Carding, Combing and Disentangling

Photo by Melissa Ramirez from FreeImages

Question #1: Shabbos Prohibitions

“Does every av melacha of Shabbos have tolados?”

Question #2: Sinews

“How are sinews like wool?”

Question #3: Dog Grooming

“Is it prohibited min haTorah to comb out my dog’s hair on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

The Mishnah in the seventh chapter of Mesechta Shabbos lists the 39 avos melachos, or major categories of work, prohibited on Shabbos. These melachos were all involved in the building of the Mishkan, which is a major factor in determining whether something is prohibited on Shabbos min haTorah.

There is another rule that each av melacha has at least one toladah (see Bava Kama 2a). A toladah is an activity that is prohibited min haTorah, and is derived from one of the avos melachos.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos 7:2) tells us a fascinating story how the great amora’im,Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakeish, studied diligently this one chapter of Mishnah, the seventh chapter of Mesechta Shabbos, for three and a half years! As a result of their studies, they discovered 39 tolados for each av melacha. We find this incredible, since, for some of the avos melacha, finding more than one or two tolados is difficult. Several of the rishonim, particularly the Rambam, the Sefer Yerei’im and the Semag, endeavor to find tolados for the melachos. Yet, even with all their considerable efforts, we often find no more than one or two tolados for a particular av melacha.

There are a few reasons why it is important to know how many melachos there are and how to categorize them. One reason is because a person who negligently violated one of the melacha categories on Shabbos is required to offer a korban chatos as atonement. Of course, we have no way of fulfilling this today, but, soon, when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, this mitzvah will again become incumbent upon us.

This requirement to offer a korban chatos is only if the violation was min haTorah. There are many conditions that need to be met for a melacha activity to be a Torah prohibition. For example, someone who performed a melacha activity, but did so in an unusual way, does not violate Torah law. This is sometimes referred to as ein darko bekach, not the usual way of performing the particular activity. At other times the Gemara calls this, batlah da’atan eitzel kol odom, since most people do not consider this the normal way (Shabbos 92b).

Here is an example of this rule. Rabbah bar bar Channah, quoting Rabbi Yochanan, said, “One who twists wool into thread on Shabbos while it is still on the back of an animal is in violation of three melachos, one for shearing, one for menapeitz (I will explain this melacha shortly), and one for spinning thread.” Rav Kahana disagreed with Rabbah bar bar Channah, explaining that performing these activities while the wool is still attached to the animal is an atypical way of performing them. The Gemara then questioned Rav Kahana on the basis of a statement of an earlier authority, the tanna Rabbi Nechemyah, who noted that the women who spun the goat hair used for the Mishkan indeed spun the hair while it was still attached to the goats. Thus, if this was the way the melacha was performed when the Mishkan was built, it should automatically qualify as a melacha min haTorah! The Gemara retorts that, notwithstanding that the Mishkan was indeed constructed this way, Rav Kahana is correct that this is an atypical way to spin thread and therefore exempt from being a Torah violation of melacha. Since this method involves an unusually high level of skill, and, other than for the Mishkan, was certainly not the typical manner in which the melacha was performed, the way it was done in the Mishkan does not define what is a Torah violation of performing this melacha (Shabbos 74b).

Disentangling

The rest of this article will discuss the melacha called menapeitz, often translated as disentangling, combing or carding, but none of these terms explains the melachah adequately. When the Mishnah inventories the 39 melachos, it lists menapeitz in between melabein, which means either laundering or bleaching, and toveh, which is spinning fiber into thread.

As we see from several places in the Gemara, after wool and similar fibers were shorn from the animal and cleaned, they were combed or untangled in order to be able to continue processing them into cloth. The wool shorn from a sheep cannot be used immediately because it is filthy and very tangled. Cleaning it involves the melacha of melabein, which we will not discuss in this article. Menapeitz includes untangling the wool. Yet, as we will soon see, some authorities describe menapeitz in other ways, and, certainly, not all disentangling is menapeitz.

Tzadi or samach?

There is even a question as to whether the correct name for the melacha is menapeitz, with a tzadi at the end, or menafeis, with a samach, which is the way it is spelled by the Aruch. Rav Nosson ben Yechiel ben Avraham, was an early rishon who lived in Rome in the eleventh century. He was the head of a yeshivah located there, and authored a work called the Aruch, which is probably the earliest dictionary of Aramaic. In it, he quotes, at times extensively, various sources in the Gemara in which a term is used, translates the word into Hebrew and often explains the Gemara and other halachic concepts. The work, which is quoted by his contemporary, Rashi (see Shabbos 13b), and many times by Tosafos, had several addenda added to it in the centuries following, by such prominent poskim as the sixteenth-century Yerushalayim gadol Rav Menachem di Lunzano, and the nineteenth-century German dayan Rav Aharon Fuld. At times, only a seasoned reader can figure out which comments are from the original Aruch and which are additions from these latter figures. Other additions are from the seventeenth-century physician and philologist Binyomin Musafia, whose work was called originally Musaf Ha’Aruch, and from the renowned eighteenth-century Talmud chacham and editor Rav Yeshayah Pik.

Menapeitz in Tanach

Let us examine the root meaning of the word menapeitz in Tanach, and then see how the word is used in the context of the laws of Shabbos. The earliest use of the word is in parshas Noach (Bereishis 9:19), where the posuk says, “sheloshah eileh bnei Noach, umei’eileh noftzah chol ha’aretz, These are the three sons of Noach, and from them spread (the population) of the world.” We also find the word meaning to shatter, such as in the pasuk, “ki’chli yotzeir tenapetzeim, You will shatter them like a potter’s vessel” (Tehillim 2:9). The word conveys the same idea in Shoftim (7:19), “venafotz hakadim asher biyadam, They smashed the jugs that were in their hands,” and in Yirmiyohu (48:12) “venivleihem yenapeitzu, They will smash their barrels.” We find it used in a more figurative sense in Yeshayohu (33:3), “mei’romemusecha noftzu goyim, From Your loftiness, nations have dispersed.”

Furthermore, the Aruch provides three Talmudic references for the root nofatz: Shabbos 140, Avodah Zarah 7, and Chullin 72.

We now have a question on the Aruch. If the melacha on Shabbos is spelled with a samach, and there is clearly a word, both in Tanach and in Chazal, spelled with a tzadi,. why does the Aruch spell it with a samach? Are the letters samach and tzadi interchangeable, as we find occasionally? One could explain the variant spellings this way, although it is clear from the Talmudic references above that the Aruch himself understood that there are two roots with similar meanings. The root with a tzadi means to shatter, smash or disperse, whereas that with a samach means to disentangle.

Rishonim on the melacha

In his commentary to the Mishnah discussing the melacha of menapeitz, the Rambam (Shabbos 7:2) describes the melacha as beating wool with a stick. In the monumental recent work, Ma’aseh Oreg, which elucidates the various processes used in the days of Chazal to make cloth, Dayan Yisroel Gukovitski explains that after wool was washed and bleached, it was placed on a table and beaten with rods, which loosened the fibers and crushed any matter that prevented the wool from disentangling. This was an important stage in preparing the wool to be spun into thread or pressed into felt.

Rishonim other than the Rambam explain menapeitz in other ways. For example, in the context of the law of a nazir combing his hair, Rashi explains the word menapeitz to mean disentangling hair (see Rashi, Shabbos 50b; see Mishnah, Nazir 42a). In the context of the melacha menapeitz, Rashi understands this to mean picking apart and separating the clumped wool into fibers that can be properly spun.

Other authorities explain the melacha to mean combing the wool out with an iron comb (Meiri, Shabbos 73b; Chayei Odom 23:1). This is a later step in the processing of the fibers to make them ready for spinning into thread. By the way, Rashi (Bava Basra 19a s.v. Tzipei) also describes the act of menapeitz as combing, although that context is not discussing the laws of Shabbos.

It is unclear that there is any halachic dispute among these different approaches. They may simply be describing different stages in the melacha, and that the melacha includes any or all of these processes.

Carding

Some late commentators translate menapeitz as carding,because the word card as a verb

means to disentangle fibers. (The word card can also mean the specific brush used to disentangle fibers prior to spinning them.) This seems to fit Rashi’s old French word, carpir (Shabbos 73a, see Avnei Neizer 170:8 and Targum Hala’az #1618).

However, at this stage we are faced with a question asked by one of the great late acharonim, the Avnei Neizer (170:9). There are two steps involved in preparing clean fibers so that they can be spun into thread. First, one disentangles the wool; then, one combs the fibers together evenly so that they can be spun. Since we now know that menapeitz means disentangling, why isn’t the second step, combing it into a form that can be spun, a separate melacha? In other words, there should be two melachos – one called menapeitz and another called soreik, combing – between the melacha of melabein, which is laundering or bleaching, and the next melacha, toveh, spinning.

The Avnei Neizer (170:9) answers that since this is all one process, it is all included as one melacha, notwithstanding that it can be subdivided into two steps. He then asks why the melacha is called menapeitz and not soreik, combing, which is the final stage? To this he answers that combing is performed with an implement, whereas the disentangling can be performed either with an implement or by hand. The Mishnah called the melacha menapeitz so that we would realize that disentangling by hand is also considered the primary melacha.

Menapeitz times two

Now that we understand the basics of this melacha, we will discuss some of its details.

According to some authorities, one can violate the melacha of menapeitz twice on the same material. Certain methods of processing wool involve combing out the material and then soaking it in a special solution, so that it will absorb dye better. This soaking causes the wool to clump again, and one needs to comb it out a second time. According to the Maasei Rokei’ach, if both of these actions were performed on Shabbos, this second combing would be another Torah violation of the melacha of menapeitz (Hilchos Shabbos 9:12).

Sheep and other animals

Although the prohibition of shatnez applies min haTorah exclusively to the wool of sheep and not to the hair or wool of other animals, such as goats, camels, llamas and rabbits (see Kel’ayim 9:1), all opinions agree that menapeitz applies to the wool of all animals that may be used for clothing. By the way, the difference between wool and hair, the two English words that describe what grows on an animal, is that wool is hair that is soft and therefore suitable for clothing. Some goats, such as cashmere and angora varieties, produce soft wool, whereas others produce coarser hair, suitable for making into burlap sacks but not into clothing.

Carding coarser material unsuitable for cloth manufacture, but usable as burlap, also violates menapeitz.

Linen and cotton

There appears to be a dispute among rishonim whether the melacha of menapeitz applies min haTorah to textile materials that grow from the ground (plant-based), such as cotton, jute, or flax (which is processed into linen). Rashi seems to hold that menapeitz applies only to materials that do not grow from the ground (Rashi, Shabbos 73b; see also Meiri ad locum), whereas the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 9:12) and the Semag rule expressly that menapeitz applies to all materials. The Chayei Odom rules that menapeitz applies also to plant-based textiles.

Even according to those who accept the Rambam’s opinion that menapeitz applies to plant-based textiles, there is a further dispute whether beating a flax plant to soften and loosen its fibers violates menapeitz or tochein, grinding. In his commentary on the Semag, the fifteenth-century posek, Rav Isaac Stein, rules that beating flax violates the melacha of menapeitz. On the other hand, the Maharshal, in his comments on the Semag, disagrees, contending that menapeitz must involve disentangling and not simply beating.

Cottonseed

According to several rishonim, combing out cotton, which removes the seeds, violates a different melacha, dosh, threshing, because it separates the usable textile material from the seeds, which are unusable as clothing (Rashi, Shabbos 73b, Ran and Meiri ad locum). (Cottonseed is crushed for its oil. At the time of the Gemara, cottonseed oil was used as inferior kindling oil [see Rashi, Shabbos 21a s.v. Mish’cha]. Today, it is a source of cooking oil, used, for example, in the production of potato chips.) The melacha of dosh is violated when one breaks the natural, physical connection between two items that are dissimilar in their use, thus creating a product that can be used easily. For example, threshing breaks the connection between the kernels and the chaff, thus making the kernels usable; squeezing separates the juice or oil from the fruit. Since the Chayei Odom ruled like the Rambam that menapeitz is applicable to plant-based textiles, he concludes that combing out cotton or similar textiles, thereby removing the seeds while preparing the fibers for spinning into cloth, violates two melachos, dosh and menapeitz. However, the Bris Moshe disagrees (Commentary to Semag 65:134). It is beyond the topic of this article to explain the significance of an action violating two different melachos.

Sinews

Let us return to our second question, “How are sinews like wool?”

The halacha requires that Sifrei Torah and tefillin be sewn by a strong, very special type of “thread” made of sinew. The processing of these sinews so that they can be used as thread is also considered an act of menapeitz (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 9:15). The way these “threads” are processed is as follows: The thick sinews of an animal are dried and then smashed with a hammer, which makes them form a mushy mass, somewhat similar to the way wool appears after it has been carded. The beaten sinew can then be spun into thread, which constitutes the melacha of toveh.

The Avnei Neizer (170:6) asks why the hammering process that precedes the spinning of the giddin (sinews) is not a violation of a different melacha, tochein, grinding, since one is thereby pulverizing the dried sinew. He concludes that, indeed, both melachos are violated, tochein and menapeitz. The Rambam simply told us that the spinning is a toladah of menapeitz, but did not discuss the fact that one violated Shabbos already when hammering the sinew.

Combing hair

While showering, many people use hair conditioner to facilitate combing the tangles and knots out of their hair. Realize how much more difficult this is for a sheep, whose hair is much curlier, and it has been quite a while since it last brushed its hair! And it certainly didn’t use conditioner!

The halachic authorities discuss whether a woman can disentangle her hair on Shabbos, all ruling that this is permitted provided she does not do it in a way that will be a psik reisha whereby she definitely pulls out hair (end of Orach Chayim, 303). Pulling out hair is forbidden because of a different melacha, gozeiz, shearing. However, if, as we explained, any type of disentangling involves the melacha of menapeitz, why is disentangling hair not forbidden as menapeitz?

The answer is that the melacha of menapeitz is preparing material so that it can be spun into thread or made into cloth (Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 170:2, 171; Chayei Odom). Unless a woman is planning to spin her hair into cloth, it will not be prohibited as menapeitz.

Dog grooming

Thus, we can now address the third of our opening questions: “Is it prohibited min haTorah to comb out my dog’s hair on Shabbos?”

Unless one intends to use its hair as a textile, there is no melacha of menapeitz involved. It is presumably still prohibited because of muktzah,and because of a concern that someone will likely pull out hairs while combing.

In conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited min Hatorah on Shabbos so that it be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melacha, activities or actions which bring purpose and accomplishment. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. By refraining from our own creative acts on Shabbos, we allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation (Shemos 20:11).




Pouring While It’s Hot

Photo by Adam Davis from FreeImages

The end of the article answers the question: “Why are we discussing this topic the week of Parshas Matos?”

Question #1: Warming bottles

“On Shabbos, may I pour hot water onto a baby bottle containing milk or formula?”

Question #2: Sinks

“May I use my sink for both milchig and fleishig?”

Question #3: Iruy into liquids

“Does iruy cook when it falls into a liquid?”

Question #4:

“Why are we discussing this topic the week of Parshas Matos?”

Introduction:

Although our opening questions may appear unconnected, they all relate to a halachic topic called iruy kli rishon. This term refers to the halachic status of food or vessels that were heated by having hot liquid poured on them. For example, preparing a cup of tea by pouring hot water from a kettle or urn into a cup containing a tea bag is a typical case of cooking by use of iruy. Pouring hot chicken soup directly from the pot into a milchig bowl is another situation of iruy kli rishon. The word iruy means pouring,and the term iruy kli rishon means that the liquid was poured from a pot or pan that was heated directly by the heat of a fire. This article will discuss the background and the basic rules of iruy kli rishon and some halachic ramifications. As usual, our purpose is not to paskin everyone’s halachic queries. That is the role of each individual’s rav or posek.

Iruy kli rishon affects many common situations, including, for example:

The status of milchig and fleishig items in your kitchen.

How one may warm food on Shabbos.

Whether a food or utensil became non-kosher.

How to kasher utensils that became non-kosher.

Kashrus Jargon

To make this presentation clearer, let us clarify four relevant terms:

Yad soledes bo

Whenever in this article we mention something is hot, it means that it is at least yad soledes bo, meaning that it is hot enough that a person pulls his hand back, instinctively, when he touches it. There is much dispute among halachic authorities how we measure this in degrees, which is a subtopic that we will leave for a different time.

Kdei kelipah

At times, we will refer to something being cooked or absorbed kdei kelipah. For the purposes of this article, this means that, at the point of contact of the heat, some cooking or flavor absorption transpires, but does not extend further.

Kli rishon

A kli rishon is a pot, pan or other vessel that was heated directly from a source of heat, such as on a stove, inside an oven, or any other way.

Kli sheini

A kli sheini is the platter or bowl into which food is poured from a kli rishon.

An anecdote from the Gemara will clarify the status of a kli sheini.

Although most forms of hot bathing are prohibited on Shabbos, it is permitted to bathe in hot natural springs, such as those found in Iceland, Teverya, and Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Gemara (Shabbos 40b) records that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, also known as Rebbe, was bathing in the hotsprings of Teverya on Shabbos and was being waited on by his disciple, Rav Yitzchak bar Avdimi. Rav Yitzchak bar Avdimi had a flask of oil for Rebbe to use for anointing after he finished bathing, and Rav Yitzchak wanted to warm the flask so that the oil would be more comfortable. Rav Yitzchak asked Rebbe whether he could warm the oil in the hot spring; Rebbe replied that he may not. Then Rebbe suggested a different approach: Rav Yitzchak bar Avdimi could fill a container with hot spring water, then place the container of oil inside the larger container of hot water.

Tosafos (ad loc.) asks why the latter procedure is permitted, whereas placing the flask of oil directly in the hot spring is prohibited. In both instances, the oil is heated by water from a natural hot spring. Tosafos answers that when the vessel itself is on the fire or inside the oven, the heat of the liquid is maintained by the hot walls of the vessel, and that is why bishul occurs. However, when the container itself was never directly warmed – what we call a kli sheini – the walls of the vessel diminish the heat. As a result, the oil will not cook from the heat of the water. In other words, cooking in a vessel requires not only sufficient heat, but that the walls of the pot or vessel maintain the heat. Therefore, cooking can occur in a kli rishon but not in a kli sheini.

The Mishnah

Here is another distinction between kli rishon and kli sheini: The Mishnah (Shabbos 42a) teaches that if a pot was removed from the fire on Shabbos, one may not add spices, because this constitutes bishul. However, one may add spices to a platter containing food that was poured out of the original pot. The second case is a kli sheini, meaning that the platter itself was never on the fire. Again, the indication is that cooking requires the walls themselves to have been heated.

Iruy kli rishon

We see that whereas a kli rishon is capable of cooking, a kli sheini is not. What about pouring from a kli rishon, which is an in-between level? The hot stream coming from iruy kli rishon has no vessel walls to maintain its heat – but it also has no walls cooling down the heated product.  Do the heated walls of the kli rishon cause the cooking, in which case iruy kli rishon would not be considered cooking, or is it the cooling kli sheini’s walls that prevents cooking from transpiring, in which case iruy kli rishon would be considered cooking? This question is debated extensively by the rishonim and early poskim.

Sibling rivalry

Among the main players who weigh in on the discussion are two of Rashi’s illustrious grandsons, the Rashbam and Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafos, Zevachim 95b). The Rashbam maintained that iruy does not cook, just as a kli sheini does not. His younger brother, Rabbeinu Tam, disputed this, and contended that iruy kli rishon can cook, at least to a certain extent.

Among the Baalei Tosafos, we find a further dispute regarding whether Rabbeinu Tam held that iruy kli rishon cooks and causes absorption of flavor through the entire product or only kdei kelipah. We will be assuming the second of these approaches, which is held by the majority of authorities.

The background behind this discussion takes us to a different passage of Gemara.

Who wins?

Within the context of a hot substance falling on a cold one, or vice versa, we find a dispute in the Gemara (Pesachim 75b-76a) between the great amora’im, Rav and Shmuel, as to who “wins” – the one on top or the one on the bottom. As explained by Rashi, the Gemara teaches:

If hot food fell into hot food, such as hot meat fell into hot milk, or when one item was kosher and the other not, everyone agrees that the resultant mixture is non-kosher. The flavors of the two products became mixed because of the heat, and the result is no longer kosher.

If both food items were cold, and one can separate the two products, that which was originally permitted remains so.

The dispute between Rav and Shmuel is when one food is hot and the other cold. Rav contends that when the upper one is hot, the flavor of one food mixes into the other, rendering them both non-kosher; however, when the lower one is hot and the upper is cold, the flavors do not mix. Therefore, if the foods did not become mixed, the kosher one remains kosher. This is referred to as ila’ah gavar, literally, the upper one is stronger.

Shmuel rules that when the lower item is hot, we rule that the flavors mix, and everything becomes non-kosher. However, when only the upper one is hot, it cools off when it mixes into the lower one. This is referred to as tata’ah gavar, meaning, “the lower one is stronger.” The Gemara concludes that, according to Shmuel, when a hot substance falls into a cold substance, there is a mixing of flavors on a thin layer of the food, which is called kdei kelipah. Therefore, a thin layer is sliced off the food at the point of contact, since that layer absorbed non-kosher flavor. The rest of the food remains kosher. This ruling will be a major factor in our discussion.

Rashi notes that, although in matters of kashrus and other laws called issur veheter we usually rule according to Rav and against Shmuel, in this particular debate we rule according to Shmuel. The reason is because the Gemara notes that two different beraisos, teachings from the tanna’im, ruled like Shmuel. Thus, most of the rest of our discussions assume that tata’ah gavar.

Let us now return to the dispute between Rabbeinu Tam and his older brother, the Rashbam, concerning whether iruy is considered to have cooked something. Some authorities, following the approach of Rabbeinu Tam, contend that just as Shmuel ruled that when one pours a hot food onto a cold one, we assume that kdei kelipah became absorbed, when pouring hot water onto a cold food (such as a teabag) on Shabbos; we must assume that a kdei kelipah becomes cooked. Thus, it is forbidden, according to Rabbeinu Tam, to pour hot water onto cold, uncooked food on Shabbos. The consensus of halachic authority is to accept this ruling and to prohibit pouring hot water from a kli rishon onto cold, uncooked food on Shabbos.

Kdei kelipah

Above, we noted that when a hot substance falls into something cold, the hot substance is absorbed into the cold one to a depth of a thin layer of food. One question to resolve is whether this ruling is min haTorah oronly miderabbanan. A prominent early acharon, the Magen Avraham (467:33), contends that this ruling (that a layer of the cold food becomes prohibited) is only a chumra be’alma, meaning that min haTorah no absorption takes place, but that Chazal prohibited kdei kelipah.

Despite the Magen Avraham’s position, it is evident from many rishonim that they understood that kdei kelipah is prohibited min haTorah.

Baby bottle

At this point, let us examine our opening question:

“On Shabbos, may I pour hot water onto a baby bottle full of milk?”

We have learned that when pouring hot water from a kli rishon, the outer surface of the food may become cooked.

However, let us think for a moment about our question. Iruy potentially can cook only the outer surface, which, in this case, is the bottle itself. Observation tells us that, even assuming that vessels can become “cooked,” bottles do not become cooked by pouring boiling water on them, since they are too hard to become changed, either physically or chemically, by this amount of heat. Furthermore, the milk inside the bottle is not in the surface kdei kelipah, and, therefore, although the milk inside the bottle will become warm or even hot, it is not being cooked. Consequently, it is permitted to warm baby’s bottle on Shabbos by pouring hot water onto the outside of the bottle.

Iruy into liquids

Let us move on to the next of our opening questions: “Does iruy cook when it falls into a liquid?”

We learned that iruy kli rishon causes a small degree of absorption, and, according to Rabbeinu Tam, it also cooks. At this point, I raise a question: Perhaps this is true only when the hot water is poured onto a solid food or a vessel? Could one argue that no cooking takes place when one pours from a kli rishon into a bowl of liquid?

Why should there be a difference between a solid and a liquid? When one pours directly into a liquid, what one pours immediately disperses into the liquid into which it falls. Perhaps all the heat that would cause absorption kdei kelipah dissipates throughout the liquid and, consequently, no cooking takes place. Indeed, we find rishonim who espouse this position (Tosafos, Pesachim 40b s.v. Ha’ilpeis). Nevertheless, this is not a universally held position, and the consensus of later authorities is that we do not differentiate between liquids and solids: In all instances, we conclude that iruy kli rishon does cause some cooking (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav, Yoreh Deah 68:9 s.v. Hadin Hashelishi).

Hot potato

At this point, we can explain a different halachic question: A hot potato is on my plate, which is a kli sheini since it was not on the fire. May I place uncooked seasoning onto the potato on Shabbos?

We learned above that I am permitted to put uncooked spices into a kli sheini. It would appear, then, that I am permitted to add raw spices to my hot potato, which is sitting in a kli sheini. Indeed, we find major authorities who seem to agree that this is considered a case of a kli sheini (see, for example, Rema, Yoreh Deah 94:7).

Nevertheless, many authorities disagree with this conclusion (Maharshal, Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 8:71). They note the following: Tosafos explained that the difference between a kli rishon and a kli sheini is that the cooler walls of the kli sheini are reducing the heat; this prevents cooking from taking place.

However, a hot potato on a plate is not being cooled down by the plate. Since it touches the plate on only a minimal amount of its area, perhaps the potato itself retains the halachic status of a kli rishon. This is referred to as davar gush, a solid food not having the halachic advantages of a kli sheini. Most of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch rule that, generally, we should be concerned about both approaches: that of the Rema,who considers this a kli sheini; and that of the Maharshal, who considers this a kli rishon. As a practical matter, this means that one usually treats a davar gush not as a kli sheini but as a kli rishon (Shach, Yoreh Deah 105:8; Taz, Yoreh Deah105:4; Magen Avrohom, Orach Chayim 318:45).

Sinks

At this point, let us examine another of our opening questions:

“May I use my sink for both milchig and fleishig?”

The question here is as follows: A sink does not have its own heating element. As such, it is never a kli rishon, but qualifies either as an iruy situation or as a kli sheini. We learned above that iruy can cause cooking and absorption, at least kdei kelipah. For these reasons, many authorities contend that someone who has only one sink in the kitchen should treat it as treif and use either dishpans or something similar and avoid putting dishes directly onto the sink surface (see, for example, Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok 2:100). On the other hand, based on an extensive analysis of the halachic sources, one major authority concludes that using a sink for both milchig and fleishig does not meet the characteristics of iruy kli rishon and is permitted (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:42). I refer our readers to their own halachic authority for a practical ruling.

Koshering

At this point, let us examine the last of our opening questions:

Why are we discussing this topic the week of Parshas Matos?

After the Bnei Yisroel’s miraculous victory over the nation of Midyan, they were commanded regarding the spoils that they had now acquired: Concerning the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become pure – yet, it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was not used in fire must pass through water (Bamidbar 31:22-23). Here the Torah introduces the concept of kashering vessels that have absorbed non-kosher foods. In this instance, the vessels of Midyan had been used for non-kosher; could the Jews use them? The answer is that they could kasher each item in a way that expunges the non-kosher absorption, and the vessel would become kosher. As Rashi explains the posuk, any item that was used directly in fire needs to be placed directly in fire to become kosher. And that which was not used in fire directly, but was used to cook with hot water on top of the fire must pass through water that was heated directly by a fire, to kasher it.

Does something that absorbed non-kosher via iruy require kashering? According to the conclusion above, it does – since we assume that iruy kli rishon causes some absorption into the walls of the vessel. But it can be kashered through iruy kli rishon (Tosafos, Shabbos 42b s.v. Aval).

Conclusion

We now have some understanding of a complicated halachic issue with all sorts of ramifications. It provides an appreciation how much one’s rav or posek must keep in mind every time he answers one of our questions. Certainly, this is a time to value his scholarship and his making himself available when we need him.




Erasing on Shabbos

Photo by t a from FreeImages

Question: Erasing off my hand

On Friday, I wrote a short reminder on my hand. May I rub it off on Shabbos?

Introduction:

In a previous article, we analyzed the prohibition of writing on Shabbos. We discovered that this melacha was performed in the process of building the mishkan – either when they marked the boards, to make sure that they were placed in the proper location, or, according to another opinion, when they kept records. This does not explain why the activity of erasing, mocheik, is a melacha. Rashi (73a) explains that erasing is a melacha because sometimes the person doing the marking made an error that required correction. Thus, the erasing was in order to write the correct numbering. This leads directly to our next point:

Erasing in order to write

When the Mishnah lists the various melachos of Shabbos, it states, “There are 39 categories of melacha: Someone who plants, or plows, or reaps, or gathers, or threshes, or winnows, or selects, or grinds, or sifts, or kneads, or bakes. Someone who shears wools, or launders it, or cards it, or dyes it, or spins… someone who traps a deer, or slaughters it, or skins it… or tans the hide, or smooths it, or cuts it to size, or writes two letters, or erases with the intent of writing two letters, or builds, or razes, or extinguishes, or someone who kindles.” The amount of detail for the melacha of erasing, relative to the other melachos, stands out; most of the melachos are described in Hebrew by one word, without referencing another melacha or a quantity. Yet, when mentioning the melacha of mocheik, erasing, the Mishnah limits the melacha to someone who “erases with the intent of writing two letters.” To explain why the Mishnah uses this unusual way of describing mocheik requires some introduction:

1. When discussing the laws of Shabbos, Chazal were careful to use two terms: chayov, culpable, and patur, exempt. Chayov means that, when the Sanhedrin was fully functional, these acts were punishable, and, when performed negligently, require the offering of a korban chatos.

2. A principle germane to all the laws of Shabbos is that someone violates Shabbos min haTorah only when the action has a direct, positive result. If the act appears to be unconstructive, it is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction and not min haTorah. For example, digging a hole because of a need for fill dirt to cover a spill or the exposed roots of a plant is exempt min haTorah from violating the melacha of choreish, plowing. This is because creating this hole in the ground is not a positive act. Digging a holeis a Torah violationonly when it is either part of an act of plowing – in order to plant or otherwise benefit a plant –  in which case it constitutes the melacha of choreish;or when it is part of a construction, in which case it constitutes the melacha of boneh, building. In both of these instances, the hole is itself beneficial.

Erasing does not, in and of itself, provide benefit. It is considered beneficial when (1) you are interested in writing on the paper and to do so you need to erase something, or (2) when there is a mistake on the paper that you need to correct by erasure. When the erasing itself does not provide benefit, the act violates Shabbos only because of a rabbinic injunction. This is why the Mishnah states that erasing is chayov when it is performed in order to write. This type of erasing is a positive act and, therefore, a Torah violation.

–When the erasure is “positive,” but you do not intend to write anything – as in the second case mentioned above – is that chayov for the melacha of erasing? That is a dispute among poskim that we will discuss shortly.

Why two letters?

The Mishnah states that violating the melacha of erasing requires the intention to write two letters on the erasure. As the Mishnah states, someone is chayov for violating the melacha of koseiv only when he writes two letters. Writing less than two letters is not substantive enough for a person to be culpable. Since erasing alone is not considered a constructive act, the person is liable only when the erasure clears enough area to write two letters.

Note that it does not state in the Mishnah how many letters must be erased to violate the melacha. It states how much space must be erased – enough space to write two letters.

What is the halacha if someone erased just one letter, but it was large enough to write two letters in its place? Is the person who performed this act guilty of violating the melacha? The Mishnah implies that this act would be chayov.

This question is raised by the Tosefta, which states that, indeed, someone who erased a letter large enough to write two letters, is culpable for violating the melacha when his intention is to write two letters in its place. The Tosefta (Shabbos 12:7, quoted by the Gemara) notes that this results in an anomalous conclusion: “Someone who writes one large letter, even though it is as big as two letters, is exempt from having committed a transgression on Shabbos, whereas someone who erases one letter that is as big as two letters desecrates Shabbos. Rabbi Menachem berabbi Yosi said: This is a stringency of erasing that does not exist with writing.”

Erasing stricter than writing?!

The Tosefta is emphasizing that although, in general, there are more ways of violating the melacha of writing than there are of violating the melacha of erasing, this is an instance in which someone could be chayov for erasing, whereas a parallel act of writing would not be chayov.

Erasing scribble

Actually, there are at least two other instances when erasing is treated more strictly than writing. One situation is that of someone who erased scribble in order to write in its place. Since the goal of the melacha of erasing is to write, it makes no difference whether someone erased letters or scribble – in both instances he is chayov for violating the Torah’s melacha (Rosh, Shabbos 7:9; Tur, Orach Chayim 340). On the other hand, someone who scribbles does not violate the melacha of writing min haTorah, since he did not write any form of communication.

Left-handed erasing

Here is yet another case in which erasing is treated more strictly than writing. Although we learned in a previous article that someone who writes with his non-dominant hand has not violated the Torah prohibition of writing, since this is not the usual way to write, this rule applies only to melacha activities that require dexterity. According to most authorities, erasing is not considered a melacha that requires such dexterity, and, therefore, someone who erases with his non-dominant hand violates the melacha min haTorah, assuming that he is erasing for the purpose of writing two letters (Chayei Odom 9:2; Mishnah Berurah 340:22; Shu”t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 209:9). We should note that one early acharon, the Elyah Rabbah (340:11), appears to disagree, suggesting that there is no difference between writing and erasing in this regard.

Permanence

Germane to writing, the Mishnah (Shabbos 104b) teaches: “Someone who writes two letters… is chayov, whether he writes with ink, with a paint pigment, with sikra [a red dye], with tree-exudate gum, with ferrous sulfate, or with anything else that makes a permanent impression.”

This requirement – that one is chayov for the melacha only if performed with, or on, an item that results in permanent writing – holds true both for the melacha of writing and for the melacha of erasing. In other words, someone who erased writing that is temporary, or that was written on material that is not lasting, does not violate the melacha of erasing min haTorah. For example, if someone erases writing on a leaf that soon will dry up, he violates a rabbinic injunction but is not chayov (see Tosefta, Shabbos 12:7).

There is a halachic curiosity here: Since the melacha of erasing is for the purpose of writing, or alternatively, when the erasing itself creates something positive, why is this melacha violated only when erasing permanent writing? Erasing temporary writing is also necessary, sometimes, to accomplish a positive result, whether it is to write in its place or for a different positive purpose.

I have not found this question asked by the traditional authorities. It seems to me that the answer is that erasing something temporary is not significant enough to constitute a violation of a Torah law.

Erasing one letter

I mentioned above that the Mishnah implies, and the Tosefta states explicitly, that someone who erases one letter that is large enough to write two letters in its place, with the intent of writing two letters there, is liable for erasing on Shabbos. The Sefas Emes (Shabbos 75b) queries whether someone who erased a space large enough to write two letters, but his intention is to write only one letter, is chayov or not. He does not reach a definite conclusion.

Correction fluid

Using correction fluid (often called “Wite-Out,” which is the brand name of one such product), when done to enable rewriting, is prohibited min haTorah.

Coating white

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 340:1) rules that if someone takes a dark piece of wood or other material and whitewashes its surface so that he can write on it, he violates mocheik min haTorah – because this act is equivalent halachically to erasing a dark surface for the purpose of writing on it.

Erasing a tattoo

One acharon discusses whether erasing a tattoo on Shabbos violates the melacha of mocheik. He rules that to do this on a Jew is a violation of Shabbos min haTorah – according to the authorities who hold that an erasure for a positive benefit other than writing is chayov. However, erasing a non-Jew’s tattoo is not a violation of mocheik, according to the Minchas Chinuch. (I am unsure how a tattoo can be erased. I have been told that there are several methods, such as using lasers to break down the ink, or rubbing salt or lemon juice and then applying some ointment.)

Ink on sikra

The Gemara (Gittin 19a) teaches that someone who writes with dark ink on top of writing that was red violates two melachos: erasing and writing. His act is considered to have erased the original red writing and then to have written in dark ink on top of the erasure.

Ches and two zayins

In the Ashkenazi script used for sifrei Torah, the letter ches is written as two zayins with a tiny cap (similar to an upside-down “v”) connecting them. The Gemara rules that someone who removes this “cap,” thereby creating two zayins, is chayov. The Bavli (104b) rules that he violated one melacha, whereas the Yerushalmi (7:2) rules that he violated both koseiv and mocheik in doing this. Similarly, the Yerushalmi holds that someone who scraped off the corner of a dalet, thereby making it into a reish, violated both melachos, koseiv and mocheik.

Crying over spilled ink

Someone spilled ink intentionally onto a written passage so that it can no longer be read. Does this constitute the melacha of erasing min haTorah? It would appear that it violates the melacha only as a rabbinic injunction, since no improvement resulted from his action (Shu”t Maharshag 2:41).

Erasing wet ink

The authorities disagree as to whether erasing ink or other pigment that has not yet dried violates the melacha of erasing min haTorah. Some contend that this is not chayov, because the writing is not yet permanent; at this stage, it can easily smear and become illegible (Minchas Chinuch, Koseiv #10; Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:65).

Erasing on Yom Tov

Writing and erasing are both prohibited on Yom Tov, although kindling a fire for warmth or cooking is permitted. This has an interesting application: Is it permitted to use newspaper to kindle a fire on Yom Tov? Is burning the writing on the paper considered erasing? Certainly, this does not constitute erasing min haTorah, since you will not have any paper to write on when you are finished, and therefore the results are not considered positive, as explained above. Despite that fact, the Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 511:2) prohibits burning paper that has lettering on it on Yom Tov, because it is considered mocheik miderabbanan.Although cooking and related food preparatory melachos are permitted on Yom Tov, erasing for a non-food purpose is not.

Only in order to write?

Above, I quoted a statement of the Tosefta that erasing a large letter so that you can write two letters in its place is chayov. As a rule, erasing violates Shabbos min haTorah because it is a preparatory melacha to writing. Is this a concept unique to the melacha of erasing, or is it part of the general rule that a melacha must have a positive result to be chayov, and erasing does not usually have, in and of itself, a positive result?

This question appears to be the subject of a dispute between major authorities.

Here is an example of a case that is affected by this dispute. Someone has a mezuzah, sefer Torah or Tefillin in which an extra letter is written. As is, it cannot be used until the extra letter is erased, but once the letter is removed, it is perfectly kosher. Thus, erasing the letter is not for the purpose of writing, but renders a tikun, a positive result. The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 340:7), suggests that erasing the letter is prohibited min haTorah, whereas, according to Tosafos, as explained by Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Gilyon Hashas, Shabbos 73b s.v. Vetzarich), it is not. Tosafos appears to understand that since the melacha of mocheik in the mishkan was in order to rewrite, that is the only category of erasing that is prohibited min haTorah; the Pri Megadim assumes that any erasing that produces a positive result is included in the Torah violation.

Evidence to the Pri Megadim’s position can be rallied from a passage of Gemara (Shabbos 149a) which prohibits reading a list of guests that you intend to invite on Shabbos or a list of courses that you intend to serve. This prohibition is because of a rabbinic concern that the host may realize that he invited too many guests (or have too many courses) and decide to erase a name from the list, so that the butler does not go to invite that guest. (Apparently, invitations were neither printed nor delivered before Shabbos, but were delivered orally via courier on Shabbos itself.)

The Gemara’s statement implies that the erasing would be prohibited min haTorah because it produces a positive result. If not, and the erasing is prohibited only miderabbanan, we would not make a gezeirah in this instance since the concern is only that someone will violate a rabbinic prohibition (Chazon Yechezkel 12:7; see there that he endeavors to answer the question).

Wiping ink off your hands

Is wiping ink off your hands prohibited because of mocheik?

There is a dispute among late poskim whether wiping writing or even smudges off your hands is prohibited because of mocheik. The Chayei Odom (Hilchos Netilas Yadayim 40:8) rules that if your hands are smudged on Shabbos, say, from pots, and there is a concern that washing netilas yadayim upon arising in the morning or prior to eating bread might remove the stains, it is still permitted to wash them since you are not trying to remove the smudges and it is not definite that they will be erased. (This is referred to in halachic parlance as eino miskavein without a pesik reisha.) The Chayei Odom forbids scrubbing your hands clean, because this constitutes mocheik – although he agrees that this does not violate mocheik min haTorah, but only miderabbanan, because you are not wiping off the smudge in order to write on your hands. (Indeed, if you were wiping your hands clean in order to write on them, this scrubbing would be prohibited min haTorah as mocheik.)

In a similar vein, the Minchas Shabbos (80:199) rules that on Friday you should be careful not to use ink or dyes that will remain on your hands on Shabbos. If you did use such ink or dye, and it is still on your hand on Shabbos, and you are embarrassed by it, he permits you to remove it on Shabbos because of kavod haberiyos, the basic dignity to which human beings are entitled. He quotes other authorities who prohibit removing the ink from your hands and even prohibit washing the stained parts of your hands under these circumstances, ruling that you should wrap the writing in cloth or bandages. (From a netilas yadayim perspective, this is permitted when you have an injury that you want to keep clean. It is a chiddush to apply that law to this case.)

However, the Maharsham (Kuntrus Ahavas Shalom, end of Minchas Shabbos #4) disagrees with both the Chayei Odom and the Minchas Shabbos, contending that although it is prohibited miderabbanan to erase any ink or smudges, even when you have no intent to write on that place, the rabbinic prohibition applies only to removing ink or dye, but not to removing dirt, which would usually be considered cleaning and not erasing.

Conclusion

The Torah commanded us concerning the halachos of Shabbos by giving us the basic categories that are prohibited. Shabbos is a day on which we refrain from altering the world for our own purposes; instead, the rule of Hashem becomes the focus of all of creation. We contribute to this by refraining from any activity that implies that we have control over the universe (Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch’s Commentary to Shemos 20:10).

By demonstrating Hashem’s rule even over non-exertive activities, such as erasing, we demonstrate and acknowledge the true Creator of the world and all it contains.




Writing on Shabbos

Question #1: Writing with my mouth!?

Is writing with a pen in my mouth considered writing?

Question #2: Disappearing ink

May I use disappearing ink on Shabbos?

Introduction:

Writing was one of the 39 melachos performed in the construction of the mishkan. According to most opinions, writing was performed when the boards of the mishkan were marked (see Shabbos 103a,b; Rashi 73a). The Mishnah (103a) mentions that the boards were marked in order to remember exactly in which location each board was placed.

Why mark?

The question is: Since the mishkan’s boards were identical, what difference should it make where each board is placed? This question is already raised by the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbos 12:3), which explains that there is halachic importance that each board be in the exact same place whenever the mishkan was reassembled.

Recordkeeping

There is a minority opinion that contends that the melacha of writing is derived from the recordkeeping performed for the mishkan (see Shu’t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim 199:10).  Since the Mishnah already mentions the marking of the boards as a source for the melacha, how and why can any commentary suggest a different reason?

The answer is that this approach was suggested in order to resolve a conundrum. There are rishonim who clearly did not use the Mishnah’s example of marking the mishkan boards as the source of the melacha of writing. The acharonim who discuss this question note the following:

When the Mishnah states that the melacha of writing is derived from the labeling of the boards, it is explaining the opinion of a minority tanna, Rabbi Yosi, who holds that there is a melacha called rosheim, or marking. The Avnei Neizer demonstrates that there are rishonim who definitely hold that the tanna kamma who disagrees with Rabbi Yosi did not derive the melacha of writing from the boards; therefore, these rishonim must have another option from which the melacha of writing is derived. The Avnei Neizer suggests that the melacha was derived from the necessity of keeping good records regarding the contributions donated to the construction of the mishkan.

Minimum shiur

In general, there are two levels for violating any of the melachos of Shabbos. There is a greater degree of violation, called chayov, which includes performing a melacha with the minimum amount necessary, called the shiur. There is also a lesser degree of violation, called patur, which includes performing the melacha activity but in a quantitatively smaller way, called pachus mi’keshiur, literally, less than the minimal amount. Patur also includes activities that are forbidden to perform because of rabbinic injunction.

What difference does it make whether something is chayov, punishable, or patur, non-punishable? There are several halachic differences that result. Here are three:

1. At the time that the Sanhedrin existed, a special beis din, composed of 23 judges, would take forceful legal action against someone who desecrated Shabbos in a punishable way, but they would not take action if the act was non-punishable.

2. Is someone who violates Shabbos negligently required to offer a korban chatos as atonement? If the act is chayov, the perpetrator is obligated to offer a korban chatos. If not, it did not cross the threshold required to offer a korban chatos, notwithstanding that it violated a Torah law.

3. Under certain circumstances, it might be permitted to ask a gentile to perform the act.

Two letters

Regarding the melacha of writing, the violation of the higher degree is when someone writes two letters of the alphabet. Someone who writes only one letter has performed a non-punishable offense, unless his one letter completed a work, such as it was the last letter of a sefer Torah (Shabbos 104b).

Someone who writes one letter is not chayov for violating the melacha even when it is an abbreviation of a word. For example, in the time of the Mishnah, someone might mark a bin containing maaser produce with a single letter mem מ. Despite the fact that everyone seeing this single מ on a bin will realize that this is a code for an entire word, someone who marked the bin with a letter מ is not chayov for Shabbos desecration, but is guilty of a lesser prohibition, that of writing pachus mi’keshiur.

Notwithstanding that writing less than the shiur is deemed non-punishable, it is forbidden, and its violation should not be treated lightly.

Writing with my mouth!?

At this point, we can discuss our opening question: Is writing with a pen in my mouth considered writing?

The Mishnah (Shabbos 103b) mentions other instances in which the act is not chayov; for example, someone wrote two letters in different places in a way that they cannot be read together, or he wrote in a way that people usually do not write, such as by holding the pen in his mouth.

Writing with your mouth

We have all heard of extremely talented artists who succeed in doing things that we would consider well-nigh impossible, such as drawing paintings with their toes or with a quill held between their teeth.

Actually, this incredible skill is not new. In the days of the Rama of Fanu, an early- seventeenth century Italian gadol, mekubal, and posek, there was a scribe who wrote sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos by holding the quill in his mouth. He wrote gorgeous sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos, but the halachic question was whether they were kosher. Some background to the issue is necessary:

Write right

The Mishnah (103b) lists many cases that are not prohibited min haTorah, including writing by holding the pen between the toes, with one’s mouth, by holding it in the joint between his forearm and upper arm (the opposite side of the elbow), or by holding a pen upside-down (thus, writing by twisting your arm backwards – don’t try it, it is a rather uncomfortable way to write). The Gemara adds that someone who writes with his weaker hand, such as a right-handed person who writes with his left hand, is patur from performing a punishable melacha.

Our opening question is now clearer. The poskim rule that just as writing in an unusual fashion does not qualify as an act of writing to desecrate Shabbos (min haTorah), sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written this way are not written correctly and are invalid. Similarly, the Rama of Fanu ruled that the beautiful sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written by holding the quill in the sofer’s mouth are not kosher.

Can you write by erasing?

There are circumstances in which a letter is created by erasing. For example, the Hebrew letter reish needs to be written, and at the moment its place is taken by a dalet or a tav. If you erase the extra piece and thus create a reish, have you desecrated Shabbos?

Let me explain this question in more detail: There is a principle germane to the laws of sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos that the letters must be written and cannot be scraped into existence. This case shows a perfect example: someone wrote a dalet where a reish is required, then scraped off the extension and point of the dalet to construct a reish. This is referred to as chok tochos and, unfortunately, sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos so made are invalid.

The question is: Does the creation of a letter on Shabbos by chok tochos constitute writing germane to the laws of Shabbos, or does it constitute only a rabbinic violation?

The answer:

Several authorities, both rishonim and acharonim, rule that a letter written by erasing violates the melacha of writing on Shabbos min haTorah (Ran, Or Zarua, Shu’t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim #207).

How were the boards marked?

I mentioned above the Mishnah that teaches that the boards were marked to be able to tell where each board should be placed when the mishkan was reassembled.

There is an interesting dispute between Rashi and the Rambam regarding how the boards of the mishkan were marked. According to Rashi (Shabbos 73a), each board was marked with a letter or symbol, with the two boards that were to be inserted into the same silver socket carrying the same symbol. The melacha is derived from the juxtaposition of two letters providing knowledge how to place the two boards.

The Rambam’s opinion is that the boards were numbered consecutively, using the same system we would use today to write numbers using Hebrew letters. Thus the eleventh board was mark יא and the nineteenth יט (Commentary to Mishnah Shabbos 12:3). He does not explain why we cannot derive that writing even one letter is chayov, since the first ten boards were identified with only one letter. It seems that, in his opinion, Chazal understood that one letter, which does not form a word in Hebrew, cannot be enough writing to be chayov. According to Rashi, the requirement to write two letters to be chayov is itself derived from the construction of the mishkan.

Writing other than Hebrew

Some rishonim contend that the prohibition against writing on Shabbos is violated min haTorah only when using Hebrew characters (Rabbeinu Yoel Halevi, quoted by Or Zarua, Hilchos Shabbos #76, and Hagahos Maimoniyos, Hilchos Sefer Torah 7:40 and Hilchos Tefillin, 1:70). According to these rishonim, writing in other alphabets is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction. Although most rishonim, including both Rashi (Shabbos 103a) and the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 11:10), clearly dispute this, contending that writing in any alphabet is prohibited min haTorah, the Rema (Orach Chayim 306:11) rules according to the Or Zarua that writing in other alphabets is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction (cf. Beis Shmuel 126:1 and Magen Avraham 340:10). Upon this basis, some later poskim permit having a non-Jew use a western alphabet on Shabbos for the benefit of a Jew (See Shu’t Noda Biyehudah, Orach Chayim 2:29).

Permanence

A requirement of most melachos is that the act involved must have a lasting result. For example, tying a knot that can last for only a matter of hours is not prohibited on Shabbos.

Germane to the melacha of writing, the Mishnah (Shabbos 104b) discusses this topic:

Someone who writes with ink, with a paint pigment, with sikra (a red dye), with tree-exudate gum, or with ferrous sulfate, or anything else that makes a permanent impression (is chayov).

The Tosefta (Shabbos 12:6) and other authorities add several other instances that are considered permanent: writing with pencil, coal, paint, shoe polish, tree sap, pomegranate peels, or congealed blood. (It is perhaps significant that the Rambam omits the case of congealed blood, a point raised by the Biur Halacha [340:4 s. v. bamashkin]. Biur Halacha leaves this issue unresolved.)

Temporary writing:

On the other hand, the Mishnah also mentions several types of writing that are deemed temporary and therefore only rabbinic violations of Shabbos. The Mishnah (103b) records the following instances of writing that qualify as temporary: “Someone who wrote with liquids (Rashi explains this to mean a berry juice with a black color), with fruit juices, with mud (or, alternatively, he used his finger to mark lettering in dust [Rashi]), with the residue left in an inkwell, or with any other substance that does not last is patur.”

How permanent?

Two great recent authorities apparently were involved in debating this exact question. Sometime in 1977, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach paid a house visit to the posek of the eidah hachareidis, Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss, and the two great authorities began discussing the question concerning how long a period of time must writing last to be considered permanent. Notwithstanding that both great leaders viewed one another with utmost respect, they disagreed very strongly over the halachic conclusions to be drawn from the evidence.

In a previous article discussing the laws of dyeing, we discussed how permanent you must color something to violate the laws of Shabbos min haTorah. Most authorities contend that violating the law min haTorah requires that the color last only to the end of Shabbos. Germane to the laws of writing, many authorities rule that the definition of permanent is the same: Any writing that will last until Shabbos is over is prohibited (see Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 7:13-15). However, other authorities rule that writing is more lenient than dyeing, which means that the length of time that a written message needs to last to violate a Torah prohibition is longer than the length of time required for a dye (Minchas Shlomoh 1:91:11; Rashba, Shabbos 115b; Biur Halacha, 340:4 s. v. Bemashkin).

Why should writing require a longer amount of time to be prohibited min haTorah than dyeing?

In writing, the goal is to provide communication, either to yourself as a reminder, or to someone else. If a person is writing a reminder, he probably needs the information to last for a few days, and therefore writing in a way that will not last this long does not violate the Torah prohibition.

The Shab-eit

I have in my possession a pen called a Shab-eit. This product was manufactured to assist security or medical personnel who are required to write on Shabbos because of pikuach nefesh situations. The instructions on the pen quote the words of the Mishnah, “Someone who wrote with liquids, with fruit juices, with mud, with the residue left in an inkwell, or with any other substance that does not last is patur,” with the notation that usage of the Shab-eit is prohibited miderabbanan on Shabbos. The package insert explains that state that anything written with the pen will become hard to read and will completely disappear within a few days, depending on the type of paper on which it is written. They note that, based on the company’s experience, the writing will remain on regular writing paper for about three days, and therefore use of the Shab-eit is advised for medical and security personnel required to write things on Shabbos because of life-threatening emergencies. The recommendations are to write on Shabbos in as limited a way as one can using this marker, and after Shabbos to rewrite or photograph what was written. They also suggest checking before Shabbos to see how long it lasts on the type of paper that will be used. As I discovered, on some types of paper this ink will disappear within hours, potentially rendering it useless.

The package includes a note that using this pen on Shabbos in the above-mentioned circumstances is based on piskei halacha of Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, whose responsa on the subject they reference.

Prickly writer

The Mishnah (104b) teaches: “Someone who writes on his own skin is chayov. Someone who scratches on his skin: Rabbi Eliezer rules that he is chayov, whereas the Sages rule that he is patur.”

What is the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and the Sages?

According to most opinions (Rashi on Rif, Ran, Reshash), they are discussing someone who took a pin or thorn and “wrote” by scratching some letters or a brief message into his skin. Rabbi Eliezer considers this to be an act of writing, whereas the Sages rule that he is exempt from a Torah violation for writing since this is not considered a normal way to write (Rambam, Ran). The halacha follows the Sages that he is exempt from a Torah violation (Rambam), although this is prohibited on Shabbos as a rabbinic injunction. It is also a valid question why this is not chayov for the Shabbos violation of drawing blood. I hope to answer this question in a future article.

Conclusion

The Torah commanded us concerning the halachos of Shabbos by giving us the basic categories that are prohibited. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from altering the world for our own purposes, but instead allow Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation by refraining from our own creative acts (Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch’s Commentary to Shemos 20:10). By demonstrating Hashem’s rule even over non-exertive activities such as writing, we demonstrate and acknowledge the true Creator of the world and all it contains.




When May I Ask a Non-Jew to Assist Me on Shabbos?

Photo by chopstix00 from FreeImages

While enslaved in Egypt, the Jews worked every day of the
week, and one of the special days celebrated to commemorate our Exodus is Shabbos.
Observing Shabbos includes not only keeping the mitzvos ourselves, but
also knowing when I may ask a non-Jew to perform prohibited activity, and when
I may benefit from work performed by a non-Jew on Shabbos.

Each of the following questions describes a situation that
people have asked me:

Question #1: A non-Jew turned on the lights for me on Shabbos.
May I use this light to read?

Question #2: It is chilly in our house. May I ask a
non-Jewish neighbor to turn up the heat?

Question #3: There is a problem with our electricity — the
lights have gone out, and my son is terrified. May I ask a non-Jewish
electrician to repair the power on Shabbos?

Question #4: We left the air conditioning off, and it became
very hot on Shabbos. May I ask a non-Jew to turn the air conditioning on?

Question #5: I did not realize that I parked my car in a
place where it will be towed away. May I ask a non-Jewish neighbor to move it?

In general, a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to perform activity
that a Jew himself may not do. Chazal prohibited this because asking a
non-Jew to work on Shabbos diminishes our sensitivity to doing melacha
ourselves. Furthermore, the non-Jew functions as my agent, and it is therefore
considered as if I did melacha work on Shabbos.

One may not benefit from melacha
performed for a Jew by a non-Jew on Shabbos, even if the Jew did not ask
him to do the work (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 276:1). Thus, if
a non-Jew turned on a light for the Jew’s benefit without being asked, a Jew
may not use the light.

This article will discuss when I may
benefit from what a non-Jew does a melacha and when may I ask him to do melacha.

BENEFITING FROM NON-JEWISH LABOR

In general, if a non-Jew does melacha
work for me on Shabbos, I may not benefit from what he did until
enough time has elapsed after Shabbos for the work to have been
performed after Shabbos (Beitzah 24b;
Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 325:6). Thus if a non-Jew baked an apple for
me on Shabbos, I may not eat it after Shabbos until the time it
takes to bake an apple. This way I receive no benefit
from the work he performed on Shabbos and I am not tempted to ask him to
do melacha for me at a different time (Rashi and Tosafos,
Beitzah
24b).

However, if a non-Jew did work
specifically for himself or for another non-Jew, I may benefit from his work
even on that Shabbos itself (Mishnah Shabbos 122a). Therefore, if
he turned on a light to see where he is going or to be able to read, I may use
the light to read. There is an exception to this lenience that I will explain
shortly.

The Gemara tells us the following story: The great Amora
Shmuel was visiting a man named Avin in the town of Torin, when a non-Jew
entered the room and kindled a light. Shmuel assumed that the non-Jew had
ignited the light for Shmuel’s benefit, which would make it forbidden to use
the light. In order to point out the fact that he was not using the light,
Shmuel turned his chair around, with his back to the light, so that it was
obvious that he was not using it. Shortly thereafter, the non-Jew returned with
a document that he proceeded to read. Shmuel now realized that the non-Jew had
kindled the light for himself and that he (Shmuel) was permitted to read by the
light (Shabbos 122b).

Sometimes I may not benefit from work
performed by a non-Jew even though he performed
the work to benefit a non-Jew. This is in a case
where there is concern that my benefiting from the activity might encourage the
non-Jew to do more work than he needs for himself
in order to benefit me. For example, if a non-Jew
who knows me heated up a kettle of water because he wants a cup of coffee, I
may not use the hot water. The reason is that, at some time in the future, he
might decide to add extra water to the kettle that he is heating so that I can
benefit (Shabbos 122a).

REMOVING IMPEDIMENTS

If a non-Jew did work that results in
removing an impediment that was disturbing a Jew, I need not be concerned about
benefiting from the non-Jew’s melacha activity. For example, if he
turned off the light so that a Jewish person can sleep, one may go to sleep in
that room. This is not considered as receiving benefit from a non-Jew’s Shabbos
activity, since extinguishing the light only removed an obstacle and created
nothing positive.

PARTIAL BENEFIT

Another instance that is not considered as receiving benefit
from melacha activity is when I could already benefit before the non-Jew
performed the melacha, and his melacha only makes it easier to do
what I wanted. For example, if there is enough light to read, and a non-Jew
turns on additional light, I may continue to read even though it is now easier
to read. This is not considered as benefiting from the non-Jew’s melacha
since I could have read even if he did not do the melacha (Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chayim
276:4). Similarly, one may eat a meal by the light that
he provides, if one could eat even without the additional light. (Note that one
may not ask the non-Jew to turn on the light in any of these instances.)

The poskim dispute whether in the above scenario I
may continue reading after the original light burns out. Some contend that once
the light has gone out, I may no longer read in the room since I am now
benefiting from what the non-Jew kindled on Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch
Orach Chayim
276:4; Bach; Magen Avraham). Others contend that since
I was permitted to read when the light was kindled, I may continue to read even
after the original light extinguished (Taz, Orach Chayim 276:3). Mishnah
Berurah
concludes that one should follow the first opinion.

I once spent Shabbos in a kosher hotel for a family simcha.
I arrived early for davening Shabbos morning, intending to learn
beforehand, only to discover that the lights were still out in the shul.
I assumed that the lights were set to go on by a Shabbos clock and sat
down near a window to learn in the interim. Fifteen minutes before davening
started, a non-Jewish employee of the hotel arrived and turned on all the shul
lights. This involved two prohibitions: 1. Since the non-Jew was an
employee of the Jewish-owned hotel, the hotel should not have arranged for him
to do melacha on Shabbos. 2. One may not benefit from the work he
did. Thus, it is forbidden to read in the shul if you need the light to
read.

However, as long as enough light came in through the windows
to read, I could continue to read using the artificial light, since I could in
any case read near the window. However, I could not read anywhere else in the shul.
Furthermore, once it would get dark outdoors, and I could no longer read by the
natural light, most authorities would prohibit reading by the kindled light.

MUST I LEAVE HOME?

According to what we have just explained, it would seem that
if a non-Jew turns on the light in a house because he wants to benefit a Jew,
one may not benefit from the light — and would have to leave the house.
However, Chazal ruled that one is not required to leave one’s house if
one did not want the non-Jew to turn on the light. Although one may not benefit
from a non-Jew’s melacha on Shabbos, one
is not required to leave one’s house in order to avoid benefiting from melacha
done against one’s will (Rama 276:1, quoting Yerushalmi). In all
instances like this, one should tell the non-Jew that you do not want him to do
the melacha.

WHEN MAY I ASK A NON-JEW TO WORK ON SHABBOS?

Under certain extenuating circumstances, Chazal permitted
asking a non-Jew to do melacha that a Jew may not do himself. I will
group these situations under the following categories:

I. Situations when I may ask a non-Jew to perform work that
would be prohibited min haTorah for a Jew.

II. Situations when I may ask a non-Jew to perform work that
is prohibited miderabbanan.

I. There are a few situations where I may ask a non-Jew to
perform something that would be a Torah prohibition if I did it myself. I may ask
a non-Jew to perform a melacha for someone who is “choleh kol gufo,
literally, his entire body is sick. This means that although the person is in
no danger, his illness is more than just a minor annoyance but it affects his
entire body (Shabbos 129a; Shulchan Aruch 328:17). For example, I
may ask a non-Jew to drive this person to a doctor, to pick up a prescription,
or to turn a light on or off. This leniency applies to someone whose illness
affects his entire body, or who is sick enough to be bedridden. Later in the
article, I will discuss the halachos that apply to someone who is not
well but who is feeling better than the person just described.

CHILDREN

Since children often get sick and are generally weaker than
adults are, halacha considers a child as choleh kol gufo (Rama 276:1)
when there is a great need (Mishnah Berurah ad loc.). Therefore,
if it is cold indoors, one may ask a non-Jew to turn on the heat for the sake
of a child, and then an adult may also benefit from the heat.

Until what age do I consider a child a choleh kol gufo? Many
poskim contend that any child under the age of nine is in this category
(Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 1:78), although other poskim are less
lenient.

Halacha treats a child who is afraid of the dark as a
choleh kol gufo (Ketzos Hashulchan 134:18). Therefore if
the light went out and a child is afraid, one may ask a non-Jew to rectify the
problem.

We can now answer Question #3 above: “There is a problem
with our electricity — the lights have gone out, and my son is terrified. May
I ask a non-Jewish electrician to repair the power on Shabbos?” Under
these circumstances, one may do so.

COLD ADULTS

When it is very cold, one may ask a non-Jew to turn on the
heat even for adults, even if this involves doing a Torah prohibition. This is
because everyone is considered sick when it comes to the cold. When it is
chilly but not freezing, the poskim dispute whether I may ask a non-Jew
to turn on the heat for the sake of adults when there are no children or ill people
around (Shulchan Aruch 276:5 and commentaries).

Thus, we can now answer Question #2: “It is chilly in our
house. May I ask a non-Jewish neighbor to turn up the heat?” The answer is that
it depends on how cold it is and who is affected by the lack of heat.

WIDESPREAD TRANSGRESSION

Another situation where one may ask a non-Jew to do melacha
that is prohibited min haTorah, is when it is necessary to prevent many
people from transgressing the Torah. For example, if one discovered that the eruv
is down, one may ask a non-Jew to repair it on Shabbos, even though he
will have to perform activities that would be prohibited min haTorah (Mishnah Berurah 276:25), such as driving his
car, tying a knot, or carrying in a reshus harabim min haTorah.

II. Situations when I may ask a non-Jew to perform work that
is prohibited miderabbanan.

SHVUS DE’SHVUS

Under certain other circumstances, Chazal permitted
asking a non-Jew to do something that would be prohibited miderabbanan
for a Jew. The poskim usually refer to this lenience as shvus
de’shvus.
In general, this is permitted in any of the following situations:

(A) If a person is slightly ill.

(B) There is a major need.

(C) In order to enable a Jew to fulfill a mitzvah (Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chayim
307:5).

I will now explain these three situations:

(A) Earlier, I noted that if someone is ill to the extent
that the illness affects his entire body, or if he is sick enough to go to bed,
one may ask a non-Jew to do something that would involve a Torah prohibition
for a Jew. If the person is less ill, one may ask a non-Jew to do something
that involves only a rabbinic prohibition, but not a Torah prohibition.

Included under this category is if the person is suffering
from considerable pain (Gra, Orach Chayim 325:10; Aruch
Hashulchan
307:18). Thus, someone who caught his finger in a door may ask a
non-Jew to bring ice through an area without an eruv, if he has no ice
in his house. Similarly if an insect bit him, he may ask a non-Jew to buy
medicine to alleviate the pain.

Based on the above heter, may one ask a non-Jew to
turn on the air conditioner if it gets very hot? Does this qualify as
alleviating a great deal of suffering? And is operating the air conditioning
considered a Torah violation or a rabbinic violation, for which we may be
lenient because of shvus de’shvus?

This question was the subject of a dispute by the last
generation’s poskim. Minchas Yitzchok (3:23) permits asking a
non-Jew to turn on the air conditioning, quoting Levush who explains
that once people are unaccustomed to the cold, halacha considers them to
be ill even if it is not that cold. Therefore, one may ask a non-Jew to kindle
a fire for them. However, he then quotes sources that contend that being too
hot is not the same as being too cold. He concludes that someone who is
accustomed to moderate weather suffers when it is very hot and humid and may
therefore ask a non-Jew to turn on the air conditioning because it is shvus
de’shvus
bimkom tzaar (to alleviate suffering). Similarly, his mechutan,
the Chelkas Yaakov (3:139) permitted having a non-Jew turn on the
air conditioning because of shvus di’shvus bimakom tzaar.

On the other hand, Rav Moshe prohibited asking a non-Jew to
turn on the air conditioner because it is benefiting from work performed by a
non-Jew on Shabbos (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:47:2). Rav
Moshe forbids benefiting even if one did not ask the non-Jew to turn on the air
conditioning, but merely hinted, such as by telling him, “It is really hot here!”
hoping that he catches the hint. Evidently, Rav Moshe did not consider this as
a makom tzaar that permits benefiting from a non-Jew’s activity on Shabbos.

Thus, in answer to Question #4 — “We left the air
conditioning off, and it became very hot on Shabbos. May I ask a non-Jew
to turn the air conditioning on?” We see that the poskim dispute whether
this is permitted or not.

(B) One may ask a non-Jew to perform an issur derabbanan in
case of major need. There are three opinions as to how much financial loss this
must entail to be considered a major need.

(1) Some rule that one may ask the non-Jew even if there is
no financial loss, as long as there is a great need (Shulchan Aruch Orach
Chayim
307:5; Graz 307:12). According to these poskim, if
one’s clothes became torn or dirty on Shabbos and he is embarrassed to
wear them, he may ask a non-Jew to bring him clean clothes through an area not
enclosed by an eruv.

(2) Other poskim rule more strictly, contending that
one may be lenient only if a major financial loss will result (Magen Avraham
307:7). According to these poskim, if one discovered that the plug
of one’s well-stocked freezer is disconnected, one may ask a non-Jew to
reconnect it on Shabbos.

(3) A third opinion contends that major financial loss is
not sufficient reason to permit shvus de’shvus unless there is some
physical discomfort as well (Elyah Rabbah 307:14). We usually follow the
second opinion quoted and permit a shvus di’shvus in case of major
financial loss. Furthermore, we allow shvus de’shvus even if it is
uncertain that a major loss will result, but it is a good possibility (see She’eilas
Yaavetz
2:139). As a result, one may ask a non-Jew to plug in the freezer
even if one is uncertain whether the food will go bad.

Note that the opinions I quoted above permit asking a
non-Jew only to perform a melacha derabbanan to avoid financial loss,
but none of them permit asking him to violate a Torah law. Thus, this would
answer Question #5 that I mentioned above: “I did not realize that I parked my
car in a place where the city will tow it away. May I ask a non-Jewish neighbor
to move it?” The answer is that one is not allowed to ask him. However, one may
hint to the non-Jew in an indirect way by saying, “My car is parked in a place
where it might get towed,” as I explained in a previous article on this
subject.

(C) I may ask a non-Jew to do something that is only an issur
derabbanan
in order to enable me to perform a mitzvah. For example, having a
guest who is visiting from out of town, or a guest who otherwise would have
nowhere to eat, fulfills the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim. (Inviting a
neighborhood family over for a Shabbos meal may be a very big chesed
for the wife of the guest family, but it does not qualify as the mitzvah of hachnasas
orchim
[Rama 333:1].) Therefore, if one realizes on Shabbos
that one does not have enough chairs for all the guests to sit at the table, he
may ask a non-Jew to bring chairs from a neighbor’s house even when there is no
eruv. Other poskim are more lenient, permitting asking a non-Jew
to bring any food or beverage that enhances Shabbos (Aruch Hashulchan
307:18).

Some authorities permit asking a non-Jew to perform a Torah melacha
in order to allow the observance of a mitzvah. This is a minority opinion and
should not be followed. However, there was an old custom among European Jewry
to permit asking a non-Jew under these circumstances. This custom has halachic
sources in the following Rama:

“Some permit telling a non-Jew to kindle lights for the sake
of the Shabbos meal, because they contend that in order to fulfill a
mitzvah (such as having a nice Shabbos meal) one may ask a non-Jew to
perform even a real melacha that would be forbidden for a Jew to do min
haTorah
. Following this approach, many are accustomed to be lenient and
command a non-Jew to kindle lights for the purpose of the Shabbos meal,
particularly for wedding and bris meals, and no one rebukes them.
However, one should be strict in this matter when there is no extenuating need,
since most of the halachic authorities disagree” (Rama 276:2).

In conclusion, we have discovered that in certain
extenuating instances, Chazal permitted melacha performed by a
non-Jew, but that one should not extend these heterim to other
situations. When using a non-Jew to do normally forbidden work, one should
focus that one’s intent is not, chas vesholom, to weaken the importance
of Shabbos, but, rather, to enhance kavod Shabbos.




When May I Ask a Non-Jew for Help on Shabbos? Part II

Photo by s s from FreeImages

Each of the following questions is an actual situation about
which I was asked:

Question #1: My friend lives in a neighborhood that does not
have an eruv. She arranges before Shabbos for a non-Jew to push
the baby carriage on Shabbos. May she do this?

Question #2: “If this contract does not arrive at its
destination ASAP, I could suffer huge losses. May I mail it as an express mail
package on Friday?”

Question #3: “If a registered letter arrives on Shabbos,
may I ask the letter carrier to sign for me?”

As I mentioned last week, the topic of amira lenachri what
I am permitted to ask a non-Jew to do for me that I am not permitted to do
myself, is very complicated and often misunderstood or misapplied. As I noted
last week, these laws are not restricted to the laws of Shabbos, but
apply to all mitzvos of the Torah, and, therefore, I may not ask a
non-Jew to graft fruit trees for me, nor may I ask him to do prohibited work on
Chol Hamoed (Moed Katan 12a).

As we learned last week, these are some of the factors that
we must consider:

A. Is the non-Jew my employee or is he an “independent
contractor”?

B. What type of benefit do I receive from his work?

C. Did I ask the non-Jew directly or indirectly?

D. If a Jew were to perform the work, would it be prohibited
min haTorah or only miderabbanan?

E. Why do I want him to do this work?

F. Could I do the work myself, albeit in a different way
from how the non-Jew is likely to do it?

Last week, we discussed the difference between asking
directly from the non-Jew to do something that I am prohibited from doing,
versus, hinting this to him. May I hint to a non-Jew that I would like him to
perform a prohibited activity on Shabbos? The poskim dispute this
issue. As we learned last week, the majority of poskim rule that,
although one may not hint to a non-Jew on Shabbos, one may hint to him
on a weekday (Smag). Thus one may ask him on Friday, “Why didn’t you do
this last Shabbos? but one may not ask him this on Shabbos (Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chayim
307:2; Rema Orach Chayim 307:22). However, the poskim
agree that one may tell a non-Jewish mailman on Shabbos, “I cannot read
this letter until it is open.” What is the difference between the two types of
hinting?

The difference is that the forbidden type of hinting implies
either a command or a rebuke, whereas the permitted type does not (Magen
Avraham
307:31). Telling a non-Jew to clean something up in a dark room on Shabbos
is, in essence, commanding him to perform a prohibited activity — turning on
the light. Similarly, when you rebuke him for not doing something last Shabbos,
you are basically commanding him to do it the next Shabbos. However, one
may make a statement of fact that is neither a command nor a rebuke. Therefore
telling the non-Jew, “I cannot read this letter unless it is open” does not
command him to do anything, and for this reason it is permitted.

However, if the non-Jew then asks me, “Would you like me to
open the letter for you?” I may not answer “Yes,” since this is itself a
command. (It is as if you said, “Yes, I would like you to open the letter for
me.”) I may tell him, “That’s not a bad idea,” or “I have no objections to your
opening the letter,” which does not directly ask him. I may even say, “I am not
permitted to ask you to open it on my Sabbath.”

PUSHING THE BABY CARRIAGE

At this point, we can discuss our opening question: My
friend lives in a neighborhood that does not have an eruv. Before Shabbos,
she arranges for a non-Jew to push the baby carriage on Shabbos. May she
do this? (See Mishnah Berurah
308:154.)

Let me address this issue with the following shaylah that
I was asked recently: Someone moved to a community where the rav permits
people to have a non-Jew carry the baby on Shabbos by arranging remizah
(hinting) from before Shabbos. This means that one would tell a
non-Jew before Shabbos, “I would like to go to shul on Shabbos,
but I cannot leave the baby behind.” The non-Jew then responds, “What time
would you like me to arrive at the house?” or “What time would you like to
leave the house?” neither party ever stating that you have asked the non-Jew
what to do.

Personally, I have strong reservations about using this
suggestion, since, eventually, one will end up commanding the non-Jew directly,
such as, if the non-Jew asks, “Do you need me to take the baby’s blanket
along?” If you answer “Yes,” you have commanded the non-Jew, which is a
violation of the halacha.

EXPRESS MAIL

At this point, we can begin to discuss opening question #2:
May I mail express mail on Friday?

At first glance, it would seem that one may not send an
express mail package on Friday, since you are asking the non-Jew to transport
and deliver the package on Shabbos. You are requesting that he do the
job as quickly as possible, making this dissimilar to the case of bringing the
car to the auto mechanic or clothes to the dry cleaner on Friday. In this case,
you are insisting that he do the job on Shabbos, which is prohibited.

A similar shaylah to our express mail case was asked
in Amsterdam hundreds of years ago of Rav Yaakov Emden. The questioner wanted
to ship precious stones by asking a non-Jewish employee to deliver them to the
post office on Shabbos, reasoning that his non-Jewish agent was carrying
items within an eruv on Shabbos and therefore not doing any
prohibited activity. Rav Yaakov Emden prohibited this, pointing out that the
non-Jew would have to fill out paperwork at the post office to send off this shipment,
and this would be considered having an agent work for him on Shabbos (She’eilas
Yaavetz
2:139).

Although based on the above analysis it would seem that one
may not send express mail on Friday, there is a different reason why one may —
but only under extenuating circumstances, as I will explain.

I may not ask a non-Jew on Shabbos to hire other
non-Jewish workers (Shabbos 150a; Shulchan Aruch 307:2). Some poskim
contend that although I may not ask a non-Jew to hire workers, which is a
prohibited activity, I may ask him to ask another non-Jew to do
something that is prohibited on Shabbos. The rationale behind this heter,
usually called amira le’amira, is that asking one non-Jew to ask another
is permitted because I am asking a non-Jew only to talk, which is not
considered an activity (Shu’t Chavos Ya’ir #46, 49, 53). Other poskim
contend that just as one may not ask a non-Jew to hire workers, which is just
talk, one cannot ask him to do any other activity that involves prohibited work
(Avodas Hagershuni). Mishnah Berurah (307:24) rules that one may
be lenient in a case of major financial loss; thus, under very extenuating
circumstances, one could be lenient.

This dispute is interesting historically because the two
seventeenth-century Torah giants involved in this dispute corresponded with one
another. The Chavos Ya’ir permitted asking a non-Jew to ask another
non-Jew to work on Shabbos, whereas the Avodas Hagershuni responded
to him that this is forbidden. One can actually trace the give-and-take of their
halachic debate on the issue, together with their lines of reasoning and
proofs, simply by reading the correspondence published in their responsa. It is
almost as if we are privileged to sit in their respective batei midrash and
listen in as they each give shiur on the subject!

The dispute has many ramifications, one of which is our case
of express mail, since you place an order with one person, but a different
non-Jew does the actual traveling and delivering. Thus, we have a case of amira
le’amira,
which is permitted according to the Chavos Yair. There is
also another reason to be lenient: Since one is arranging the express mail
delivery before Shabbos, the situation is a bit more lenient than the
above-mentioned dispute between the Chavos Yair and the Avodas
Hagershuni
. Indeed, the Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Orach Chayim #60)
rules a compromise position between the two, permitting telling the non-Jew
before Shabbos to ask the other non-Jew on Shabbos. Biur
Halacha
(307:2) disagrees, quoting Rashba. Therefore, one should not
rely on this ruling unless the situation is extenuating.

The story behind the Chasam Sofer’s responsum on this
issue is worth noting. During the Napoleonic Wars, a battle took place in
Pressburg (today known as Bratislava), where the Chasam Sofer was rav,
in which much of the Jewish area of town went up in flames. It was very
important to rebuild the neighborhood before winter set in, and there was
concern that the non-Jewish contractors would not construct the Jewish houses
in a timely fashion if they were not allowed to work on Shabbos. One of
the reasons that the Chasam Sofer ruled that they could allow the
non-Jew workers to work on Shabbos was that the Jews hired a non-Jewish
contractor, who in turn instructed his employees when to work. Thus it was a
case of amira le’amira, which the Chasam Sofer permitted if the
contractor received his instructions before Shabbos.

SHABBOS PICK-UP

If I hired a non-Jew to make a delivery for me, he may not
pick up the item from my house on Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach
Chayim
307:4). Thus, if I contract with a delivery service, such as UPS,
they must pick up the item before Shabbos.

Now we should be prepared to answer this last
question.  What should I do if a registered letter arrives on Shabbos?

As explained above, I may not ask the non-Jewish
delivery person to sign for me, even by hinting to him. However, I may tell
him, “I cannot sign for this today because it is my Sabbath.” If he asks me,
“Would you like me to sign for the delivery?” I may not tell him, “Yes.”
However I may answer him, “It is fine with me if you would like to,” or “I may
not ask someone else to do this on my Sabbath,” or “I do not mind receiving the
delivery, but I may not sign for it.”

In conclusion, we have discovered that in certain
extenuating instances, Chazal permitted melacha performed by a
non-Jew, but that one should not extend these heterim to other
situations. When using a non-Jew to do normally forbidden work, one should
focus that one’s intent is not, chas v’sholom, to weaken the importance
of Shabbos, but, rather, to enhance kavod Shabbos.

According to the Rambam, the reason that Chazal prohibited
asking a non-Jew to do work on Shabbos is so that we do not diminish
sensitivity to doing melacha ourselves. Refraining from having even a
non-Jew work for me on Shabbos shows even deeper testimony to my
conviction that Hashem created the world.




When May I Ask a Non-Jew for Help on Shabbos?

Each of the following questions is an actual situation about
which I was asked:

Question #1: My car needs repair work, and the most
convenient time to drop it off at Angelo’s Service Station is Friday afternoon.
May I bring Angelo the car then, knowing that he is going to repair it on Shabbos?

Question #2: A gala Shabbos sheva brachos is
being held at an apartment several flights of stairs below street level, a very
common situation in hilly Yerushalayim. The kallah’s elderly grandmother
arrived before Shabbos by elevator, intending to return home by using
the Shabbos elevator (a subject I hope to discuss at a different time iy’H).
Indeed, the building’s elevator actually has a Shabbos setting, but we
discover on Shabbos that the Shabbos setting is not working. How
does Bubby get home?

Question #3: My friend lives in a neighborhood that does not
have an eruv. She arranges before Shabbos for a non-Jew to push
the baby carriage on Shabbos. May she do this?

Question #4: “If this contract does not arrive at its
destination ASAP, I could suffer huge losses. May I mail it as an express mail
package on Friday?”

Question #5: “If a registered letter arrives on Shabbos,
may I ask the letter carrier to sign for me?”

Many people are under the mistaken impression that one may
ask a non-Jew to do any prohibited activity on Shabbos. This is not
accurate. I know of many instances in which someone asked a non-Jew to do work
in situations in which making such a request is prohibited. Our Sages
prohibited asking a non-Jew to work for us on Shabbos out of concern
that this diminishes our sensitivity to doing melacha ourselves (Rambam,
Hilchos Shabbos
6:1). Also, Chazal considered the non-Jew to be my
agent — thus, if he works for me on Shabbos, it is considered that I
worked on Shabbos through a hired agent (Rashi, Shabbos 153a s.v.
mai taama).

By the way, the halachos of amira lenochri, asking a
non-Jew to perform a prohibited activity, are not restricted to the laws of Shabbos,
but apply to all mitzvos of the Torah. Thus, it is prohibited to have a non-Jew muzzle your animal while it works (see Bava Metzia 90a; Shulchan Aruch Choshen
Mishpat
338:6), ask him to graft fruit trees, nor  ask a non-Jew to do
prohibited work on Chol Hamoed (Moed Katan 12a).

There are many complicated details governing when I may ask
a non-Jew to do something on Shabbos and when I may not. These are some
of the factors that one must consider:

A. Is the non-Jew my employee or is he an “independent
contractor”?

B. What type of benefit do I receive from his work?

C. Did I ask the non-Jew directly or indirectly?

D. If a Jew were to perform the work, would it be prohibited
min haTorah or only miderabbanan?

E. Why do I want him to do this work?

F. Could I do the work myself, albeit in a different way
from how the non-Jew is likely to do it?

To show how these details affect a practical case, I will
analyze the halachic issues involved in each of our cases mentioned
above, starting with our first case — leaving the car over Shabbos at a
non-Jewish mechanic. The important detail here is that I did not ask the
non-Jew to do the work on Shabbos – it is prohibited to do so. Instead,
I brought him the car and allowed him to decide whether to do the work on Shabbos.
Is he now my agent if he works on Shabbos?

AGENT VERSUS CONTRACTOR

There is a halachic difference whether the non-Jew is
working as my agent (or employee) or whether he is an independent contractor
who makes his own decisions. If he is my agent, I may not allow him to do
prohibited activity on Shabbos. However, if he is an independent
contractor, under certain circumstances, I am not responsible if he actually
does the work on Shabbos.

When is the non-Jew considered a contractor? If the non-Jew
decides on his own when to do the work and I hired him by the job, he is a
contractor. In these cases, I may give him work that he might decide to perform
on Shabbos, provided that he could do the work on a different day and
that he does the work on his own premises. (Under certain circumstances, the
last condition is waived.)

What are examples of contractors? The mailman, the repairman
who repairs items on his own premises, and the dry cleaner are all contractors.
On the other hand, a regular employee whom I ask to do work on Shabbos
is not a contractor unless I pay him extra for this job.

Thus, I may drop off my car at the auto mechanic before Shabbos
and leave it over Shabbos, provided I allow him time to do the work when
it is not Shabbos, either on Friday afternoon or Motza’ei Shabbos.
Even though I know that the non-Jewish mechanic will not be working Saturday
night and will actually do the work on Shabbos, I need not be concerned,
since he could choose to do the work after Shabbos.

However, dropping off my car before Shabbos is
permitted only when:

(1) He does the work on his own premises.

(2) He is paid a fee for the completed job.

(3) He decides whether or not he does the work on Shabbos.
(It should be noted that some poskim prohibit doing this when the
mechanic is closed Motza’ei Shabbos. Since I know that he is closed Motza’ei
Shabbos,
they consider it asking him to do the work on Shabbos,
which is prohibited.)

In a similar way, I could bring dry cleaning in on Friday
afternoon expecting to pick up the cleaned clothes Saturday night, provided
enough time exists to clean the clothes before or after Shabbos.

We will now explore our second question:

An elderly woman cannot ascend the several flights of stairs
necessary to get to street level. The building has a Shabbos elevator,
but we discover on Shabbos that the Shabbos setting is not
working. How does Bubby get home? Can we have a non-Jew operate the elevator to
get her home?

Before answering this question, I want to share with you
another story:

A DARK SIMCHAS TORAH SHABBOS

The following story occurred on a Simchas Torah in
Yerushalayim that fell on Shabbos. (Although Simchas Torah outside
Eretz Yisroel cannot occur on Shabbos, Shmini Atzeres,
which can fall on Shabbos, is observed in Eretz Yisroel as Simchas
Torah
.) Just as the hakafos were beginning, the power in the shul
went out, plunging the entire shul into darkness. The shul’s emergency
lights went on, leaving the shul dimly lit — sufficient for people to
exit safely and to dance in honor of Simchas Torah, but certainly making
it more difficult to observe the usual Simchas Torah celebrations. The rav
of the shul ruled that they could not ask a non-Jew to turn on the
lights.

If any element of danger had been involved, one could
certainly have asked a non-Jew to turn on the lights. But the rav felt
that the situation was not dangerous, and therefore maintained that one may not
ask a non-Jew to turn on the lights.

One of the congregants suggested a way to illuminate the shul.
The same idea could get Bubby home! Before presenting his idea, I need to
explain two concepts:

BENEFITING FROM A NON-JEW’S ACTION

If a non-Jew does melacha on Shabbos for his
own benefit, a Jew may use the results. For example, if a non-Jew builds a ramp
to disembark from a boat on Shabbos, a Jew may now exit the boat via the
same ramp, since the non-Jew did no additional work in order to benefit the
Jew. Similarly, if a non-Jew kindled a light so that he can read, a Jew may now
use the light. One may use the light even if the non-Jew and the Jew know one
another (Mishnah Shabbos 122a; Rambam 6:2; Shulchan Aruch
Orach Chayim
325:11).

However, if the non-Jew gathered grass to feed his animals,
the Jew cannot let his animals eat the leftover grass if the two people know
one another. This is so that the non-Jew will not in the future come to do melacha
for the sake of the Jew (Shabbos 122a).

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RAMP AND THE GRASS?

Why are these cases halachically different? Why may
the Jew use the light or the ramp, but may not allow his animal to eat the
grass?

In the first cases, no additional work is necessary for the
non-Jew to provide a ramp or light for the Jew. Once the non-Jew has built the
ramp or kindled the light, any number of people can benefit from them without
any additional melacha. However, cutting each blade of grass is a
separate melacha activity. Thus, allowing one’s animal to eat this grass
might tempt the non-Jew to cut additional grass for the Jew’s animal, which we
must avoid.

So far, we have calculated that if we can figure out how to
get the non-Jew to turn on the light for his own benefit, one may use the
light. Thus, we might be able to turn lights on in the shul for Shabbos,
or have a non-Jew ride the elevator up to the main floor and hopefully have
Bubby in the elevator at the same time. However, how does one get the non-Jew
to turn on the light or the elevator for his own benefit when one may not ask
him to do any work on Shabbos?

HINTING

May I hint to a non-Jew that I would like him to perform a
prohibited activity on Shabbos? The poskim dispute this issue.
Some rule that this is prohibited (Tur Orach Chayim 307), whereas others
permit it (Bach, Orach Chayim 307 s.v. uma shekasav rabbeinu). Thus,
according to the second opinion, one may ask a non-Jew on Shabbos, “Why
didn’t you accompany Bubby on the elevator last Shabbos?” even though he
clearly understands that you are asking him to take the elevator with her
today. According to the first opinion, one may not do this, nor may one ask a
non-Jew to clean up something in a dark room, since to do so he must turn on
the light.

However, the majority of poskim accept an
intermediate position, contending that, although one may not hint to a non-Jew
on Shabbos, one may hint to him on a weekday (Smag). Thus one may
ask him on Friday, “Why didn’t you do this last Shabbos? but one may not
ask him this on Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 307:2; Rema
Orach Chayim
307:22). According to this last ruling, one could tell the
non-Jew during the week, “Why did you leave Bubby downstairs without taking her
up in the elevator?” but one could not mention this to him on Shabbos.

PERMITTED HINTING VERSUS PROHIBITED HINTING

However, the poskim agree that one may tell a
non-Jewish mailman on Shabbos, “I cannot read this letter until it is
open.” What is the difference between the two types of hinting?

The difference is that the forbidden type of hinting implies
either a command or a rebuke, whereas the permitted type does not (Magen
Avraham
307:31). Telling a non-Jew to clean something up in a dark room on Shabbos
is, in essence, commanding him to perform a prohibited activity — turning on
the light. Similarly, when you rebuke him for not doing something last Shabbos,
you are basically commanding him to do it the next Shabbos. However, one
may make a statement of fact that is neither a command nor a rebuke. Therefore
telling the non-Jew, “I cannot read this letter unless it is open” does not
command him to do anything, and for this reason it is permitted.

However, if the non-Jew then asks me, “Would you like me to
open the letter for you?” I may not answer “Yes,” since this is itself a
command. (It is as if you said, “Yes, I would like you to open the letter for
me.”) I may tell him, “That’s not a bad idea,” or “I have no objections to your
opening the letter,” which does not directly ask him. I may even say, “I am not
permitted to ask you to open it on my Sabbath.”

How does this discussion affect our dark Simchas Torah
or getting Bubby home?

The congregant suggested the following: One could create a
situation whereby turning on the light is beneficial for the non-Jew, and then
hint to him that if he wants to, he could benefit by turning the light on. One
may do this because the non-Jew is turning on the light for his own use, and
the Jew did not ask him directly to turn on the light. Thus, if you placed a
bottle of whiskey or a gift of chocolate in the shul, and then notified
the non-Jew that the bottle or chocolate is waiting for him there, you can show
him how to turn on the lights so that he can find his present. This is
permitted because the non-Jew is turning on the lights for his own benefit, and
you did not ask him, nor even hint to him that you want him to turn on the
lights. You simply notified him that if he wants to put on the lights, he could
find himself a very nice present.

The same solution may help Bubby return home. Someone may
invite a non-Jew to the sheva brachos, and then told him that a present
awaits him in the building’s entrance foyer. Does it bother him if Bubby shares
the elevator with him while he goes to retrieve his present?

A word of caution: If one uses this approach, one must be
careful that the non-Jew is indeed doing the melacha for his own
purposes, such as to get the present as mentioned above. However, one may not
ask the non-Jew to accompany you on a tour of the dark shul, and then he
turns on the light to see his way. This is prohibited because the non-Jew is
interested in the light only in order to accompany you on the walk, not because
he gains anything (see Shulchan Aruch 276:3).

We will continue this topic next week…

As I mentioned above, the Rambam explains the reason that Chazal prohibited asking a non-Jew to do work on Shabbos is so that we do not diminish sensitivity to doing melacha ourselves. Refraining from having even a non-Jew work for me on Shabbos shows even deeper testimony to my conviction that Hashem created the world.




Feeding the Birds

Question #1: Was Mom Wrong?

“My mother always shook out crumbs in our backyard on parshas
Beshalach
. Although she was frum her whole life, she had little
formal Jewish education, and all of her Yiddishkeit was what she picked
up from her home. I discovered recently that Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah
prohibits this practice. So how could my mother have done this?”

Question #2: Dog Next Door

“We have an excellent relationship with our next door
neighbor, who happens not to be Jewish, although I am not sure if that affects
the question. They are going away on vacation and have asked us to feed their
pets while they are away. May I do so on Shabbos?”

Question #3: In the Zoo

“How are zoo animals fed on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

Many people have the custom of scattering wheat or
breadcrumbs for the birds to enjoy as their seudas Shabbos on Shabbos
Parshas Beshalach
, which is called Shabbos Shirah. This practice,
which we know goes back hundreds of years, has engendered halachic
discussion as to whether it is actually permitted. I will first explain the
reasons for the custom and then the halachic issues and discussion,
which we can trace from the earliest commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch
to the recent authorities. I am also assuming that there is no problem of
carrying – in other words, we are discussing scattering food within an area
enclosed by an eruv.

Manna on Shabbos

To explain the reason for this practice that my mother
taught me and that my mother-in-law taught my wife, we need to first look at
our parsha. Moshe informed Bnei Yisroel that no manna would fall
on Shabbos morning, and that the double portion received on Friday would
suffice for two days. The Torah teaches that some Jews went to look for manna
anyway on Shabbos morning, but did not find any.

According to the traditional story, Doson and Aviram took
some of their own leftover manna from Friday, which means that they went a bit
hungry that day. They placed this manna outside the Jewish camp, and in the
morning they informed the people that manna had fallen. Their attempt to
discredit the miracle failed when the people went to look and found nothing
there. This was because some birds had arrived to eat the manna before the
people would find it. To reward the birds for preventing a chillul Hashem,
people spread food for the birds to eat.

Like the birds

I saw another reason for this practice, also related to the
falling of the manna. According to this reason, placing feed for birds is to
remind us that Hashem provided food for us in the desert, similar to the
way birds readily find their food without any difficulty.

Birds sing

Others cite a different basis for the practice. According
to this version, the reason for feeding the birds on this Shabbos is because
on Shabbos Shirah, we commemorate the Jews singing praise to Hashem
after being saved at the Yam Suf. According to this reason, the birds
also sang shirah at the Yam Suf, and we feed them to commemorate
the event (Tosafos Shabbos 324:17, and several later authorities who
quote him). As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word tzipor is based on the
Aramaic word tzafra,which means morning, and expresses
the concept that birds sing praise to Hashem every morning (see Ramban,
Vayikra
14:4).

There is a fascinating account transmitted verbally from
the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch, who heard from his grandfather, the Ba’al
HaTanya, that their ancestor, the Maharal of Prague, would do the following on Shabbos
Shirah
: First, he told the rebbei’im of the schools and the fathers
to bring the children to the shul courtyard. He then instructed the rabbei’im
to relate to the children the story of Keri’as Yam Suf,how
the birds sang and danced while Moshe and the Bnei Yisroel sang Az
Yashir,
and that the children crossing Yam Suf took fruits from
trees growing there and afterward fed them to the birds that sang.

No local songbirds

Although I have not yet explained the halachic
controversy surrounding this custom, I will share a difference in practical halacha
that might result from the dispute between the different reasons. According to
the first two reasons, one would spread food for the birds, even if one lives
in an area where the bird population includes no songbirds. According to the
third approach, in such a place there would be no reason to observe the
practice.

Questionable practice

Notwithstanding that Jews have been observing the custom of
spreading food for birds on Shabbos Shirah for several hundred
years, there is a major halachic controversy about its observance. This
is based on a Mishnah and a passage of the Gemara that discuss
whether on Shabbos one may provide water and food for birds and other
creatures that are not dependent on man for their daily bread or birdseed. The
reason for this prohibition is, apparently, because this type of activity,
being unnecessary for one’s observance of Shabbos, is viewed as a tircha
yeseirah
. I will explain this as “distracting exertion,” meaning that Chazal
did not want us involving ourselves in what they determined to be unnecessary
activities, since this detracts from the sanctity of the Shabbos day.

I have seen much discussion about the custom of feeding
birds on Shabbos Shirah, but virtually all in Ashkenazic
sources. It seems to me that this custom is either predominantly or exclusively
an Ashkenazic practice. The only Sephardic authority I have found who
mentions the practice is the Kaf Hachayim, who lived in the twentieth
century, and whose work predominantly anthologizes earlier commentaries on the Shulchan
Aruch
. Therefore, his reporting the Ashkenazic authorities who
discuss the custom does not necessarily reflect that any Sefardic
communities observed this practice.

At this point, we need to discuss the background to the halachic
question about the practice of feeding the birds on Shabbos Shirah.

The original source

The Mishnah (Shabbos 155b) rules that one may
not place water before bees or doves that live in cotes, but one may do so
before geese, chickens and Hardisian doves.

What type of dove?

There are actually three different texts of this Mishnah.
According to one version, one is prohibited to water “Hardisian” doves (Rashi),
which refers to a geographic location where they raised doves similarly to the
way ducks or geese are raised as livestock.A second version prohibits
providing water to “Herodian” doves (Rambam, Bartenura). This text
refers to a variety of domesticated bird developed by Herod, or, more likely,
by his bird keepers. (The Meleches Shelomoh cites a third text, which is
not pertinent to our discussion.)

In a passage of Gemara relevant to the mitzvah of shiluach
hakein
, the prohibition against taking the mother bird and her eggs or
young offspring, the Gemara (Chullin 139b) provides two texts and
explanations as to which of these two types of birds, Hardisian doves or
Herodian doves, is excluded from the prohibition. In the context of shiluach
hakein
, the prohibition is dependent on the birds being ownerless, and both
Hardisian and Herodian doves have owners. (From the Gemara’s
description, it appears that Herodian doves may have been a variety of parrot
or other talking bird. We have no mesorah that parrots are a kosher
species of bird, which is one of the halachic requirements for the
mitzvah of shiluach hakein, but that does not preclude understanding the
Gemara this way.)

In either instance, it is permitted to take both the mother
and the offspring of both Hardisian and Herodian birds, because the Torah
prohibits doing so only when the birds are hefker, ownerless, which
these birds are not. The Gemara describes the large numbers of these
birds that were raised, something that today’s breeders of chickens can only
envy.

Although these varieties of birds were well known at the
time of the Mishnah, by the time of the Gemara, these varieties
were heading toward extinction.

Watering birds

Returning to the Mishnah in Shabbos,
according to either text, “Hardisian” or “Herodian,” one may provide these
birds with water on Shabbos. Our first question is why the Mishnah permits
one to water geese, chickens and these doves, but not bees nor doves that
reside in cotes. The Gemara provides two answers to explain why there is
a difference.

The first answer is that bees and most doves are not
dependent on mankind for their sustenance, whereas geese, chickens, and these
varieties of domesticated doves are. The Gemara then provides a second
answer that limits the prohibition to water, since it is readily available
without human assistance. According to the second answer, there is no
prohibition against feeding birds on Shabbos. The prohibition is only
that one should not provide water to those birds and insects that can easily
get their hydration on their own.

Feeding on Yom Tov

According to some rishonim, we find a similar
discussion regarding providing food for animals on Yom Tov (Rashi,
Beitzah
23b).

Dogs versus pigs

In the same discussion of Gemara, it quotes a beraisa
(a teaching dating back to the era of the Mishnah) that permits
feeding dogs on Shabbos, but prohibits feeding pigs. The beraisa
itself asks why there is a difference, and explains that the sustenance of
one’s dogs is dependent on the owner, but the sustenance of his pigs is not.

This leads to an obvious question: Both of these species
are non-kosher, yet the beraisa does not prohibit feeding one’s dogs. It
also does not say that it depends on whether he owns them or not. Rashi explains
that since a curse was placed on any Jew who raises pigs (see Sotah 49b),
Jews should not be responsible for feeding them, and therefore Chazal
prohibited doing so. Although pigs are often domesticated by people who are not
concerned about observing the halacha that prohibits raising them (Sotah
49b), Chazal expanded this prohibition and ruled that, even should
someone own a pig, he may not feed it on Shabbos since the sustenance of
a pig should not be dependent on a Jew (see Rashi, Shabbos ad locum;
Magen Avraham, Machatzis Hashekel
). On the other hand, one may feed dogs on
Shabbos, since it is permitted to own a dog, particularly in a farm
setting, where dogs are useful for herding sheep and other activities.

Only my dog?

In relation to this question, we find a dispute among early
acharonim. The Magen Avraham, one of the greatest of the early
commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch, rules that you may feed any
non-dangerous dog on Shabbos, whether you own it or not. He understands
that the Gemara meant that you may feed any animals that are dependent
on man, and you may feed all dogs, but you may not feed any pigs, even when they
are dependent on man, since a Jew is not supposed to raise pigs (Machatzis
Hashekel
).

On the other hand, other authorities rule that one may feed
a dog only when it is dependent on a Jew for food (see Elyah Rabbah 324:11).

The halachic authorities note that there are a few
instances in which it is permitted for a Jew to own a pig. One situation is
when he received it as payment of a debt; another is that he inherited it from
someone not observant. The halacha is that he is permitted to sell it,
and that he may wait until he is offered a market value price for it. In the
interim, he is permitted to feed it, even on Shabbos, since it is
dependent on him for food (Machatzis Hashekel).

Based on this analysis, the geonim permitted feeding
silkworms on Shabbos (Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch, Orach
Chayim
324:12). Similarly, some authorities explain that the Gemara’s
discussion is only about feeding animals that one does as a matter of course, but
that one may and should provide food to any animal that is hungry (Aruch
Hashulchan, Orach Chayim
324:2).

Which way do we rule?

The authorities dispute which answer of the Gemara
we follow. The Rif, the Rambam (21:36) and the Shulchan Aruch
(Orach Chayim 324:11) conclude that we follow the stricter approach,
whereas the Ran and the Olas Shabbos conclude that the more
lenient approach may be followed. Thus, according to the Shulchan Aruch’s
conclusion, one may not provide either food or water on Shabbos to bees,
doves or any other creature that is not dependent on man, while according to
the Ran, one may provide them with food but not water. It should be
noted that, in situations where it is permitted to feed the animals, one may
even put food directly in their mouths (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 324:10).

Nextdoor dog

At this point, we can mention the last of our opening questions. “We have an excellent relationship with our next door neighbor, who is not Jewish, although I am not sure if that affects the question. They are going away on vacation and have asked us to feed their pets while they are away. May I do so on Shabbos?” “How are zoo animals fed on Shabbos?”

The second question is easy to answer. Since these animals
are in captivity, they are dependent on man for food, and one is not only
permitted, but required, to make sure that they have adequate feed on Shabbos.
The first question may be a bit more complicated. These animals generally are
not dependent on the Jewish neighbor, but this Shabbos they will be. I
refer those who want to analyze this question further to a short piece by Rav
Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, quoted in Shulchan Shelomoh (Chapter 324), in
which he discusses a related topic.

The custom on Shabbos Shirah

At this point, we should discuss our opening question,
whether it is indeed permitted to feed birds on Shabbos Shirah.
The Magen Avraham (324:7) mentions the practice of providing grain for
birds to eat on Shabbos Shirah, and states that the practice is
in violation of the halacha. This approach is followed by most of the halachic
commentaries, including the Elyah Rabbah, the Machatzis Hashekel,
the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and the Mishnah Berurah.
However, there are some authorities who justify the practice. For example, the Tosafos
Shabbos suggests it is permitted, since we are doing it not to make sure
the birds are fed but to perpetuate the minhag. Thus, he posits, the
ethical and religious intent renders the activity permitted. A few of the later
commentaries – those who, in general, strive to justify common practice – are
lenient, either citing the reason of the Tosafos Shabbos, or
similar approaches (Aruch Hashulchan 324:3; Daas Torah).

Muktzah

An interesting additional halachic side point is that
the early authorities discuss scattering grains, or specifically wheat, to the
birds. In earlier days, when people owned farm animals and used grains as feed,
these grains were not muktzah on Shabbos. However, most of us do
not own raw grain, and, since we can neither grind it nor cook it on Shabbos,
and we do not eat it or feed it to animals as raw kernels, these grains are muktzah
on Shabbos (see Aruch Hashulchan 517:2).

Shaking out the tablecloth

Even among the very late authorities, we find a dispute as
to whether one may feed the birds on Shabbos Shirah. The sefer Shemiras
Shabbos Kehilchasah
(27:21) rules that one should not, following the
approach of the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah.
However, he suggests a way of fulfilling the custom without creating any halachic
problem. His advice is to shake out the tablecloth after the meal in a place
where the birds can eat the crumbs. He bases this on the ruling of the Eishel
Avraham
of Butchach (324:11 s.v. Gam), who says that, when throwing
or discarding food, there is no requirement to make sure that one does not
throw it in front of animals. The prohibition is doing extra work on behalf of
animals that otherwise will be able to fend for themselves easily. Shaking out
the tablecloth is not an unnecessary Shabbos activity.

Another suggestion is to spread crumbs before Shabbos,
which allows the birds to feast on them on Shabbos without involving any
halachic question.

On the other hand, Rav Eliezer Yehudah Valdenberg contends
that feeding birds on Shabbos Shirah has an old, venerated
history – he notes that he remembers it being practiced in the households of
many gedolei Yisroel, without anyone questioning whether one may. He
mentions the different reasons cited above why one may be lenient (Shu”t
Tzitz Eliezer
, Vol. XIV, #28). In conclusion, I advise each reader to ask
his or her own rav or posek whether to follow the practice.

Conclusion

We should not conclude from this discussion that halacha
is opposed to our taking care of animals. The Tosefta (Bava Kama,end of Chapter 9)states, “Rabbi Yehudah said, in the name of Rabban
Gamliel: ‘Know this sign well: as long as you act with mercy, Hashem
will have mercy on you.’” Sefer Chassidim #666 notes: If we are merciful
to our animals, Hashem and others will be merciful to us.

The point is that when the animals can easily take care of
themselves, we should be devoting Shabbos to our own personal growth and
not become distracted from this goal. After all, Shabbos is our reminder
that Hashem created the entire universe.




Assembling Portable Cribs and Adjusting Shtenders on Shabbos

Since the parsha tells us that the Jews were enslaved
to perform many construction projects, this is an appropriate week to analyze
the halachos of construction on Shabbos.

Question #1: I am having a lot of company for Shabbos
and we have a small house. On Friday night, I would like to remove the extra
leaves from the table and then set up the “portacrib” in the space that
creates, and then, in the morning, fold up the crib and put the table leaves
back. May I do this on Shabbos?

Question #2: The lens fell out of my eyeglasses on Shabbos.
May I pop it back in?

Question #3: I have an adjustable shtender that I
usually leave at the same height. May I adjust it on Shabbos?

Question #4: The house is very crowded and stuffy because we
are celebrating a kiddush. May I remove a door or a window to allow some
additional ventilation? (I was asked this shaylah in Israel where doors
and windows are hinged in a way that they are easily removable.)

Question #5: May I remove the pieces of glass from a broken
window on Shabbos?

Before discussing these shaylos, we need to explain
the halachos of construction on Shabbos, and how they apply to
movable items such as household furnishings and accessories.

CONSTRUCTION ON SHABBOS

Boneh, building or constructing, is one of the 39 melachos
of Shabbos. Included in this melacha is performing any type of
home repair or enhancement, even only a minor repair (see Shabbos 102b).
Thus, it is prohibited min haTorah to hammer a nail into a wall in order
to hang a picture (Rashi, Eruvin 102a s.v. halacha). Similarly,
one may not smooth the dirt floor of a house because this enhances the
“structure” (Shabbos 73b).

Sosair, demolishing or razing, is also one of the 39 melachos,
since the Bnei Yisroel disassembled the mishkan whenever they
moved from place to place (Shabbos 31b). Therefore, any demolition of a
building is prohibited min haTorah if the ultimate results are
beneficial, such as the razing of part of a building in order to renovate it.

If there are no benefits to the demolition, it is still
prohibited miderabbanan. Thus, wrecking the house out of anger violates Shabbos
only miderabbanan (according to most Rishonim) since there is no
positive benefit from the destruction (Pri Megadim 314:11 in Eishel
Avraham
). It is prohibited min haTorah because of other reasons,
such as bal tashchis (unnecessary destruction) and being bad for one’s midos
(see Shabbos 105b).

We already have enough information to address questions #4
and #5 above, whether one may remove a window to ventilate the house and
whether one may remove pieces of glass from a broken window. It would seem that
the first case is prohibited min haTorah since it involves the melacha
of sosair for positive results. The second case may depend on whether
the removal of the broken glass is so that no one hurts himself, in which case
this might be prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction, or whether it is
being removed as the first step in the repair, in which case it would be
prohibited min haTorah.

If the broken window is dangerous (but not life
threatening), I may ask a non-Jew to remove the broken pieces of glass.

CONSTRUCTION OF MOVABLE ITEMS

Do the melachos of boneh and sosair apply
to movable items, keilim (sing., kli), as well, or only to
buildings? In other words, does the Torah’s prohibition refer only to something
connected to the ground, or does it include construction of a movable item?

This question is disputed in the Gemara and by the Rishonim
(Beitzah 10a). There are three basic opinions:

1. Keilim are not included in the prohibition of boneh
and sosair.

2. Keilim are totally included in the prohibition of boneh
and sosair.

3. A compromise position in which total construction or
destruction of a kli is prohibited min haTorah, but minor
improvement is not (Tosafos, Shabbos 74b and 102b). The halacha
follows this opinion (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 314:1).

WHEN DOES BONEH APPLY TO KEILIM?

Assembling or improving a kli in a way that involves
strength and skill constitutes boneh, and disassembling it involves sosair.
Therefore, it is prohibited min haTorah to assemble a piece of furniture
in a way that tightens the pieces since this involves strength and skill to do
the job properly. Similarly, replacing the handle on a hoe or other appliance
is prohibited min haTorah since it requires skill and strength to do the
job properly (Shabbos 102b).

Assembling furniture without tightening the pieces is not
prohibited min haTorah, but is prohibited miderabbanan out of
concern that one might tighten them (Tosafos, Shabbos 48a s.v. ha;
Hagahos Ashri
Shabbos 3:23). Therefore, one may not assemble a bed,
crib, or table even without tightening the pieces (Kaf Hachayim 313:63).

To review:

One may not assemble a crib on Shabbos. Assembling it
in a tight way is prohibited min haTorah, whereas assembling it without
tightening the pieces is prohibited miderabbanan since one might
assemble it tightly.

However, the halacha regarding the setting up of
portacribs is lenient, since this does not involve re-assembling. Everything
remains attached and the parts are merely straightened out. So they can
certainly be opened and closed on Shabbos.

FIXING A BROKEN APPLIANCE

Repairing a broken appliance on Shabbos follows the
same guidelines as assembling. Therefore it is prohibited when the repair
requires skill and strength even if one repairs it in a temporary way.

Therefore, if the leg of a bed or table fell out, one may
not reinsert it even temporarily out of concern that one might repair it
permanently (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 313:8). In this instance,
Chazal
decreed that the bed or table itself becomes muktzah in order
to ensure that someone does not repair it (Rema Orach Chayim 308:16).

TWO EXCEPTIONS

There are two exceptions to this rabbinic prohibition, when
one may assemble or repair an item in a non-permanent way. The first is on Yom
Tov
where the halacha is that one may use a temporary repair to fix
a furniture item for a Yom Tov need (Tosafos, Beitzah 22a; Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chayim
519:2, Magen Avraham and Gra ad loc.).

Example:

A leg fell off the table on Yom Tov. Repairing the
table in a proper way is prohibited min haTorah, and therefore on Shabbos
I may not even reinsert the leg into the table in a temporary way.  On Yom
Tov
, however, I may reinsert the leg without performing a proper repair, if
this is the most convenient table to use.

ANOTHER EXCEPTION

If the broken or disassembled item is usually repaired or
assembled without strength or skill, I may repair it in a temporary fashion. Chazal
did not forbid this since it is unlikely that it will cause any Torah violation
(Shabbos 47b with Tosafos).

Example:

In the time of the Gemara there existed a type of bed
called “a coppersmiths’ bed.” Apparently, it was common that coppersmiths
traveled from place to place making their living as iterant repairmen, and took
portable beds with them that they reassembled at each destination. May one
assemble this bed on Shabbos or is it considered construction? The
Gemara
quotes a dispute on the subject. According to the Tanna who
contends that keilim are totally included in the prohibition of boneh
and sosair, one may not assemble these beds on Shabbos (Shabbos
47a).

However, the conclusion of the Gemara is that one may
assemble these beds on Shabbos. That is because these beds were never
assembled very tightly and therefore it is not considered boneh to construct
them, nor does it qualify as a rabbinic prohibition. However, an appliance that
is normally assembled very tightly would be prohibited to assemble even loosely
since it might be tightened (Tosafos ad loc.).

TABLE LEAVES

Inserting table leaves also does not require skill or
strength and is therefore permitted on Shabbos. However, some tables
have a clamp to tighten the table after inserting or removing the leaf. Some
authorities contend that tightening this clamp might be prohibited min
haTorah
. Those who hold that way will also prohibit adding or removing
leaves from these tables on Shabbos, even if one does not tighten the
clamp, out of concern that one might tighten it.

THE SCREW – AN INTERESTING INVENTION

About three hundred and fifty years ago, the poskim
began discussing appliances held together with screws. Around this time a
drinking cup became available where the cup part screwed into a base. Does
screwing this appliance together on Shabbos constitute boneh?

The halachic question here is as follows: Although
this cup does not require someone particularly strong or skilled to assemble
and disassemble, screwing on the base makes the cup into a well-made permanent
appliance. Thus, the screw enables someone who is not particularly skilled to build
a strong appliance.

The early poskim debate this issue. The Magen
Avraham
(313:12) rules that screwing an appliance together constitutes a melacha
min haTorah (see Shaar Hatziyun 313:32); the Maamar Mordechai
disagrees. In practice however, the Maamar Mordechai concludes that one
should follow the stringent ruling of the Magen Avraham, and this is the
accepted halachic practice. Thus, screwing the cup together is considered
manufacturing a cup.

Similarly, today you can purchase furniture that you take
home and assemble by yourself. Assembling this furniture is prohibited min
haTorah
even though it is made in a way that an unskilled person can
assemble it. Thus, the definition of “skill and strength” is not whether the
assembler needs to be skilled or strong, but whether the appliance thereby made
is a permanent, well-made appliance.

BINOCULARS

Focusing a pair of binoculars involves turning a screw to
make it tighter and looser. Does this violate boneh on Shabbos?

The poskim rule that one may focus binoculars on Shabbos
(Kaf Hachayim 313:73; Ketzos Hashulchan 119:12). They explain
that there is a qualitative difference between screwing the base onto the cup,
which creates an appliance, and screwing the binoculars, which is the method of
using it. One may use an appliance, just as one may use a house by opening and
closing the doors and windows. This is not considered building an extension
onto the house, but normal daily usage.

SHTENDER

Many shtenders are tightened and loosened by the use
of a screw. May one adjust ashtender by loosening and tightening the
screw?

According to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Vozner, one
may adjust the height of the shtender on Shabbos since this is
considered using the shtender, not making a new appliance (Shulchan
Shlomoh
313:7; Shu”t Shevet Halevi 6:32; cf. Shu”t Minchas
Yitzchok
9:38, who prohibits).

SALTSHAKER

Question:

I forgot to fill the saltshaker before Shabbos, and
now I realize that it is empty. May I unscrew the saltshaker on Shabbos
to fill it, or is this considered demolishing and repairing the saltshaker?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rules
that it is permitted to open, refill, and close the saltshaker on Shabbos
without violating boneh. Although the saltshaker is indeed screwed
closed, it is typically not screwed as tightly as one screws furniture or the
cup we described earlier (Minchas Shlomoh 1:11:4 s.v. gam nireh).

A similar halacha, although
for a different reason, applies to opening and closing a baby bottle. Although
it is opened and closed by screwing, since it is intended to be opened and
closed constantly, it is not considered demolishing and reconstructing it.

EYEGLASSES

If someone’s eyeglass lens falls out on Shabbos, may
he reinsert it back into the glasses?

It would seem that it depends on the type of eyeglasses. In
glasses where the lens is held in place simply by placing the lens in the
frame, one may pop the lens back into place. This is because placing the lens
into the glasses cannot constitute boneh since it does not require
skill.

However, there are some frames
that tighten around the lens with screws. According to the Magen Avraham,
it would seem that tightening the screws to hold in the lens involves a Torah
prohibition of boneh. If that is true, then one may also not pop the
lens because of concern that one might screw the frame tight.

CONSTRUCTIVE WORK

We may ask ourselves, why is
screwing a cup together or removing a window from its hinge considered melacha?
They take a second to do and are not at all strenuous.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that
people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos so that it
should be a day of rest. He points out that the Torah did not prohibit doing avodah,
which connotes hard work, but melacha, which implies purpose and
accomplishment. Shabbos is a day that we refrain from constructing and
altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to allow
Hashem’s rule to be the focus of creation by withdrawing from our own creative
acts (Shemos 20:11). By restraining from building for one day a week, we
demonstrate Who indeed is the Builder of the world and all it contains.




Bishul Akum for the Ill

Photo by rea einskisson from FreeImages

Question
#1: Cooked on Shabbos

If
a non-Jew cooks on Shabbos for someone who is ill, is the food he cooks
prohibited because of bishul akum? Obviously, the ill person is permitted
to eat the food, but there are several ramifications to this question.

Question
#2: Bishul akum equipment

If
a non-Jew cooked using my pots, do they require kashering because they
absorbed non-kosher food?

Background:

Chazal
instituted the law of bishul akum to discourage inappropriate social
interaction, which could lead to intermarriage, and also to guarantee that kashrus
not be compromised (Rashi, Avodah Zarah 35b s.v. Vehashelakos and38a s.v. Miderabbanan and Tosafos ad loc.).

There
are two major exceptions to the law of bishul akum – that is, situations
in which a non-Jew cooked food that one may eat, despite the prohibition
against bishul akum. One exception is food that is usually eaten raw,
such as an apple. Therefore, if a non-Jew baked apples and did not use anything
non-kosher while doing so, the apples are kosher.

Another
exception is something that would not be served on a king’s table. There are
many interpretations as to how to define this, but all poskim agree that
small fish and porridge are permitted when cooked by a non-Jew, as long as
nothing non-kosher was added – because these items are not served to a king.

This
article will discuss a possible third exception to bishul akum: Food
cooked by a non-Jew on Shabbos for someone who is ill.

Bishul
akum
for the ill

In
a different article, we learned that we may ask a non-Jew to do on Shabbos
whatever is required for the care of a person who is ill, even asking a non-Jew
to cook for the sick person. This is permitted even if no life-threatening
emergency exists, as long as the person is ill enough to be choleh kol gufo,
usually defined as someone ill enough to go to bed (Shulchan Aruch, Orach
Chayim
328:17), or whose discomfort is intense enough that he feels that
his entire body is affected (Rema ad locum).

In
the previous article, I did not discuss an important question: If food cooked
by a non-Jew is prohibited because of bishul akum, how can a Jewish
person eat what the non-Jew cooked? There are two obvious answers to this question:

1.
Food cooked by a non-Jew to take care of a sick person was excluded from the
prohibition of bishul akum.

2.
Because of his medical needs, a choleh kol gufo is exempt from the
prohibition of bishul akum.

In either
event, we have several follow-up questions:

Does
this heter apply only to what is cooked on Shabbos, when a Jew
may not cook for the sick person, or does it apply all the time? If this
dispensation applies only to what a non-Jew cooked on Shabbos,is
the ill person permitted to eat the leftovers after Shabbos, or does
that food become prohibited once a Jew can cook for him? And, assuming that the
sick person is permitted to eat the food after Shabbos, is it permitted
for a different Jew, who is perfectly healthy, to eat what the non-Jew cooked
on Shabbos?

Does
bishul akum affect pots?

Finally,
if the non-Jew used a Jew’s kosher pots to cook for the ill on Shabbos,
do the pots become non-kosher because they absorbed bishul akum? If so,
do the pots now need to be koshered before they may be used again? Or, since it
is permitted to ask the non-Jew to cook for the Jewish ill, do the pots not
need to be koshered afterward? Or, an even more lenient idea: perhaps bishul
akum
applies only to food, but does not prohibit pots at all?

This
entire list of questions is discussed and debated by the rishonim. Their
differing approaches provide a goldmine for the scholar attempting to analyze
critically the legal (halachic) status of bishul akum and to
comprehend clearly Chazal’s ruling permitting asking a non-Jew to cook
for the ill. As we will soon see, there are various ways to answer the
questions that we raised, and differences in halachic opinion affect
decisions made in kosher nursing homes and hospital to this very day.

Explaining
these issues also affords an opportunity to understand an important chapter in
Jewish history that is not as well known as it should be.

Debate
in Barcelona

Barcelona
is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia, the
northeastern region of the country. Today, there is a tiny Jewish presence in
the city, but, in the times of the rishonim, Barcelona was a major
headquarters of Torah. At different times, many gedolei Yisroel lived in
the city, including the Raavad, the Ramban, Rav Yehudah Bartzeloni, theRashba,
the Rosh (who had fled from Germany, which had become very dangerous for rabbonim),
the Rosh’s distinguished sons (including his son Yaakov, who later 
authored the Tur), Rav Aharon Halevi (known as the Re’ah), the Ohr
Hashem
(Rav Chasdai Kreskas), the Ritva, and the Nimukei Yosef, to list
some of the better-known gedolim who walked the streets of this city.

In
the thirteenth century, three major halachic works appeared in Barcelona
in quick succession. These works clarified the halachos observed in a frum
house. The first, written by theRashba, was aptly called Toras
Habayis
(literally, the laws of the house), whichdiscussed,
in very organized and detailed fashion, the laws of kashrus, mikveh,
netilas yadayim
and other household laws. It was actually two different
works. One, a brief edition called the Toras Habayis Hakatzar,
offered instructions for household owners to manage their homes in accordance
with halacha. The other, Toras Habayis He’aruch,is
an extensive and thorough explanation of the halachic background to the
topics, quoting the original sources in the Mishnah, Gemara, and
early authorities. It discusses and explains the arguments, sources and
opinions cited by the various great, early poskim on the subject, and
then the Rashba reaches his conclusion.

Shortly
after the Toras Habayis saw the light of day, another work, called Bedek
Habayis
(literally, inspections [or repairs] of the house)
appeared, written by Rav Aharon Halevi ( the Re’ah) exclusively to disagree
with the conclusions of the Toras Habayis. The Bedek Habayis went
to great length to demonstrate where he felt the Toras Habayis’s
analysis and comparisons were incorrect.

Eventually,
a third work was produced anonymously, called the Mishmeres Habayis (protecting
the house
), the purpose of which was to explain that the original Toras
Habayis’s
conclusions had been correct and that the Bedek Habayis
was incorrect.

These
works were all produced before the invention of the printing press, which means
that they were circulated via copying them by hand.

The
mystery is discovered

At
first, the members of the community were baffled trying to identify the author
of the Mishmeres Habayis. This should indicate the high level of
Talmudic scholarship that existed then in Barcelona – apparently, there were
enough Torah scholars in Barcelona capable of writing such an incredibly
scholarly work that it could be published anonymously, without the identity of
its author being immediately obvious.

Eventually,
it was discovered that the author of the Mishmeres Habayis was none
other than theRashba himself.

At
this point, let us return to our topic, and to our original opening questions:

1.
If a non-Jew cooks on Shabbos for someone who is ill, is the food he
cooks prohibited because of bishul akum?

2.
If a non-Jew cooked using my pots, do they require kashering because
they absorbed non-kosher food?

Opinion
of the Re’ah

Although
the Toras Habayis does not discuss these topics, both the Bedek
Habayis
and the Mishmeres Habayis do. The Bedek Habayis (Bayis
3 Shaar 7) concludes that:

1.
Food cooked by a non-Jew to take care of the needs of someone ill does not
carry the prohibition of bishul akum.

2. Bishul
akum
does not affect equipment.

The Bedek
Habayis
permits the first case for the following reason: At the time this
food was cooked, it was permitted to be eaten. A person who is well may not eat
it because of the laws of Shabbos – we are concerned that someone may
ask the non-Jew to do something on Shabbos that is not permitted for a
Jew to do – but not because of the prohibition of bishul akum. Since the
cooking was performed not for social reasons but in order to have fresh food for
ill people, no prohibition of bishul akum was incurred at the time that
the food was cooked. Therefore, it cannot become prohibited as bishul akum
after Shabbos is over. The Re’ah concludes that the food cooked by a
non-Jew for an ill Jewish person on Shabbos is permitted after Shabbos,
even for a perfectly healthy person.

Furthermore,
reasons the Bedek Habayis, should a non-Jew cook for himself in a kosher
pot, the food is prohibited because of bishul akum but the pot itself
remains kosher. The reason is that the use of this pot does not create any
favorable social interaction between Jews and non-Jews that we must avoid. In
other words, the Bedek Habayis contends that since the prohibition of bishul
akum
was limited to situations that encourage social interaction, the taste
of bishul akum that is absorbed into pots was never prohibited. Enjoying
the residual taste remaining in a pot does not encourage unwanted social
interaction.

The Bedek
Habayis
then quotes Rav Yitzchak beRabbi Manoach, who rules that what a
non-Jewish slave cooks as part of the responsibility to the household that owns
him or her is not prohibited as bishul akum, since there is no increased
social interaction when someone cooks as an aspect of being a slave. The point
of the Bedek Habayis is that Rav Yitzchak beRabbi Manoach contends that
eating what a gentile cooked is not included in the prohibition of bishul
akum
when the circumstances do not encourage social interaction – and
certainly the residual absorption in the pots is permitted.

The Bedek
Habayis
then quotes from “mori rabbeinu Moshe, z”l,” the Ramban (who
had headed a yeshivah in Barcelona and was the Re’ah’s primary rebbe),
that, lechatchilah, cooking in a Jewish house should not be performed by
a non-Jewish slave – but if it was, the food is permitted bedi’eved.

TheRashba’s
response

TheRashba,
in his Mishmeres Habayis, disagrees with every point made by the Re’ah
in the Bedek Habayis. He compares a non-Jew cooking food for an ill
person on Shabbos to the situation of a person who is deathly ill and
there is no fresh meat to eat. The halacha in the latter situation is
that, if no shocheit is available, you are required to kill an animal,
rendering its meat neveilah, and cook it for the sick person. As soon as
a shocheit becomes available, you are no longer permitted to feed the
sick person non-kosher. Of course, the pot in which the neveilah was
cooked is not kosher and must be koshered. Similarly, Mishmeres Habayis
contends that although it is permitted to have a non-Jew cook for someone ill,
the food is permitted to be eaten only by the ill and only until there is
enough time after Shabbos to cook fresh food. Once that time arrives,
all the food that was cooked by the non-Jew becomes prohibited as bishul
akum,
even for the sick person, and certainly it was never permitted for
someone well to eat. In addition, the previously kosher pot used by the non-Jew
to cook for the ill on Shabbos is prohibited because of the bishul
akum
absorbed in it, and the pot must be koshered before it can be used
again.

The Mishmeres
Habayis
explains the basis for this law as the general rule, “kol
detikun rabbanan ke’ein de’oraysa tikun
,”whatever the Sages
established they did in a system similar to the rules of the Torah” (Pesachim
30b, 39b, et al.). Therefore, when Chazal created the
prohibition of bishul akum, they gave the prohibited product all the
rules that apply to items prohibited min haTorah. Thus, we see that
Barcelona was the scene of a major halachic controversy that has
ramifications to this very day.

How do we
rule?

Well, who is
“we”? The Ran (Shu”t Haran 5:11-12), the primary Spanish halachic
authority in the generation following theRashba and Re’ah, discusses
the second question, whether bishul akum prohibits the equipment used to
cook it. He opines that logically the prohibition of bishul akum should
apply only to the food prepared and not to the equipment in which it was
produced, since concerns about social interaction apply only to the food, and
not to the equipment. However, that since there are poskim who disagreed
with the Re’ah, the Ran concludes that it is preferable to have the equipment
koshered, and, if this food was cooked in an earthenware pot (which cannot be kashered),
the earthenware pot should be broken (see Pesachim 30b; Avodah Zarah
33b-34a).

Two
contemporaries of the Ran also weigh in on the question of whether we require kashering
of equipment in which bishul akum occurred. The Tur (end of Yoreh
Deah
113) quotes that theRashba required kashering equipment
that cooked bishul akum, even if it was a case of non-Jewish servants
who cooked in a Jew’s house. He notes that theRashba holds that, to
avoid prohibiting the pots, when non-Jewish workers cook for themselves in a
Jewish house, someone Jewish must participate in the cooking, in a way that
avoids the prohibition of bishul akum.

The Tur himself
does not conclude this way. He quotes that his father, the Rosh, a contemporary
of theRashba, contends that Chazal prohibited only the food of bishul
akum
, but did not extend the prohibition to flavor absorbed into pots and
other equipment. In other words, the Rosh accepts the approach of the Re’ah
that bishul akum is different from other proscriptions and is prohibited
only to the extent that it would cause unwanted social interactions.

The other
contemporary of the Ran who discusses this issue is Rabbeinu Yerucham, a
disciple of the Rosh, who writes that most authorities agreed with the Rosh
that bishul akum does not create a prohibition on the equipment used to
cook it. However, the Beis Yosef, after quoting Rabbeinu Yerucham,
disagrees with his conclusion that most authorities accept the Rosh’s opinion.
The Beis Yosef writes that most authorities who lived after theera
of the Rashba, Re’ah and Rosh accept the opinion of theRashba as the
conclusive halacha. In Shulchan Aruch,he mentions both
approaches, but concludes that the main approach is that equipment used for bishul
akum
does require kashering.

Three
times lucky

Above, I
quoted the Ran who states that if bishul akum prohibits the vessels, if
an earthenware pot was used, the pot must be broken. However, theRashba
himself did not rule this way. This is based on a passage of Talmud
Yerushalmi
(Terumos 11:4) that rules that a lenience applies when a
prohibition is rabbinic in origin, which is the case of bishul akum. In
these circumstances, Chazal permitted kashering earthenware by
boiling the vessel three times(Rashba, quoted by Tur Yoreh Deah 123).
This ruling is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 113:16).

What
about for the ill?

Above, we
mentioned that theRashba and Re’ah also disagreed about whether food
cooked by a non-Jew on Shabbos for a Jewish person who is ill is
prohibited as bishul akum. How do we rule on this question? Again, it
depends on whom you ask: The Rema and the Shach conclude that the
food is permitted after Shabbos, even for a healthy person, whereas the Taz,
Mishnah Berurah
(328:63) and others rule that it is prohibited even for the
ill person once food cooked by a Jew becomes available.

Conclusion

According to
the Rambam, the reason Chazal prohibited asking a non-Jew to do
work on Shabbos is in order not to diminish sensitivity to doing melacha
ourselves. Refraining from having even a non-Jew work is testimony to our deep
conviction that Hashem created the world.

We have just
learned an exception to this rule: When someone is ill, we are permitted to ask
a non-Jew to cook for him. This will not diminish sensitivity to doing melacha
ourselves, but will increase our sensitivity to the needs of the ill and the
mitzvah of bikur cholim, ensuring that we attend to their needs as best
as we can.