shabbos candles

The Shabbos Weekly
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Based on the Shiurim Given by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

developed from the Chabura of the
Pirchei Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Project

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita


Questions for the Week of Parshas Terumah

Is one permitted, before Shabbos, to instruct a gentile to perform a melacha on Shabbos?

Two issues are usually present when dealing with a gentile on Shabbos. One issue is the manner of speech, which involves the issur of 'v'davar davar'. For example, instructing a gentile to do a melacha involves prohibited speech because one is saying do a melacha. The other is the directive to do a melacha on Shabbos, regardless of how it is said.

The Avnei Nezer [1] says that the first issue only applies on Shabbos itself, because speaking about doing a melacha is only ossur on Shabbos itself.

As for the second issue we must first appreciate the essence of the issur in instructing a gentile to perform a prohibited act.

We find several opinions amongst the Rishonim that define this prohibition:

  • Smag [2] the possuk says (Shemos 12:16) 'kol melacha lo ya'aseh bahem', and we learn from the possuk that one may not have ones melacha performed by a gentile. The Bais Yosef in simon 244 expresses uncertainties as to whether the prohibition is biblical or rabbinical.
  • The Rambam (Zmanim 6:1) says that Chazal forbid instructing a gentile in order to prevent one from losing the seriousness of Shabbos which in turn might lead to the performance of the melacha. In other words, instructing a gentile to perform an issur could lead one to carry out the issur.
  • Rashi in Shabbos 153a says that the gentile becomes ones 'sheliach' (similar to an emissary) and it is as if the Jew himself is performing the melacha.

The Avnei Nezer continues that the second issue applies to instructing the gentile before Shabbos as well, because the concern is the time the melacha is done and not when he was instructed to do it.

Therefore, one may not instruct a gentile before Shabbos to perform a melacha on Shabbos. [3]

Any examples?

One may not instruct a gentile to deliver the post on Shabbos. This is true even when one hands him a letter on Sunday and instructs him to deliver it on Shabbos. [4] Even if one pays him to deliver the letter, it is ossur to express that one wants it delivered on Shabbos.

One may not instruct a gentile before Shabbos to turn on the lights at a certain time and turn them off at a certain time. (We still have to learn the halachos regarding a case when the gentile turns them on and off on his own accord).

What if I only hint?

Pertaining the two issues mentioned before, i.e. the speech and the instructing, since one is only hinting they do not apply. For example, the Mechaber says [5] that one may say to a gentile after Shabbos why did you not do such-and-such on Shabbos?. The gentile will hopefully understand that you want a certain action performed the next Shabbos. This type of hinting is also a form of 'v'davar davar' because you are hinting that something should be done, which is a form of a direct hint and one may not use this type of a hint [6] on Shabbos itself Rama (simon 307:22). [7] In the case of the Mechaber one is hinting after Shabbos, which has the same effect as hinting before Shabbos.

It appears then that hinting is totally permitted before Shabbos.

It is far more problematic. Although the hinting in this manner takes care of the instructing issue it does not deal with the actual melacha the gentile is performing for the Jew on Shabbos. In certain cases one need not prevent the gentile from doing performing certain melachos and in other instances one must prevent and protest even though the gentile is doing it on his/her own accord.

To summarize the manner of speech:

To instruct directly is ossur on Shabbos and before or after Shabbos.

One may hint directly before or after Shabbos (without taking the action itself into account and whether it needs to be prevented) but not on Shabbos itself.

There are cases where hinting is permissible on Shabbos, and we will discuss it in future shiurim.

[1] " " ' " " ' -'.

[2] Sefer Mitzvos HaGadol, written by R Moshe Yakov of Couchy.

Born: France, early 1200s. Died: Spain, middle/late1200s.

Notes: Tosefist. Student of R Yehuda HaChassid. Author of Tosefos Yeshanim to Yoma. (Adapted from the bibliography written by R Shlomo Pereira).

[3] See the SSK 30 footnote 2.

[4] Simon 247:1.

[5] Simon 307:2.

[6] Indirect hints are muter on Shabbos itself, but only in certain cases, as we will see beH.

[7] According to the understanding of the MA in seif 22 and the Eshel Avraham, see the Shaar Hatsiun  307:10.

Food For Thought

When must the gentile be prevented from doing a melacha and when not?

When may I hint on Shabbos that a melacha may be done?

What if the gentile turns on the lights for me without my instructing to do so?

I want a gentile to buy something for me. May I hand him money knowing that it will be bought on Shabbos?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

Rav Sternbuch shlita points out that the Shulchan was 1 amos high and its width only 1 amah, whereas the Aron was 1 amos high and 1 amos wide. The Shulchan stands for sustenance and prosperity, and we can learn from its dimensions that one should be reserved and not exploit ones wealth to its fullest extent. On the other hand the Aron stands for Torah and spirituality, and here we learn that one must utilize ones spiritual talents to their utmost and try and grow as much as possible.

For a printed version, click here.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.