Shabbos goy

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A Shabbos goy, Shabbat goy or Shabbes goy (Yiddish: שבת גוי‎, shabbos goy; Hebrew: גוי של שבת‎, goy shel shabat) is a non-Jew who performs certain types of work (melakha) which Jewish religious law (halakha) prohibits the Jew from doing on the Sabbath. The phrase is a combination of the word "Shabbos" (שבת) meaning the Sabbath, and goy, which literally means "a nation" but colloquially means a "non-Jew" (in Biblical Hebrew "goy" means simply "a nation", but in Mishnaic Hebrew it is used in the sense of "a non-national", i.e., "a non-Jew").

Judaism prohibits Jews from doing certain types of work, known as melakha, on the Sabbath. Within certain guidelines (see Shulkhan Arukh), a non-Jew may perform certain acts which are beneficial to Jews but which may not be performed by Jews on the Sabbath. There are numerous restrictions[1] and certain types of work are prohibited, such as contractor work.[2]

A "shabbat goy" is not needed where life is at stake (pikuach nefesh). Jewish physicians must work on the Sabbath if their work is needed to save lives.


In the 20th century, Colin Powell, Mario Cuomo, Martin Scorsese, Floyd B. Olson, Harry S. Truman, and the adolescent Elvis Presley assisted their Jewish neighbors in this way.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]


  1. ^ "The Myth of the Shabbos Goy", [1]
  2. ^ "May One Allow a Non-Jewish Contractor to Build on Shabbat?" [2]
  3. ^ "Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell and Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York State, each a former Shabbos goy, both share fond recollections of their youth, when they were uniquely qualified to lend a Jewish neighbor a hand." Fertig, Avi. "Glatt Kosher Adventure To The Land Down Under", The Jewish Press, November 21, 2007.
  4. ^ "...[R]eaders follow General Powell all the way back from Gulf War strategist to South Bronx Shabbos goy, the lad who earned a quarter on Friday nights turning on and off the synagogue lights for Orthodox Jews." Clines, Francis X. "The Co-Author of Gen. Powell's Book Is Given a Part as the Story Goes On", The New York Times, October 1, 1995.
  5. ^ Chan, Sewell, "White Ethnic Politics: Irish and Italian Catholics and Jews, Oh, My!", The New York Times, October 25, 2007
  6. ^ Devine, Michael J. (2009). Harry S. Truman, the State of Israel, and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East. Truman State Univ Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-935503-80-4.
  7. ^ Schultz, Joseph P. (1982). Mid-America's Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry. Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City. p. 33.
  8. ^ "San Francisco Jewish Bulletin, Volume 129". Jewish Community Publications. 1979. p. v.
  9. ^ Sources give two different people for whom Elvis was a Shabbos goy. In Tugging at Jewish Weeds: An Interview with Steve Stern[permanent dead link] it was the Dubrovner family; to Alfred J. Kolatch, in his Inside Judaism: The Concepts, Customs, and Celebrations of the Jewish People (Pub. Jonathan David, 2006), p. 480, citing a secondary source, it is Rabbi Alfred Fruchter who is helped.