Yes, we have covered this before in one or two of our blogs, but it deserves repeating:
Shabbat is easier than many people make it.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn
of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 KJV
Sabbath is a topic that we get a lot of questions about – many of those questions are about what we are or are not “allowed” to do on Shabbat. We get a lot of questions about washing dishes or cleaning up after ourselves during the 24 hours of rest. Many believe it is a sin to wash dishes on Shabbat. Others claim they cannot wash dishes on Shabbat because they are homemakers and washing dishes is a part of their normal daily “job.”
Whatever your reason is, I always try to teach sisters to do this: Put yourself in their shoes. Whose shoes? The shoes of those in the Exodus. Or, I guess in their sandals! Take yourself back in time and think of what life was like way back then: a nomadic family with limited resources, limited supplies, and no cooler or travel grill. What would Miriam do???
During the Exodus, their lifestyle would have been one of living in their shelter out in the desert, cooking meals over open fires, grinding flour by hand – often with something like a mortar and pestle, no refrigeration, no cold cuts, no theroses, and no convenience store along the way. It would have been much more challenging than our lives are today when it comes to food preparation, serving, storage and clean-up.
Ask yourself: Would they have left dishes laying around the campfire or tent until after sundown the next day? Chances are, by morning, there might not be much left to clean up because leaving food scraps around the camp would encourage all kinds of critters to come and wash the dishes for them! They would have likely known that some things just must be done to prevent worse from happening.
So, like I said, put yourself in their sandals and think about cleaning up after yourselves. So many will ask, though: Should you and Could you do any of these things? We aren’t supposed to do work. So isn’t cleaning up after one’s self WORK? You will find, I am not a strong proponent of those who preach the long list of Sabbath restrictions often found in rabbinics, where it is recommended that you run a sink of water and let everything sit until the next evening.
I much prefer the instructions which encourage us to be sensible. Cleaning up after yourself is not work, it is practical and prudent. There is nothing wrong with washing up some of the dishes as you go through the day. Even some strict rabbinic believers will suggest setting aside 1 dish per person. Then, when that person is done eating, they simply wash their dish, rinse and set aside to dry for the next meal. Imagine how nice it would be after sundown if you did not have to clean 6 of everything times 3 meals!! We tend to do this and leave only the difficult dishes such as caked on foods or pots and pans. That is all we leave for later.
Take for example, this lesson we learned some time ago, thanks to two mice who decided to invade our home during the middle of an autumn week. We live in a woodsy area, and although our own yard is quite clear of trees, we do have woods in the back. Mice sneaking into the house in autumn is a common occurrence, unfortunately.
On mid-week that week, I noticed the mouse evidence in the kitchen and, as usual, was completely grossed out!!! Out came the SERIOUS cleaning supplies as I washed and sterilized every counter-top and rewashed all the dishes, pots, and flatware!
Not knowing if we had caught all the mice by Shabbat, it was clear that we were going to have to take extra measures this week for clean-up. I made sure that all the dishes were washed throughout prep-day, dried then put away. Normally a few may linger after preparation is finished, but not this week! I was serious about this: After I made our ice cream, I even stuck the ice cream tub into the refrigerator over-night on Thursday to allow it to completely thaw before washing it Friday and putting it back in the freezer. Normally I would leave it on the counter or in the sink to thaw – not this week!
Here’s the thing about mice: they have been around since the dawn of time. They are annoying and can carry illness and disease. They are NOT allowed in our home, especially the kitchen!
We tried to make as few dishes as possible for Shabbat dinner Friday evening, and as few pans as well. Then we washed them, and stuck them in the oven, microwave, cupboards, wherever they fit to ensure no one would be leaving trails that would need to be rewashed in the morning.
Now, we could either leave our dishes over-night and all day on Saturday in the sink allowing mice, if there were any left in the house, to get all over them, pooping and peeing as they go. Or we could be sensible, quickly wash, dry and put away the dishes we had used. We chose to clean-up as we went along, ensuring there would be no further contamination of the kitchen should any mice be left.
There are two other examples I can give. One that happened a few months ago, and one that just happened this past Shabbat.
Countless times I have heard people say, even if you spill or break something, you must just push it off to the side and not clean up anything until after Shabbat. Everything involved with cleaning up would be working on Sabbath.
I am not sure what I did that Saturday a few months back. I don’t honestly know how it happened, but it happened. One of my tempered glass bowls that I loved using for cooking and preparing foods was used as a serving bowl for something dry and was sitting on the island in the kitchen. Ever have one of those days when you just seem to be butter fingers? Yup! That was me. I picked up the bowl, and it just seemed to throw itself up in the air, bouncing from hand to hand until it slipped through my grip and went crashing to the floor in a million tiny shards. That glass flew into places I didn’t even know existed until they sparkled in the setting sun!
Now, according to some rabbis, we must just push it aside and keep on Shabbatin’!
No. Not this mess. There were micro-shards everywhere. On the floor, of course, but also on the stove, counters, island and believe it or not, I discovered a shard on top of the refrigerator the other day! It HAD to be cleaned up or someone could have been hurt.
We swept with a broom, mopped with a wet disposable mop, then vacuumed, just in case. There was no way that disaster could have been ignored.
This past weekend, picture this: Friday evening. Sun has set, Shabbat has been opened with prayers. Dinner is served, and we are going to eat on TV trays while watching a movie. As we go to settle in, I hear water running in the one bathroom and something does NOT sound right. I set my food down and wander in to discover the floor is flooded. The toilet sprung a leak.
I have read before, in a case like this, many suggest it is wrong to mop up the mess on Shabbat. Just toss towels into the water and leave it until morning. But we were concerned water may have leaked under the cabinets and into the wall between the bath and the office.
Here are the big questions:
Should we just toss towels in it, or wipe up all the water?
Should we fix the toilette leak? Or just turn it off and wait until the next evening?
In this case, I would mop up the water, tossing the towels into a basket or the tub and wait until we could put them in the washer. I am not going to wash the load until the next evening. There is no harm in leaving wet towels for a day. We did this and also turned on a fan to dry out the bathroom cabinets and wall, just in case.
As far as the toilet, I would weigh the options. Is it the only bathroom? If so, then it gets fixed as best as possible. Ideas for this could be to shut off the water to the toilet and, using a bucket, get water from the tub, pour it into the toilet after using it and allow that to flush the toilet.
If the leak is bad enough, it might require new parts which would need to be purchased immediately. We would do this with as little fuss as possible, making as few people work as possible. In this case, it could be considered an ox in the mire situation. If it continues to leak, it could make the entire bathroom need to be renovated. THIS is going to be a personal decision for each individual family to make. It is not up to us to find fault if they have the urgent need to accomplish this task. It is between them and Yahweh. Remember, too, that Shabbat is a day of rest. Having to deal with complaining children or family due to uncomfortable situations is NOT going to bring Shalom into the home, nor is it restful.
In our case, it is not the only bathroom we have. Additionally, the leak was from the valve inside the tank squirting up, hitting the lid and spewing out all over the floor. We could leave the lid off, and turn water on and off inside the tank if we needed the second bathroom for some reason. In the meantime, we could just use the other bathroom and work on it the next evening.
Urgencies and emergencies happen, and each family will need to weigh them for themselves. What their needs are, what they can successfully do without, and what will allow them to clear up the issue while not disturbing the desired shalom of Shabbat. Also, cleaning up after ourselves is not a bad thing to teach ourselves, our children and grandchildren.
I like to use this example when I explain cleaning up after one's self. Imagine Saturday morning, and I went to the library where I got out four books to read and study. I go through three of them and decide they won't work toward the idea I want to execute. So I leave them laying around, go back to the library and grab three more. Now I have seven books laying around. Yet if I had just grabbed those three I am not using, stuck them back on the shelf before grabbing the next ones, I would still only have half the mess. Makes sense, doesn't it? Children can learn this principle, too. If they are going back to their room for more books or toys, take the ones with them that they already have out. Simple. And it doesn't make it work, it just makes it sensible.
The Sabbath is to be a day of rest, yes, but it is not meant to be a day of mess making and laziness.
Blessings - Judith
"And these are they which are unclean unto you among the swarming things that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and the great lizard after its kinds,..." Leviticus 11:29 JPS Tanakh
Bible references for touching unclean things, such as mice, their feces, and things they may have contaminated.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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