A group of senior rabbis in the central city of Bat Yam, including the city's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Rabbi Shaul Yosef Weingerten, recently convened to discuss an increasing demand from the local religious public to hire a "Shabbat goy."
A "Shabbat goy" is a non-Jewish person who regularly helps the Jewish community perform certain acts that are forbidden for observant Jews on the holy day.
Although it is far from being Bnei Brak or Mea Shearim, Bat Yam has a growing ultra-Orthodox community, made up mostly of former seculars, who feel a need for a "Shabbat goy".
The rabbis brought examples for such problematic incidents, where a non-Jew's assistance is required: A hot plate being disconnected, a car alarm going off or even the need to turn on the air conditioned on a hot summer day.
In their meeting, the rabbis focused on the question of funding such a person, and – no less important, in which cases should a "Shabbat got" be asked to help.
'Rabbi must be consulted'
However, the chief Sephardic rabbi of the neighboring city of Holon, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, harshly criticized the new initiative. "Not everything should be copied from Bnei Brak," he said. "More than 10 years ago several religious Jews came to see me and asked that we employ a 'Shabbat goy' here.
"I strongly and completely forbade this, mainly because in order to use a 'Shabbat goy' one must be a Torah scholar, and also because unfortunately there were sometimes incidents in which the 'Shabbat goy' turned out to be Jewish," he added.
"On the matter of receiving service from a non-Jew not everything is allowed, even not as a personal favor… in order to know what's allowed and what's not one must consult a rabbi," Rabbi Yosef concluded.
Shirley Moreh contributed to the report