shabbes = sabbath

goy = non-Jew

In some strictly observant Jewish communities, it is customary to employ a Gentile to perform tasks that Jewish people are forbidden to undertake on the sabbath or other holidays. These tasks might involves turning lights (and other electric gadgets) on or off, carrying objects beyond a specified distance, handling money, or making emergency repairs.

This may seem as if observant Jews are paying Gentiles to commit what they view as sins, but this is not exactly the case. Many Jews consider themselves bound to obey the hundreds of commandments that comprise the Mosaic covenant but consider that Gentiles do not have this obligation. The latter are thought to be bound to the more lenient Noachide covenant. Therefore, an observant Jew may lawfully employ a Gentile to perform any task allowed under the Noachide covenant.

According to urban legend, Elvis Presley was employed as a shabbes goy in his youth.

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