I am a performer, and sometimes i have a show on Shabbat. What do I do if i want to celebrate Shabbat, but I already have a prior commitment? What about when I feel really bad about not following the Jewish Law?
At first glance, it depends upon one's commitment to Shabbat.
From an Orthodox perspective, all Jewish souls are already bound by an oath at Mt. Sinai to keep the Shabbat. The only exemptions that come to mind would be in cases of life and death - EG Medical or Military Emergencies.
An Orthodox role model may be found in the great singer and cantor -Dudu Ficher
Dudu Fisher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
«He played the role on New York's Broadway during the winter of 1993-1994, and later at London's West End, where he was invited to perform before Queen Elizabeth II. At both venues, Fisher was the first performer excused from Friday night and Saturday performances, as he is an Orthodox Jew and was not able to perform because of the Sabbath.»
In the ideal situation, commitment to Shabbat trumps commitment to perform.
I'm not clear as to the nature of the performance. Possibly some loopholes exist that would allow one to perform without violating the core 39 Labors prohibited on Shabbat. And so, a consultation with a highly qualified rabbi might find just a "loophole".
That said, I would not recommend that path for any committed Jew. Even if technically feasible, it would
violate many Shabbat principles, etc. that go beyond the core prohibitions.
Shalom and Best Regards,
Don’t Make Assumptions, rather
find the courage to ask questions and communicate with others as clearly as you can, in order to avoid misunderstandings. This can completely transform your life.
Different types of performance art might affect Shabbat observance in varying ways. Rather than deal with the specifics of performance and Shabbat observance, it may be more helpful to think of your Shabbat observance as aspirational. At the moment, do what you can to add holiness to the day and avoid what might detract from kedushah, the sanctity of the seventh day.
If you want a more halakhically defined Shabbat, you will gradually look for ways to bring your behavior closer to your desired spiritual practice. Rather than fret over performing, try to bring other areas of your life into greater attunement with what Michael Fishbane felicitously described as the “gestures of the generations”.
Another important aspect of growing toward Shabbat awareness and holiness is to avoid activity that involves commerce – whether earning or spending. Try not to purchase material for your performance on Shabbat; avoid financial transactions as much as possible. Make an effort to travel to your gig before Shabbat; arrange to get there by using a pre-arranged taxi or a monthly pass for public transportation. Join the Reboot initiative to power down on Shabbat.http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/unplug/
In a similar way, I encourage people who will arrive home after Shabbat begins to prepare their candles for Shabbat in advance, but not to light them if Shabbat already has begun. Allow the candles to remain as a reminder of where you want to be, a challenge to grow in along a spiritual vector.
A story is told that a young man about to enter the Russian army came to ask the great Rabbi Yisrael Meyer Kagan what to do about food. If he ate, he would violate the rules of kashrut. If he didn’t eat, he would become weak and endanger his health. The Hafetz Hayyim is supposed to have said, “Eat, but don’t finish the food on your plate.”
Do your best to minimize your non-Shabbat-like activities and try to cultivate more of your Shabbat aspirations. And remember to ask God for help to get where you want to be.
You ask a great question. I appreciate your struggle to honor your art/performance opportunities, while at the same time honoring your desire to celebrate Shabbat. In truth, I cannot give you a black and white answer as my more traditional colleagues might. Many of them understand Shabbat observance as a non-negotiable day of cessation from work. But as a proud Jew raised in the Reform Movement, I have a different understanding of Jewish obligations than what traditional Judaism may teach.
One of the hallmarks of Reform Judaism is our emphasis on personal autonomy. So long as we make informed and authentic choices, we may disagree with tradition - and that is okay. It is our prerogative in the modern era. I see tradition as a dialogue - an organic and living conversation from generation to generation and from Jew to Jew. We come from the same roots, but we all branch out in different ways. I submit that you should feel no guilt or remorse in honoring your sacred gift as a performer.
So yes, I feel it is okay to perform on Shabbat - even in the face of a tradition that would say otherwise. There are plenty of Jews in the world of the arts who have made similar decisions, and they still remained committed and passionate about their Judaism. I love the fact that when I visit Israel, I see wonderful musical and artistic offerings available on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. There are plenty of Israelis who are completely comfortable honoring Shabbat and honoring their art at the same time. It seems we in the States (if you are in the States?) have a more pronounced struggle.
Yet, you still want to honor Shabbat, and that is wonderful. I would suggest that when you are not performing, you might attend Shabbat services whenever possible - energizing your soul with a worship community. And when you are called to share a performance on Shabbat, you share your talents as proudly as you can - with no regret. We live in an imperfect world, and we do ourselves a disservice when we try and live our lives as though our world was easy and perfect. Embrace the occasional disconnect, and know that you can still bring honor to God through your art.
I wish you well in your struggle. I recognize that the answer will never be easy, or black and white, or even consistent. You want to honor Shabbat, and yet you are also called to honor your art. Perhaps you can set aside any money from performances on Shabbat for additional tzedakah offerings. Or you can offer a private blessing before your performance. Or you can incorporate spiritual themes into your performance to satisfy and calm your soul. There are many ways to make the best of the situation without relying on a traditional model - or being made to feel guilty about performing on Shabbat.
I wish you the best of luck and peace of mind in whatever decision you make.