I'm aware of the 39 forms of prohibited work and while I'm still in the process of converting I'm doing well at maintaining the prohibitions ie not cooking, driving, carrying money, etc., but from a Conservative position where do leisurely activities fall? For example, if a person takes enjoyment from knitting and they don't knit for money but simply for pleasure is it prohibited?
From a Conservative perspective, which is the same as Orthodox, whether an activity is enjoyed does not change its status for whether it is forbidden on Shabbat. A couple of summers ago, I did a lot of crocheting while taking long drives to kids summer camps and I really wished I could crochet for relaxation on Shabbat. But I didn't because it is certainly a forbidden activity. Similarly, playing musical instruments is traditionally avoided even though it is certainly pleasurable, and even though the reason the activity is not done on Shabbat is really just a "fence around Torah" rather than a Biblical prohibition, i.e. you might break a string and be tempted to fix it.
Thank you. I had suspected that it was still prohibited, but I wanted to double check. Here's another Shabbat related question I have an ebook version of the Talmud on an iPad, the iPad naturally uses electricity. Can the iPad be used? Assuming it is already charged and not charging.
My own feeling is that it is good to have a 25 hour period each week to get away from technology. I do not use my laptop or iPhone on Shabbat, (or Yom Tov) even though I do turn on/off lights during those holidays. I admit that checking my email is one of the first things I do after Havdalah, but that just underscores how much the break is needed.
Note that there are various opinions on electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov. In fact, just a few decades ago it used to be standard Modern Orthodox practice to use electricity for cooking on Yom Tov, but it is not done by MO Jews today. That was due I think to going from considering electricity to be a spark to being a completion of the circuit that is the issue. Some lenient Conservative rulings allow turning on/off lights on Shabbat, although electricity is still not to be used to do otherwise forbidden activities such as cooking.
Thank you Debbie. I agree that it's good to turn off the electronic devices and this is something that I've started doing because I found myself being tempted to reach for the idevices and check twitter,email,etc., and because I use these items daily for school I assumed that it was violating the spirit of Shabbat and now I now know that my assumption was correct
We turn off the TV, but so far the computer hasn't made the leap to observance. Baby steps.
the challenge for me was finding POSITIVE things to do 'for Shabbat'. If you only focus on the 'don'ts' you lose the joy that Shabbat should bring.
(as for knitting - it's the activity, not whether you enjoy it or not, that matters. Knitting is making (creating) knots that form a 'new created thing' and that's exactly the kind of activity forbidden on Shabbat. You could READ about knitting if that interests you enough, I suppose!)
My husband says we should have people over for Shabbat lunch more often. He's right, but we're just too tired and the house is too messy for company lately. But when we have friends over, the hours fly by. In the winter, friends have been at our house and we've been at friends' homes all the way to Havdalah. And we have often found that we never even got around to playing the new game we had because we spend the time talking.
One thing that we've missed is that a teen from an Orthodox family who my husband knew in high school (he was friends with the guy's sister and our neighbor was friends with my husband's sister) and who now live 1.5 blocks from us, used to drop by once in awhile on Shabbat to see if members of my family were up for a game of Bridge. But the teen graduated from high school and is doing a Gap Year at the Technion in Israel, and the rest of the family is not as into Bridge. Being Shomer Shabbat works better in a community with other folks with the same observance. Then Shabbat can work for casual visiting because you know that people are likely to be in and not busy unless they have guests or are over at someone else's house). Sometimes in the summer, we'd end up going for a walk around the neighborhood with those same friends, for example.
One of my family's favorite Shabbat activities is that my husband will read aloud from a book for hours at a time. We have gone through major books of several hundred pages over the course of many Shabbat afternoons. I suggested that he read Michener's "The Source" so the kids would get a good dose of Jewish history too, and he started that one, but it didn't really take. We've had more fun with Science Fiction.
One principle is that a person should 'save' something special for Shabbat dinner - and beautify the table if possible. The traditional Shabbat dinner of roast chicken comes from a period when meat was something that really wasn't affordable on a daily basis.
how about we continue and talk about 'how to' for Friday night along with a few 'why' -
Mike, can you ask a question? I do a lot better with questions than with a blank page, and I bet other people do also. Anything will do, even something you already know, but had questions about earlier on.
My sponsoring rabbi specifically mentioned your first case of a reheating cooked food in a microwave on Shabbat. He said that there are various CJ opinions on electricity on Shabbat, but IF you use an opinion that electricity can be used on Shabbat, then it could be permissible to reheat food using a microwave on Shabbat, since one would not be cooking which is expressly prohibited, nor making nor adjusting fire (as would be the case for turning on or adjusting) a gas oven or range.
When I am being really careful about Shabbat observance because we are having observant guests I use these methods to reheat foods for Shabbat lunch: (1) I leave my oven on for Shabbat (unfortunately my oven has a really noisy venting fan that runs continually when the oven is on which is a big disadvantage of this method in my house) (2) If I have a crockpot with cholent or chilli on, then I take off the glass lid and cover the top of the crockpot with aluminum foil, and then I put a covered pan or pot of food on top of the crockpot. This method has the added advantage that since the reheating is done in an unusual way (the term for this is "shinui" = "change" in Hebrew*), it underscores that you are aware of prohibitions and are purposely doing things to avoid melacha.
*Another example of "shinui" that my sponsoring rabbi gave during a class on the CJ "driving on Shabbat" ruling: He grew up in an Orthodox neighborhood of Queens and would sometimes see a neighbor who was a doctor walking on Shabbat toward the hospital with his black bag held at an awkward angle behind him. The doctor had been called into work and it was permissible for him to do so due to "Pikuach nefesh" ("saving a life", for which one is not only permitted, but obligated to violate Shabbat**). However, if he was "carrying" outside the eruv on Shabbat, he is still doing "melacha", so he is "carrying" in an unusual way to indicate that he knows what he is doing and is doing it for a reason.
** More about "Pikuach nefesh": We have a number of Shomrei Shabbat friends who are physicians (some Orthodox, some very observant Conservative). They carry pagers on Shabbat and when they are called in on Shabbat, they drive to the hospital. However, if their work is done before Shabbat is over, they stay at the hospital until after Shabbat because driving home is not a permissible Shabbat violation. While at the hospital on Shabbat, they also write, use electricity, and do all manner of melacha that is needed for patient care. Same thing on Chagim which have similar restrictions. The father of the bridge-playing teen once interrupted a bridge game that my husband and daughter were playing at their house on a Yom Tov Sheni (second day of holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot---not celebrated by Reform Jews except for RH) to go to the hospital.
Jews are not supposed to ask a non-Jew to do prohibited work for them on Shabbat, but there is an old tradition of Jews doing it anyway.
Many years ago before I had converted, an Orthodox member of our minyan told me after Shabbat services that there was a situation in his house that I could help them with. (I don't remember, but I suspect that he did not word this as a request which would be prohibited.) The situation was that they had bought a new fancy oven and had discovered an unfortunate "feature": if the oven was left on for more than 12 hours, it assumed that it had been forgotten and would beep every few minutes in alarm. They had left their oven on for Shabbat to keep food warmed and needless to say, the beeping was driving them nuts. I obligingly went to their house and simply pushed the button to turn off the oven. (My old oven used to do that too, so when I bought my new oven I made sure it had a "Shabbat mode".)
Years later when he was no longer a member of our minyan so we only saw him about once a year at an annual Gilbert and Sullivan production that we both always attended, the way I told him that I had converted is that I told him that I could no longer be his "Shabbos goy". Sadly, after his second divorce since the above incident, he has "gone secular" and I don't think he keeps Shabbat strictly anymore. Unfortunately, I also remember having the joy of my disclosure evaporate when he asked me who was on the Beit Din. I felt that he was probing to see whether my conversion was "valid" in his eyes. Maybe my husband was right that our friend did not ask for that reason, but I wished it had not been one of the first things he had asked me. I just told him who the rabbis were, even as I thought to myself that it was not a nice question to ask. At least, he would know that they were all male and mitzvot-observant so maybe that would satisfy any "validity" questions he might have.
Thank you Debbie. I tend to keep a few lights on for Shabbat ie., living room and hallway and nightlights in other rooms, but I refrain from turning lights on and off. I had assumed that a microwave would be prohibited because I would think that you are turning it on and it will turn itself off.
If you avoid turning lights on/off, then it would be consistent to not use a microwave on Shabbat.
One of these days I will probably buy a big electric warming tray that a lot of our observant friends use for Shabbat and that I can buy right over at my nearby all kosher rabbinically supervised supermarket.
Some of our observant friends (especially those in Israel who are more frugal about power usage than most people here in the US) have their whole house's lights on a central timer for Shabbat. You decide which lights you want to have controlled by timer. Those lights that are on when the timer is activated just before candle-lighting stay on until the set time to go off on Friday night. Then they go back on at the same activation time on Saturday, so you will have them again as the sun goes down and before Havdalah.
It does mean that when we have gotten involved in a discussion or something after dinner, that the visiting sometimes comes to a pretty abrupt end when the lights go off!
BTW, I'm sure that my sponsoring rabbi personally does not turn on/off lights or use a microwave on Shabbat, but that's due it part to the fact that he has simply continued to mostly live the same Orthodox lifestyle he grew up with. The main exception is that he leads an Egalitarian CJ congregation and he has not pushed for them to change some of the differences they already had from traditional services: an abbreviated P'sukei D'Zimra, and triennial cycle Torah readings. Also, when he leads Birkat Hamazon for the congregation, he uses the abbreviated form. Again, that is what the congregation was used to. When he benches with a smaller more traditional group, he does the full BH, which he certainly does privately.
That's my sponsoring rabbi's style: personally quite traditional, but willing to allow for considerable leniencies as long as they are RA approved (and to mostly ignore mitzvot violations of his congregants as long as they are not right in the shul), because he does not want to alienate less observant Jews.
"Dimmer switches" don't solve any Shabbat issues since adjusting lights isn't allowed either assuming that you hold by the ruling of not allowing lights to be turned on/off. Note that turning lights off is prohibited too; not just turning them on.
I go with the opinion that turning lights on and off is allowable on Shabbat - otherwise, I'd have to unscrew the lightbulb in the refrigerator every Friday afternoon, and have a cold shower to boot - just not going to happen!
That said - if my husband were more interested, then we'd probably be more observant, but there's a principle called 'shalom bayit' coming into play - so he agrees to turn off the TV, and I agree not to hassle him about cooking and lights.
I turn down weekend work schedules, and postpone shopping trips until Sunday whenever possible. But seriously, if you have a spouse, you can't just go your own way all the time and have the marriage work.
So - the lights aren't on a timer, but that's a good option if you intend to leave electrical switches strictly alone. We don't run around randomly turning electrical things on and off, either - Shabbat is a special day, so we try to treat it so. Of the '39 forbidden varieties of work': the forbidden works involve 'creating' - sewing, carpentry, planting, gardening, attaching things, tying things together (like knitting) to make something permanent - writing on paper (some Jews who don't write on paper will 'write' on the internet, by the way, since it's only pixels and bytes) - at any rate, it's up to you - and your sponsoring rabbi and community - to determine what is and isn't 'forbidden work' and what is and isn't a 'don't touch' item.
As for cooking - it is 'okay' generally, in many communities, to reheat food that is already cooked - most people do that with the 'Shabbat stove' - leave it on (that's where you might want a blech). We have a nice stove with 'Shabbat mode', which is helpful. Plus crockpots, which are a wonderful invention. We also invested in one of those big 'coffee pots' that hold gallons and stay in 'warm' mode for long periods - put water in it on Friday and you can have all kinds of instant things: tea, coffee, soups, instant cider, hot oatmeal - anything that says 'add hot water'.
If you turn lights on and off, then you could reheat cooked food in a microwave, but if that is not your practice, then you shouldn't use the microwave. Leave the stove on instead and reheat food in the stove (or on it). It takes a little practice and planning, that's all.
Eruv issues - our town isn't big enough to require one (it's actually tied to the number of people in a city).
One thing I do which is 'special' for Shabbat: I don't wear a watch.
Like Debbie says, there are some issues with rewarming cooked food, and with dimmer switches (it's the same issue actually) - some authorities think it is permissible and some don't - it connects to whether it is permissible or not to put wood on an existing fire (like turning up a thermostat) or not - clearly, one cannot START a fire on Shabbat, or deliberately put one out - UNLESS they are doing so for safety purposes - but adjusting the LEVEL of a fire: that gets close to the dimmer switch and the reheating question. Can you turn up the furnace? Adjust the stove temperature?
This is seriously an area where 'ask your rabbi' definitely applies, because it so strongly depends on the custom of your particular community.
Simcha is absolutely right that if you are married (or sharing an apartment with others), your observance needs to be tempered by what the other person wants or is willing to do.
Eruv: we live within an eruv and our 'tiny" minyan is within the eruv too. That's the main attraction of that minyan given that we are more at home in our "primary minyan". But then again, I guess it is also that we are needed at times by the "tiny minyan" to just to have the ten for a minyan and it is appreciated that my husband is often willing to give a D'var Torah on short notice and I try to read Torah for that minyan at least once a month.
However, we do drive to our "primary minyan" which is in an adjoining eruv, but is really rather far to walk---4 miles now, and it used to be 5 miles before it moved. My husband and daughter have occasionally walked the few miles on very nice days. I rather like the fact that you see a lot of people walking in our neighborhood on Shabbat. It reminds you of what day it is. My Reform neighbor doesn't like it---it reminds her that she has many neighbors that she doesn't interact socially with.
I was also going to mention the electric hot water pot. I love mine because a continuous supply of hot drinks makes Shabbat enjoyable for me. See for example: www.judaism.com/display.asp?etn=IEECC Mine does not have a "Shabbat mode" so I try to remember to tape over the "reboil" button when we have observant guests over on Shabbat. I had been wondering if that style of pot was OK for Shabbat and bought mine after I saw one in use at an Orthodox friend's home on Shabbat.
Some people just use a 20- or 40--cup coffee coffee maker for hot water on Shabbat, but those pots go to a "keep warm" mode which is not hot enough to make decent tea*, and some even turn off after 4 hours---so you have to be careful about which one you get. The electric hot pots by contrast keep the water just a little cooler than boiling. I use it for entertaining even when it isn't Shabbat so that there is plenty of hot water for tea. (None of our friends who we invite over have a problem with tea bags on Shabbat, although the bridge-playing teen suggested to his mother that she ought to use a secondary cup to avoid the "cooking" possibility---she just laughed and ignored the suggestion.)
Thank you Debbie and Simcha, I've contacted my sponsoring Rabbi and he said using the microwave is okay, though he did say that the Orthodox would say 'no.' Debbie--you are correct I'm converting under the Conservative movement.
I have one roommate who is rather into it. My brother who would like to move in said that it "would be cool." I'm learning about the compromises. They like my homemade pizza and are against just eating veggie ones, so I'll make one veggie and then another with turkey products.
Thank you for the suggestions on how to keep water warm. I'll have to check amazon.
You could try some of the veggie fake meats to put on pizza. (There is also non-dairy fake cheese, but Simcha and I agree that its like eating plastic.) Maybe go fancy with the veggies. There used to be a great kosher pizza place in my town that had a delicious roasted veggie pizza. (My family was so sad when it closed last year. It was worth it to pay 3 times more than cheap non-kosher pizza because their pizza was so good!) Roasting or sauteing onions and mushrooms and peppers before you put them on the pizza will give it a more complex ("meat-like") flavor.
Have you spoken to your rabbi about his Kashrut expectations for converts? My feeling is that kashrut is more likely to be an issue than Shabbat observance with non-Jewish roommates. Some CJ rabbis will expect converts to eat only rabbinically supervised meat; some are more lenient. Expectations for separate meat/dairy cookware/dishes/utensils will also vary with rabbi.
Are your roommates willing to face the restrictions and added expense of kosher meat? It seems rather wrong to put kosher turkey on top of a cheese pizza even for non-Jews to eat it, but then again, my Reform Jewish college roommate buys Empire kosher chickens and covers them in butter. My husband quips that the unfortunate bird was shechted in vain. It sure would be easier if your roommates would be willing to go veggie.
It is possible, but difficult, to keep all your food and cookware/plates/utensils separate from your roommate's stuff.
Back before we kept more strictly kosher and ate non-kosher beef, it never occurred to me to salt and drain the meat. Seemed like since it wasn't slaughtered Jewishly that it was already "treif". Then again there are a lot of variations on "kosher style". I should know given that my home's kashrut observance underwent many changes over the years.
These days I would guess that few younger observant Jews in the US even know the proper way to "kasher" the meat because it is already done by the kosher meat companies or butchers. I advise you to hae a long discussion (or actually several such discussions) with your rabbi about how he thinks you should or shouldn't observe kashrut. Perhaps he'll say that you shouldn't eat non-kosher meat which might restrict you to a mostly vegetarian diet (although there is expensive mail-order kosher meat). Or maybe he'll say that non-kosher beef is OK if you don't eat it at the same time as Dairy, and that you don't need to bother with the salting.
Likewise with Shabbat observance. I think you should find out from your rabbi what aspects of Shabbat observance he thinks are most important, so that you can work on the important observances first.
I hope you won't be offended if I tell you that what you do and don't do seem like strange combinations of what I would expect from fairly observant Jews in some cases, and rather unobservant Jews in other cases. Not that Jewish observance can be measured linearly anyway, but your choices are unlike those of Jews that I know all over the observance spectrum. I suspect that your rabbi might say something like "don't worry about doing X, but it is very important that you try to do Y".
When I started to study with my sponsoring rabbi for conversion, I had wondered if I would feel constrained by having a "mara d'atra" to set standards for me, having spent 14 years in a lay-led minyan with plenty of rabbi members, but no one who by himself decided on observance for the others in the minyan (although the director of the summer camp, undoubtedly set the policies for that camp). It turned out that I felt a great relief that I could rely on him to give me a unified set of observances, particularly with respect to kashrut. So I didn't feel like I was just picking the most lenient opinions, or choosing opinions randomly. There were a few non-kashrut issues where he said that any of several Rabbinical Assembly approved opinions were permissible and did not specify that I had to follow a particular opinion.
I'm not offended. In general I've always been different, and in terms of kashrut I currently look at it like this: I could be quite rigid and legalistic and fret over this and that and drive myself crazy, or I can look at it as a work in progress and do what I can. The salt and soaking of meat I know it doesn't change the status but I figured that it's better to do something than nothing. I'd be happy to go strictly vegetarian but I'm limited, again, to what I can find and currently that's Morningstar and Boca though I'm not sure if the status of Boca. I try to stock up on other items when I go out of town, but sometimes it isn't in the budget. I will be looking for a Kosher supermarket when I go to Grand Rapids/Holland next month.
I emailed the Rabbi and asked about the expectations regarding kashrut and he said that the Bet Din doesn't set a base line standard. As I progress I'll be refining how I do things as I learn and read the textbooks and information on the USCJ website.
a) it is definitely a work in progress, so don't feel obliged to go 'whole hog' (excuse the expression) all at once. b) if I have found out one thing after thirty years (about that), it's that 'kitchen observance' has GOT to be the one area with the MOST variation from family to family and person to person, that I have ever run across.
Find a mentor - could be the rabbi, could be a good comprehensive book (the Conservative movement publishes one, or maybe its just be a Conservative rabbi...I forget), or it could be a trusted friend/neighbor - and let that one person or source be your guide, and forget what everybody else does, says or tells you (otherwise you will go crazy).
(like plastic! yes it is! stay away from the fake cheese!)
We like tomato and pineapple pizzas with extra cheese quite a lot. Roasted veggie supremes are also good. My DH likes olive and onion pizzas.
The "classic" book of Conservative practice is "A Guide to Religious Practice" by Isaac Klein
Go to Google books and type "Klein Jewish Practice" to browse it.
But it grew out of pamphlets written for rabbinical students, so it is not a good basic guide. It uses the academic transliteration so "kiddush" is spelled "qiddush", etc. And the original was written in 1979 and was probably pretty "old fashioned" even then. I wouldn't recommend it for someone just getting into Judaism. Besides, it spends way too many pages on animal deformities and whether they make the animal unfit for slaughter!
Blu Greenberg's "How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household" is supposed to be very good, but describes an Orthodox household. I don't know if there is an equivalent book for Conservative Judaism.
One guide for Conservative converts that seems very thorough and well thought-out is a schedule for changing ones lifestyle over a year created for the Conversion program of Anshe Emet, a large Conservative synagogue in Chicago: www.ansheemet.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/Action-Steps-2010-11.pdf Rabbi Dena Bodian who oversees that conversion program is a former member of my lay-led minyan. She is the one from whom I first learned about the workings of the Committee of Laws and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly: minority opinions, etc.
A book I see on the above program's book list is: "Shabbat: The Family Guide to Preparing for and Celebrating the Sabbath" by Ron Wolfson. We happened to have someone give us a copy of Ron Wolfson's Passover guide and I think it is really good. The book is actually put out by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (Conservative) with Wolfson overseeing and editing, I think. I would expect that this Shabbat Guide would be good too.
To truly consider becoming vegetarian, you need to get out of the "fake meat" mindset. Lots of people are vegetarians and do not eat any of those processed foods. (That said, my kids love the Morningstar Farms veggie sausage and we just had some of that brands veggie chicken fingers for dinner tonight---I was tired and didn't feel like doing a lot of cooking). I've cut my family down to about one meat meal a week even though I have ample access to kosher meat of all kinds.
We often have vegetarian Indian: I cut up a bunch of vegetables and throw in a jar of (kosher) pre-made Indian sauce and a can of (kosher) chickpeas. Or vegetarian Chinese. Or vegetarian Italian pasta. We eat fish about once a week too. That's a good non-meat protein source that can easily be kosher.