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 Emor

With respect to requesting a gentile to violate Shabbos, is there a difference between mitzvos and a Bris Milah?

In the previous shiur we learned that one may request a gentile to violate an issur drabanan [1] for the sake of a Bris Milah. [2] With regards to other mitzvos we find a dispute amongst the Rishonim.

The Rambam [3] writes that one may request a gentile to violate an issur drabanan for the sake of a mitzvah. The Maggid Mishne explains that the Rambams source is the above-mentioned halacha that says that one may request a gentile to violate an issur drabanan for the sake of a Bris Milah. The Rambam did not make a distinction between a Bris Milah and other mitzvos.

On the other hand the Tosefos [4] states that a Bris Milah is unique in the sense that one may request a gentile to violate an issur drabanan and this does not apply to other mitzvos. The reason for the unique heter (permitted action) is because the actual Bris Milah involves the violation of the Shabbos, albeit bheter, and therefore Chazal permitted requesting a gentile to violate the Shabbos, but other mitzvos do not share this status and hence it is prohibited.

What is the halacha?

First we will examine the Shulchan Aruch.

The Mechaber [5] cites both opinions. First the Mechaber cites the Rambam who permits it and then he cites the Tosefos who prohibits it. There is a known rule when learning the Shulchan Aruch which says that , which means that when the first opinion is mentioned anonymously, as if everyone agrees, and the second or following opinions are quoted as there are those that say or there is an opinion then the halacha is according to the first opinion, which in this case is to be lenient.

Moreover the Shulchan Aruch in Hilchos Rosh Hashana [6] does not cite the stringent opinion at all, which proves that he paskens according to the Rambam.

Can you provide a few examples?

If the sefer torah was forgotten in the gabais home, a gentile may be requested to bring the sefer torah to shul, provided that it can be brought to the shul via a karmelis and not via a reshus harabim. In other words, if the gentile can only carry it through a public domain, where carrying is a biblical prohibition, the gentile may not be requested to bring the sefer Torah. However if there is an alternative passage, which only involves an issur drabanan, it is permitted.

What about turning on the lights for the Shabbos meal?

Turning on the lights involves an issur doraisso and according to the Mechaber it is definitely prohibited. [7] The Rama [8] however cites an opinion who permits it, but we mentioned that the Mishna Berura [9] disagrees and holds that one may not request a gentile to violate an issur doraisso for the sake of a mitzvah.

Is the gentile permitted to turn on the lights in shul before davening? What about the air-conditioning?

The same halacha as above applies to turning on the lights before davening, as it involves an issur doraisso. However, till today some shuls have a gentile turn the lights on before davening and they rely on two issues. The first is the Rama who as mentioned states that for the sake of a mitzvah one may even request a gentile to violate an issur doraisso, and since this concerns many people certain poskim permit it. The second is when there is already some light in the room and the gentile is merely adding light. This latter heter carries much more weight than the first one, but is also not agreed by all, as the Magen Avraham says [10] that when one sees that a gentile is about to violate an issur for ones sake one must protest.

Do you have a solution that would comply with all opinions?

Nowadays it is possible to install a Shabbos clock to turn the lights on and off, which is far better than having a gentile do so. It is also a matter of chinuch education, as many people (children especially) do not know that a shul might have a special heter, as mentioned, and they might think that a gentile is always permitted to activate the lights.

[1] A rabbinical prohibition.

[2] Simon 331:6.

[3] Rambam Shabbos 6:9-10.

[4] Tosefos Gittin 8b " ", Bava Kama 80b " , and cited in the Smag.

[5] Simon 307:5.

[6] Simon 586:21.

[7] He only permitted it for an issur drabanan.

[8] Simon 276:2.

[9] Simon 276:24 in the name of the Shlah and the ". The Rama himself writes that one must not be lenient unless it is a dire necessity as many poskim oppose this opinion.

[10] Simon 276:14.

Food For Thought

It happened that a gentile mistakenly removed the cholent from the stove on Friday night and turned off the gas. When it was realized that the food was for the morrow, the fire was subsequently relit and the food returned. May it be eaten?

A gentile took a peek at the cholent and gave it a good stir to improve its cooking. May it be eaten? What if a Jew did that?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

HaRav Yakov Meir Yeshurun, one of the leading rabbis in prewar Warsaw, says that the Torah commands us to count the Omer until Shavuos in order to limit our working time, and is explained as follows.

In Pirkei Avos it is written that one should not say I will learn when I have time, lest you will not have time. Chazal knew that if one does not make time for learning one will not learn. It is not enough to learn after work if a specific time schedule is not set aside as work often stretches longer than expected and ones learning period disappears.

Rav Yakov Meir says that the time between Pesach and Shavuos is the time of the harvest and one must indeed harvest the fields in order to ensure a steady parnasah throughout the year. But one must count the time remaining for work until Shavuos. After that one receives the Torah and the learning period begins.

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.