Friday, June 2, 2023 -
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Shabbat – or Sunday – tranquility?

Quiet. No open shops. People walking through near empty streets. No, this is not Saturday in Jerusalem, but Sunday in Switzerland.

A recent IJN editorial about an Israeli supermarket chain’s closing hours on Shabbat sparked an entry on Rocky Mountain Jew which in turn sparked some heated comment exchange. Ben M. supported the charedi community’s boycott of the grocery chain, while M Gold claimed that boycott stank “of intolerance of the highest order.”

Ben M.: “And just how would M Gold guarantee those beautiful Shabbats in Jerusalem? It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world for a reason…” Ah, Ben M., I’m here to tell you it does, but only it’s on Sunday and not Shabbat – the original day of rest.

A typical Friday in Zurich. Imagine this: one needs to be aware of what one plans to have for breakfast on Monday morning, because do you really want to pop out for that container of milk at 7 a.m. on Monday morning? So not only is there the mad pre-Shabbat shopping rush, but now you’ve got to plan for nearly three days ahead. (The situation is only marginally better for those not Sabbath-observant or gentiles: shops close by 4 or 5 p.m. on Saturday).

The upside: Sundays are tranquil and peaceful. There is a beauty in a collective day of rest, an understanding that everyone – from managers to shelf stockers to children – need a day off.

The downside: darned inconvenience! I am just getting used to buying three liters of milk on Fridays and enough fruit to last three days. (Although, there’s a catch-22 in all of this, as the short shelf life of produce in Switzerland means that the fruit will most likely be off by Monday.)

The solution to our consumer driven society is that shops in the train station are open 365 days a year, so there is at least an option for those who don’t have enough leftovers from Shabbat.

So while I see the positives in having a communal day of rest, I also understand people’s frustrations with such an institution. I don’t agree with the boycott of the supermarket chain, because I believe it is always better to find a solution that it is inclusive instead of exclusive. I appreciate living in a society where different ways of life are accepted and integrated. I don’t believe in one group dictating the terms.

Could the Switzerland model – one centralized shopping locale on Saturdays – work in Jerusalem?

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2 thoughts on “Shabbat – or Sunday – tranquility?

  1. proudjew

    You make an interesting point, but I see no comparison between a restful Sunday and Shabbat. Zurich sounds truly tranquil, and that is lovely, but that is not Shabbat. Shabbat in Jerusalem is tranquil, peaceful, beautiful–but so much more. It is a day of tangible holiness in the city, a day of kedusha. And that is part of Jerusalem, our Jewish capital. If Shabbat is not publicly honored in Jerusalem (of all places in the world) then what is the point? I don’t know the details about the chain store, I suppose I should read up on it first. Go Ben M.! I enjoy reading his comments, observations etc
    Shabbat shalom

  2. M Gold

    The point is that the shops that remain open are not in Orthodox neighborhoods and therefore have no real affect on the lives of those protesting. It’s just another case of one group of people thinking they know the “truth” and imposing it on other people.

    Anyway, what is “tangible holiness”? Who decides that? Who decides what a public honoring should include?


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