a Jew on the Sabbath. Generally, it cannot be done. See this quotation from Aish.com:

My husband and I are Christians and our neighbors are Orthodox Jewish. Sometimes on any given Saturday, our neighbors knock on our door and ask us to turn on the air conditioning, etc. We've always helped them out, not understanding the full reasoning behind this tradition.

We have a good relationship with them but we are curious as to how they must view us. Why is it okay for them to ask us to "work" during their Sabbath? Do they then consider us inferior because we are doing these neighborly favors?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are describing a phenomenon which is colloquially called a “Shabbos Goy.”

In essence, your neighbors should not be asking you to do things for them, which they themselves are not allowed to do on Shabbat. This is a Talmudic principle, as derived from the Torah which states that on Shabbat, "creative activity should not BE DONE for you" - i.e. even if you are only asking someone else to do it.

The only exceptions are: when there is a commandment to be fulfilled, great monetary loss, or a health-related situation. Air conditioning is considered health-related, because if things get too hot, people (especially the elderly, etc.) could faint or be exposed to other dangers.

Even in the above-mentioned cases, a Jew is only allowed to ask a non-Jew to do a rabbinic-level action. (Mishnah Berurah 307:19-24)

They certainly do not consider you inferior. Rather it is simple pragmatics: they are obligated in observing Shabbat laws that you are not. You can consider it a great kindness to be helping them out, just as any good neighbor would.

In recent times, Colin Powell, Mario Cuomo, Martin Scorsese, and an adolescent Elvis Presley assisted their Jewish neighbors in this way.

See also this article from Chabad.org.

But all those things aside, you would need to contact the rabbi of the particular community you are interested in servicing. You should tell him everything you have told us here. Then, if he is in need of your assistance, he can instruct you as to what work a non-Jew may do for a Jew on the Sabbath. Believe me, the laws can get complicated. Many religious Jews do not even know them.

Note that not everyone community is in need of a Shabbos Goy, and not everyone wants one either. You are correct when you say the idea is sort of out-dated.

  • "Air conditioning is considered health-related, because if things get too hot, people (especially the elderly, etc.) could faint or be exposed to other dangers.". I have to see what sources they get this from. This is does seem to be an absolute principle. I think the first idea would be to have people move to a cooler room, not to just simply allow a Shabbos Goy to turn on the A.C. Of course, a way to get around this is if the Goy turns on the A.C. for himself. – DanF Jun 27 '17 at 14:27
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    "the idea is sort of out-dated". I disagree. Almost every shul has a custodian, aka a "Shabbos Goy". (Shtiebls tend to be a different story.) In my neighborhood, many people have either live-in servants or someone who comes in regularly to do things for them on Shabbat (such as serving meals, washing dishes, etc.) I think it's still quite "popular". – DanF Jun 27 '17 at 14:33
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    The only outdated part is the idea of there being a designated shabbos goy, probably thanks to more reliable technology. But when people get stuck they stand on street-corners, awkwardly asking strangers if they are Jewish. One Shul I know of, in the neighborhood, has a designated shabbos goy sitting at the Shul. People know he is there, waiting to be helpful. And this is indeed a great service. – HaLeiVi Jun 27 '17 at 14:56
  • "what work a non-Jew may do for a Jew on the Sabbath": a non-Jew may do anything at all for a Jew on the sabbath (except for things that violate the noahide commands). – msh210 Jun 28 '17 at 1:30

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