Please Note: This is not the same question as "what is considered work on Shabbos" because I'm just looking for why we had Shabbos before electricity. And for the person who wrote "your understanding of the 39 Melachosmare very untrue" that may be right because I definitely don't know all of them but during Shabbos basically all (I said basically) of the Melachos still have a connection to electricity. Also, the rule that you can't do electricity on Shabbos was made before electricity was found so why is that if they didn't even have electricity then?

  • 7
    Indeed, what did people do all day before electricity?
    – Double AA
    Jun 14 '18 at 18:54
  • 6
    Your understanding of the 39 Melachos is very untrue. You said: "Isn't Shabbos all about not doing מלאכה which is basically electronics?" You're correct that we may not use electronics on Shabbos. But there are many, many more forbidden work forms which we cannot perform on Shabbos that have nothing to do with electricity.
    – ezra
    Jun 14 '18 at 19:52
  • If you've been wondering this, @Yehuda1983, you can bet someone else has been, too. Since it also complies with the site rules, that makes it a good question!
    – Josh K
    Jun 14 '18 at 20:00
  • Are you looking for an answer as to why Shabbos existed when there was no electricity, or do you simply want to know if that would be a good question? Your title implies the former, but your body implies the latter.
    – Alex
    Jun 14 '18 at 22:24
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What is considered work on the sabath?
    – DonielF
    Jun 15 '18 at 3:15

We live in an eletronically-heavy world, so growing up, little kids have to learn "don't turn on lights on Shabbos" before they learn "don't use flint and tinder (or rubbing sticks) to make fire on Shabbos." I think that's what's driving your question.

In a pre-industrial world, plowing, planting, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, weaving, making charcoal and the like were absolutely part of daily life for everyone. Stopping all of those on Shabbos was a major change.


I don't think it's a well-phrased question exactly b/c of what @ezra mentioned. But, it is a good question wondering "what's behind a melacha?" The concept of melacha is an extremely difficult concept for even devoutly religious Jews to comprehend. The melachot were based on activity done for the mishkan.

Unfortunately, most sources that I've seen translate melacha as "work". Thus, many people equate "work" with "effort" or "labor". So Jews and, moreso, Gentiles are absolutely puzzled as to why one may run around an athletic field (strenuous exercise is prohibited according to many for a separate reason that is not related to melacha) on Shabbat as that seems like "work" whereas one may not turn on or off a light that involves minimal effort.

So, melacha has nothing to do with electronics directly. Many of the Shabbat laws, I find, I do even if I don't understand them. I implicitly trust a rabbi's opinion, unless it's clearly obvious to me that he's wrong. (E.g. if a rav told me a product was kosher and I discover that it is not, of course I won't eat it.) The point is that I don't feel that I need to understand why I do things. It's nice if I can, of course. If you want to understand exactly what is a melacha and what isn't and why they became that way, there are many resources to help you or confuse you :-)

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