A new corporate directive is making it impossible for Sabbath-observant Jews to sell on Amazon Prime and even making it difficult to buy on the subscription service. The company is insisting on maintaining this anti-Sabbath condition even though it is preventing the Final Redemption.
Amazon Prime: Anti-Sabbath
Amazon announced in August 2020 that as of February 1, businesses that deliver from non-Amazon warehouses through Amazon Prime in their Seller Fulfilled Prime program must agree to fulfill orders six days a week. Amazon Prime is a subscription service that includes free two-day delivery. The new guidelines allow members to specify that they want their purchase to be shipped immediately, even if they order on Saturday. The sellers may choose Saturday or Sunday delivery to fulfill their six-day-a-week commitment, but shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS offer limited or no pickup on Sundays, and any carriers that do offer Sunday pickups do not typically ship until Monday. This leaves the sellers with no alternative that would allow them to fulfill the six-day requirement.
This presents an insurmountable obstacle for Orthodox Jews who do not do business from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Though this may sound like an esoteric issue with a tiny real-world impact, third-party sellers make up 58% of all sales on the site and Orthodox Jews make up a disproportionate amount of these third-party sellers. A 2019 report in BuzzFeed stated that 7% of all Amazon third-party sales originate from a single zip code in Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish–owned businesses make up 15% of marketplace sellers.
StandWithUs, a non-profit Israel and anti-Semitism educational organization, sent a letter to Amazon asking it to allow Sabbath-observant sellers to toggle off their “Prime” badge before the Sabbath and toggle it back on after. This option is already preemptively utilized by Amazon Prime sellers who are unable to fulfill their shipping obligations due to inclement weather. Amazon warned that using this toggle technique on a weekly basis would trigger suspension from the Seller Fulfilled Prime program.
This is also an issue for Jewish holidays, most of which last for at least 48-hours. Amazon considers Sundays and Christian holidays as non-business days but most Jewish holidays, even major holidays, are not federal holidays and therefore do not fall into this category.
Amazon says it’s standing by the changes to the program and insists businesses were given ample time to adjust to them.
“As we move toward One Day Delivery, we have made changes to Seller Fulfilled Prime to provide customers with fast, consistent delivery, regardless of the fulfillment method,” a spokesman said. “We informed sellers of this change in August 2020 to provide them with more than five months to determine if and how they should adjust their business. We also set up a dedicated support team to guide them through these adjustments and help them succeed.”
The hyper-fast shipping expectations are difficult even for those without Biblical constraints. In a CNBC report, Amazon admitted that before COVID-19, fewer than 16% of SFP orders in the US met the Prime Two-Day delivery promise customers expect, in large part because many sellers do not operate on weekends. The SFP program lucrative and in demand. It is only open to qualified sellers who must join a waitlist in order to be considered for enrollment.
It should be noted that in addition to performing prohibited labor on the Sabbath, it is also forbidden for Orthodox Jews to tell a non-Jew to perform said labor on the Sabbath. Though the halacha (Torah law) is complicated, Orthodox Jews who subscribe to Amazon Prime cannot request a delivery be initiated or carried out during the Sabbath.
Sabbath Observance and the Final Redemption
According to Jewish tradition, Sabbath observance is directly linked to bringing the Final Redemption. It is written in the Talmud (Shabbat 118b): Rav Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yochai: If Israel were to keep two Shabbatot according to the laws [of Shabbat], they would be redeemed immediately.
The Sanhedrin has been advocating the expansion of Sabbath observance with the goal of hastening the redemption. Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, head of the Sanhedrin’s Noahide Court and of the Dvar Yerushalayim Yeshiva, put out a call for the nations to keep the Sabbath and for the Jews to help them in this mission. He noted that this was described by the Prophet Isaiah as a precursor to the Messiah:
As for the foreigners Who attach themselves to Hashem, To minister to Him, And to love the name of Hashem, To be His servants— All who keep the Shabbat and do not profane it, And who hold fast to My covenant— I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My mizbayach; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:6-7