Question: I have volunteered to assist with an election campaign when I can, but most of the events are on Saturday. Is it OK to be a campaign volunteer on the Sabbath?
Answer: Besides the myriad laws of “work” on the Sabbath, there is an overarching objective that is referred to as the “spirit of the Sabbath.” Growing up, we were always taught, “Don’t do X, Y or Z… it’s not ‘Shabbos-dik’ (within the spirit of the day).” This was not simply the way our parents tried to stop us from ruining our suit pants by sliding into 3rd base in the backyard. Rather it was an attempt to train us to recognize that while, technically, we may be allowed to do certain “weekday” activities given certain prerequisites (i.e. playing ball within an Eruv), such activities preclude us from accessing the higher, more transcendent, spiritual plateau that the Sabbath allows us to reach. In Jewish law, this proscription is called “Uvda D’Chol“, or weekday activities, which are not allowed on the holy day of Shabbos.
As such, while one could find a way to technically get around the Sabbath “work” prohibitions and still volunteer for a political campaign, it is clearly Uvda D’Chol. Although you may not be doing forbidden “work”, you would not be celebrating the Sabbath—and wouldn’t that be defeating the whole point?
Rabbi Yosef Friedman