How a Dishwasher at a Miami Hotel Became My Hero

A dishwasher at a Miami Hotel was just awarded 21 million dollars in a lawsuit because she refused to work on Sundays and was fired.  Marie Jean Pierre from Haiti had been working at the hotel for 7 years with no problem until a new boss came in and insisted she work on Sundays.

Her reason for not working Sundays was "On Sundays I honor God."  The profundity of this message lies in its simplicity.   In a remarkable act of courage and faith Marie knew she was risking her job but skipped her assigned Sunday shifts anyway.

As a rabbi, throughout my career I've reflected on what it means to "not work" on Shabbat.  In Judaism we define prohibited work in a very narrow way.  The only things that are prohibited are 39 categories of work that were used to build the mishkan, or tabernacle.  Certainly no rabbinic position I've held has required me to violate any of those prohibited categories.  None the less, there is an overall Jewish cultural approach to Shabbat that it is a "day of rest," when we are ideally supposed to stop doing the work that we do during the week to make money.  For rabbis, the work we do on Shabbat is often very similar to the work we do during the week-it includes teaching Torah, leading worship, and building chevra (fellowship).  This grueling schedule is part of why I'm no longer working in a congregation.  I simply didn't have the energy for it, despite the weekday "day off" that most rabbis take, usually on a Monday.

I'm currently looking for work closer to home in Boca Raton.  I have a great position in Miami but the commute is killing me.  I figure that maybe if I can even find a few part time positions I might be able to make do.

Recently I emailed some local Jewish funeral homes to let them know that I am available to officiate at funerals of unaffiliated Jews.  One of the funeral homes called me and asked me to come in to meet me.  After asking me a series of questions about what type of funerals I am comfortable with (i.e. will you only do a funeral if there is a plain pine casket and so on), the funeral director asked if I would answer my phone on Shabbat.  My answer was an immediate "no."  Unless there is a true medical emergency or life threatening situation, I don't violate Shabbat for work.  When I left, I wondered how much potential work I had just given up.  But it doesn't really matter.  On Shabbat, I honor God.

Here are some of the actual items I have in my home that I use to honor Shabbat and God and I fully recommend them. The Spode Judaica, Michal Ben Yosef Challah Knife, and Yair Emanuel Challah Cover I chose because I loved them. The Rosenthal Baby Girl Tzedakah Box was a gift when one of my daughters was born. The Yair Emanuel Kiddush Cup was a gift to one of my daughers at her bat mitzvah. The Rosenthal Candlesticks are the exact ones we have but the colored glass inserts were "made" by one of my daughters as part of a bnai mitzvah program she had in school. It is a kit you can purchase for schools and the students pick out the colored glass pieces they want and then arrange them on pieces of paper the size and shape of the glass inserts, and then everything is shipped to Rosenthal, and then they send it back to you as the created item. The Shabbat blech is the one we have at home and it works well for us. The votive holders on the glass tray I use with tea lights. I invert the votives upside down and then place the tea lights resting on the bottoms of them and then all the lights are at different levels. This allows me to have enough lights for guests, my daughters, and myself. It's also less messy than putting the tea lights into the votives which makes them difficult to light and also always seems to make the wax splash around. The Nehalel Siddur has beautiful color photographs in it. One of my daughters got it for a bat mitzvah gift and I purchased the soft cover pocket version for myself.

If you purchase any of these items from clicking on the links I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. These are actual items in my own home that I enjoy and hope you might enjoy them too. This is one of the ways I'm trying to do that "part-time work" mentioned above. : )


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