The Shabbos goyMany of you have probably heard the term 'Shabbos goy,' many more of you may not know precisely what it means. I'm going to explain it to you and then give you a specific example. There are certain types of activities that Jews are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. Sometimes, we need those activities performed on our behalf. The person who performs them is called a 'Shabbos goy.'
For example, there was one wintry Friday night when we lived in America that someone bumped into the thermostat and accidentally turned the heat down to an intolerable level. I went next door to the non-Jewish neighbor and asked his 16-year old son to come to our house. The boy came in and I told him that it was cold in the house and the thermostat had been turned down. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said "let me show you how to turn it up." He turned it up to a reasonable temperature. We gave him a piece of cake and sent him on his way.
But finding a Shabbos goy in a neighborhood like our Jerusalem neighborhood - where the entire neighborhood is populated by religious Jews - is much more complicated. So much so that one of the synagogues has taken upon itself to house a Shabbos goy within the synagogue in case someone needs one. We have used the Shabbos goy in the past, but it had been a couple of years. This past Saturday, we needed the Shabbos goy again.
I was preparing a Torah thought to say at the lunch table when my married son (who was visiting us with his wife) called from the kitchen and asked me to come right away. I came into the kitchen and saw that he was holding the refrigerator door slightly ajar. The light inside the refrigerator - the bane of Orthodox Jews' existence - had come on in our 15-year old refrigerator. He could not allow the door to close because it would turn off the light, and because we would not be allowed to open it again until the Sabbath ended. All of our food for the Sabbath was in the refrigerator. I put on my suit jacket and hat (one goes no further than across the street without them in my neighborhood on the Sabbath) and walked down to the synagogue where they have the Shabbos goy.
In the past, the Shabbos goy was always a 'foreign worker' (Thai, Romanian or Filipino), but this time the Shabbos goy knew some Hebrew and almost no English. Clearly an Arab. As we walked the five minutes or so from the (relatively far away) synagogue, the Arab - whom I would guess is 18-21 years old - who was dressed in shorts, a t-shirt (Hard Rock Cafe - Jerusalem) and sandals, insisted on jotting down my name, address and phone number so that he could collect from me after the Sabbath ended. "It's 30 shekels" (about $7.50) he told me. I said "it was only 20 the last time I did this." He said "Shh.... We're not supposed to talk about money on the Sabbath." I told him he was right.
We walked to our house, and he came inside and tried to replace the tape over the light button (which our appliance repairman had suggested, rather than unscrewing the lightbulb and risking condensation getting into the electrical system of our 15-year old refrigerator). My son suggested that maybe he ought to consider unscrewing the light bulb so as to avoid a return trip later in the day. The Arab unscrewed the light bulb.
As he was leaving, I offered him a piece of cake. "I can't, I'm fasting," he responded. "Yes, of course. It's Ramadan," I said, a little embarrassed to have 'forgotten.' (I had no way of knowing whether he was Christian or Muslim, but the odds were high from the beginning that he was Muslim).
After the Sabbath ended, the Shabbos goy called and demanded 50 shekels because it was 'so far' to my house. I have been here long enough not to be taken in. I reached the gabbai (manager) of the synagogue who said to pay him 35 shekels and that no, they don't care whether I put it in the box in the synagogue or pay it to the guy directly. I went and handed him 35 shekels in cash, which seemed to please him. I asked whether he had broken his fast, and he said he broke it at 7:00 (about ten minutes before sundown - have to look that one up someday).
So why am I telling you this whole story? From time to time, you see stories about increasing percentages of Israeli Jews who want to pay Arabs to leave the country. There are Arabs whom we should pay to leave the country. But we will also need our Shabbos goyim. The Torah contemplates that there will be non-Jews in Israel even when Israel is a Jewish country run entirely under Jewish law. They will have a special status. That status is known as ger toshav. Those who wish to live in peace with us need not necessarily be asked to leave.
In preparation for the ger toshav status, Israel treats non-Jews with respect and allows them to worship freely. On Friday, 90,000 Muslims worshiped on the Temple Mount, which is the holiest place in the world to the Jewish people.
Will we hear all about it from Human Rights Watch? Will they find a minute to stop fronting for Hamas over there to acknowledge this fact? Will the Israel-bashing Amnesty International take note? What of the horrified UN? Will it answer for having remained silent about the amassing of Hezbollah weapons caches in Southern Lebanon by speaking up to congratulate the Israelis on their heroic efforts to protect religious freedom, even for those who would exterminate them?Compare this to the way that Muslims treated Jews during the years that they controlled the Temple Mount. Not only could Jews not ascend the Temple Mount, they couldn't even approach the Western Wall at its bottom, nor enter the Old City of Jerusalem in which they are located. Jews could not enter the entire area during the entire 19 years (1948-67) that Jordanian Muslims ruled the area. The entire Jewish quarter, including all of its beautiful synagogues were destroyed. The Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives - on the Old City's far side - were desecrated, and their gravestones were used for latrines and for paving the walkway to the Intercontinental Hotel.
When the Messiah comes, the Temple will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and Muslims will no longer worship there. However, we will still need some Shabbos goyim to live here, so non-Jews (who abide by certain Jewish precepts) will live here. Can the Arab-Islamic countries - which won't even allow Jews entry - say the same?
Who is better off: My Shabbos goy under my people's rule, or me under his people's rule? The answer seems obvious.