International Shabbat Law, An Unlikely Catalyst for Sunday Law to Combat Consumerism and Climate Change

An article was recently published in which the author makes the case for observing the Shabbat by law. The same arguments used by Pope Francis to advocate Sunday rest by law are used by the author in this piece written by Einat Kramer, who “is the founder and director of Teva Ivri, an organisation dedicated to the interplay of Judaism and the environment. She has written a paper on Jewish-Israeli approaches to sustainable economy for the Rio +20 Summit.”1


Einat Kramer: “Shabbat’s new role in a consumer era.”2


Pope Francis states Sunday Eucharist must be enforced to combat consumerism “Laudato Si' is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. The encyclical has the subtitle ‘on care for our common home.’ In it, the pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take ‘swift and unified global action.’”3


Einat Kramer: “ONE OF MY STRANGEST experiences when I was active in a student environmental organisation (Green Course) was our raid on shopping malls in Beer Sheva during a Buy Nothing Day (BND), an international day of protest against consumerism. As we were going up and down the escalators urging passers-by to abandon the consumption culture and devote themselves to what really matters, I couldn’t stop thinking that there already was a ‘Buy Nothing Day’ that occurred every week. On this day, I consciously leave the world of “doing”, refrain from consuming and dedicate myself to family, community and spirituality. This day has an impact on my life far greater than a once-a-year, self-righteous BND.4 

International Shabbat Law to Combat Consumerism & Climate. Not 10, 20, or 30 Year Old Experience, But Daily Experience


Einat Kramer: Years later, a similar thought crossed my mind when a famous advertiser that became environmentally concerned spoke to me about an idea he was promoting. It was to place stickers on cars that read: this car does not pollute the environment on day X, meaning that on that day the car was parked. Once again, I wondered how this innovative idea was not tied to the fact that there are indeed many cars that are not used for 25 hours in the course of a week. Sadly, in today’s Israel, the concept of Shabbat is lost between religious people who resist applying the language of Shabbat into the current social activism discourse, and secular people who are afraid of any attempt to impose Jewish concepts in Israel’s public sphere.

Einat Kramer: However, we have in recent years heard new voices calling for the positioning of Shabbat as a foundational model for a progressive society. These initiatives are labelled “Israeli Shabbat”. Here are a few ideas that come out of this concept: A weekly day of rest is already an accepted notion around the world. But the Jewish (Israeli) Shabbat offers more than rest. Shabbat offers a day when people are also free from production and consumption and can focus on self-fulfilment in areas that are typically pushed aside in the race for materialistic achievements.


Pope Francis: “One of the main points to be heard is the cry ‘of thousands of their communities deprived of the Sunday Eucharist for long periods of time.’

‘The encyclical Laudato si’ (cf. 216 ff.) invites us to an ecological conversion that implies a new way of life. Our neighbor acquires a central position in our horizon. This involves practicing global solidarity and overcoming individualism, while opening up new paths to freedom, truth, and beauty. Conversion means freeing ourselves from the obsession with consumerism. Purchasing is a moral act, not a merely economic one. Ecological conversion means embracing the mystically-interconnected and interdependent nature of all…”5

Pope Francis: “#237.  Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world…It [Sunday] protects human action from becoming empty activism; it [Sunday] also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which make us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else. The law of weekly rest forbade work on the seventh day…[See Ex 23:12]. Rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centered on the Eucharist, sheds it light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.”6


United Nations: “From ‘Only One Earth,’ a United Nations Environment Programme publication for ‘Environmental Sabbath/Earth Rest Day.’”7


Climate CoLab: “Once A Week, Give Our Beautiful Planet A Day Of Rest. A Green Sabbath Day. Green Sabbath is a non-religious, non-political, and non-profit campaign which aims to raise awareness and to encourage people to help slow climate change, preserve precious natural resources and improve planet health by observing at least one carbon footprint-free day each week--on any day of the week. We call it symbolically, A Green Sabbath day. Hitting the climate change targets agreed in Paris is estimated to cost $16.5trn. But, there's hardly any costs to keeping Green Sabbath days to cut carbon emissions!!! It's a solution that will have a profound impact on climate change for little to no capital investment! Once A Week can result in over 15% annual emission reduction per country. Participation by only top carbon dioxide emitting countries will have the largest impact in climate change! The environmental impact of Green Sabbath campaign is more significant than can be imagined, even for just one day a week.”8

Einat Kramer: “Another central value in a democratic system that can be enhanced by Shabbat is freedom for the individual. In this regard, “freedom” is not liberation from restrictions and prohibitions but rather freedom for – an encouragement to create, to insert meaning to time and space. As a collective day of rest, Shabbat can become a domain of social justice, since by reducing consumption people will work less and regenerate. Moreover, the people who tend to work on days of rest tend to be from lower socio-economic strata. The design of an Israeli Shabbat will provide opportunities for free choice and quality leisure time, and by doing so strengthening individuals, families, communities and local economies.”9


Vatican: “Poland lawmakers voted last week to reclaim Sunday as a day of rest by phasing out Sunday shopping by 2020. In 2012, Pope said that in defending Sunday as a day of rest, one "defends human freedom.” ‘Sunday is the day of the Lord and of men and women, a day in which everyone must be able to be free, free for the family and free for God. In defending Sunday we defend human freedom!’ he said. The country’s Catholic bishops have praised the move, but say it doesn’t go far enough. ‘The bishops underscore the need to restore Sunday to society as a day of rest and time of building family ties as well as strengthening social relationships,'  he said, adding: ‘They point out also that Sunday rest cannot be a luxury for a chosen few but is an integral part of equal treatment for all employees. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make all Sundays free from work, just as is already the case in many European Union countries.’”10


Einat Kramer: “My dream is that Israel will have a public policy that will set boundaries and set distinct time frames enabling a true day of rest, free of labour, production and shopping; a day that the market economy does not rule; a day that is protected from economic activity and unfair competition."11


Could it be that the proposed International Shabbat law could become an unlikely catalyst for the implementation of the Sunday Law. For additional information, please see posted video.


  1. https://plus61j.net.au/climate/shabbats-new-role-in-a-consumer-era/

  2. Ibid

  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laudato_si%27

  4. https://plus61j.net.au/climate/shabbats-new-role-in-a-consumer-era/ 


  5. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/06/08/180608a.html

  6. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html 

  7. https://earthministry.org/the-united-nations-environmental-sabbath-service/

  8. https://www.climatecolab.org/contests/2016/shifting-behavior-for-a-changing-climate/c/proposal/1328902

  9. https://plus61j.net.au/climate/shabbats-new-role-in-a-consumer-era/ 

  10. https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/2017/november/poland-reclaims-day-of-rest-by-slowly-phasing-out-sunday-shopping

  11. https://plus61j.net.au/climate/shabbats-new-role-in-a-consumer-era/ 














































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