What Happens When We Do Something Wrong?

Since the Aseres Hadibros which include the laws of Shabbos are in Parshas Va’eschanan, we have an opportunity to discuss what happens when we do something wrong on Shabbos.

Question #1: Cholent caper

Shimon looks rather sheepish when he asks this shaylah on Shabbos morning: During the night, he tasted the cholent and decided it needed some extra spices. Without thinking, he added some pepper and garlic powder, which is clearly an act of desecrating Shabbos. Can the cholent be eaten, or is it prohibited to benefit from this melachah?

Question #2: Bad advice

“My main mutual fund has performed wonderfully over time and I am very satisfied with it. However, I recently read a transcript in which the fund manager, who is probably Jewish, referred to investment discussions with his staff on Friday night. I am concerned that I may be benefiting from chillul Shabbos that he performs in the course of researching venture possibilities for the fund. Must I pull my money out and look for another investment vehicle?”

Question #3: The unrepentant knitter

Yehudis seeks guidance for a real predicament: “I have a non-observant relative who loves to knit and is presently knitting a baby blanket for my soon-to-be. I am certain that she is doing some of this on Shabbos. If we do not use her blanket she will be very upset — and she will notice if we fail to use it. What may we do to avoid antagonizing her?”

Each of these actual shaylos involves the same halachic issue: May one benefit from work performed on Shabbos? Although we certainly discourage any type of desecration of Shabbos, the current question is whether something produced on Shabbos may be used afterwards. This question is discussed in the Gemara in several places, which cites a three-way dispute among tanna’im concerning food cooked by a Jew on Shabbos. Each of the three opinions focuses on a different issue. The question in practical halachah is whether or not we are concerned about these reasons and to what extent. Briefly put, these are the three issues:

I. Intrinsically prohibited

Some contend that food cooked in violation of Shabbos becomes a substance that we are prohibited to eat min hatorah. Those who rule this way maintain that food cooked on Shabbos is non-kosher.

II. The sinner goes to the penalty box!

Others maintain that Chazal penalized a person who intentionally desecrated Shabbos by banning that individual from benefiting from his misdeed. Although the food is still considered kosher, there are restrictions as to who may eat it and when.

III. Defer benefit!

A third opinion contends that , to avoid profiting from the sin performed, one cannot benefit from an item created through Shabbos desecration until after Shabbos.

Let me explain the differences among these three approaches.

I. Intrinsically prohibited

Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar contends that not only does the Torah forbid desecrating Shabbos, but it also bans benefiting from something created in defiance of Shabbos. For example, food cooked on Shabbos is forbidden and will never become permitted for use by anyone. If this food subsequently became mixed into otherwise kosher food, the same laws apply as any situation when non-kosher became mixed into kosher food.

However, Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar prohibits the food only when it was produced in intentional desecration of Shabbos. An item created through negligent violation of Shabbos (shogeig) is treated more leniently.

II. The sinner goes to the penalty box!

Rabbi Yehudah follows a more lenient approach, prohibiting the sinner from using items made on Shabbos as a penalty created by the Sages, but not because the food is intrinsically non-kosher min hatorah. Chazal created this penalty so that the perpetrator should not benefit from his misdeed. For this reason, Rabbi Yehudah prohibits the item permanently but only to the person who desecrated Shabbos. Several authorities rule that this prohibition applies also to the members of his household (Graz, 253:24; Kaf Hachayim 318:11). Furthermore, the equipment used to cook the food on Shabbos must be koshered before it may be used again, since it has absorbed taste that is forbidden to him (Magen Avraham 318:1, quoting Rashba) and his household (according to the Graz and Kaf Hachayim). Other people may use the item after Shabbos is over.

Negligent desecration

Thus far, we have discussed what happens when something was prepared in intentional defilement of Shabbos. However, what is the halachah if someone violated Shabbos Shabbos unintentionally (beshogeig)?

According to Rabbi Yehudah, one may eat the food after Shabbos is over. If the sin was performed unintentionally, no distinction is made between the person who violated Shabbos and anyone else — we do not penalize the perpetrator after Shabbos is over. But Rabbi Yehudah requires that we defer the benefit until after Shabbos.

III. Deferring use

The third opinion, Rabbi Meir, is more lenient. He agrees that no one may benefit from an item created through intentional desecration of Shabbos on Shabbos itself. However, once Shabbos is over, the item may be used. Furthermore, only something produced in intentional defiance of Shabbos may not be used. The results of shogeig,negligent, violation of Shabbos are permitted for use and even for consumption. Although violating Shabbos is a most severe desecration, the Torah did not ban benefiting from the crime. The Sages did not prohibit a product that results from a misdeed, but merely postponed using it until after Shabbos so as not to benefit from the sin, and this, only when the sin was performed intentionally.

To review, Rabbi Meir makes no distinction between the violator himself and others. He also contends that there is no prohibition at all against using an item negligently prepared on Shabbos. Thus, Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah are in dispute concerning two key points:

(1) Whether or not the results of negligent violation of Shabbos are permitted. Rabbi Meir permits their use immediately whereas Rabbi Yehudah prohibits their use until Shabbos is over.

(2) Whether or not food prepared in intentional desecration of Shabbos may be used after Shabbos by the desecrator. Rabbi Meir permits their use, whereas Rabbi Yehudah prohibits it.

How do we rule?

Most halachic authorities rule according to Rabbi Yehudah, although there are several who follow the more lenient opinion of Rabbi Meir (Gra, Orach Chayim 318). (Notably, the Rosh, in Bava Kamma 7:6, rules according to the stricter approach of Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar; however, in Chullin 1:18 he seems to conclude otherwise.)

What is the legal definition of “negligent”?

Before we rule on our opening cases, we need to know what defines whether an activity is considered shogeig (negligent) or whether it qualifies as meizid (intentional).

Negligent violation (shogeig) includes someone who forgot or was unaware that it is Shabbos, or forgot or was unaware that the activity being performed is forbidden on Shabbos. Someone who was told in error that the particular activity is permitted is also considered shogeig. Even if a competent scholar was asked and he erred and permitted something forbidden, the action is still considered a violation and one may not benefit from the results until Shabbos is over (Magen Avraham 318:3). As I mentioned above, in any of these situations, one may use the item after Shabbos ends.

Example:

Devorah discovered that she prepared food on Shabbos in a way that the Torah prohibits. Since she was unaware of the halachah, this is an act of shogeig, and the food may be eaten after Shabbos, but not on Shabbos, according to Rabbi Yehudah.

An Intended Beneficiary

As I explained above, Rabbi Yehudah maintains that a person who desecrated Shabbos intentionally may never benefit from the result, while others may benefit after Shabbos. Is the halachah different when the item was made to benefit someone specific? For example, if a Jew cooked for a guest on Shabbos, may the guest eat the food after Shabbos is over?

Why should the intended beneficiary be treated more stringently than anyone else?

To understand the background behind this question, we need to clarify some related issues. I mentioned above that Rabbi Yehudah prohibits the sinner from ever using an item that resulted from his desecration. This rule is not limited to Shabbos, but also applies to other areas of halachah. Here is an example:

Ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah

Although prohibited substances that spill into food are sometimes nullified,this applies only when the mixture occurred inadvertently. One may not deliberately add prohibited food to kosher food in order to nullify the banned substance. This prohibition is called ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah. Bitul is something that happens after the fact and cannot serve as a premeditated solution.

What happens if someone intentionally added a proscribed ingredient? Is the food now prohibited?

Indeed, the person who added the forbidden component may not consume it. This law is derived from the rules of Shabbos. Just as the intentional Shabbos desecrator may not benefit from his misdeed, so, too, the deliberate contaminator of kosher food may not consume the mixture (Gittin 54b). Therefore, if the CIA (Cashrus Intelligence Agency) detects the misdeed, the perpetrator will be banned from benefiting from the resultant product.

Already Added

Because of the above rule, if an amount of non-kosher food too great to be nullified fell into food, one may not add extra kosher food or liquid in order to nullify the prohibited substance. This act is also prohibited under the heading of ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah. Here, too, someone who knows that this act is prohibited and intentionally added permitted food to nullify the forbidden component may not consume it because he violated ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 99:5). However, if he did this negligently, he may use the finished product.

All these rulings derive from the laws of Shabbos that we discussed before. The person who added the product intentionally, knowing that this is prohibited, is comparable to someone who knowingly desecrates Shabbos, and may not benefit from his misdeed. However, the person who was unaware that his act is prohibited qualifies as a shogeig and may use the product. (Note that although on Shabbos we sometimes make a distinction between using the food on Shabbos and using it after Shabbos, no such distinction applies in the case of ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah.)

The following case explains this last situation more clearly. Mrs. Smallminded discovers that she inadvertently added a non-kosher ingredient to the huge pot of soup she is preparing for a family simcha. Realizing her error, she calls her rav, who concludes that the ratio of kosher to non-kosher in her soup is insufficient and that therefore the soup is not kosher. Unwilling to discard all her efforts and ingredients, Mrs. Smallminded adds water to the soup until there is sufficient kosher product to nullify the non-kosher ingredients. As mentioned above, this act is prohibited as a violation of the rule ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah. If Mrs. Smallminded was unaware that she was forbidden to add water, she qualifies as shogeig and may eat the soup. However, if she was aware that this was prohibited and she intentionally ignored the halachah, she may not eat the food, for this would allow her to benefit from her deliberate misdeed.

What about Her Guests?

Let us assume that Mrs. Smallminded realized that she was not allowed to add water, but did so anyway. Later, she has pangs of conscience about her misdeed. As I mentioned above, Mrs. Smallminded may not eat the soup. What about her guests? May they eat the soup because the non-kosher ingredient is indeed bateil, or are they also prohibited from eating it?

The halachah is that the intended beneficiaries may not eat the soup. Since all of Mrs. Smallminded’s family members and guests are intended beneficiaries, none of them may eat the soup (Rashba, Toras HaBayis 4:3, page 32; Tur Yoreh Deah 99). However, some authorities contend that this applies only if those people knew that the water was being mixed in for their benefit, as I will explain.

Not Aware of the Bitul

This leads us to a new question: What if the intended beneficiaries did not know that the item was being added for their benefit?

Some authorities rule that in this last situation the intended beneficiary may use the product (Maharshal; Taz 99:10). However, many authorities conclude that they are still prohibited from using it. Furthermore, most rule that if a store added prohibited substances to kosher food in order to sell it to Jewish customers, no Jewish customers may consume the finished product since they are all considered intended beneficiaries (Shu’t Rivash #498; Rabbi Akiva Eiger). According to this, Mrs. Smallminded’s guests would be forbidden from eating her soup even though they were unaware of what she did.

You might ask, why are they being penalized from eating the luscious soup when they were completely unaware of her intent to violate the law? After all, not only did they not intentionally violate any laws, they did not even know what Mrs. Smallminded was doing in the kitchen!

The Overambitious Butcher

It is easiest to explain this ruling by examining a case discussed by earlier halachic authorities. A town butcher had mastered the proper skills to be a qualified shocheit, but had never passed the next step – being licensed to be a bodeik, the person who checks after the shechitah to ascertain that the animal contains no imperfections that render it tereifah. Nevertheless, this butcher-shocheit performed the shechitah and the bedikah himself, thereby overextending his “license.” The shaylah was whether the meat could be eaten anyway, based on the halachah that if one cannot perform bedikah the animal is ruled kosher, since most animals are kosher.

The posek of the generation, the Rivash, ruled that no one may eat the meat. Although it is indeed true that if a bedikah cannot be performed the meat is kosher, one may not intentionally forgo the bedikah. The Rivash forbids the meat of the above-mentioned butcher-shocheit because of the principle of ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah, and rules that no one may use the meat, since all of the butcher’s customers are intended beneficiaries of his violation. This is true even though the customers certainly did not want the butcher to forgo a proper bedikah. We see that when prohibited food is prepared for someone else, the authorities forbid the intended beneficiary from eating the food, even when he did not want the bitul to transpire.

An Intended Shabbos Beneficiary

Having established that mixing food in violation of halachah prohibits the resultant product, we now need to determine the law on Shabbos. Does halachah ban the intended beneficiary from benefiting from the item produced on Shabbos, even if he/she did not want the item prepared on Shabbos?

The late halachic authorities dispute this question, some contending that since one cannot use the item until Shabbos is over, there is less reason to prohibit the intended beneficiary (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 318:2, based on Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 99). Others conclude that food cooked on Shabbos for customers remains prohibited forever since they are all intended beneficiaries (Shu’t Ksav Sofer, Orach Chayim #50). If this question happens to you, I refer you to your rav or posek.

Answering Our Shaylos

At this point, let us try to resolve the different shaylos that I mentioned before.

Question #1: Cholent caper

Shimon negligently added spices to the cholent on Shabbos. Can his family still eat the cholent, or is it prohibited due to the prohibition of benefiting from melachah performed on Shabbos?

According to most authorities, the halachah follows Rabbi Yehudah and therefore this cholent would be prohibited, but only until Shabbos is over. However, some late authorities rule that, under extenuating circumstances, one may rely on those who accept Rabbi Meir’s more lenient approach (Mishnah Berurah 318:7). According to this approach, one could permit even Shimon to enjoy his cholent on Shabbos if there is not enough ready food for the family.

Question #2: Bad advice

Our second question was: “My main mutual fund has performed wonderfully over time and I am very satisfied with it. However, I recently read a transcript in which the fund manager, who is probably Jewish, referred to investment discussions with his staff on Friday night. I am concerned that I may be benefiting from chillul Shabbos that he performs in the course of researching venture possibilities for the fund. Must I pull my money out and look for another investment vehicle?”

Although we do not want to encourage anyone to desecrate Shabbos, there is, strictly speaking, no violation incurred in benefiting from this investment for an interesting reason. The prohibition of using something made on Shabbos applies only to an item that was actually created or transformed because of the desecration of Shabbos. Thus, the question applies to food made edible or clothing manufactured because of the Shabbos desecration. However, the fund manager’s desecrating Shabbos does not create any object, so that even the strictest opinion of Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar would not prohibit the money earned by the fund.

Notwithstanding that there is no halachic concern here, one is still entitled to discuss what is really a hashkafah question: Do I want to make profit that results, albeit only partly, from a Jew being mechaleil Shabbos? After all, Hashem provides livelihood and perhaps I should steer away from building my nest egg from someone’s chillul Shabbos. I refer our readers who might have such a question to their own rav.

Question #3: The unrepentant knitter

Now let us now examine our third case above: Yehudis has a non-observant family member who has knit a baby blanket on Shabbos. May Yehudis use the blanket?

Assuming we follow Rabbi Yehudah’s approach, the main question here is whether an intended beneficiary is prohibited forever from use of an item made in violation of Shabbos. Since most later authorities permit this benefit, I ruled that she could use the blanket.

Conclusion

Observing Shabbos is our acknowledgement that Hashem created everything and brought the Creation of the world to conclusion on the seventh day. Shabbos is His statement that His creating the world was complete, and our observing Shabbos recognizes this. When we bring our workweek to a close, we thereby note Hashem’s supremacy and the message of Shabbos. Unfortunately, not all our brethren understand this message, thus leading to many of the shaylos that we discussed in this article. We hope and pray that all Jews soon understand the full beauty of Shabbos.

 

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