Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 20 June 2015 / 3 Tammuz 5775

Shabbat Money

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Tal

Dear Rabbi,

A friend told me that there is no blessing in money that is earned on Shabbat. I understand that according to the Torah certain acts are prohibited, but how does that affect the money that’s earned through doing the acts? And more, one sees that work brings income, so more work, including on Shabbat, should bring more income, not less.

Dear Tal,

When the Jews wandered the wilderness of Sinai, G-d sustained them by providing them with a daily portion of manna. In this way, the Jews literally received their living from Heaven. The manna is therefore a prototype for our belief that a person’s sustenance comes from G-d, even when not in the direct way of manna.

Regarding the manna, the Torah states, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the Sabbath there will be none….See that the Lord has given you the Sabbath. Therefore, on the sixth day, He gives you bread for two days. Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day” (Ex. 16:26-29).

From here we see that on Shabbat it is forbidden to pursue one’s livelihood, i.e. earn money; and there is a special blessing for those who refrain from doing so. Conversely, the Torah relates an incident where the manna of those who tried to garner it in a forbidden fashion actually “bred worms and became putrid” (ibid v. 20).

Accordingly, the Torah teachings on the manna indicate that one who refrains from working on Shabbat will have blessing in what he earns during the week, while “manna” gleaned on Shabbat will have no such blessing and will go to waste. So you see, livelihood is not a function of how much one earns each day such that another day of work on Shabbat equals more income, since that income is infested and rotten.

Many years ago, someone in my family knew a young Israeli woman who dreamed to travel to Thailand. After completing the Army she got a job in order to earn the money for her trip, and she particularly preferred working on Shabbat when she earned “double-pay”. My relative told her that there’s no blessing from such “Shabbat-money”, but the woman just ridiculed her and kept working on Shabbat until she finally realized her dream of getting to Thailand.

Once she was thoroughly sated with the Far-East and wanted to come home to Israel, she took her remaining money to buy a return ticket, and on the way to the travel agent her bag was stolen. She was now stranded in Thailand, not wanting to be there, and with no money to get out. She spent about as much time doing menial work to pay for her return as she had spent traveling, which was enough time for her to recall her friend’s warning and to calculate that the money she lost was about what she had “earned” on Shabbat.

She came to the conclusion that the time she enjoyed in Thailand at the expense of working on Shabbat had to be rectified by working in Thailand without enjoying it – but not on Shabbat!

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