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Weekly Shabbos Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


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



Questions for the Week of Parshas Matos/Masei

Gentiles and Shabbos

Why is it forbidden to instruct a gentile to perform a melacha for me on Shabbos and Yom Tov?

The following is a synopsis of various opinions although, not all the opinions are halacha. The point of the exercise is to familiarize ourselves with the diverse opinions at hand.

Smag [1] - The Smag [2] cites the Mechilta that says (Shmos 12:16), where is pronounced yeaseh, which means melacha shall not be performed, implying that melacha may not be performed even by others. Indeed the Mechilta explicates this possuk saying you shall not, your friend shall not and a gentile shall not perform your melacha.

The Smag [3] initially understands that the Mechilta teaches that it is ossur midoraisso to allow a gentile to perform your melacha on Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, if the gentile was handed the melacha before Shabbos to do in his own home it is permitted.

The Smag concludes that possibly the drasha from the possuk is only an asmachta (a drabanan that bases itself on a possuk), because if it were a doraisso, how could Chazal permit the gentile to perform my melacha in his home.

Rashi on this possuk cites the Mechilta verbatim, implying that it is a doraisso, but the Ramban and the Daas Zkeinim learn that it is only an asmachta. [4]

Rambam The Rambam writes [5] one may not instruct a gentile to perform a melacha for us, even though a gentile does not have to keep Shabbos and even when one instructed the gentile before Shabbos and even when one does not need the product until after Shabbos. This prohibition is of rabbinical origin so that Shabbos will not be unimportant in peoples eyes, which will cause people to personally do melachos.

We see that instructing a gentile to perform melacha is ossur midrabanan.

Rashi Rashi [6] says that the reason one may not instruct a gentile to perform an issur is because of , one may not speak weekday matters. When instructing a gentile to perform an issur, for example, switch on the lights one is communicating about a forbidden act. [7]

Rashi Rashi [8] presents another very interesting reason. He says that the gentile is the Jews shaliach, [9] so when the gentile performs a melacha on the Jews behalf, it is as if the Jew performs the melacha.

[There is a famous halachic statement that " (a gentile cannot be a shaliach) so how can Rashi write that there is? The Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes [10] that lchumra we say ].

According to this reason, it is ossur to allow a gentile to perform melacha on your behalf even when not directed by a Jew and in certain cases the Jew must prevent the gentile from doing the melacha and protest.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav adds that instructing a gentile to perform melacha after Shabbos does not involve shlichus, it involves (speaking that which is not permitted on Shabbos).

The Avnei Nezer writes [11] the following

  • Instructing a gentile on Shabbos to perform a melacha after Shabbos, is a problem of negative speech ( ) but not a problem of shlichus.
  • Instructing a gentile prior to Shabbos to perform a melacha on Shabbos is not a problem of negative speech, because it is not said on Shabbos, but is a problem of shlichus, because when the gentile performs the melacha on Shabbos he is doing it on your behalf.
  • Instructing on Shabbos to do the melacha on Shabbos involves both problems.

What about benefiting from a gentiles melacha when the Jew was not aware that the gentile was doing something for the Jew?

Another aspect is benefiting from melacha done for a Jew. Even when a gentile performed a melacha for a Jew without the Jews knowledge, the Jew may not benefit from that melacha when the benefit derived is direct. [12]

  • A gentile turned on a light for a Jew, the Jew may not do anything in that room that he could not do before. It is impossible to read in a dark room and thus one may not read in the room after the gentile turned on the light.
  • A gentile sees a Jew making his way slowly and with difficulty down a dark staircase and subsequently turns on the light. It would appear that the Jew may not hurry down the stairs, because he is taking advantage of the light.
  • If a gentile heats a plate of soup for a Jew, the Jew may not drink it hot, [13] because it cannot be drunk cold. If the gentile heated schnitzel for the Jew, since it is eaten cold it may be eaten hot.

What if one is sitting wrapped in a coat in a cold room and a gentile turns on the heating (bissur), may one remove the coat?

I think yes, because it is something he could have done without the heating. It seems to be an indirect benefit not a direct one, unlike light in a room, which is more direct.

[1] Sefer Mitzvos Gadol, R Moshe ben Yakov of Couchy, talmid of R Yehuda haChassid.

[2] ' "

[3] Cited in the Beis Yosef end of simon 244.

[4] The Shaar Hatsiun simon 243:7 says that many poskim learn that it is only a drabanan, including the Ramban who learns that the Mechilta is the wrong version and the correct version can be found in the Yalkut. The Vilna Gaon also agrees.

[5] Zmanim Shabbos 6:1.

[6] Avodah Zara 15a " .

[7] See Shulchan Aruch HaRav simon 306:5 and kuntres acharon simon 263:8.

[8] Shabbos 153a " ".

[9] The direct translation is messenger, but it is not accurate because a shaliach in halacha has the powers of his dispatcher and does not merely act on his behalf.

[10] Kuntres Acharon simon 263:8.

[11] " ' " " .

[12] See SSK 30:3 and onwards.

[13] MB simon 253:96.


Vort on the Parsha

With regards to Gad and Reuven choosing to stay in Ever HaYarden, the possuk in Devarim says , B'nei Gad wanted to stay in the area where Moshe Rabeinu, their beloved leader and Rebbe, is buried. [1]

They could not approach Moshe and say we want to stay in the vicinity of your grave, so they blamed it on the fact that they had much cattle that required large breeding grounds.


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