Shabbos Goy

This past Shabbat, yesterday, I got to experience the things that Jewish jokes are made of.  In Beer Sheva, my friends and I made use of a “Shabbos Goy,” who happened to be Samir, the neighboring Bedouin.

My host forgot to cover over the switch to the lightbulb in her refrigerator before Shabbat begin, meaning that if we were to open up the door, the light would go on, an act that is forbidden on Shabbat.  She remember during Friday night services at synagogue, and we realized that if we were to eat during Shabbat, we’d need some help.

Now, the thought of using someone to do menial tasks for you like flip a switch, especially when you can’t even pay them seems condescending, holier than thou, and just plain old rude.  There is a reason why Shabbos Goyim just aren’t used much these days.  But what to do when you’re stuck?

On the way back we cased everyone walking down the street, looking for non-Jews.  While there are many Filipino and Thai workers in Israel, they mostly work as aides to the elderly, who would have been at home by 9pm.  Eventually we arrived at the minimarket around the corner from her apartment which also served as the hangout for local Arabs.  My host approached the counter and asked if there was someone who was willing to switch and and off a few lights for us.

Samir was very friendly and told us about how he too used to be religious.  He said he was a חוזר בתשובה, a term generally used by Jews who become observant.  He said that he studied his religion a lot and became a Sheikh, but then he was חוזר לשאלה, literally “returning to questioning” that is a Hebrew play on words referring to someone who becomes non-observant.  He said that as long as we all believe in Gd and we all follow our own religion, then everything will be alright.

A thin young man, he refused offers of cookies or food.”לא בה לי. לא בה לי” he insisted.  But we were unable to accomodate his diet of beer.  A sip of water, and he was out the door.

Thanks for helping us celebrate Shabbat, Samir!


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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