Religion & Beliefs

Women’s Work Doesn’t Count

A few months back, I got to thinking about work.  About Shabbat, and how we're all supposed to rest. About how our religion is VERY specific in its prohibition of labor on Saturday…  But our definition of what work is… … Read More

By / March 26, 2007

A few months back, I got to thinking about work.  About Shabbat, and how we're all supposed to rest. About how our religion is VERY specific in its prohibition of labor on Saturday…

 But our definition of what work is… bugs me. A lot.  39 Melachot?  WTF?

I don't know why I never got around to ranting about this back when it crossed my mind, but the issue resurfaced yesterday, popped into my head as I was cleaning my house (finally!) and so I'm ranting now. Thank goodness it's never too late to rant.

Unlike a lot of people I know, the contempory extension of "work" as defined long long ago… is not a problem for me.  Of course, it seems silly to root our definition of labor in a long-gone temple.  It makes little sense to me that one is supposed to keep from lighting lights, and hence can't open the freezer door to get a friggin ice cube.  But I'm usually okay with random and arbitrary rules. I'm okay with anachronism. 

I'm not going to observe a rule like that anyway, so what do I care if someone else wants to drink warm soda?

What DOES bother me a lot is that it seems like the work that women (traditionally) do does NOT count as "work."   Childcare, basic housekeeping, picking up…

And if that's not bad enbough…  there's this handy stipulation (which I don't fully understand) that the "home" is a kind of free zone, and in traditional families, "home" is the domain of women… so

If on Shabbat you carry a feather outside the private area into the public, you've "worked" but if you move a piano from the first floor to the second floor you have not "worked." Thus, it is not work as we understand it in English and use it most often.

  Which means, I guess,  that hubby can't go out and mow the lawn… but wifey is totally allowed to fix hubby a nice meal (so long as she doesn't turn on the stove), clean up the table after dinner, get the kids into jammies, etc.  Hubby gets to sit and read his Torah, and rest… and wifey gets to enjoy hubby's enjoyment, surrounding by a bazillion kids. 

 All this after cooking all DAY friday so she wouldn't have to turn on the stove.  Because she can't "work".  Lucky wifey.

This chaps my hide.

So I want to issue a little challenge.  I'm calling it the "Second Shabbat Challenge".

Basically, in homes that observe the tradional celebration of Shabbat… we need to create a second Shabbat. A special chunk of time, a day of rest set aside for the ladies.  Because while the way we observe Shabbat may be beyond religious reproach… there's no halachic reason you can't create a whole new secular day of rest, to show your wife you appreciate her.

See, if wifey is going to make you a nice dinner while you sit and read… you should cook HER dinner on Sunday. Maybe you should take the kids to the park so SHE can read the fucking Torah for a minute.

Just a thought.