Definitions

capital-sin

Sabbath breaking

Sabbath breaking is defined as "not observing the holy Sabbath day", and is usually considered a sin within traditional Christianity and classical Judaism.

Note: All Bible quotes are from the King James Bible.

Forms of Sabbath breaking

According to Christianity there are two main forms of Sabbath breaking: doing something unneccessary on the Sabbath (e.g., work on the Sabbath), or failing to use the Sabbath in the way it is intended: recharging spiritually (e.g., not going to church). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints members are very strict about not patronizing stores (since this requires others to work) and try to avoid working on Sunday other than at church.

A capital sin

According to Mosaic Law, to break the Sabbath (Shabbat) is a capital offense (Exodus 31:15):

Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

All work was prohibited during the Sabbath, even minor tasks, such as "gathering sticks" (Numbers 15:32-36). It's unclear whether this was an act of gardening or preparation of a fire.

''And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Since the decline of classical Semicha (rabbinic ordination) in the fourth century CE, the traditional view is that Jewish courts have lost the power to rule on criminal cases. As such, it would be practically impossible for Orthodox courts to enforce the death penalty in modern times, even if they had the political standing to do so.

Further, the legal protections for defendants in murder cases delineated in the Talmud make execution a very unlikely sentence, if not a practical impossibility, even by a competent court, such as the Great Sanhedrin. The most prominent of such safeguards are the necessity of two competent witnesses to the Sabbath violation and the necessity of an official court warning prior to the violation. These stringent safeguards have been read by many modern commentators as de facto abolition of capital punishment. This has contributed to the major rabbinical bodies of the Reform and Conservative movements condemning capital punishment generally.

A state law

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia at least one point in the American state of North Dakota:

The fine for Sabbath-breaking is not less than one dollar or more than ten dollars for each offence.

Other laws have been passed against Sabbath breaking, e.g., by the Puritans. (See also Blue law.)

Additional Biblical quotes

The Fourth Commandment states (Exodus 20:8-11):

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The prohibition against working on the Sabbath is also mentioned in Exodus 20:10.

In Judaism

See Shabbat for more details.

The Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) lasts from dusk on Friday evening until nightfall Saturday night. During the Sabbath, there are 39 specific forbidden acts, derived in the Talmud from the construction of the Biblical Tabernacle.

Halakha (Jewish law) derives many further forbidden acts from these 39 (toledoth and shevuth), with varying severity, that may not be performed save for preventing severe illness or death. Unwarranted violation of any of these precepts is termed chillul Shabbath (profanation of the Sabbath). Although there is no physical punishment nowadays, people who consistently violate the Sabbath are generally not considered reliable in certain matters of Jewish law.

See also

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