Sabbath breaking is failure to observe the Biblical Sabbath, and is usually considered a sin and a breach of a holy day in relation to Jewish Shabbat, first-day Sabbath in Christianity, and Sabbath in seventh-day churches.
According to Mosaic Law, to break Shabbat is a capital offense (Exodus 31:15). All work was prohibited during Shabbat, even minor tasks, such as "gathering sticks" (Numbers 15:32-36). Since the decline of classical semicha (rabbinic ordination) in the 4th century C.E., the traditional Jewish view is that Jewish courts have lost the power to rule on criminal cases. As such, it would be practically impossible for Orthodox courts to enforce the death penalty in modern times, even if they had the political standing to do so. Talmudic protections for defendants make execution very difficult even by the Great Sanhedrin, e.g., requiring two competent witnesses to the Shabbat violation, and an official court warning prior to the violation. Some Reform and Conservative rabbis condemn capital punishment generally, partly based on this stringency.
There are 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat, derived in the tractate Shabbat (Talmud) from the construction of the Biblical tabernacle. Halakha (Jewish law) derives many further forbidden acts from these categories (toledoth and shevuth), with varying severity, that may not be performed except for preventing severe illness or death. Unwarranted violation of any of these precepts is termed chillul Shabbath (profanation of Shabbat). People who consistently violate Shabbat today are generally not considered reliable in certain matters of Jewish law.
According to Christianity there are two main forms of Sabbath breaking: doing something unnecessary on Sabbath (e.g., manual labor), and failing to use Sabbath for its intended purposes (e.g., not attending church services). (see Day of Obligation) Christianity allows for works of piety, mercy, and necessity on Sabbath in times of need (Gospel of Mark 2:23-27).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very strict about not patronizing stores (since this requires others to work) and try to avoid working on Sunday other than at church.
The law in North Dakota at one time stated: "The fine for Sabbath-breaking is not less than one dollar or more than ten dollars for each offence." Other laws have been passed against Sabbath breaking, e.g., by the Puritans.
- Lord's Day Observance Society
- Sabbath in Christianity
- Sabbath in seventh-day churches
- Biblical law in Christianity
- Mark 2#Plucking grain on Sabbath