“Should shops open on Shabbat?“, I was asked.
No. Not only because I’m orthodox; so the plain reason is we are commanded to keep Shabbat, but also it is not fair to the “mamma and pappa” stores. When the larger markets stay open on Shabbat (by paying higher wages, bringing in more workers) the poor little stores can’t compete. Everyone needs a day off; regardless or not whether you are religious or not.
Yet let me tell you about keeping Shabbat.
I have a story that happened to my great-grandmother-in-law (did you get the connection?) She was not particularly religious, yet no one was NOT religious in those days either. She had left Russia to go to America because she had joined a few too many socialist meetings and left before she would never be able to again. Like most Jews of those days; she arrived in New York and joined the garment industry. After a little while, her brother came also and moved in with her. Now he wasn’t so religious either, but there were some things you just didn’t do.
“How can you work on Shabbes?” he yelled at her after he found out she was working at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. They not only worked on Shabbat, but they were owned by Jews and paid their workers on Shabbat. They also had a few other mean practices; locking doors and windows, doors only opened from the outside towards in and they didn’t really worry too much about safety, actually like most of the factories then.
My husband’s great grandmother regretted taking the job and left. That Shabbat, March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. (It was also the impetus to the changing of building codes and labor laws).
See we don’t keep Shabbat; Shabbat keeps us.