I used to live in a neighborhood that had a fairly large Jewish population, so on Saturdays there was usually a large number of them out walking around. One Saturday, I was out walking my dog listening to podcasts through my phone and I realized that if I was part of that community I could not do it as using electronics on that day would not be allowed. It got me thinking about what the purpose of the sabbath really is.
I had always understood the sabbath to be a day of rest, one day of the week where you are not supposed to work. That makes a lot of sense to me, everyone should get at least one day off a week, otherwise you burn yourself out and go a little crazy. Having it as a rule seems like a good idea. Also, having a specific day off rather than just having one day off a week is good as it will let people spend their day off together. It also seems like a good "for your own good" rule for the workaholics among us. So the general idea of it I like.
But then problems come in when it is taken to the extreme. As I said up top, I was simply listening to a show on my phone, and this would not have been allowed. This seems totally crazy to me, it is something I do to relax, it is something I enjoy doing, there is no way in which I would call it work. And yet, it would not be allowed on the day of rest. It seems to me that there has been a disconnect between the intention of the rule and the execution of it.
Another thought occurred to me, on the sabbath you are not supposed to drive your car or use your phone, what happens if there is some kind of emergency? Say your kid falls down the stairs or otherwise hurts himself? You can't use your phone to call an ambulance or your car to drive him to the hospital yourself. What are you supposed to do? I assume most people will just say 'fuck it' and do one of those things anyway, but according to Jewish law what are they supposed to do?