Jaywalking on the Sabbath
ndiament at PPPMAIL.APPLIEDTHEORY.COM
Wed Aug 6 11:02:09 PDT 1997
Wendy Leibowitz wrote:
> I do not wish to derail the discussion about Timmy and the world's
> creation--I think since the Scopes trial teachers have found more sensitive
> ways to deal with this issue--but I thought members of this list would be
> interested in the following. I don't think there's anything in Jewish law
> that allows jaywalking, or prohibits sitting in a police car on Saturday.
> Updated 4:19pm EDT August 5, 1997
> Jewish Jaywalker Vindicated in US Court
> CINCINNATI - An orthodox Jewish man charged with jaywalking
> and forced to sit in a police car against his religious principles
> to accept $7,000 in damages from the city of Cincinnati, his attorney
> said Tuesday.
> David Becker, 27, now of Los Angeles, agreed to the settlement
> Monday just before his civil lawsuit against the city was to begin in
> Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, his attorney Kenneth
> Lawson said.
> Cincinnati policewoman Monica Gaynor arrested Becker in
> September 1994 for allegedly walking against a traffic light while on
> his way home from attending temple services.
> She forced him to sit in her police cruiser and sign the jaywalking
> citation even though it is against his religion to get into a car and
> a wallet with identification on the Jewish sabbath. The officer told
> Becker he would be jailed if he did not comply.
> The jaywalking charge was later dismissed.
> The case prompted the city's police department to modify its training
> to incorporate sensitivity to religious practices.
> Wendy R. Leibowitz, Technology Editor
> National Law Journal
> 345 Park Ave. South
> New York, NY 10010
> E-mail: wendyl at ljextra.com
> "Remember, even pencils break."
Under traditional, rabbinic Jewish law (halakha) there are two religious
difficulties that an observant Jew would have with what the jaywalker
was pressed to do.
1. A car is not to be "used" on the shabbat since its use would violate
several prohibitions (ie: all of the electrical functions and combustion
etc that cars do that would entail improperly using a "fire" on the
shabbat) thus, by rabbinic law (to prevent one from getting too close to
violating a direct prohibition) one should not "touch" a car on the
shabbat. Thus, sitting in a car would violate a rabbinic prohibition in
the strictest sense. Of course, most rabbis would also rule that if a
Jew was compelled to sit in a car by a police officer who refused to
accept an explanation offered by the Jew, he would probably not be
deemed to have violated the prohibition since it was under duress.
2. Writing is a direct violation of the shabbat. Although kindling a
fire is a rare example of a biblical shabbat prohibition explicitly
mentioned in the bible, the other biblical (as opposed to rabbinic)
categories of prohibitions are derived from the construction and
operation of the tabernacle in the desert. There are 39 categories of
work that were involved in that construction and writing is one of them.
Thus, being asked to sign the ticket is a more serious problem. While
the issue of being compelled to do this is still something of an "out,"
an observant Jew would put up much more of a protest and likely
sacrafice a lot more rather than directly violate a biblical shabbat
prohibition. In fact, so long as his life were not threatened he would
probably force the police to carry him off to jail (unless that would
threaten his life) for the duration of the shabbat and try to sort the
mess out afterwards.
Inst. for Public Affairs
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
More information about the Religionlaw