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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 Ki Sisa


In the previous shiur we introduced the concept of requesting a gentile to violate the Shabbos for the sake of a mitzvah, but we did not state the relevant halacha.

            What is the halacha?

            The Mechaber writes that one may request a gentile to violate an issur drabanan for Milah but not issurei doraisso. [1]

The Mishna Berura writes [2] that it is preferred that a gentile carry the knife through a rabbinical domain to where the baby is, than to take the baby through the rabbinical domain (where there is no eiruv), because one will have to return the baby to his house thereby violating the Shabbos twice, whereas the knife can remain where it is until after Shabbos.

The Rama however writes see above in simon 307. In simon 307:5 the Rama writes that there are opinions who hold that one may request a gentile to violate an issur doraisso for the sake of a mitzvah. That opinion belongs to the Baal HaItur and it is compatible with the Baal Halachos we mentioned.

The Mishna Berura writes [3] that many poskim Achronim [4] argue with the Rama and do not permit one to request a gentile to violate an issur doraisso for the sake of a mitzvah. He continues saying that when there is no other option, [5] one has what to rely on to request a gentile to violate an issur doraisso for the sake of a Milah especially if it only involves carrying the knife in the street, if the street is not a reshus harabim doraisso. Bezras Hashem we will learn what the definition of a reshus harabim is.


            (The purpose of these shiurim is not to pasken, as these issues are complicated and when the occasion arises a competent rav must be consulted with. It is our purpose to merely present the various issues involved).

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

            With regards to other mitzvos we find a dispute amongst the Rishonim.

The Rambam [6] 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 [7] 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 [8] 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 halacha is according to the first opinion, which in this case is to be lenient.

Moreover the Shulchan Aruch in Hilchos Rosh Hashana [9] 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 carmelis 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. [10] The Rama [11] however cites an opinion who permits it, but we mentioned that the Mishna Berura [12] 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 [13] 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] We are obviously not referring to cases where the babys life is endangered and he needs being taken to hospital. We are referring to the preparation stage such as fetching the knife, sharpening it, turning on the lights etc.

[2] Simon 331:20.

[3] Simon 331:22.

[4] See the MB simon 276:24.

[5] The Biur Halacha writes in the name of the Ksav Sofer that when a knife needs to be sharpened, if one can locate another knife one may not sharpen it, even if the 2nd mohel refuses to lend his knife to the 1st mohel.

[6] Rambam Shabbos 6:9-10.

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

[8] Simon 307:5.

[9] Simon 586:21.

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

[11] Simon 276:2.

[12] 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.

[13] Simon 276:14.


Orchos Chaim LaRosh 

            you should not perform His mitzvos to receive reward.

            The seforim (Nesivos Shalom and others) writes that our purpose in this world is to get close to Hashem, which includes emulating His ways of chessed, rachamim and everything else pertaining to our lives. Performing mitzvos to attain perfection, to give Hashem nachas, to emulate Him are all considered and are of a higher level than to receive reward. Nevertheless one must also do , as it says , because on a cloudy it is the that could keep us going.

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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.