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Directions on Shabbos

 

Relating to our non-observant co-religionists becomes extra complex on Shabbos. Even if they choose to desecrate the holy day, we cannot be a part of what we consider a sin. But we must be careful that our own religious observance not alienate others. Navigating such situations requires charm and skill… and perhaps a leniency or two.

R. Benjamin Yasgur is a student of Nechama Leibowitz who maintained a long-standing correspondence with the eminent Bible teacher. He carefully recreates their discussions and exchanges of letters in a new book, Torah Conversations With Nechama Leibowitz. This short book offers numerous biblical insights that the two scholars shared with each other, often explaining the commentarial significance of fine grammatical points. Leibowitz’s careful eye and reverence for commentators can be seen throughout. Additionally, R. Yasgur conveys her personality with descriptions of her attitudes and minor comments, what the Talmud calls her sichas chullin.

One exceptional chapter, totally unrepresentative of the book but fascinating to me, relates a dilemma in which Nechama regularly found herself. When walking to synagogue on Shabbos, she passed a major thoroughfare and was often asked for directions by Jewish drivers. What should she do? Her gut told her to simply remain silent. Eventually, a student convinced her to ask R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who told her the following (p. 51):

Rabbi Auerbach ruled that Nechama should answer drivers who asked for directions on Shabbat for two reasons. The first was that if she did not answer, the drivers might commit additional violations if they chose the wrong way to travel. The second reason was that not answering might create animosity (evah), and it was very important to avoid this type of discord between Jews.

At once you see her piety and her attendant refusal to rule leniently for herself on a complex issue. Additionally, we see a somewhat surprising leniency by R. Auerbach. Note also that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 173) is quoted as ruling similarly based on R. Auerbach’s first reason.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

45 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    IIRC, RHS quoted RYBS to the same effect-as a means of minimizing Chillul Shabbos.

  2. daat y says:

    RSZA further stated that by giving them instructions they will get there faster and therefor reduce the time of their violation.
    (The genius and human understanding of a Gadol)

  3. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    And yet R’ Rakeffet says RAL holds “shrug and walk away” … it’s complicated

  4. shmuel says:

    Why did she think she shouldn’t give the person directions –would they drive any less if she gave them directions? Would they turn off their car (or, better, leave it running) and get out and walk?

    I revere Nechama zt”l but I don’t understand her thinking in the first place about this issue.

  5. shmuel says:

    sorry, should be “would they drive any less if she DIDN’T GIVE them directions?”

  6. IH says:

    What if someone in Israel, not on Shabbat, asks you for directions to a restaurant which you know is not kosher?

    What if someone in lower Manhattan asks you for directions to Trinity Church?

  7. yehuda says:

    i don’t understand this at all… how is that a lenient ruling? the kulah would be to say, “sure, you can be rude and cause more chillul shabbos at the same time”
    if anything, this story would just indicate that she had the wrong instinct, not that she was machmir on herself…
    Can someone explain what the chumrah might have been? I might be inclined to say it’s a chashash of mesayeya l’aveira, but that’s already dachuy… any other ideas?

  8. Tamir says:

    IH.

    A Jew asking for directions to a non-Kosher restaurant, on a weekday in Israel, or anyone to Trinity Church, maybe less of a problem, because one can assume the asker is using the place only as a landmark( e.g. for meeting someone at or near), not necessarily that they’re going to commit a transgression there( and, as I understand, there is no reason to assume, of people, the worst of intentions).
    A Jew sticking his head out of a car window to ask directions to someplace on Shabbat, already proves his intention to commit a transgression in getting there.

  9. IH says:

    Tamir — but, the driver in the car has already transgressed, whereas one may be able to prevent a transgression in the other two cases.

  10. Tamir says:

    Yeudah,

    Saying “sure, you can be rude and cause more chillul shabbos at the same time” is not lenient for for someone who was brought up to be polite and give directions when asked.

    As Shalom Rosenfeld noted, other Rabbis rule that one is to avoid giving directions. So, her gut was following their reasoning, even though Rabbi Auerbach ruled for her otherwise.

    Why is “chashash of mesayeya l’aveira” “already dachuy” as a possible explanation for the Chumrah?
    What about “Lifnei ‘Iver Lo Titen Mikhshol“?

  11. Tamir says:

    IH,

    You’re only assuming that, in the other two cases, the person is going to transgress. With the driver in the car on Shabbat, you already know hes going to transgress( because he’s already doing so).

  12. IH says:

    Tamir — I am a little behind on Daf Yomi, but please point me to the sugiya in Masechet Shabbat that discusses the duration of an incident of transgression (the car case).

    On the other two cases, the only point I raise is that there is a possibility of transgression, so what should the response be? Perhaps you should give directions, but inform them that if they have any thought of actually entering that premise they would be transgressing God’s commandment?

  13. Tamir says:

    IH,

    If the issue was preventing them from transgressing, then either one Mokhi’achs them( if one believes they’ll accept the Tokhachah), or one doesn’t.

    The “duration of an incident of transgression” is not the issue.

    The issues in giving directions to a Jewish driver on Shabbat, is that one becomes an accomplice to their Chilul Shabbat( “Mesaye’a le-Overei Averah“), andor that one gives the impression that it’s “not a big deal” to drive a car on Shabbat( “Lifnei ‘Iver Lo Titen Mikhshol“). Those issues may not apply to the cases you mentioned, as it is not for sure that the people asking for directions intend to transgress in those places, and you should not assume they will.

  14. Tamir says:

    IH:”I am a little behind on Daf Yomi, but please point me to the sugiya in Masechet Shabbat that discusses the duration of an incident of transgression (the car case)“.

    Rereading Rabbi Auerbach’s first reason for allowing giving directions, maybe you should ask those who support his reasoning. I don’t understand it either.

  15. Nachum says:

    I live across the street from a well-known non-kosher restaurant (the only one in the area) and use it as a landmark all the time.

  16. joel rich says:

    1. would r’sza require both conditions to be present to be “meikil”?
    2.Is the rabbinic mesayeah defined by involvement or results (e.g. what if he sticks his head out the window and says “xyz is 2 blocks ahead on the left? is that correct?) and in fact it is.

    KT

  17. Talmid Ha-Talmud says:

    1. Why can’t you just be dan lekaf zechus, and assume that if they’re in the car, they’re in there for a legitimate pikuach nefesh reason?

    2. If you’re assuming that they’re violating Shabbos, I don’t understand the opening sentence of your post: “Relating to our non-observant co-religionists becomes extra complex on Shabbos.” A Sabbath-violator isn’t our co-religionist. המחלל שבתות בפרהסיא כגוי דמי. Ethnically, we’re all Jews, but how is that relevant halakhically?

  18. LI Reader says:

    A minor followup question: After you give the directions to the Jewish driver, do you add “Shabbat Shalom”? In Israel? Outside of Israel?

  19. SHMUEL:

    “Why did she think she shouldn’t give the person directions –would they drive any less if she gave them directions? Would they turn off their car (or, better, leave it running) and get out and walk?”

    wouldn’t commission in a forbidden act be wrong regardless of the extent one’s commission is the absolute deteminent that enables that act to proceed?

    i’m not sure if it’s analagous, but for example, can an accountant help a client engage in fraud? the client will engage in the fraud regardless, if not with this accountatnt then with another.

  20. Hoffa Araujo says:

    I’ve been asked many times while walking on Shabbos morning “where is such and such a shul”. I respond with directions unless I don’t know.

    I just read a story about the Sadigura Rebbe tz”l who passed away last week. Among other things it is reported that his health was negatively affected by the Oslo Accords and he gave support to the Jews in Gaza before and after their forced removal.

    One Shabbos he was walking in Tel Aviv, where his court is located. A driver passed by and started calling “Shabbos” from his car in a mocking fashion. The Rebbe went up to the car and said to the driver something to the effect that the Rebbe saw from the fact that the driver was yelling “Shabbos” that he is to be commended for recognizing that it was Shabbos, a great thing in itself. The story goes that when the driver heard this compliment, he pulled over, parked his car, ran to the Rebbe and told the Rebbe that as a result he would stop driving on Shabbos. The positive effect and positive, loving remarks from one Jew to another.

  21. warren g says:

    I don’t understand the whole logic of the Rav and RSZA. “Helping someone do a sin” means “helping someone do a sin.” If I help you worship Ba’al and you think, “wow, those Openminded Orthodox are so great, I’m going to go attend a shiur” thats still not OK. Lets say you help someone cook Moo Shu Pork and they do it correctly, omitting 3 oz. of pork they would’ve put in. I mean, where does the analogy end? Clearly there’s a binary thing called sin, as opposed to nothing or mitzvah. This binary state is analogous to “two sides of a river” by lfnei iver– theres no accounting for intensity or quality of sin, only yes/no. Similarly when the talmud describes the case of removing a bread before it becomes cooked on the Sabbath it gives a binary example. Similarly by the case of “better to sin unintentionally” in the Tractate Beitzah. The Talmud gives a binary example, not a mitigating example. Where does the Talmud give an example of mitiagtion in quality or quantity of sin? When someone is in that state of sin, you can’t help them do anything related to that sin. Matters of duration or intensity seem ancillary. Certainly doing “Kiruv” is also not a great idea if you will help someone do a sin. You don’t volunteer to do a “Kiddush Hashem” by helping someone sin as this would be “a mitzvah which comes by way of a sin”– fruit of a poisoned tree.

  22. joel rich says:

    This binary state is analogous to “two sides of a river” by lfnei iver– theres no accounting for intensity or quality of sin, only yes/no
    =================================
    Hence my earlier comments because this is not a 2 sides of the river torah prohibition case since the driver can sin perfectly well without your help. The question is the nature of the rabbinic prohibition of misayea – did the Rabbis have in mind a blanket prohibiton or did they recognize that since on a Torah basis there was not an issue, they would focus on a results oriented prohibition-so if there would be less sin by your intervention that would be ok.
    KT

  23. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    there are issues with using a church as a landmark. (not with a non kosher restaurant.)

    having said that, i make it a point to stop by alexander hamilton’s grave, visible from the street, in the rear courtyard of trinity church when i’m in the wall street area. (yes, i take out a $10 bill, in his honor.)

  24. sass says:

    Apparently, Rav Shlomo Zalman held that giving directions is not considered a michshol at all. On a related topic, giving someone food when they won’t make a bracha, see Minchas Shlomo 1:35 where he says that it’s not a michshol at all because to do otherwise would alienate them further from Torah, and that is therefore the michshol. Presumably, Rav Shlomo Zalman about directions is leshitaso.

    See also R Dovid Gottlieb’s article in Beis Yitzchak 35, pages 508-513 in the link below.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/727393/_Editor_Beis_Yitzchak/Beis_Yitzchak_Volume_35

    (Rabbi Gottlieb quotes from Rav Lichtenstein that this issue should depend on the Ponovezher Rav’s chakira as to whether Lifnei Iver is an issur klali or prati. However, lan”d, I think RSZA would say that his approach is lechuley alma, again because it’s not considered a michshol at all, so you don’t even get to the point of discussing issur klali or prati.)

  25. joel rich says:

    R’ Sass,
    WADR how do you explain R’SZA other than saying that what he is really saying that you can replace a larger michshol with a smaller one (BTW why is it lfnei iver and not mesayea) see especially the end of this snip-
    שו”ת מנחת שלמה חלק א סימן לה

    מ”מ בנידון זה, הואיל וכל האיסור של הנותן לו לאכול הוא רק עבירה של נתינת מכשול, וכיון שאם לא יתן לו לאכול הרי יכשל האורח באיסור יותר גדול, נמצא דליכא כלל שום עבירה, כיון דליכא הכא שום נתינת מכשול, אלא אדרבה יש כאן הצלה ממכשול גדול מאד ע”י זה שהחליף אותו בקום ועשה במכשול יותר קטן.

    KT

  26. yehuda says:

    Tamir-
    Mesayeya in this case is not nogea to the issur – assuming he’s not asking where the strip club is, there isn’t an issur of going where he’s going on shabbat, the issur is ha’avarah in driving the car – giving directions doesn’t assist him in ha’avarah, only in getting to his destination (and in fact reduces ha’avarah.) The only way giving directions could be mesayeya is if you told them how to leave tchum. (Although I have a hard time thinking of a realistic situation in which that might happen – people rarely get lost trying to leave their city)
    But I have to ask, how could directions be a michshol? it will lessen the ammount of haavara done by the person driving the car right now, and giving them directions now will not cause them to violate shabbat in the future, since presumably they’d eventually get to their destination, and therefore know the way anyways for the future.
    As for “giving the impression that driving on shabbat isn’t a big deal” – I also don’t understand how that could be a michshol nowadays- are you mocheach everyone you see doing something wrong? No, because you don’t know how to do tochacha, and nobody listens anyways even if you do. (Try shushing everyone who talks in shul) So then you’re always violating lifnei iver? I find it hard to believe that all of klal yisrael is constantly violating that issur deoraisa… Can you point me to the teshuvas that reach the reverse conclusion? I really am not understanding the reasoning.

  27. yehuda says:

    Warren G-
    Intensity of the sin isn’t the issue – but think of it this way -There isn’t any issur called driving a car. It is several issurim, namely ha’avarah in turning on the car and pressing the gas pedal, possibly bishul in pressing the break, and kibui in turning off the car. (forget the lights and the million psik reishas) Thus, reducing driving time doesn’t make their chillul shabbat ‘less intense’ or even reduce the duration, but actually prevents multiple acts of issur that will happen as he continues to drive the car.
    Since you aren’t causing them to do the issur, it’s not lifnei iver, thus Mesayeya might be an issue – but Mesayeya only is when you make it easier to do an issur it would otherwise be possible to do – the classic example is passing the milk to someone cooking meat. They could stretch over and grab it themself, but you gave them a hand. The directions on shabbat is not analogous – you aren’t assisting in the issurim, you’re assisting them get to their destination. (If they asked you which pedal is gas, that could be mesayeya, since they would have figured it out anyways, but you helped them – since that’s the issur itself)

  28. Nachum says:

    Hoffa: I’ve heard the same story, except in the version I heard, he was simply asked for directions and started crying. When asked why, he said it was because someone was driving on Shabbat. The driver pulled over, never drove on Shabbat again, and sponsored Seudat Shlishit at the rebbe’s every year on that week after that.

  29. Anonymous says:

    bishul in using the breaks?

  30. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if RSZA Aurbach did not give RAL’s respopnse because it never occured to him not to tell the truth.

  31. aiwac says:

    For those who can read Hebrew, an entirely different take on such a question, and the halachic status of a non-observant Jew in general:

    http://upload.kipa.co.il/media-upload/tzohar/tzohar2950.PDF

    Further discussion here: http://upload.kipa.co.il/media-upload/tzohar/tzohar3230.PDF

    And here: http://upload.kipa.co.il/media-upload/tzohar/714649.PDF

  32. Tal Benschar says:

    “I wonder if RSZA Aurbach did not give RAL’s respopnse because it never occured to him not to tell the truth.”

    1. First of all, there is a halacha of meshanim mipnei ha shalom, which RSZA certainly new about.

    2. For the same reason, those who posted here who said that the alterntive is a “kulah” to be rude are simply wrong. It is not rude to say “Sorry, I don’t know” in response to a request for directions, whether on Shabbos or Chol.

    3. I once discussed this shayloh with a prominent American rav. His opinion was that in Chutz La Aretz, in the absence of any other information, you can assume that the person asking is a non-Jew, based on Rov.

    If it is obvious that the person is Jewish (e.g., he asks “How do I get to Temple Beth ____,” which you know is a reform Temple) then so as not to actually lie, he would answer, “I am sorry, I couldn’t say.” Don’t know if there is a similar idiom in Hebrew.

    4. As an aside, as noted here by some, the issur Torah is only when you have trei avrei de naharah. However, Tosafos in Shabbos and the Rosh state that there is an issur derabbanan of mesayeah liydei ovrei aveirah. The Shach says that that issur derabbanan does NOT apply to a mumar. The Nodah be Yehdah extends that to any meizid, and IIRC the Iggros Moshe accepts that psak lehahlacha.

  33. warreng says:

    I disagree that there are multiple discrete and separable issurim at work. Its all bebas achas. Thats like saying ein osin aveiros chavilos chavilos.

  34. Eli D. Clark says:

    For a humorous treatment of the subject, click on the link below.

    The Tzitz Eliezer prohibits giving directions. He says this is a case of הלעיתהו לרשע וימות.

    Eli

  35. Dani says:

    Talmid Ha-Talmud:
    1. Why can’t you just be dan lekaf zechus, and assume that if they’re in the car, they’re in there for a legitimate pikuach nefesh reason?

    The din of dan lekaf zechus does not apply to someone who has no chezkas kashrus. Generally speaking, if someone is driving on Shabbos while not wearing a kippa and doesn’t even note the issur of the situation (such as by remarking that their wife is in labor) then I don’t see how you could possibly give them a chezkas kashrus. Dan lekaf zechus doesn’t mean myopia.

    2. If you’re assuming that they’re violating Shabbos, I don’t understand the opening sentence of your post: “Relating to our non-observant co-religionists becomes extra complex on Shabbos.” A Sabbath-violator isn’t our co-religionist. המחלל שבתות בפרהסיא כגוי דמי. Ethnically, we’re all Jews, but how is that relevant halakhically?

    Even though someone who knowingly violates Shabbos is כמומר לכל התורה, there are numerous reasons why this is irrelevant to our case. First off, the Chazon Ish (I believe Yoreah Deah 2:16) says that those who were never brought up in frum homes have the din of תינוק שנשבה בין הגוים. More importantly, even someone who is a מומר לכל התורה is still our coreligionist! They may be pasul liedus and have other nafka minas, but we have every responsibility to try to increase their observance as much as possible. See Rambam sefer hamitzvos mitzvah 3 regarding ahavas Hashem. Also, I would imagine that the idea of ערבות במצוות – that part of every individual’s chiyuv in mitzvos is the klal’s observance of that mitzva- applies equally to this person.

  36. Hirhurim says:

    On this subject, see Peninei Halakhah, Shabbos 26:9 and note 9 http://ph.yhb.org.il/01-26-09/

  37. aiwac says:

    May I once again recommend people read R. Dr. Avraham’s article as I posted above.

  38. Sass says:

    R’ Joel -
    I agree to what you’re saying w.r.t. Rav Shlomo Zalman’s psak. (I’m not sure why you thought that I was disagreeing, I just wanted to add a few mareh mekomos which shed light on RSZA’s reasoning.)

  39. joel rich says:

    R’ Sass,
    I was reacting to R’SZA not calling it a michshol (since in the end he does,just a small one, unless you say he is redefining michshol)
    KT

  40. Tal Benschar says:

    Why can’t you just be dan lekaf zechus, and assume that if they’re in the car, they’re in there for a legitimate pikuach nefesh reason?

    Maybe one reason is that they are asking for directions (that is the whole point of the question) and where, specifically, they are asking directions to. If the question is “How do I get to the nearest hospital?” then sure, you should assume that it is pikuach nefesh. If the question is “How do I get to the beach?” or “Is the movie theater down this road?” then there is no reason to be dan le kaf zechus.

  41. Hoffa Araujo says:

    “Hoffa: I’ve heard the same story, except in the version I heard, he was simply asked for directions and started crying. When asked why, he said it was because someone was driving on Shabbat. The driver pulled over, never drove on Shabbat again, and sponsored Seudat Shlishit at the rebbe’s every year on that week after that.”

    I like your version better :)

  42. sass says:

    R’ Joel – I agree that you are correct, RSZA does call it a smaller michshol. I would have formulated it the way I said it before, that it’s not called a michshol at all. In RSZA’s formulation, I guess you have to say that it’s not the cheftza of michshol that he’s addressing, but that it doesn’t meet the stanndard of a maase of “nesinas michshol”

  43. joel rich says:

    R’ Saas,
    That’s why you’re a talmid chacham and I’m a wannabe -You’re rearticulation of my “unless you say he is redefining michshol” into the language of the (Brisker) beit medrash sounds much better! :-)
    KT

  44. emma says:

    “If it is obvious that the person is Jewish (e.g., he asks “How do I get to Temple Beth ____,” which you know is a reform Temple) ”

    As an aside, I wonder what proportion of people driving to a reform synagogue are halachically Jewish. Between the patrilineal jews, nonconverted spouses, and parents-of-non-jewish-classmates-going-to-a-bar-mitzvah, who’s to say that you know such a person is jewish at all?

  45. Steve says:

    There’s a story that R. Yisrael Salanter was on a ship on Shabbos. As he took a shbatzir on the deck, he came across a Jewish accountant writing and doing calculations. He sat next to him and talked about Shabbos. When he realized the accountant wouldn’t listen, he looked at the books, made the calculations in his head, and gave the answer to the accountant, so that the chilul shabbos would be minimized. Ver Veys?

 
 

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