Is Post-Rapture Looting Permitted on Shabbos?

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May 20, 2011

Editor’s Note: We assume most Zeek readers know that, according to a Christian radio preacher, the rapture will come on May 21. This event inspired some Facebook users to create a post-rapture looting event to capitalize on the sudden disappearance of thousands of the faithful. At the present time, about a half a million people are attending. One yeshiva student, however, observed that since the Rapture is scheduled for Shabbat, post-rapture looting may present a halachic problem. As a service to our readers, we are reprinting her original Facebook post and most of the comments that followed.

Gella Solomon: To all who plan to attend the post rapture looting on the 21st, I must remind you that it will be Saturday and hence acquisition of property by Jews will be forbidden until sundown. In short NO LOOTING ON SHABBOS!

SK: Is it against shabbos if it’s for free?

GS: Yes.

SK: Guess I’ll have to get Sunday’s left-overs…

LC: i think it’s after shabbas, technically

GS: It says on the event 12pm

SK: Also, “Al Tignov” - we technically shouldn’t be looting anyway, but we’re gonna do it because “God isn’t looking” according to the event. If the commandment not to steal is being waived, can’t we also waive shabbos?

NA: How are we stealing? They aren’t coming back. It is ownerless.

JM: Mamish hefker.

GS: waived… and no, because it’s not stealing if the owners have been raptured, since there is certainly ye’ush on their part if they’ve been taken up, it is hefker. But I believe you cannot acquire hefker property on shabbat either. Besides which, most of the stuff you’d probably want to loot will be muktze.

ES: only 3% of the world’s population is going missing– and they are likely the poor and the meek–so I’m not sure the looting is even going to be worth it. : /

PS: Wouldn’t the existence of the rapture pretty much void the entire covenant?

GS: Shouldn’t the destruction of the Temple have voided the covenant by similar logic? We don’t give up that easily.

PS: The destruction of the temple didn’t establish a different and incompatible belief system’s deity as existent, though.

GS: It kinda did though, for the theological paradigm of the era. Fortunately, Judaism was innovative enough to adapt to the idea of a portable God that doesn’t go away when a people is defeated and driven from their land. It did call the people’s continued covenant with that God into question though…

PS: A good point regarding the massive paradigm shift needed there. But wait. Doesn’t the period of adaptation amount to a renegotiating of the covenant? In which case, while things are up in the air… Free stuff!

RW: can’t I pick things up if there’s an eruv?

AG: I believe that you can borrow them for the duration of Shabbat (assuming eruv, no muktze, and the stuff is hefker) and then acquire them afterwards. But I could be wrong about that.

IH: Can I sell my looting rights to a non Jew and then buy it back after shabbos? (j/k)

Gella Solomon: @PS: a good question, with potentially deep ramifications for how we relate to the place of human agency in the covenantal relationship with God and the idea of chosenness. Meanwhile, you’re not Jewish so you can do whatever the hell you…

LG: while it doesn’t address the issue of mukze, an eruv might be useful with “acquiring”

GS: because it is a hefker object in a private domain?

JR: Technically, it’s not hitting until 6 PM in your local tme zone. Yup, the ones who believe this are actually saying that this will hit New Zealand first at 6 PM locally there, and make its way across the globe hitting every time zone every hour. So, my point is, if you can’t loot on Shabbos, just wait a couple of hours.

IA: What if we just put the looted goods aside, and then make a formal declaration of acquisition after sunset?

JG: Items left out where they might pose a danger to the public (say, a motorcycle whose rider was assumed into Heaven mid-ride) may be moved out of the way.

GN: I think the Rapture is at 9 PM EDT, so it’s not Shabbos anymore, at least not on the east coast at New York’s latitude. That’s a lot of conditions.

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