Human Dignity

The most important value is human dignity. כבוד הבריות

Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Electricity and Shabbat — The dignity of people (כבוד הבריות):

Jewish law requires us to protect the precious quality known as dignity, which derives from the divine reflection evident in every human life. If we were to determine that a given activity was prohibited by rabbinic law, but was necessary to preserve human dignity, then an accommodation would be mandated. Let’s say someone can only read through a Kindle [or other device] that enlarges type, then you might say that their human dignity would supersede the general law regarding electronics on Shabbat.

Within the Orthodox community consideration for human dignity has led to lenient rulings regarding the use of hearing devices on Shabbat and also other assistive devices to allow people with disabilities to participate more fully in prayer, Torah study and communal life. This same concern justifies the use of microphones to amplify voice and also the use of electric‐powered wheelchairs, carts, lifts and elevators on Shabbat since these do not involve melakhah. Indeed, the same consideration for avoiding excessive strain on Shabbat may also justify the use of electricity, by use of an elevator rather than climbing stairs, for example.

Rabbi Daniel Nevins is an authority on Jewish Law who co-authored a responsum (legal opinion) that was passed by the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

 “Accessibility is being able to get in the building. Diversity is having a seat at the table. Inclusion is having a voice at the table. Belonging is having your voice heard at the table!”

Author Unknown

My take: Ancient laws should be respected for the time they were written, while contemporary wisdom should be embraced. People with health challenges of mind, body or spirit should always feel comfortable carrying or using a phone (or other electronic device) on Shabbat simply to alleviate feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. Same with keys, credit card, money or other items that are traditionally forbidden (muktzah מוקצה) on Shabbat. We must be flexible with Shabbat laws in the spirit of compassion and loving-kindness, which are mitzvot of the highest order. We have specific Hebrew scriptures and Jewish laws forbidding ableism, but some Shabbat laws are ableist. It’s time for Shabbat laws to catch up.


My apologies to anyone offended by this message. 

Soul Circle motto: Take away what resonates with you and release the rest to the universe with a blessing, knowing it was meant to help someone else. 😘

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