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Most rabbinical authorities have prohibited watching television during Shabbat, even if the TV is turned on before the start of Shabbat, and its settings are not changed.Observances. The biblical ban against work on the Sabbath, while never clearly defined, includes activities such as baking and cooking, travelling, kindling fire, gathering wood, buying and selling, and bearing burdens from one domain into another.Adventists abstain from secular work on Saturday. They will also usually refrain from purely secular forms of recreation, such as competitive sport and watching non-religious programs on television.
- Visit family and friends.
- Write in your journal.
- Learn more about your ancestors and family history.
- Go for a walk and enjoy God’s creations.
- Take food to someone who is sick.
- Call, text, or message a friend who’s been on your mind.
- Plan or participate in a service project.
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What is prohibited on Sabbath day?
Observances. The biblical ban against work on the Sabbath, while never clearly defined, includes activities such as baking and cooking, travelling, kindling fire, gathering wood, buying and selling, and bearing burdens from one domain into another.
Can Seventh day Adventist watch TV on Saturday?
Adventists abstain from secular work on Saturday. They will also usually refrain from purely secular forms of recreation, such as competitive sport and watching non-religious programs on television.
What can I do on the Sabbath?
- Visit family and friends.
- Write in your journal.
- Learn more about your ancestors and family history.
- Go for a walk and enjoy God’s creations.
- Take food to someone who is sick.
- Call, text, or message a friend who’s been on your mind.
- Plan or participate in a service project.
Is it OK to cook on the Sabbath?
One of the 39 prohibited activities on the Sabbath is bishul (Hebrew: בישול), or “cooking.” However, bishul is not an exact equivalent of “cooking.” The Hebrew term bishul as it relates to Shabbat is the “use of heat to alter the quality of an item,” and this applies whether the heat is applied through baking, boiling, …
What are 5 things you Cannot do on the Sabbath?
- plowing earth.
- binding sheaves.
Can you use your phone on Sabbath?
Many Jews who strictly observe Shabbat (the Sabbath) refrain from using electrical devices on Shabbat, with the exception of passive enjoyment of devices which were set up before Shabbat.
Can you spend money on the Sabbath?
On this sacred, holy day, worship the Lord, strengthen family relationships, help others, and draw close to the Lord. … “Many activities are appropriate for the Sabbath; however, it is not a holiday. You should avoid seeking entertainment or spending money on this day.
What can Seventh-day Adventists not do on Sabbath?
To help in keeping the Sabbath holy, Adventists abstain from secular work on Saturday. Seventh-day Adventists often spend much of Friday preparing meals and tidying their homes for the Sabbath.
Can you go to a funeral on the Sabbath?
Jews hold no funerals on their Sabbath. Funerals are too mournful; the Sabbath should be a day of reverent rejoicing. Some Christians, however, take a mournful pleasure in funerals.
Can you watch sports on the Sabbath?
The most frequent holiday is Shabbat, which begins before sundown on Friday and concludes on Saturday night once three stars are visible. As a result, those who celebrate Shabbat in a more traditional manner would be unable to practice or compete in games on Shabbat.
Is breaking the Sabbath a sin?
Sabbath desecration is the failure to observe the Biblical Sabbath and is usually considered a sin and a breach of a holy day in relation to either the Jewish Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall), the Sabbath in seventh-day churches, or to the Lord’s Day (Sunday), which is recognized as the Christian Sabbath …
Can you drink coffee on the Sabbath?
➡️ It is completely permissible to prepare hot coffee on Shabbat via the pour-over method. This means: You use coffee that was ground before Shabbat. You simply pour the hot water on the coffee (no swirling the slurry, no spinning with a spoon)
Electricity on Shabbat
Religiously selective usage of electronic devices
Teddy bear lamp in the collection of the Jewish Museum of Switzerland . The cap can be twisted, thus covering the lightbulb with a dark shell.
Many Jews who strictly observe Shabbat (the Sabbath) refrain from using electrical devices on Shabbat, with the exception of passive enjoyment of devices which were set up before Shabbat. Various rabbinical authorities have pronounced on what is permitted and what is not, but there are many disagreements in detailed interpretation, both between different individual authorities and between branches of Judaism.
In Orthodox Judaism, it is generally discouraged to use electrical devices on Shabbat, but Orthodox Poskim (authorities) of Jewish law have disagreed about the basis of this claim since the early 20th century. Many Orthodox leaders have held that turning on an incandescent light bulb violates the Biblical prohibition against igniting a fire. However, the reasons for prohibiting the operation of an electrical appliance that does not involve heating metal to glowing temperatures (which is considered like kindling a fire because of the heat and light), are not agreed upon. At least six substantive reasons have been suggested, and a minority (including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach) believe that turning on most electrical appliances is prohibited only because of common Jewish practice and tradition (minhag) and to maintain the spirit of Shabbat, but not for any substantive technical halachik reason.
Some conservative authorities, on the other hand, reject the argument that turning on incandescent lights is considered “igniting”. The Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has argued that “refraining from operating lights and other permitted electrical appliances is a pious behavior,” but is not required, while also stating that the use of some electrical devices (such as computers, cameras, and smartphones which record data) is forbidden on the sabbath.
Although directly operating electrical appliances is prohibited in Orthodoxy, several indirect methods are permitted according to some authorities. For example, Jews may set a timer before Shabbat to operate a light or appliance on Shabbat, and in some cases, they may adjust the timer on Shabbat. Actions that activate an electrical appliance but are not specifically intended to do so may be permitted if the activation is not certain to occur or if the person does not benefit from the appliance’s automatic operation. For example, most authorities allow Jews to open a refrigerator door even though it may cause the motor to turn on immediately or later (not certain to occur); however, they prohibit opening the door if a light inside will automatically turn on (certain and of benefit). Some rabbinic authorities permit, under certain conditions, walking past a house with a motion sensor which switches on a light (for example, if the street is already well-lit so there would not be any direct benefit for you).[not verified in body]
Some uses of electricity are especially controversial in Israel because of its majority Jewish population. The use of automated machines to milk cows on Shabbat, an activity that is prohibited if done by hand, is disputed because the farmer may derive economic benefit from the milk, although cows suffer if not milked regularly. The use of electricity from power plants operated by Jews in violation of Shabbat is also controversial because it is normally forbidden to benefit from the action of another Jew’s violation of Shabbat. However, because of communal need and other halakhic factors, most religious authorities in Israel permit these uses of electricity.
Incidental prohibitions and leniencies [ edit ]
Many electric devices may not be used on Shabbat for reasons unrelated to electricity. For example:
An electric stove may not be used to cook food, since all cooking of food is forbidden ( bishul ).
). An electric lawn mower may not be used, since cutting grass by any means is forbidden ( kotzer ).
). Use of a computer may violate the prohibition of writing ( kotev ), either in displaying words on the screen, or saving information to the disk (see fuller discussion below).
Conversely, even if use of an electric device would normally be forbidden on Shabbat, in certain circumstances it may be permitted due to leniencies which apply to all Shabbat prohibitions. For example:
If violating Shabbat is the only way of saving a human life ( pikuach nefesh must ) violate Shabbat to save a life.
) violate Shabbat to save a life. If one performs an activity which indirectly causes Shabbat to be violated ( grama
If one performs an activity which has the unwanted consequence of violating Shabbat ( melacha she’eina tzricha legufa ), the level of violation is considered lower. If other reasons for leniency are present, the activity may become permitted.
), the level of violation is considered lower. If other reasons for leniency are present, the activity may become permitted. If one performs an activity which has the unwanted consequence of possibly (not definitely) violating Shabbat ( davar she’eino mitkaven ), the activity is permitted on Shabbat.
Incandescent lights [ edit ]
Of the 39 categories of creative activities prohibited on Shabbat, rabbinic authorities have associated at least three with incandescent lights. The overwhelming majority of Orthodox halakhic authorities maintain that turning on an incandescent light on Shabbat violates a Biblical prohibition on “igniting” a fire (Hebrew: הבערה, hav’arah), because the filament becomes glowing hot like a coal. Some argue instead that it violates the prohibition on “cooking”. Another approach is that of Raavad, who would classify incandescent light as a third creative activity: “completing a product” (Hebrew: מכה בפטיש, makkeh bapatish: literally, “striking the final hammer blow”).
The Mishnah, in the context of laws prohibiting cooking, states: “One who heats a metal pot may not pour cold water into it to heat [the water], but he may pour water into the pot or a cup to quench [the vessel].” In the Gemara, Rav says it is permitted to add water to cool it, but forbidden to add water to mold the metal. Shmuel says it is also permitted to add enough water to mold the metal as long as that is not his intent, but if he intends to mold the metal it is forbidden. In a different context, Rav Sheshet says that “cooking” a metal filament is forbidden by analogy to cooking spices.
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach prohibits raising (or lowering) the level of an electric heater with an adjustable dial, since numerous small heating elements are turned on (or off) in the process.
Conservative Rabbi Daniel Nevins has argued that, according to traditional halakhic sources, heating a filament is not prohibited, because the heat does not cause any significant change in the metal and provides no benefit.
Fluorescent and LED lights [ edit ]
While the visible light produced by fluorescent lamps comes from a phosphor coating which luminesces at low temperature, such lamps also include metal electrodes which are heated to a very high temperature, seemingly causing the same halachic issues as incandescent lamps. However, LED lamps contain no hot metal filament and do not have the same halachic questions, though they may be halachically problematic for reasons discussed later in this article.
Shabbat laws potentially related to electricity [ edit ]
Other prohibitions may apply to electric devices that do not involve heating metal to glowing temperatures.
Molid [ edit ]
The Talmud prohibits infusing a fragrant scent into one’s clothing on Shabbat.[clarification needed] According to Rashi, this is because a rabbinic prohibition exists to “create anything new” (molid). Rabbi Yitzchak Schmelkes suggested applying molid to the generating of electric current. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many others disagree with this application. Among other reasons, they state that molid is a limited category that cannot be expanded past the definitions the Talmudic Sages imposed. Rav Auerbach also stated that molid only applies when the new property is visible (which is not the case with an electric current in a circuit, but is the case when a computer screen is lit up, for example). Nevins has endorsed Rav Auerbach’s reasoning.
In any case, molid would seemingly apply only creating an electric circuit, not to extinguishing an existing current (or modifying its strength).
Boneh [ edit ]
The Chazon Ish wrote that closing an electrical circuit to create an electrical current is Biblically prohibited as “building” (boneh), and opening a closed circuit is prohibited as “destroying”.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach disagreed vigorously with the Chazon Ish. Among other reasons, he claimed that building and destroying must be fundamentally permanent in nature, whereas most electrical devices are routinely turned on and off at will, and the person who turns it on usually intends that it will be turned off at some later point, and vice versa. Building an item that is fundamentally temporary in nature is at most a Rabbinic prohibition, and Rav Auerbach said that opening and closing a circuit is like opening and closing a door, which is not prohibited at all. Many other Orthodox authorities take this position as well, as does the Conservative Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.
One contemporary authority states that even according to the Chazon Ish, the prohibition of “building” would not apply to changing the state of electric circuits in a computer which is already running.
Makeh Bapatish [ edit ]
The Chazon Ish argued, in addition, that closing a circuit to render a device operational might violate the Biblical prohibition of makeh bapatish (striking the final hammer blow, i.e.. completing a product). The argument would be that an electrical device is not complete because it does not function unless the electricity is turned on.
Rabbis Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Yaakov Breisch, and Nevins strongly disagree because makeh bapatish refers to a fundamentally permanent act that requires great effort, and turning on an electrical appliance is fundamentally temporary because it will be turned off, and requires a minimal amount of effort.
Rabbi Osher Weiss argues that intentionally creating an electric circuit violates makeh bapatish because (in his opinion) any activity that is sufficiently significant and creative is prohibited on Shabbat, and if it does not fit into one of the 38 other forbidden activities, it is categorized as makeh bapatish. He also argues that unintentionally creating a circuit (as often occurs when electronic devices operate in a person’s vicinity) is completely permitted, as it does not have the level of significance needed to qualify as makeh bapatish.
Sparks [ edit ]
Intentionally creating burning sparks, for example by rubbing stones together to make a fire, is prohibited on Shabbat as igniting a fire; it is possible that this prohibition includes the sparks momentarily generated when an electric appliance is turned on. However, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules leniently for several reasons: the lighting of sparks is undesired, and might not occur, and the sparks are very small so they might not be considered significant. With solid-state technology, the probability of generating sparks is greatly reduced.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman recounts that he was approached by young rabbis in a seminary who asked him “is electricity fire?”. He replied, “no”, but asked why they wanted to know, and was shocked that they weren’t interested in science at all, but just wanted to interpret the Talmud. Feynman said that electricity was not a chemical process, as fire is, and pointed out that there is electricity in atoms and thus every phenomenon that occurs in the world. Feynman proposed a simple way to eliminate the spark: ‘”If that’s what’s bothering you, you can put a condenser across the switch, so the electricity will go on and off without any spark whatsoever—anywhere.’ But for some reason, they didn’t like that idea either”.
Additional fuel consumption [ edit ]
Turning on an appliance may indirectly cause the power plant to consume more fuel, and as so violates mavir, the augmenting of a fire. For various reasons most authorities permit this indirect causation if the power-plant is operated by non-Jews. (If the power plant is operated by Jews, the issue is more complicated. See the section below regarding Israeli power plants.)
Heating a wire or filament [ edit ]
Injecting current into a wire might cause that wire to heat to the temperature of yad soledet bo. According to the Chazon Ish, this would cause operation of such a device to be forbidden. However, R’ Auerbach disagrees, saying that heating metal is only prohibited when the intent is to modify the metal (e.g. tempering). Some feel that the prevalence of solid-state technology has made the reality underlying this concern obsolete in many cases.
Custom [ edit ]
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rejected any technical prohibition on electricity: “In my opinion there is no prohibition [to use electricity] on Shabbat or Yom Tov… There is no prohibition of Fine-tuning or molid… (However, I [Rabbi Auerbach] am afraid that the masses will err and turn on incandescent lights on Sabbath, and thus I do not permit electricity absent great need…) … This matter requires further analysis. … However, the key point in my opinion is that there is no prohibition to use electricity on Sabbath unless the electricity causes a prohibited act like cooking or starting a flame.”
However, he considered the use of electricity forbidden by custom, and thus would only permit its use in situations of great need.
Practical applications [ edit ]
In general, from an Orthodox perspective, it is permissible to benefit from most electrical objects during Shabbat, provided they are preset before the start of Shabbat, and the status of the appliance is not manually modified during Shabbat. These include lights, heating, and air conditioning.
Cooking appliances [ edit ]
Cooking on Shabbat, whether by electrical or other means, is generally prohibited on Shabbat. Food may be kept hot when it is cooked before the start of Shabbat. There are various laws governing how this food is kept hot and served. Often, a blech or crock pot is used for this purpose.
Refrigerators [ edit ]
Though most Shabbat observant Jews permit opening and closing a refrigerator during Shabbat, some authorities require that the door only be opened when the refrigerator motor is already running. Otherwise, the motor will be caused to go on sooner by the increase in temperature indirectly caused by the flow of heat from the outside. Most refrigerators and freezers automatically turn the motor on to operate the cooling pump whenever the thermostat detects a temperature that is too high to keep the food cold. However, Auerbach and most authorities permit opening the door because this result is indirect and because there are additional grounds to be lenient.
Additionally, any incandescent light which is triggered upon opening the door must be disconnected before Shabbat. It is not permitted to open the door if the light will turn on because, unlike with the motor running, the light turning on is a Biblical prohibition whereas the motor running may be a Rabbinic prohibition, and also, the light is turned on immediately as an effect of opening the refrigerator whereas the motor turning on is an indirect effect.
Some appliance manufacturers have implemented subtle design aspects to accommodate Shabbat observant Jews. In 1998 Whirlpool’s KitchenAid line patented a “Sabbath mode”, and since then many manufacturers have followed by offering similar options. These modes typically turn off the electronic displays, disable oven and refrigerator lights that turn on automatically, and use delay timers that allow for permitted temperature controls. According to Jon Fasman, “about half of all ovens and refrigerators on the market (including those made by GE, Whirlpool, and KitchenAid) now have a Sabbath mode.”
Thermostats [ edit ]
Some rabbinic authorities have questioned that if a thermostat for a heating or air conditioning system is set prior to the start of Shabbat, if changes made to the temperature of the room in which the thermostat is contained may impact the system’s on/off status. Of particular concern is an action that intentionally triggers the thermostat; for example, if the thermostat is set to turn on the room’s heat, and an occupant of the room wishes the heater would turn on, opening a window to allow cold air into the room, thereby triggering the heat to turn on.
While most rabbis have ruled that the example of intentionally letting cold air into the room to operate the thermostat constitutes a violation of Shabbat, if the person opens the window for some other, legitimate, reason, and the cold air enters as a side effect, no violation has occurred. Additionally, most agree that if a person who has no intention to operate the thermostat does something which happens to operate it, no violation has occurred.
A few rabbinical authorities have completely forbidden the use of heating or cooling systems controlled by a thermostat on Shabbat, declaring that human actions that trigger the system on or off constitute a violation, regardless of intention.
While (in general) it is prohibited to adjust an electric device so that it turns on or off sooner, many authorities permit adjusting it so an expected change will be delayed and the current state preserved for longer. According to the permissive opinion if a heating system is currently off (because the temperature is currently higher than the thermostat setting), one would be permitted to lower the thermostat, as this causes the heating system to remain in its current “off” state for longer.
Television and radio [ edit ]
Most rabbinical authorities have prohibited watching television during Shabbat, even if the TV is turned on before the start of Shabbat, and its settings are not changed. However, most rabbis have permitted programming a device to record television programmes during Shabbat, the programming to be done before the start of Shabbat and the viewing after.
Most authorities also prohibit either turning on or listening to a radio. The reason is, although an electric current is not turned on, the radio makes a loud noise, falling under the Rabbinic prohibition of making noise with an instrument designed to make noise. However, it may be permitted to turn up the volume of a radio that is already on because many authorities permit adding to an electric current. Eliezer Waldenberg says that changing the station on a radio by using a dial[clarification needed] is prohibited, but Shlomo Auerbach says that it is permitted.
Regardless of permissibility, almost all authorities (including Conservative Nevins) consider that watching television, listening to a radio, or use of appliances for similar purposes on Shabbat violates the spirit of Shabbat and is not ideal.
Jewish people also might not leave certain devices on according to maris ayin—the prohibition of doing something which another might view as prohibitory in Jewish law.
Computers and similar appliances [ edit ]
In addition to possible halachic issues with any use of electricity, some additional issues may apply when using electronic devices such as computers.
Writing on the screen [ edit ]
Opinions differ regarding causing text to appear on an electronic screen (such as a computer screen or cellphone). Many argue that since the text will only appear on the screen for a short period, the Biblical prohibition on writing and erasing permanent text is not violated, so the action is only forbidden by rabbinic law. R’ Shmuel Wosner was stricter, arguing that since text on the screen can last for a significant amount of time (i.e. an hour), it is considered “permanent” writing which is forbidden. However, other authorities say that even according to R’ Wosner’s approach, the Biblical prohibition would not apply if the device has a screensaver which automatically replaces the screen contents after a short period, or if the device is battery-powered (and not plugged in) and will inevitably run out of battery in not too long.
This judgment may be affected by the type of display used. For example, when using a CRT display (but not later types of display), words which appear on a computer screen are actually flickering many times a second; according to some authorities this means that such writing is not considered writing at all. On the other hand, text on an E Ink display (such as an Amazon Kindle) remains permanently even if the device loses electric power (unless the user decides to change the text), which makes it Biblically forbidden.
Writing to disk [ edit ]
Another issue is recording information on a computer (e.g. saving a file, or sending a text message which will be stored on a server or on the recipient’s phone). Conservative Rabbi Daniel Nevins wrote that such recording violates the Biblical prohibition of writing. Among Orthodox authorities, opinions are divided on whether magnetic recording violates the prohibition of writing. In addition, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach argued that recording may violate a separate Biblical prohibition of “building”, since one is creating the capability for the computer to show you this information later on.
Other considerations [ edit ]
It is also questionable whether the use of a keyboard or other input device to change what is displayed is a direct effect, as it depends both on the keyboard and on the device’s pre-programmed behavior. Regarding printing a document on paper, some authorities view it as grama and only rabbinically prohibited (since the printing only occurs after some time and after the computer has calculated how best to print), while others view it as straightforward writing and thus Biblically prohibited.
The use of a computer might be considered “Uvdin d’Chol” (weekday/mundane activities), which are prohibited rabbinically to preserve the spirit of the sanctity of Shabbat, by preventing one from carrying out unrequired or grueling tasks and weekday-specific activities on Shabbat.
R’ Nahum Rabinovitch ruled that soldiers (who need to write to save lives) should preferably use a pen with disappearing ink (which is rabbinically prohibited as the writing is temporary) rather than electronic writing on a computer, indicating what he saw as the seriousness of the prohibitions involved in using a computer.
The Shabbos App was a proposed Android app claimed by its creators to enable Jews to permissibly use a smartphone to text on Shabbat. Developers stated that the application would be released in December 2014, but the app was delayed and eventually never released. When announced, the app caused an uproar among the public, and many rabbis spoke out against the development.
Telephones [ edit ]
Like other electrical appliances, telephones are bound by similar restrictions on Shabbat. Operating a telephone may involve separate prohibitions at each stage of the operation. Thus, removing a telephone from the receiver to produce a dial tone closes a circuit and makes a noise. Dialing closes more circuits and creates more noises. Speaking on the phone increases an existing current, but Shlomo Auerbach and many other authorities permit this. Hanging up the phone opens a circuit, which is a Biblical prohibition of “destroying” according to the Chazon Ish but a Rabbinic prohibition according to others.
Dialing on many phones, including cell phones, also causes the numbers to be written on a display screen, thus violating the prohibition of writing (as described above). If a phone call must be made on Shabbat, other factors being equal, it is preferable to use a phone without a display screen.
It is questionable if it is permissible to use an answering machine or voicemail to receive messages left during Shabbat, since one is benefiting from a violation of Shabbat, particularly if the caller is a Jew.
In an emergency case where a phone call must be made to save a life, making the phone call is permitted. In addition, a special phone has been invented to minimize the halachic issues regarding phone use on Shabbat; the inventors argue that its use by soldiers or other essential workers in less urgent situations is permitted. This phone is marketed as a “kosher phone” (unrelated to “kosher phones” in some other Jewish communities, which lack internet or media access to comply with bans on the internet in those communities).
Microphones [ edit ]
There are varying views on the use of a microphone during Shabbat. While most Orthodox rabbinic authorities prohibit the use of microphones, there has been some argument for allowing the use of a microphone in a synagogue that is turned on before the start of Shabbat on the basis that a microphone does not create a human voice, but rather amplifies it. Those in the majority, who forbid the microphone, have various concerns, including the conduction of electricity that is affected by the human voice, and the attention that is drawn from the sound coming from the speakers.
A “Shabbat microphone” has been developed, which is intended to allow Rabbis or Hazzans to amplify and transmit their voice without affecting the electrical current of the microphone to hold congregations without violating Shabbat. It uses acousto-fluidic technology and constant electric current, so the sound source does not change the status of the electric current. It has not been approved by all Orthodox rabbinic authorities. Rabbis disagree about whether even a Shabbat microphone can be used when the sound is being recorded.
Laundry [ edit ]
Washing clothes is not permitted on Shabbat, whether by hand or machine. Most rabbinical authorities have prohibited allowing a washing machine or dryer to run on Shabbat, even if it is set before the start of Shabbat. If the machine is still running after Shabbat starts when this was not planned, no benefit may be derived from clothes or other objects in the appliance during that Shabbat.
Automobiles [ edit ]
According to Orthodox authorities, while driving on Shabbat is prohibited directly because of the combustion of fuel, modern automobiles also have numerous electrical components whose operation is prohibited during Shabbat. These include headlamps and other external and internal lights, turn signals, and gauges. Additionally, the operation of the vehicle involves many uses of electricity and electrical circuits. According to many Conservative authorities, this use of electricity is not prohibited, and it may even be permitted to drive a car powered by an internal combustion engine in certain circumstances.
Elevators [ edit ]
Operating an elevator is generally prohibited by Orthodox authorities for multiple reasons. However, Shabbat elevators have been designed automatically to travel from one floor to the next regardless of whether a human is riding the elevator or not, so many authorities permit the use of such elevators under certain circumstances. The environmental advantages of reducing energy consumption when the device is not in use are lost.
Surveillance systems [ edit ]
The use of automated surveillance systems has been reviewed. Examples include closed-circuit television, video cameras, and motion detectors. A person who walks within view of an operating surveillance camera may permit photography if the camera must be passed to enter a building or location and the photograph is not of direct benefit to the passerby. This is called a pesik reisha delo nicha leih (Aramaic: פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה, loose translation: “an inevitable resultant action that does not benefit the one who indirectly caused that action”). However, it is prohibited to knowingly walk past a motion sensor which switches on a light on Shabbat if the street or place is dark and because the turning on of the light substantively benefits the person, and it is a pesik reisha denicha leih (Aramaic: פסיק רישא דניחא ליה, loose translation: “an inevitable resultant action that does benefit the one who indirectly caused that action”). Observant Jews are advised to avoid walking past a motion sensor that they know is there and will switch on a light, or close their eyes when doing so.
Static electricity [ edit ]
Many authorities permit separating clothes or performing other actions that might generate sparks due to static electricity.
Milking of cows [ edit ]
Some review articles have been published on the permissibility of milking cows on Shabbat using automated machines. Milking cows is fundamentally prohibited on Shabbat, but is permitted to relieve the suffering of an engorged cow, as long as the milk is allowed to go to waste rather than being stored.
Due to the desire that so much milk not go to waste, it was proposed to attach the pumping machine on Shabbat, to let the first few drops go to waste, then position a container to store the subsequent milk flow. While the Chazon Ish wrote that such a practice is forbidden, he is reported to have permitted it when asked orally, and some communities have used the practice accordingly. Using a device invented by the Zomet Institute in the 1980s, which allowed the switch from milking to waste to milking into containers to occur indirectly without human intervention, the act of milking cows became more indirect and thus more likely to be permitted. Yet another solution, whereby the cows are hooked up to the machine with electricity off, and the electricity is soon turned on automatically to milk the cows, was permitted in theory by the Chazon Ish and became practical in the late 20th century. It is currently practiced by the religious kibbutz at Sde Eliyahu.
Ways of circumventing the Shabbat prohibitions [ edit ]
Several innovations have been developed to address the needs of the Shabbat-observant user while not violating Shabbat.
Shabbat clocks [ edit ]
A Shabbat clock. Each orange peg determines its state for one 15-minute interval. This clock is set to turn on a light between approximately 17:00 and 23:30 (the light would be plugged into the 3-prong Israeli socket ).
In general, halacha permits a Jew to begin a Shabbat-violating action on Friday (before Shabbat) even though the action will be completed automatically on Shabbat. Therefore, the consensus of contemporary authorities permits a Jew to program a timer (referred to as a “Shabbat clock”) before Shabbat to perform automatically a prohibited action on Shabbat. For example, it is permitted to attach a timer to a light switch on Friday afternoon so that the light will turn off late on Friday night when people wish to sleep, and will turn on again the next day when people are awake.
However, an exception to this rule may be the production of a noise which disturbs the peaceful environment of Shabbat, as shown by a debate in the Talmud over whether a Jew may add wheat on Friday to a water mill that will run automatically on Shabbat, because the addition of wheat to the mill will cause a loud noise. Rishonim disagree as to which opinion is normative. Joseph Caro in the Shulchan Aruch permits this action, but Moses Isserles (the Ramo) prohibits it absent great need. Accordingly, Rabbis Moses Feinstein and Shlomo Auerbach prohibit programming a radio to turn on during Shabbat, or allowing it to run on Shabbat, not because of the violation of electricity as such, but rather because the noise of the radio violates a separate prohibition.
Some authorities have raised other reasons to prohibit Shabbat clocks in general, but the consensus of many rabbis permits their use. Nowadays they are commonly used to manage lights in private homes, to operate dishwashers and milk cows in Shabbat-observant kibbutzim and moshavim, and for various purposes in public facilities such as hospitals and hotels.
Adjusting a Shabbat clock on Shabbat [ edit ]
Shabbat clocks are typically mechanical devices that are “programmed” by moving pegs that represent specific hours. One is permitted on Shabbat to move pegs on a mechanical device, but when the pegs are part of a Shabbat clock, the resulting activity (e.g. turning on a light) may be forbidden. Several different cases must be considered:
Adjusting the shabbat clock so that a light turns on, sooner than it otherwise would have: This is forbidden, though some authorities are lenient in situations of need, since this can be considered turning on the light indirectly ( grama ).  
than it otherwise would have: This is forbidden, though some authorities are lenient in situations of need, since this can be considered turning on the light indirectly ( ). Adjusting the shabbat clock so that a light turns on, later than it otherwise would have: Nearly all authorities permit this, and the common practice is to permit it.   However, if the adjustment is done by removing and reinserting a peg, the reinsertion could cause the light to turn on earlier relative to the state of no peg, which would likely be forbidden as previously discussed. 
than it otherwise would have: Nearly all authorities permit this, and the common practice is to permit it. However, if the adjustment is done by removing and reinserting a peg, the reinsertion could cause the light to turn on relative to the state of no peg, which would likely be forbidden as previously discussed. Adjusting the shabbat clock so that a light turns off, sooner than it otherwise would have: This is similar to the case of turning the light on sooner, and thus forbidden. However, the act of turning off a light is less halachically serious than turning it on (a rabbinic rather than Biblical prohibition), so R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach permits if the light (or other device) is of a type whose operation is only rabbinically forbidden, as the multiple layers of rabbinic prohibition create more grounds for leniency. 
than it otherwise would have: This is similar to the case of turning the light on sooner, and thus forbidden. However, the act of turning off a light is less halachically serious than turning it on (a rabbinic rather than Biblical prohibition), so R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach permits if the light (or other device) is of a type whose operation is only rabbinically forbidden, as the multiple layers of rabbinic prohibition create more grounds for leniency. Adjusting the shabbat clock so that a light turns off, later than it otherwise would have: This is similar to the case of turning the light on later, and thus permitted. (A minority of authorities hold it is forbidden due to causing more electricity to be consumed than would have otherwise.)
Other proposed bypasses [ edit ]
The KosherLamp, sold since 2004, is a lamp in which the electricity runs continually, but which contains a sliding cover so that the light can be exposed or blocked as desired. Thus, the lamp can be “turned on” or “turned off” even though in reality the bulb is always on.
In 2015, the KosherSwitch wall switch was introduced amid controversy, as a means of controlling electricity on-demand in a manner that is permissible according to several Orthodox authorities.
Use of electricity generated in Israeli power plants [ edit ]
Several review articles have been written about the permissibility of using electricity generated in Israeli power plants. In principle, it should be prohibited because one may not benefit from an action performed in violation of Shabbat. Thus, for example, if a Jew lights a candle in violation of Shabbat, both he and other Jews are forbidden to read a book using that candlelight. Similarly, if a Jew generates electricity in a power plant in violation of Shabbat, other Jews may not benefit from that electricity. However, there are several considerations to permit Jews to generate electricity in Israeli power plants and to use electricity generated in this manner.
Generating electricity [ edit ]
The primary motive to permit generating electricity is pikuach nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש, “saving lives”). Electricity generated on Shabbat is needed for the day-to-day operations of hospitals, first aid centers, outpatients who require medical care in their homes, and climate control for people who need it, a refrigerator for a baby or the elderly who must eat refrigerated food, and possibly street lights which help prevent road accidents. Because it is impossible to distinguish between the electric current going to purposes recognised as pikuach nefesh and to other purposes, all electricity generation is classified as pikuach nefesh. The argument based on pikuach nefesh would allow a Jew to work at the power plant on Shabbat to generate electricity. Rabbis Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Shlomo Goren permit this, but Auerbach and Moshe Feinstein question why non-Jews are not employed to do this work instead.
Using electricity [ edit ]
Assuming that a Jewish worker may generate electricity on Shabbat due to pikuach nefesh, opinions are divided on whether Jewish consumers may use this electricity for non-pikuach nefesh purposes. R’ Shlomo Goren prohibits using it in ordinary circumstances using a Talmudic precedent: if meat is cooked for a patient who needs it for pikuach nefesh, nobody else may eat that meat, as this possibility could encourage the cook to prepare more meat than necessary, violating Shabbat without justification. However, R’ Shlomo Auerbach, who permits the generation of electricity on Shabbat with some hesitation (see citation below), also permits the use of electricity based on a different Talmudic precedent: if a sick patient requires meat, and no dead meat is available, a live animal may be slaughtered (otherwise in violation of Shabbat) and its excess meat may be consumed by others on Shabbat. Since in this case, there is no way to cook any meat without slaughtering a whole animal, the rationale that the violator might do more than necessary does not hold.
Another possible reason for leniency is the fact that some Jewish power plant workers are unaware their work is considered Shabbat violation. Thus, it could be considered unintentional (Hebrew: שוגג, shogeg). When a person violates Shabbat unintentionally (as opposed to intentionally), some authorities permit other Jews to benefit from the violation. Thus, customers might be allowed to use electricity generated on Shabbat.
Nowadays, it is generally accepted that consumers may use electricity from the power plant. However, part of the charedi community refuses to use the electric grid (instead of running electricity generators at home), following the opinion of the Chazon Ish who argued that even if a power plant could run permissibly, using its electricity would be forbidden, as the secular workers there do not respect Shabbat and using their electricity would show public approval of their actions.
It is projected that in the future, when Israel’s coal generating plants are shut down and replaced with natural gas power plants, it will be possible to run all-electric plants automatically without human intervention, removing the halachic questions about the use of this electricity on Shabbat.
Alternatives to publicly generated electricity [ edit ]
Tens of thousands of Israeli haredim, forming a significant fraction of the Haredi population, run private electric generators to avoid using the public electricity supply on Shabbat. Some[who?] even refuse to use a generator because the end-product of electricity is indistinguishable from what is provided to ordinary consumers, so using electricity in any manner constitutes the appearance of violating Halakhah. Some of these people[who?] use a kerosene lamp that provides them with a minimal amount of light, and some use only Shabbat candles for Friday night dinner.
Some people who do not use electricity also do not use faucets or other mechanisms that provide water from public supplies, because the municipal water pumps are operated electrically. These people prepare containers of water on Friday sufficient to provide for their needs on Shabbat.
See also [ edit ]
Notes [ edit ]
Judaism – The Sabbath
The major Jewish holidays are the Pilgrim Festivals—Pesaḥ (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost), and Sukkoth (Tabernacles)—and the High Holidays—Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). The observance of all the major holidays is required by the Torah and work is prohibited for the duration of the holiday (except on the intermediary days of the Pesaḥ and Sukkoth festivals, when work is permitted to avoid financial loss). Purim (Feast of Lots) and Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), while not mentioned in the Torah (and therefore of lesser solemnity), were instituted by Jewish authorities in the Persian and Greco-Roman periods. They are sometimes regarded as minor festivals because they lack the work restrictions of the major festivals. In addition, there are the five fasts—ʿAsara be-Ṭevet (Fast of Ṭevet 10), Shivaʿ ʿAsar be-Tammuz (Fast of Tammuz 17), Tisha be-Av (Fast of Av 9), Tzom Gedaliahu (Fast of Gedaliah), and Taʿanit Esther (Fast of Esther)—and the lesser holidays (i.e., holidays the observances of which are few and not always clearly defined)—such as Rosh Ḥodesh (First Day of the Month), Ṭu bi-Shevaṭ (15th of Shevaṭ: New Year for Trees), and Lag ba-ʿOmer (33rd Day of the ʿOmer Counting). The fasts and the lesser holidays, like the minor festivals, lack the work restrictions characteristic of the major festivals. Although some of the fasts and Rosh Ḥodesh are mentioned in Scripture, most of the details concerning their proper observance, as well as those concerning the other lesser holidays, were provided by the Talmudic and medieval rabbis.
In Temple times, all males were required to appear at the Temple three times annually and actively participate in the festal offerings and celebrations. These were the joyous Pilgrim Festivals of Pesaḥ, Shavuot, and Sukkoth. They originally marked the major agricultural seasons in ancient Israel and commemorated Israel’s early history; but, after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce, emphasis was placed almost exclusively on the commemorative aspect.
In modern Israel, Pesaḥ, Shavuot, and Sukkoth are celebrated for seven days, one day, and eight days, respectively (with Shemini Atzeret added to Sukkoth), as prescribed by Scripture. Due to calendrical uncertainties that arose in Second Temple times (6th century bce to 1st century ce), each festival is celebrated for an additional day in the Diaspora.
Pesaḥ commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and the servitude that preceded it. As such, it is the most significant of the commemorative holidays, for it celebrates the very inception of the Jewish people—i.e., the event which provided the basis for the covenant between God and Israel. The term pesaḥ refers originally to the paschal (Passover) lamb sacrificed on the eve of the Exodus, the blood of which marked the Jewish homes to be spared from God’s plague; its etymological significance, however, remains uncertain. The Hebrew root is usually rendered “passed over”—i.e., God passed over the homes of the Israelites when inflicting the last plague on the Egyptians—hence the term Passover. The festival is also called Ḥag or Matzot (“Festival of Unleavened Bread”), for unleavened bread is the only kind of bread consumed during Passover.
Leaven (seʾor) and foods containing leaven (ḥametz) are neither to be owned nor consumed during Pesaḥ. Aside from meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables, it is customary to consume only food prepared under rabbinic supervision and labelled “kosher for Passover,” warranting that they are completely free of contact with leaven. In many homes, special sets of crockery, cutlery, and cooking utensils are acquired for Passover use. On the evening preceding the 14th day of Nisan, the home is thoroughly searched for any trace of leaven (bediqat ḥametz). The following morning the remaining particles of leaven are destroyed by fire (biʿur ḥametz). From then until after Pesaḥ, no leaven is consumed. Many Jews sell their more valuable leaven products to non-Jews before Passover (mekhirat ḥametz), repurchasing the foodstuffs immediately after the holiday.
The unleavened bread (matzo) consists entirely of flour and water, and great care is taken to prevent any fermentation before baking. Hand-baked matzo is flat, rounded, and perforated. Since the 19th century, many Jews have preferred the square-shaped, machine-made matzo.
Passover eve is ushered in at the synagogue service on the evening before Passover, after which each family partakes of the seder (“order of service”), an elaborate festival meal in which every ritual is regulated by the rabbis. (In the Diaspora the seder is also celebrated on the second evening of Passover.) The table is bedecked with an assortment of foods symbolizing the passage from slavery (e.g., bitter herbs) into freedom (e.g., wine). The Haggada (“Storytelling”), a printed manual comprising appropriate passages culled from Scripture and Talmud and Midrash accompanied by medieval hymns, serves as a guide for the ensuing ceremonies and is recited as the evening proceeds. The seder opens with the cup of sanctification (Kiddush), the first of four cups of wine drunk by the celebrants. An invitation is extended to the needy to join the seder ceremonies, after which the youngest son asks four prescribed questions expressing his surprise at the many departures from usual mealtime procedure. (“How different this night is from all other nights!”) The father then explains that the Jews were once slaves in Egypt, were then liberated by God, and now commemorate the servitude and freedom by means of the seder ceremonies. Special blessings are recited over the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs (maror), after which the main courses are served. The meal closes with a serving of matzo recalling the paschal lamb, consumption of which concluded the meal in Temple times. The seder concludes with the joyous recital of hymns praising God’s glorious acts in history and anticipating a messianic redemption to come.
Passover plate from Pesaro, Italy, 1614; in the Jewish Museum, New York City. Graphic House/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. seder plate Seder plate for Passover. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock
The Passover liturgy is considerably expanded and includes the daily recitation of Psalms 113–118 (Hallel, “Praise”), public readings from the Torah, and an additional service (musaf). On the first day of Pesaḥ, a prayer for dew in the Holy Land is recited; on the last day, the memorial service for the departed (yizkor) is added.
Originally an agricultural festival marking the wheat harvest, Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Shavuot (“Weeks”) takes its name from the seven weeks of grain harvest separating Passover and Shavuot. The festival is also called Ḥag ha-Qazir (Harvest Festival) and Yom ha-Bikkurim (Day of First Fruits). Greek-speaking Jews called it pentēkostē, meaning “the fiftieth” day after the sheaf offering. In rabbinic literature, Shavuot is called atzeret (“cessation” or “conclusion”), perhaps because the cessation of work is one of its distinctive features, or possibly because it was viewed as concluding the Passover season. In liturgical texts it is described as the “season of the giving of our Torah.” The association of Shavuot with the revelation at Sinai, while not attested in Scripture, is alluded to in the Pseudepigrapha (a collection of noncanonical writings); in rabbinic literature it first appears in 2nd-century materials. The association, probably an ancient one, was derived in part from the book of Exodus, which dates the revelation at Sinai to the third month (counting from Nisan)—i.e., Sivan.
Scripture does not provide an absolute date for Shavuot. Instead, 50 days (or seven weeks) are reckoned from the day the sheaf offering (ʿOmer) of the harvest was brought to the Temple, the 50th day being Shavuot. According to the Talmudic rabbis, the sheaf offering was brought on the 16th of Nisan; hence Shavuot always fell on or about the 6th of Sivan. Some Jewish sectarians, such as the Sadducees, rejected the rabbinic tradition concerning the date of the sheaf ceremony, preferring a later date, and celebrated Shavuot accordingly.
In Temple times, aside from the daily offerings, festival offerings, and first-fruit gifts, a special cereal consisting of two breads prepared from the new wheat crop was offered at the Temple. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Shavuot observances have been dominated by its commemorative aspect. Many Jews spend the entire Shavuot night studying Torah, a custom first mentioned in the Zohar (“Book of Splendour”), a Kabbalistic work edited and published in the 13th–14th centuries. Some prefer to recite the tiqqun lel Shavuʿot (“Shavuot night service”), an anthology of passages from Scripture and the Mishna (the authoritative compilation of the Oral Law). An expanded liturgy includes Hallel, public readings from the Torah, yizkor (in many congregations), and musaf. The Book of Ruth is read at the synagogue service, possibly because of its harvest-season setting.
Sukkoth (“Booths”), an ancient harvest festival that commemorates the booths the Israelites resided in after the Exodus, was the most prominent of the three Pilgrim Festivals in ancient Israel. Also called Ḥag ha-Asif (Festival of Ingathering), it has retained its joyous, festive character through the ages. It begins on Tishri 15 and is celebrated for seven days. The concluding eighth day (plus a ninth day in the Diaspora), Shemini Atzeret, is a separate holiday. In Temple times, each day of Sukkoth had its own prescribed number of sacrificial offerings. Other observances, recorded in the Mishna tractate Sukka, include the daily recitation of Hallel, daily circumambulation of the Temple altar, a daily water libation ceremony, and the nightly bet ha-shoʾeva or bet ha-sheʾuvah (“place of water drawing”) festivities starting on the evening preceding the second day. The last-mentioned observance features torch dancing, flute playing, and other forms of musical and choral entertainment.
sukkah Sukkah (hut erected for the celebration of Sukkoth) with palm leaves, Herzliya, Israel, 2007. RonAlmog
Ideally, Jews are to reside in booths—walled structures covered with thatched roofs—for the duration of the festival; in practice, most observant Jews take their meals in the sukka (“booth”) but reside at home. A palm-tree branch (lulav) bound up together with myrtle (hadas) and willow (ʿarava) branches is held together with a citron (etrog) and waved. Medieval exegetes provided ample (if not always persuasive) justification for the Bible’s choice of these particular branches and fruit as symbols of rejoicing. The numerous regulations governing the sukka, lulav, and etrog constitute the major portion of the treatment of Sukkoth in the codes of Jewish law. The daily Sukkoth liturgy includes the recitation of Hallel (Psalms, 113–118), public readings from the Torah, the musaf service, and the circumambulation of the synagogue dais. On the last day of Sukkoth, called Hoshana Rabba (Great Hoshana) after the first words of a prayer (hoshana, “save us”) recited then, seven such circumambulations take place. Kabbalistic (mystical) teaching has virtually transformed Hoshana Rabba into a solemn day of judgment.
Hoshana Rabba is followed by Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly), which is celebrated on Tishri 22 (in the Diaspora also Tishri 23). None of the more distinctive Sukkoth observances apply to Shemini Atzeret; but Hallel, public reading from the Torah, yizkor (in many congregations), musaf, and a prayer for rain in the Holy Land are included in its liturgy. Simḥat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) marks the annual completion of the cycle of public readings from the Torah. The festival originated shortly before the gaonic period (c. 600–1050 ce) in Babylon, where it was customary to conclude the public readings annually. In Palestine, where the public readings were concluded approximately every three years, Simḥat Torah was not celebrated annually until after the gaonic period. Israeli Jews celebrate Simḥat Torah and Shemini Atzeret on the same day; in the Diaspora, Simḥat Torah is celebrated on the second day of Shemini Atzeret. Its joyous celebrations bring the Sukkoth season to an appropriate close.
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Protestant Christian denomination
“Adventist church” redirects here. For other branches of the wider Adventist movement, see Adventism
The Seventh-day Adventist Church[a] is an Adventist Protestant Christian denomination which is distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the seventh day of the week in Christian (Gregorian) and the Hebrew calendar, as the Sabbath, and its emphasis on the imminent Second Coming (advent) of Jesus Christ. The denomination grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States during the mid-19th century and it was formally established in 1863. Among its co-founders was Ellen G. White, whose extensive writings are still held in high regard by the church. Much of the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church corresponds to common evangelical Christian teachings, such as the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture. Distinctive post-tribulation teachings include the unconscious state of the dead and the doctrine of an investigative judgment. The church places an emphasis on diet and health, including adhering to Kosher food laws, advocating vegetarianism, and its holistic view of human nature—i.e. that the body, soul, and spirit form one inseparable entity. The Church holds the belief that “God created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”. Marriage is defined as a lifelong union between a man and a woman. The second coming of Christ, and resurrection of the dead, are among official beliefs.
The world church is governed by a General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, with smaller regions administered by divisions, union conferences, and local conferences. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is currently “one of the fastest-growing and most widespread churches worldwide”, with a worldwide baptized membership of over 21 million people, and 25 million adherents. As of May 2007, it was the twelfth-largest religious body in the world, and the sixth-largest highly international religious body. It is ethnically and culturally diverse, and maintains a missionary presence in over 215 countries and territories. The church operates over 7,500 schools including over 100 post-secondary institutions, numerous hospitals, and publishing houses worldwide, as well as a humanitarian aid organization known as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
History [ edit ]
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest of several Adventist groups which arose from the Millerite movement of the 1840s in upstate New York, a phase of the Second Great Awakening. William Miller predicted on the basis of Daniel 8:14–16 and the “day-year principle” that Jesus Christ would return to Earth between the spring of 1843 and the spring of 1844. In the summer of 1844, Millerites came to believe that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844, understood to be the biblical Day of Atonement for that year. Miller’s failed prediction became known as the “Great Disappointment”.
Hiram Edson and other Millerites came to believe that Miller’s calculations were correct, but that his interpretation of Daniel 8:14 was flawed as he assumed Christ would come to cleanse the world. These Adventists came to the conviction that Daniel 8:14 foretold Christ’s entrance into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary rather than his Second Coming. Over the next few decades this understanding of a sanctuary in heaven developed into the doctrine of the investigative judgment, an eschatological process that commenced in 1844, in which every person would be judged to verify their eligibility for salvation and God’s justice will be confirmed before the universe. This group of Adventists continued to believe that Christ’s second coming would continue to be imminent, however they resisted setting further dates for the event, citing Revelation 10:6, “that there should be time no longer.”
Development of Sabbatarianism [ edit ]
As the early Adventist movement consolidated its beliefs, the question of the biblical day of rest and worship was raised. The foremost proponent of Sabbath-keeping among early Adventists was Joseph Bates. Bates was introduced to the Sabbath doctrine through a tract written by Millerite preacher Thomas M. Preble, who in turn had been influenced by Rachel Oakes Preston, a young Seventh Day Baptist. This message was gradually accepted and formed the topic of the first edition of the church publication The Present Truth (now the Adventist Review), which appeared in July 1849.
Organization and recognition [ edit ]
For about 20 years, the Adventist movement consisted of a small, loosely knit group of people who came from many churches and whose primary means of connection and interaction was through James White’s periodical The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. They embraced the doctrines of the Sabbath, the heavenly sanctuary interpretation of Daniel 8:14, conditional immortality, and the expectation of Christ’s premillennial return. Among its most prominent figures were Joseph Bates, James White, and Ellen G. White. Ellen White came to occupy a particularly central role; her many visions and spiritual leadership convinced her fellow Adventists that she possessed the gift of prophecy.
The church was formally established in Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 21, 1863, with a membership of 3,500. The denominational headquarters were later moved from Battle Creek to Takoma Park, Maryland, where they remained until 1989. The General Conference headquarters then moved to its current location in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The denomination in the 1870s turned to evangelism through missionary work and revivals, tripling its membership to 16,000 by 1880 and establishing a presence beyond North America during the late 19th century. Rapid growth continued, with 75,000 members in 1901. By this time the denomination operated two colleges, a medical school, a dozen academies, 27 hospitals, and 13 publishing houses. By 1945, the church reported 210,000 members in the US and Canada, and 360,000 elsewhere; the budget was $29 million and enrollment in church schools was 140,000.
The church’s beliefs and doctrines were first published in 1872 in Battle Creek, Michigan as a brief statement called “A Synopsis of our Faith”. The church experienced challenges as it formed its core beliefs and doctrines especially as a number of the early Adventist leaders came from churches that held to some form of Arianism (Ellen G. White was not one of them). This, along with some of the movement’s other theological views, led to a consensus among conservative evangelical Protestants to regard it as a cult. According to Adventist scholars, the teachings and writings of White, ultimately proved influential in shifting the church from largely semi-Arian roots towards Trinitarianism. Adventists, for the most part, credit her with bringing the Seventh-day Adventist church into a more comprehensive awareness of the Godhead during the 1890s. The Adventist Church adopted Trinitarian theology early in the 20th century and began to dialogue with other Protestant groups toward the middle of the century, eventually gaining wide recognition as a Protestant church. Christianity Today recognized the Seventh-day Adventist church as ” the fifth-largest Christian communion worldwide” in its January 22, 2015 issue.
Although her husband claimed that her visions did not support the Trinitarian creed, her writings reveal a growing awareness on the “mystery of the GodHead”. Adventists, for the most part, credit her with bringing the Seventh-day Adventist church into a more comprehensive awareness of the Godhead during the 1890s Through continued Bible study, and decades-long debate, the denomination eventually concluded that Scripture does explicitly teach the existence of a triune God, and it affirmed that biblical view in the non-credal 28 Fundamental Beliefs.
However, mainstream scholarship remains unconvinced that Ellen White was Nicene Trinitarian. In her own opinion, Jesus did not begin as equal to God the Father but was at a certain moment promoted to equality with the Father, which triggered Lucifer’s rebellion (as explained in her book Spirit of Prophecy).
Beliefs [ edit ]
The official teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination are expressed in its 28 Fundamental Beliefs. This statement of beliefs was originally adopted by the General Conference in 1980, with an additional belief (number 11) being added in 2005. Acceptance of either of the church’s two baptismal vows is a prerequisite for membership.
Adventist doctrine resembles trinitarian Protestant theology, with premillennial and Arminian emphases. Adventists uphold teachings such as the infallibility of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, the resurrection of the dead and justification by faith alone, and are therefore considered evangelical. They believe in baptism by immersion and creation in six literal days. The modern Creationist movement started with Adventist George McCready Price, who was inspired by a vision of Ellen White.
There is a generally recognized set of “distinctive” doctrines which distinguish Adventism from the rest of the Christian world, although not all of these teachings are wholly unique to Adventism:
Theological spectrum [ edit ]
As with any religious movement, a theological spectrum exists within Adventism comparable to the fundamentalist-conservative-moderate-liberal spectrum in the wider Christian church as well as in other religions. A variety of groups, movements and subcultures within the church present differing views on beliefs and lifestyle.
The conservative end of the theological spectrum is represented by historic Adventists, who are characterized by their opposition to theological trends within the denomination, beginning in the 1950s. They object to theological compromises with Evangelicalism, and seek to defend traditional Adventist teachings such as the human post-fall nature of Jesus Christ, investigative judgment, and character perfectionism. Historic Adventism is represented by some scholars, is also seen at the grassroots level of the church and is often promoted through independent ministries.
The most liberal elements in the church are typically known as progressive Adventists (progressive Adventists generally do not identify with liberal Christianity). They tend to disagree with the traditional views concerning the inspiration of Ellen White, the Sabbath, a seven-day Creation, the doctrine of the remnant and the investigative judgment. The progressive movement is supported by some scholars and finds expression in bodies such as the Association of Adventist Forums and in journals such as Spectrum and Adventist Today.
Theological organizations [ edit ]
The Biblical Research Institute is the official theological research center of the church. The church has two professional organizations for Adventist theologians who are affiliated with the denomination. The Adventist Society for Religious Studies (ASRS) was formed to foster a community among Adventist theologians who attend the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion. In 2006, ASRS voted to continue their meetings in the future in conjunction with SBL. During the 1980s, the Adventist Theological Society was formed to provide a forum for more conservative theologians to meet and is held in conjunction with the Evangelical Theological Society. In Europe, Adventist theologians established EASTRS (the European Adventist Society of Theology and Religious Studies) in 2017.
Culture and practices [ edit ]
Sabbath activities [ edit ]
Part of Friday might be spent in preparation for the Sabbath; for example, preparing meals and tidying homes. Adventists may gather for Friday evening worship to welcome in the Sabbath, a practice often known as vespers.
Adventists abstain from secular work on Saturday. They will also usually refrain from purely secular forms of recreation, such as competitive sport and watching non-religious programs on television. However, nature walks, family-oriented activities, charitable work and other activities that are compassionate in nature are encouraged. Saturday afternoon activities vary widely depending on the cultural, ethnic and social background. In some churches, members and visitors will participate in a fellowship (or “potluck”) lunch and AYS (Adventist Youth Service).
Worship service [ edit ]
The major weekly worship service occurs on Saturday, typically commencing with Sabbath School which is a structured time of small-group bible study at church. Adventists make use of an officially produced “Sabbath School Lesson”, which deals with a particular biblical text or doctrine every quarter. Special meetings are provided for children and youth in different age groups during this time (analogous to Sunday school in other churches).
After a brief break, the community joins together again for a church service that follows a typical evangelical format, with a sermon as a central feature. Corporate singing, Scripture readings, prayers and an offering, including tithing (or money collection), are other standard features. The instruments and forms of worship music vary greatly throughout the worldwide church. Some churches in North America have a contemporary Christian music style, whereas other churches enjoy more traditional hymns including those found in the Adventist Hymnal. Worship is known to be generally restrained.
Holy Communion [ edit ]
Adventist churches usually practice open communion four times a year. It commences with a foot washing ceremony, known as the “Ordinance of Humility”, based on the Gospel account of John 13. The Ordinance of Humility is meant to emulate Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper and to remind participants of the need to humbly serve one another. Participants segregate by gender to separate rooms to conduct this ritual, although some congregations allow married couples to perform the ordinance on each other and families are often encouraged to participate together. After its completion, participants return to the main sanctuary for consumption of the Lord’s Supper, which consists of unleavened bread and unfermented grape juice.
Health and diet [ edit ]
The main dining room of the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded in Michigan by Adventists and run by John Harvey Kellogg. The sanitarium only served vegetarian meals.
Since the 1860s when the church began, wholeness and health have been an emphasis of the Adventist church. Adventists are known for presenting a “health message” that advocates vegetarianism and expects adherence to the kosher laws, particularly the consumption of kosher foods described in Leviticus 11, meaning abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other animals proscribed as “unclean”.
The church discourages its members from consuming alcoholic beverages, tobacco or illegal drugs (compare Christianity and alcohol). In addition, some Adventists avoid coffee, tea, cola, and other beverages that contain caffeine.
The pioneers of the Adventist Church had much to do with the common acceptance of breakfast cereals into the Western diet, and the “modern commercial concept of cereal food” originated among Adventists.[better source needed] John Harvey Kellogg was one of the early founders of Adventist health work. His development of breakfast cereals as a health food led to the founding of Kellogg’s by his brother William. He advertised bland corn flakes as a way to curb sexual desire and avoid the evils of masturbation. In both Australia and New Zealand, the church-owned Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company is a leading manufacturer of health and vegetarian-related products, most prominently Weet-Bix.
The Adventist Health Studies indicate that the average Adventist in California lives 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian. The research concludes that Adventists live longer because they do not smoke or drink alcohol, have a day of rest every week, and maintain a healthy, low-fat vegetarian diet that is rich in nuts and beans.[better source needed] The cohesiveness of Adventists’ social networks has also been put forward as an explanation for their extended lifespan. Dan Buettner has named Loma Linda, California a “Blue Zone” of longevity, and attributes that to the large concentration of Seventh-day Adventists and their health practices.
An estimated 35% of Adventists practice vegetarianism or veganism, according to a 2002 worldwide survey of local church leaders. North American Adventist health study recruitments of adults of 30 years and older from 2001–2007 found that 54% of Adventists were meat-eaters, 28% were ovo/lacto-vegetarians, 10% were pesco-vegetarians and 8% were vegans. 98.9% of the cohort were non-smokers and 93.4% abstained from drinking alcohol.
Adventists’ clean lifestyles were recognized by the U.S. military in 1954 when 2,200 Adventists volunteered to serve as human test subjects in Operation Whitecoat, a biodefense medical research program whose stated purpose was to defend troops and civilians against biological weapons:
Although willing to serve their country when drafted, the Adventists refused to bear arms. As a result many of them became medics. Now the U.S. was offering recruits an opportunity to help in a different manner: to volunteer for biological tests as a way of satisfying their military obligations. When contacted in late 1954, the Adventist hierarchy readily agreed to this plan. For Camp Detrick scientists, church members were a model test population, since most of them were in excellent health and they neither drank, smoked, nor used caffeine. From the perspective of the volunteers, the tests gave them a way to fulfill their patriotic duty while remaining true to their beliefs.
Marriage [ edit ]
The Adventist definition of marriage is a lawfully binding lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. The Church Manual professes the belief that marriage originated as an institution from the biblical story of Adam and Eve and that their union should be used as the pattern for all other marriages.
Adventists hold that marriage is a divine institution established by God during the events of the Book of Genesis prior to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. They believe that God celebrated the union of Adam and Eve and that the concept of marriage was one of the first gifts of God to man, and that it is “one of the two institutions that, after the fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise.”
The Old and New Testament texts are interpreted by some Adventists to teach that wives should submit to their husbands in marriage.
Adventists hold that heterosexual marriages are the only biblically ordained grounds for sexual intimacy. Adventists do not perform same-sex marriages, and individuals who are openly homosexual cannot be ordained, but may hold church office and membership if they are not actively pursuing same-sex relationships. Current church policy states that openly homosexual (and “practicing”) persons are to be welcomed into the church services and treated with the love and kindness afforded any human being.
Ethics and sexuality [ edit ]
The Seventh-day Adventist Church opposes abortion, believing it can have long-term negative effects on both the individuals involved and society as a whole. In an official statement on the “Biblical View of Unborn Life”, the church declared that an unborn child is considered by God to be a living individual whose killing is forbidden.
Adventists encourage sexual abstinence for both men and women before marriage. The church disapproves of extra-marital cohabitation. Adventists oppose homosexual activities and relationships, citing the belief that scripture makes no accommodation for homosexuality.
The Adventist church has released official statements in relation to other ethical issues such as euthanasia (against active euthanasia but permissive of passive withdrawal of medical support to allow death to occur), birth control (in favor of it for married couples if used correctly, but against abortion as birth control and premarital sex in any case) and human cloning (against it if the technology could result in defective births or abortions).
Dress and entertainment [ edit ]
Adventists have traditionally held socially conservative attitudes regarding dress and entertainment. These attitudes are reflected in one of the church’s fundamental beliefs:
For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.
Accordingly, Adventists are opposed to practices such as body piercing and tattoos and refrain from the wearing of jewelry, including such items as earrings and bracelets. Some also oppose the displaying of wedding bands, although banning wedding bands is not the position of the General Conference. Conservative Adventists avoid certain recreational activities which are considered to be a negative spiritual influence, including dancing, rock music and secular theatre. However, major studies conducted from 1989 onwards found that a majority of North American church youth reject some of these standards.
Though it seems unbelievable to some, I’m thankful that when I grew up in the church [in the 1950s and 1960s] I was taught not to go to the movie theater, dance, listen to popular music, read novels, wear jewelry, play cards, bowl, play pool, or even be fascinated by professional sports. James R. Nix, “Growing Up Adventist: No Apologies Needed”
Adventists often cite the writings of Ellen White, especially her books, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, and Education as inspired sources for Christian deportment. The Adventist church officially opposes the practice of gambling.
Missionary work with youth [ edit ]
The Youth Department of the Adventist church runs age specific clubs for children and youth worldwide.
“Adventurer” (grades 1-4), “Eager Beaver” (Kindergarten), and “Little Lambs” (pre-K) clubs are programs for younger children that feed into the Pathfinder program.
Pathfinders is a club for 5th to 10th grade (up to 12th in Florida Conference) boys and girls. It is similar to and based partly on the Scouting movement. Pathfinders exposes young people to such activities as camping, community service, personal mentorship, and skills-based education, and trains them for leadership in the church. Yearly “Camporees” are held in individual Conferences, where Pathfinders from the region gather and participate in events similar to Boy Scouts’ Jamborees.
After a person enters 9th grade, they are eligible to join Teen Leadership Training within Pathfinders. In the 11th grade, typically after being a member of a club, they can become a Pathfinder or Adventurer staff member and begin the “Master Guide” program (similar to Scout Master) which develops leaders for both Adventurers and Pathfinders.
Youth camps [ edit ]
The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates youth camps all over North America and many other parts of the world. Each camp varies in the activities they offer but most have archery, swimming, horses, arts and crafts, nature, high ropes challenge course, and many other common camp activities. In addition to regular camps some have specialty camps, or RAD camps, which vary in their activities.
Organization [ edit ]
Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church, which has over 7000 members.
Structure and polity [ edit ]
The Seventh-day Adventist church is governed by a form of representation which resembles the presbyterian system of church organization. Four levels of organization exist within the world church.
The local church is the foundation level of organizational structure and is the public face of the denomination. Every baptized Adventist is a member of a local church and has voting powers within that church. Directly above the local church is the “local conference”. The local conference is an organization of churches within a state, province or territory (or part thereof) which appoints ministers, owns church land and organizes the distribution of tithes and payments to ministers. Above the local conference is the “union conference” which embodies a number of local conferences within a larger territory. The highest level of governance within the church structure is the General Conference which consists of 13 “Divisions”, each assigned to various geographic locations. The General Conference is the church authority and has the final say in matters of conjecture and administrative issues. The General Conference is headed by the office of President. The General Conference head office is in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Each organization is governed by a general “session” which occurs at certain intervals. This is usually when administrative decisions are made. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected at the General Conference Session every five years. Delegates to a session are appointed by organizations at a lower level. For example, each local church appoints delegates to a conference session.
Tithes collected from church members are not used directly by the local churches, but are passed upwards to the local conferences which then distribute the finances toward various ministry needs. Employees are compensated “on the basis of the church remuneration policy and practice in effect in the location or country in which they reside.”
The Church Manual gives provisions for each level of government to create educational, healthcare, publishing, and other institutions that are seen within the call of the Great Commission.
Church officers and clergy [ edit ]
The ordained clergy of the Adventist church are known as ministers or pastors. Ministers are neither elected nor employed by the local churches, but instead are appointed by the local Conferences, which assign them responsibility over a single church or group of churches. Ordination is a formal recognition bestowed upon pastors and elders after usually a number of years of service. In most parts of the world, women may not be given the title “ordained”, although some are employed in ministry, and may be “commissioned” or “ordained-commissioned”. However, beginning in 2012, some unions adopted policies of allowing member conferences to ordain without regard to gender.
A number of lay offices exist within the local church, including the ordained positions of elder and deacon. Elders and deacons are appointed by the vote of a local church business meeting or elected committees. Elders serve a mainly administrative and pastoral role, but must also be capable of providing religious leadership (particularly in the absence of an ordained minister). The role of deacons is to assist in the smooth functioning of a local church and to maintain church property.
Ordination of women [ edit ]
Although the church has no written policy forbidding the ordination of women, it has traditionally ordained only men. In recent years the ordination of women has been the subject of heated debate, especially in North America and Europe. In the Adventist Church, candidates for ordination are chosen by local conferences (which usually administer about 50–150 local congregations) and approved by unions (which serve about 6–12 conferences). The General Conference, through the representative votes of the world church in formal session rejected three requests from the more progressive North American Division to ordain women (1990, 1995, 2015). Based on these votes, the General Conference has requested that no local conferences ordain women, unless/until all parts of the world church accept the practice.
Membership [ edit ]
Membership Change in Adventist membership as a fraction of world population. 0-9 10-99 100-499 500-999 1000-4999 5000-9999 10,000-49,999 50,000-99,999 ≥100,000 Adventists per million inhabitants by country.
The primary prerequisite for membership in the Adventist church is baptism by immersion. This, according to the church manual, should occur only after the candidate has undergone proper instruction on what the church believes.
As of September 30, 2020 , the church has 21,760,076 baptized members. Between 2005 and 2015, around half a million people per year have joined the Adventist church, through baptisms and professions of faith. The church is one of the world’s fastest-growing organizations, primarily from membership increases in developing nations. Today, less than 7% of the world membership reside in the United States, with large numbers in Africa as well as Central and South America. Depending on how the data was measured, it is reported that church membership reached 1 million between 1955 and 1961, and grew to five million in 1986. At the turn of the 21st century the church had over 10 million members, which grew to over 14 million in 2005, 16 million in 2009, and 19 million in 2015. It is reported that today over 25 million people worship weekly in Seventh-day Adventist churches worldwide. The church operates in 202 out of 230 countries and areas recognized by the United Nations, making it “probably the most widespread Protestant denomination”.
G. Jeffrey MacDonald, an award-winning religion reporter, and author of Thieves in the Temple, reports that the SDA church is the fastest-growing church in the United States. “Newly released data show Seventh-day Adventism growing by 2.5% in North America, a rapid clip for this part of the world, where Southern Baptists and mainline denominations, as well as other church groups, are declining.”
The church has been described as “something of an extended family”, enjoying close, “two-degrees-of-separation social networks”.
Church institutions [ edit ]
The Biblical Research Institute is the theological research center of the church.
The Ellen G. White Estate was established in 1915 at the death of Ellen White, as specified in her legal will. Its purpose is to act as custodian of her writings, and as of 2006 it has 15 board members. The Ellen G. White Estate also hosts the official Ellen White website, whiteestate.org.
The Geoscience Research Institute, based at Loma Linda University, was founded in 1958 to investigate the scientific evidence concerning origins.
Adventist mission [ edit ]
A pastor baptizes a young man in Mozambique
Started in the late 19th century, Adventist mission work today reaches people in over 200 countries and territories. Adventist mission workers seek to preach the gospel, promote health through hospitals and clinics, run development projects to improve living standards, and provide relief in times of calamity.
Missionary outreach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aimed not only at non-Christians but also at Christians from other denominations. Adventists believe that Christ has called his followers in the Great Commission to reach the whole world. Adventists are cautious, however, to ensure that evangelism does not impede or intrude on the basic rights of the individual. Religious liberty is a stance that the Adventist Church supports and promotes.
Aerial photograph of Andrews University , the flagship higher education center of the Adventist church
Education [ edit ]
Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.
Globally, the Adventist Church operates 7,598 schools, colleges and universities, with a total enrollment of more than 1,545,000 and a total teaching staff of approximately 80,000. It claims to operate “one of the largest church-supported educational systems in the world”. In the United States it operates the largest Protestant educational system, second overall only to that of the Roman Catholic Church. The Adventist educational program strives to be comprehensive, encompassing “mental, physical, social and above all, spiritual health” with “intellectual growth and service to humanity” as its goal.
Health [ edit ]
Adventists run a large number of hospitals and health-related institutions. Their largest medical school and hospital in North America is Loma Linda University and its attached Medical Center. Throughout the world, the church runs a wide network of hospitals, clinics, lifestyle centers, and sanitariums. These play a role in the church’s health message and worldwide missions outreach.
Adventist Health System is the largest not-for-profit multi-institutional Protestant healthcare system in the United States. It is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and cares for over 4 million patients yearly.
Humanitarian aid and the environment [ edit ]
For over 50 years, the church has been active in humanitarian aid through the work of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). ADRA works as a non-sectarian relief agency in 125 countries and areas of the world. ADRA has been granted General Consultative Status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Worldwide, ADRA employs over 4,000 people to help provide relief in crises as well as development in situations of poverty.
The church embraces an official commitment to the protection and care of the environment as well as taking action to avoid the dangers of climate change: “Seventh-day Adventism advocates a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled over-consumption, accumulation of goods, and production of waste. A reformation of lifestyle is called for, based on respect for nature, restraint in the use of the world’s resources, reevaluation of one’s needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life.”
Religious liberty [ edit ]
For over 120 years, the Adventist church has actively promoted freedom of religion for all people, regardless of faith. In 1893, its leaders founded the International Religious Liberty Association, which is universal and non-sectarian. The Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council serves, primarily through advocacy, to seek protection for religious groups from legislation that may affect their religious practices. In May 2011, for example, the organization fought to pass legislation that would protect Adventist employees who wish to keep the Sabbath. According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has, throughout its history, aggressively advocated for the separation of church and state.
Media [ edit ]
Adventists have long been proponents of media-based ministries. Traditional Adventist evangelistic efforts consisted of street missions and the distribution of tracts such as The Present Truth, which was published by James White as early as 1849. Until J. N. Andrews was sent to Switzerland in 1874, Adventist global efforts consisted entirely of the posting of tracts such as White’s to various locations.
In the last century, these efforts have also made use of emerging media such as radio and television. The first of these was H. M. S. Richards’ radio show Voice of Prophecy, which was initially broadcast in Los Angeles in 1929. Since then, Adventists have been on the forefront of media evangelism; It Is Written, founded by George Vandeman, was the first religious program to air on color television in March 1965 and the first major Christian ministry to utilize satellite uplink technology. Amazing Facts was founded in 1965 by Joe Crews in Baltimore as a radio ministry. Amazing Facts broadcasts “Bible Answers Live” each Sunday where listeners phone or email Bible questions which are answered live. Today the Hope Channel, the official television network of the church which launched in October 2003, operates 8+ international channels broadcasting 24 hours a day on cable, satellite, and the Web.
Adventist World Radio was founded in 1971 and is the “radio mission arm” of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It utilizes AM, FM, shortwave, satellite, podcasting, and the Internet, broadcasting in 77 major language groups of the world with a potential coverage of 80% of the world’s population. AWR’s headquarters is in Silver Spring, Maryland, with studios throughout the world. A large portion of the ministry’s income is derived from membership gifts.
SDA evangelists such as Doug Batchelor, Mark Finley and Dwight Nelson have undertaken a number of international satellite-broadcast live evangelistic events, addressing audiences in up to 40 languages simultaneously.
In 2016, the Church released the film Tell the World.
Publishing [ edit ]
Review and Herald Publishing Association 1868
The Adventist Church owns and operates many publishing companies around the world. Two of the largest are the Pacific Press and Review and Herald publishing associations, both located in the United States. The Review and Herald is headquartered in Hagerstown, Maryland.
The official church magazine is the Adventist Review, which has a North American focus. It has a sister magazine (Adventist World), which has an international perspective. Another major magazine published by the church is the bimonthly Liberty magazine, which addresses issues pertaining to religious freedom.
Ecumenical activity [ edit ]
The Adventist Church generally opposes the ecumenical movement, although it supports some of the other goals of ecumenism. The General Conference has released an official statement concerning the Adventist position with respect to the ecumenical movement, which contains the following paragraph:
Should Adventists cooperate ecumenically? Adventists should cooperate insofar as the authentic gospel is proclaimed and crying human needs are being met. The Seventh-day Adventist Church wants no entangling memberships and refuses any compromising relationships that might tend to water down her distinct witness. However, Adventists wish to be “conscientious cooperators.” The ecumenical movement as an agency of cooperation has acceptable aspects; as an agency for the organic unity of churches, it is much more suspect.
While not being a member of the World Council of Churches, the Adventist Church has participated in its assemblies in an observer capacity.
Criticism [ edit ]
The Adventist Church has received criticism along several lines, including what some claim are heterodox doctrines, and in relation to Ellen G. White and her status within the church, and in relation to alleged exclusivist issues.
Doctrines [ edit ]
Critics such as evangelical Anthony Hoekema (who felt that Adventists were more in agreement with Arminianism) argue that some Adventist doctrines are heterodox. Several teachings which have come under scrutiny are the annihilationist view of hell, the investigative judgment (and a related view of the atonement), and the Sabbath; in addition, Hoekema also claims that Adventist doctrine suffers from legalism.
While critics such as Hoekema have classified Adventism as a sectarian group on the basis of its atypical doctrines, it has been accepted as more mainstream by Protestant evangelicals since its meetings and discussions with evangelicals in the 1950s. Notably, Billy Graham invited Adventists to be part of his crusades after Eternity, a conservative Christian magazine edited by Donald Barnhouse, asserted in 1956 that Adventists are Christians, and also later stated, “They are sound on the great New Testament doctrines including grace and redemption through the vicarious offering of Jesus Christ ‘once for all'”. Walter Martin, who is considered by many to be the father of the counter-cult apologetics movement within evangelicalism, authored The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists (1960) which marked a turning point in the way Adventism was viewed: “it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite heterodox concept”.
Later on, Martin planned to write a new book on Seventh-day Adventism, with the assistance of Kenneth R. Samples. Samples subsequently authored “From Controversy to Crisis: An Updated Assessment of Seventh-day Adventism”, which upholds Martin’s view “for that segment of Adventism which holds to the position stated in QOD, and further expressed in the Evangelical Adventist movement of the last few decades.” However, Samples also claimed that “Traditional Adventism” appeared “to be moving further away from a number of positions taken in QOD”, and at least at Glacier View seemed to have “gained the support of many administrators and leaders”.
Ellen G. White and her status [ edit ]
Ellen G. White in 1899
Ellen G. White’s status as a modern-day prophet has also been criticized. In the Questions on Doctrine era, evangelicals expressed concern about Adventism’s understanding of the relationship of White’s writings to the inspired canon of Scripture. The Adventist fundamental beliefs maintain that “the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.”
A common criticism of Ellen White, widely popularized by Walter T. Rea, Ronald Numbers and others, is the claim of plagiarism from other authors. An independent lawyer specializing in plagiarism, Vincent L. Ramik, was engaged to undertake a study of Ellen G. White’s writings during the early 1980s, and concluded that they were “conclusively unplagiaristic”. When the plagiarism charge ignited a significant debate during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Adventist General Conference commissioned a major study by Dr. Fred Veltman. The ensuing project became known as the “‘Life of Christ’ Research Project”. The results are available at the General Conference Archives. Dr. Roger W. Coon, David J. Conklin, Dr. Denis Fortin, King and Morgan, and Morgan, among others, undertook the refutation of the accusations of plagiarism. At the conclusion of his report, Ramik states:
It is impossible to imagine that the intention of Ellen G. White, as reflected in her writings and the unquestionably prodigious efforts involved therein, was anything other than a sincerely motivated and unselfish effort to place the understandings of Biblical truths in a coherent form for all to see and comprehend. Most certainly, the nature and content of her writings had but one hope and intent, namely, the furthering of mankind’s understanding of the word of God. Considering all factors necessary in reaching a just conclusion on this issue, it is submitted that the writings of Ellen G. White were conclusively unplagiaristic.
Exclusivism [ edit ]
Critics have alleged that certain Adventist beliefs and practices are exclusivist in nature and they point to the Adventist claim to be the “remnant church”, and the traditional Protestant association of Roman Catholicism with “Babylon”. These attitudes are said to legitimize the proselytising of Christians from other denominations. In response to such criticisms, Adventist theologians have stated that the doctrine of the remnant does not preclude the existence of genuine Christians in other denominations, but is concerned with institutions.
We fully recognize the heartening fact that a host of true followers of Christ are scattered all through the various churches of Christendom, including the Roman Catholic communion. These God clearly recognizes as His own. Such do not form a part of the “Babylon” portrayed in the Apocalypse. Questions on Doctrine, p. 197.
Ellen White also presented it in a similar light:
God has children, many of them, in the Protestant churches, and a large number in the Catholic churches, who are more true to obey the light and to do [to] the very best of their knowledge than a large number among Sabbathkeeping Adventists who do not walk in the light. — Ellen White, Selected Messages, book 3, p.386.
Independent ministries, offshoots, and schisms [ edit ]
Independent ministries [ edit ]
In addition to the ministries and institutions which are formally administered by the denomination, numerous para-church organizations and independent ministries exist. These include various health centers and hospitals, publishing and media ministries, and aid organizations. Present Truth Magazine is an independent online magazine for those claiming to be “evangelical” Adventists.
A number of independent ministries have been established by groups within the Adventist Church, who hold a theologically distinct position or wish to promote a specific message, such as Hope International, which have a strained relationship with the official church, which has expressed concerns that such ministries may threaten Adventist unity. Some independent ministries have continued to emphasize the mainstream Adventist belief which identified the Roman Papacy as the Antichrist. The church has put out a statement clarifying the official position that it does not condone any behavior by members which may “have manifested prejudice and even bigotry” against Catholics.
Offshoots and schisms [ edit ]
Throughout the history of the denomination, there have been a number of groups that have left the church and formed their own movements.
Following World War I, a group known as the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement was formed as a result of the actions of L. R. Conradi and certain European church leaders during the war, who decided that it was acceptable for Adventists to take part in war. Those who were opposed to this stand and refused to participate in the war were declared “disfellowshipped” by their local Church leaders at the time. When the Church leaders from the General Conference came and admonished the local European leaders after the war to try to heal the damage, and bring the members together, it met with resistance from those who had suffered under those leaders. Their attempts at reconciliation failed after the war and the group became organized as a separate church at a conference that was held on July 14–20, 1925. The movement officially incorporated in 1949.
In 2005, in another attempt to examine and resolve what its German leaders had done, the mainstream church apologized for its failures during World War II, stating that they “‘deeply regret’ any participation in or support of Nazi activities during the war by the German and Austrian leadership of the church.”
In the Soviet Union the same issues produced the group known as the True and Free Seventh-day Adventists. This also formed as the result of a schism within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe during World War I over the position its European church leaders took on having its members join the military or keep the Sabbath. The group remains active today (2010) in the former republics of the Soviet Union.
Well-known but distant offshoots are the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist organization and the Branch Davidians, themselves a schism within the larger Davidian movement. The Davidians formed in 1929, following Victor Houteff, after he came out with his book The Shepherd’s Rod, which was rejected as heretical. A succession dispute after Houteff’s death in 1955 led to the formation of two groups, the original Davidians and the Branches. Later, another ex-Adventist, David Koresh, led the Branch Davidians, until he died in the 1993 siege, at the group’s headquarters near Waco, Texas.
A number of Adventists who apostatized, such as former ministers Walter Rea and Dale Ratzlaff, have become critics of the church’s teachings, and particularly Ellen G. White.
In popular culture [ edit ]
Hacksaw Ridge depicts the life of Adventist conscientious objector and Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. The Road to Wellville is based on a novel about Seventh-day Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg, director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. A Cry in the Dark, a film about the death of Azaria Chamberlain, features the prejudice her parents faced due to misconceptions about their religion, and the father’s loss of faith. On television, a main character on the show Gilmore Girls is depicted as a strict conservative Adventist, causing conflict with her daughter. Many other forms of media include mentions of Seventh-day Adventism.
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump questioned his opponent Ben Carson’s Adventist faith during the 2016 GOP primaries. Trump told his supporters, “I’m Presbyterian; boy, that’s down the middle of the road…I mean, Seventh-day Adventist? I don’t know about that. I just don’t know about it.” Trump would later make Carson his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
See also [ edit ]
Notes [ edit ]
^ SDA”. Officially abbreviated as “Adventist”, commonly abbreviated as “”.
References [ edit ]
Further reading [ edit ]
3 Ways You Can Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day He rested (see Genesis 1:1–Genesis 2:2). This seventh day is the Sabbath day. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, one of His commandments was to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
The word Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rest from labor.” The word holy means something that is sacred or dedicated to God. God wants us to make Sunday, the Sabbath day, feel different from the other days of the week by resting from our normal daily routine and dedicating our thoughts and time to Him. Here are three things anyone can do to make their Sabbath day holy:
Sabbath food preparation
Items being kept hot on Shabbat
Sabbath food preparation refers to the preparation and handling of food before the Sabbath, (also called Shabbat, or the seventh day of the week) beginning at sundown Friday concluding at sundown Saturday, the Bible day of rest, when cooking, baking, and the kindling of a fire are prohibited by the Jewish law.
Bishul versus cooking [ edit ]
One of the 39 prohibited activities on the Sabbath is bishul (Hebrew: בישול), or “cooking.” However, bishul is not an exact equivalent of “cooking.” The Hebrew term bishul as it relates to Shabbat is the “use of heat to alter the quality of an item,” and this applies whether the heat is applied through baking, boiling, frying, roasting and most other types of cooking.
The prohibition of bishul applies to all types of food and drink, even to foods and drinks which are edible when raw or cold.
Heat sources [ edit ]
Kli Rishon A kli rishon (כלי ראשון, “first vessel”) is a vessel that was heated directly on a flame or other source of heat. Even when removed from the source of heat, this vessel maintains its status as a kli rishon, and possesses the capacity to enact bishul on any type of food placed within it. This capacity remains until the pot and its contents cool below the temperature of yad soledet bo (יד סולדת בו, the degree of heat “from which the hand recoils”). Rabbi Simcha Bunin Cohen, The Shabbos Kitchen Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 1991, page 17
The prohibited activity of bishul is separate and distinct from that of havarah (הבערה, “kindling a fire”). Performing bishul with a pre-existing flame is forbidden on Shabbat The prohibition of bishul, however, is not limited to the use of fire as a heat source; it is forbidden to perform bishul with any source of heat, whether it be an actual flame, or an electric stove/range, a hot plate, an urn or a microwave oven. Moreover, placing food into a kli rishon may constitute bishul in certain instances. However using heat from the sun to cook is allowed on shabbat. (talmud shabbat 39a)
Reheating foods [ edit ]
While it is prohibited in most instances to initially heat a food item to the temperature of yad soledet bo, foods that have already been fully cooked may sometimes be reheated. In terms of reheating, a distinction is made between dry foods and liquids.
Dry food that has been completely cooked is no longer subject to the prohibition of bishul; this is based on the principle of ain bishul achar bishul (אין בישול אחר בישול, “Cooking does not take effect after cooking”). Thus, a completely cooked, dry food item, such as a piece of chicken or potato kugel, may be reheated once it has been fully cooked.
However, there is a great dispute as to whether this rule applies to liquids: Maimonides, the Rashba and the Ran assert that liquids are in fact no different from solid dry foods, whereas Rashi, the Rosh and Rabbeinu Yonah assert that this rule does not apply and reheating of liquids is forbidden, applying the principle of yeish bishul achar bishul (יש בישול אחר בישול, “Cooking does take effect after cooking”) to liquids. This prohibition of reheating liquids only applies when the liquid has completely cooled. If the liquid has only partially cooled and still retains enough heat to be enjoyed as the warm liquid as it was intended to be, it may be reheated.
Kli rishon, literally the first utensil, refers to a utensil that is used for cooking, baking or roasting food or liquid, and contains that hot food or liquid. When hot food or liquid is transferred from the kli rishon into a second utensil, this utensil is called a kli sheni. A kli shlishi is the third utensil into which hot food or liquid is transferred. The idea of Kli shlishi being less stringent than a Kli Sheni is not clear in the talmud or rishonim. All vessels that are no longer a Kli Rishon have the status of kli sheni as the status of a kli sheni is based on the fact that the heat is generated by the liquid within the vessel rather than by the walls of the vessel. In that regard Kli sheni and Kli shlishi etc. are exactly the same .
Hot beverages [ edit ]
The problem of preparing hot beverages on Shabbat revolves around the temperature of the water. If the water is hot enough to cook the tea leaves, it would constitute malacha. Pouring straight from an urn (also considered a klei rishon) would cause the cooking of the substance. For a solid substance the outer and concrete layer will definitely be cooked (bishul kdai klipah), which would be malacha. For a liquid there is no concrete layer, and therefore no specific part that is being cooked. Therefore, it is ruled that a liquid is not considered cooked if it is not yad soledet bo or 113 °F (45 °C). A kos sheini can be used to bypass this problem.
Using a Kos sheini is acceptable because when the liquid is poured (Erui kos sheini) some of the heat is transferred into the atmosphere, and therefore the liquid loses some heat. Most people hold that this will not cause enough heat to be emitted and therefore the tea leaves will still be cooked. To lower the temperature of the water further people rule that a klei shlishi must be used. Once again in the pouring process (erui klei sheini) more heat is emitted and therefore some people hold that the tea will not be cooked and it is therefore permissible to make tea with this water. However, many other authorities hold that tea leaves fall under the category of items which cook easily (kalei habishul), even in the diminished heat of a kos shelishi. Consequently, those who are most scrupulous in their observance will prepare a concentrated tea extract before the Sabbath; as a liquid, water from a kos sheini can be added to the extract to heat it.
Rabbinic prohibitions [ edit ]
In addition to the Biblical prohibition of cooking on Shabbat, there exist several related rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbat.
Shehiyah is a prohibition on leaving uncooked food to cook on Shabbat on a lit stove or oven, lest one come to stir the coals on Shabbat to increase the strength of the flame.
Hachzarah is a prohibition on returning cooked food to a lit stove or oven, either because this resembles cooking, or because it could lead one to stir the coals.
Hatmanah is a prohibition on insulating food in certain ways in order to keep it warm, similar to the haybox.
Fire safety [ edit ]
In 2015, a house fire killed seven children in Brooklyn, New York. The 2015 fire was preceded by at least four other Shabbat fires in Brooklyn in the past 15 years caused by appliances for heating food being left on or candles burning during the Jewish Sabbath in order to comply with Orthodox interpretation of Jewish Law. In 2005, three children died in a fire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, caused when stove burners were left on during Passover. After the 2015 fire, the New York City Fire Department distributed a pamphlet titled “Fire Safety for Jewish Observances” to nearby homes. In response to the fire, many Jews in Brooklyn purchased smoke detectors before the following Sabbath.
See also [ edit ]
What do you do on the sabbath?
Persecution and Prayer I think many of us witness the attacks on Christians in other countries with horror and dismay, when they defend and stand up for what they believe…
The Community and Household of God Continuing from my previous post about the precarious Christian Life, it’s worth adding that following Jesus is not just about individual…
If one watches television on Friday night, will one go to hell?
The laws of Shabbat apply only to Jews, so someone who isn’t Jewish is doing no wrong whatsoever when they watch TV on Friday night.
For Jews, as pointed out in the comments, there is a difference between turning on a television and watching it. Turning on the TV directly activates a flow of electricity, which mainstream halachic opinion (certainly as I have been taught it) considers forbidden by G-d as communicated to Moses in the Torah. While there is no question that switching an electrical current on or off on Shabbat is forbidden, what exactly is wrong with it is the subject of discussion. See this question for more detail.
Watching TV on Shabbat, taken in isolation, is a transgression of the commandment to make Shabbat special, different and distinct from the week days. The source of this commandment is from the prophets whose communication from G-d came after and is subservient to what Moses taught. It is consequently a less severe transgression than actually turning the TV on, in the sense that the punishment is less (the Torah prohibition is punishable by death in the most extreme case, but not the Prophetic command), but is unequivocally equally binding and is taken equally seriously.
Similar considerations about using electricity and making Shabbat mundane apply to turning on and/or listening to a hi-fi on Friday night. Basically, any forms of entertainment that use electricity or otherwise break Shabbat laws are also forbidden. Singing without a microphone, though, is practiced in synagogues and at Shabbat meals around the world as a beautiful expression of the holiness of the day. It can be profoundly moving and a highlight of the Shabbat experience. I recommend it.
Whether one will “go to hell” for turning on or watching TV depends on the person doing it. The judgement of G-d takes into account every aspect of the person and his circumstances. As it says in Deuteronomy 32:4
הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ
כִּי כָל-דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט
The Rock, His work is perfect;
for all His ways are justice
Specific mention is made of a person’s upbringing by the Rambam, who declares that a Jew who has not been raised to keep the commandments can not be considered a willful sinner. Such a person is classified as a tinok shenishba, a “captured child”, as if they had been kidnapped from their Jewish family and raised by non-Jews. Wikipedia has a reasonable summary.
Thus, to the degree (measurable only by G-d, and possibly the person himself) that he chose (consciously / unconsciously, knowingly / in ignorance, deliberately / accidentally, under influence / on his own initiative) to transgress the command of G-d he will be punished. Nothing is ignored.
This punishment is not imposed immediately, or else we’d all be struck by lightning as soon as a stray thought entered our heads. In fact, it is considered an expression of mercy on G-d’s part that He delays punishment to give us an opportunity to repent. Repentance (teshuvah in Hebrew) is an essential, central and everyday concept in Jewish life. The Talmud states that the nature of man is such that without teshuvah he simply could not endure. The fact that we will sin is accepted, so it then falls upon us constantly to return to righteous behaviour.
How does one do teshuvah according to the Jewish tradition? The Rambam writes that three components are required: Regret that one did the sin, Commitment for the future not to repeat the sin, and Confession to G-d. Probably the hardest one is committing never to do that sin again, but it seems to me that can be a process rather than a binary decision. See the excellent answers to this question.
To apply these principles to your question: To repent for watching TV on Shabbat a person must accept and agree in their heart that they did wrong by turning on and/or watching TV. This means they wish they had not done it and if they could they would ‘undo’ the past. They must sincerely resolve never to do it again (which should include taking practical steps to avoid transgressing by accident or being overwhelmed by temptation). Finally they must confess aloud to G-d what they did, apologise, promise not to do it again, and ask for His help to keep His commandments in future.
Repentance actually does have the effect of ‘changing the past’. Someone who has done full teshuvah for some sin is considered as if he simply never did it, and it will not be held against him in his judgement. Further, the most profound application of repentance can actually result in a net gain in spirituality, not just a return to ‘zero balance’. This is the concept of teshuvah me’ahavah – repentance motivated by intense love of G-d, rather than fear of Him. On the other hand, regret for past actions can also erase good deeds…
Simply, if you do teshuvah you will not “go to hell”.
What if someone doesn’t do teshuvah, or does only a partial teshuvah? Then their recompense will find them according to the decision of G-d. The punishment may be applied during their lifetime or afterwards. It is considered far better for a person to be punished while alive (“in this world”) than after death (“in the next world”). This is because the nature of those two states affects the nature of the punishment. This world is ephemeral and of small worth compared to the Next, so punishment here is temporary and less encompassing. The spiritual world (also known as the World of Truth) is ‘beyond Time’ and is far more significant, for want of a better word, than this one, so punishment there is qualitatively worse. I am being vague, but these ideas are lofty and I understand them only a little.
Punishment achieves atonement. Suffering is corrective and redemptive, rather than punitive. If I remember my Maharal correctly, the disorder that a sinner brought to the world must naturally be visited on him if he does not do teshuvah, but once it has been imposed he is cleansed.
About the nature of “hell”: There does not seem to be a clear explanation of hell accepted by all Jews. See this question for opinions.
My personal understanding, based primarily on teachings from Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, is that one’s spiritual existence after death is not divided into separate “places”, like Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. As I interpret it, after death a soul is faced with the life it led in totality. Like I said, the Next World is ‘beyond time’. In this ‘World of Truth’ the true nature of a person’s actions and his relationship with G-d is inescapable. There is no forgetting, ignoring or evasion. Your life is there before you, and your reward and/or punishment is to inescapably experience it on a spiritual level with all barriers to understanding and appreciation of your actions removed. To the extent this accords with the Truth it is blissful beyond description. And vice versa.
The idea that you get ‘points’ for a mitzvah or lose them for an aveirah (sin) is disconcertingly unsophisticated. Firstly, no actions are overlooked. No deed can ‘cancel out’ another deed. What’s more, an act can be at once both good and bad. All these calculations are taken into account by the immense depth of G-d’s judgement.[Wipes froth from his mouth] Ahem.
So, the answer to your question is… “It depends”. It’s relative. And it’s not inescapable.
If this question is actually applicable to you, and you are feeling guilty because you watched TV… relax. The G-d of the Jews is not out to get us. 🙂
He is a caring, loving and understanding Father who literally has our best interests at heart in the deepest way. He knows you beyond even what you know yourself and understands where you’re at, where you’re coming from and where you long to be. Rather than concentrate initially on the extensive body of instructions that apply to the Chosen People, strive to develop a personal relationship with Him in your own way. Talk to Him. Pour out your heart to Him. And listen for His answers in the things He brings your way.
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Should you watch TV on Shabbat?…ask the Rabbi
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Should you watch TV on Shabbat?…ask the Rabbi
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Rabbi Raymond answers a question about watching TV on Shabbat…and writes on suicide.
Q. May one watch television on Shabbat?
A. There is a deeper question – may one even watch television on weekdays?
Looking at the screen is not in itself the problem. The Ten Commandments prohibit making the form of anything in heaven, earth or the sea, but so many of the extreme orthodox permit photography that the Ten Commandments cannot be used to prohibit looking at film images.
But much TV material is questionable because of its content; it not only offends against the general Jewish sense of propriety but brings the three cardinal sins of idolatry, adultery and murder into one’s home.
As many programs are unsuitable, and also because television watching takes time away from study and doing mitzvot, there are some who will not have a TV set in the house. Those who do not go so far should nonetheless exercise a sense of discrimination in deciding what to watch.
On Shabbat, a TV set, like any electrical appliance, may not be switched on. But though there may be some people who switch the set on before Shabbat or link it to a time switch, TV on Shabbat disturbs the precious Sabbath spirit of personal and Jewish re-creation.
Life is the supreme value, a gift from God to be cherished, appreciated and tended.
Man is made in the image of God (not in a physical but an intellectual, spiritual and moral sense), so whoever destroys a life also diminishes God.
We are warned to take care of life: Deut. 4:9 (“Take heed to yourself and guard your life diligently”) and Deut. 4:15 (“Take good heed of your lives”).
Both verses are quoted in a Talmudic passage (B’rachot 32b-33a) about a Roman officer who threatened a pious Jew who, because he was praying, did not return the officer’s greeting. The officer asked, “Does not your law require you to preserve life?” – i.e. “Since your life was endangered because you ignored me, is this not the kind of emergency that allows you to push the religious law aside?”
The pious man replied, “If you had been standing before an earthly king and a friend had come and greeted you, would you have responded?” “No,” he replied. “And if you had returned his greeting, what would they have done to you?” “They would have cut off my head with the sword,” he replied.
He then said to him, “If you would have acted like this before an earthly king, how much more should I do so when I am standing before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He?”
The Roman officer – symbolic of a number of gentiles who had philosophical discussions with Jewish sages – was obviously aware of the rule that one must preserve life at all costs, but not if it involves idolatry, murder and adultery, which one must never commit even in order to stay alive.
Our abhorrence of suicide took time to develop. The Bible does not seem to disapprove explicitly when recounting possible suicides, e.g. Samson (Judges 16:30), Saul (I Samuel 31:4-5), Achitofel (II Samuel 17:23), Zimri (I Kings 6:18) and Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah (the story in the Book of Daniel was interpreted as martyrdom for the sake of God: Pesachim 53b).
In Avodah Zarah 18a, the following story is told: “They found Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon sitting and studying Torah and gathering groups of students whilst holding a Torah scroll. They wrapped him in the scroll and surrounded him with wood and set it alight. They brought tufts of wool soaked in water and placed them over his heart to prevent a quick death… His students said, ‘Open your mouth and let the fire enter more quickly!’ He replied, ‘It is better that He who gave the soul should take it; one should not harm oneself!’
“The executioner asked him, ‘Rabbi, if I raise the flame and remove the tufts of wet wool from your heart, will you bring me into the World to Come?’ He promised him. At once he increased the flame and removed the tufts of wool and the rabbi’s soul departed speedily. The executioner himself then jumped into the fire. A heavenly voice announced, ‘Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon and the executioner are destined for the World to Come!’.”
Ta’anit 29a reports that a Roman legionnaire saved Rabban Gamliel in return for a promise of a place in the World to Come. Having received the promise, the Roman threw himself off a roof and died, and a voice confirmed his place in the World to Come.
Despite these stories, suicide came to be regarded as a great sin, a brazen act of defiance of God. It was clear, however, that some suicides had to be viewed as martyrdom for the faith. Thus the Talmud relates in Gittin 57b (the passage is reminiscent of the Holocaust incident of the 93 Beth Jacob girls) that when 400 Jewish boys and girls were captured “for disgrace” (probably prostitution) by the Romans, they threw themselves into the sea rather than betray the Divine moral law.
In relation to a God-defying suicide, S’machot chapter 2 rules: “We do not occupy ourselves with burial rites for one who suicided intentionally”. Buthalachah constantly exerted itself to ensure that there would hardly ever be a case deemed to be intentional suicide. Thus the responsa of the Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 326) list considerations which might remove the stigma of intentional suicide, e.g. fear, anger or emotional instability.
(Some halachists were stricter. The Gesher HaChayyim of Rabbi Yechiel Michael Tukachinsky, chapter 25, declares, “A suicide removes all chance of repentance. Instead of death expiating his sins, his death has added to them. He has denied the Divine creation and the belief in immortality”).
In The Holocaust and Halakhah, 1976 (pp. 35-40), IJ Rosenbaum observes that under “normal” circumstances it is unlikely that anyone would ask a rabbi whether they are permitted to suicide. During the Holocaust, such questions were occasionally asked, but there were relatively few suicides and therefore few recorded rabbinic responsa on the subject.
One such responsum is by Rabbi L Oshry, who was asked by a leading Jew in the Kovno ghetto whether he was permitted to kill himself rather than be tortured and killed by the Nazis after seeing his family tortured and killed.
Rabbi Oshry accepts that there are degrees of duress which remove a suicide from the “intentional” category. He defines intentional suicide as “one who is an ingrate and complains even though things are good; who hates the world and rebels against God. But in relation to a tormented soul who can no longer endure his troubles, in his case there is no prohibition.”
Rabbi Oshry, who survived the Holocaust, believes that there were so few suicides among Polish Jews because they did not give up hope and because staying alive was a way of fighting back.
Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem.
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