Doing Work After/During Shabbat

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imageby R. Daniel Mann

Question: My friend called me on Friday and asked me to do an internet check-in for him on my Motzaei Shabbat in Israel (his Shabbat afternoon) for him before his Saturday night flight in the US. Is it permitted for me to do so?


Answer: We have permitted Israelis to make a stock order to be carried out on Friday afternoon in NY (Shabbat in Israel). We will review and see if this case is the same.

The gemara (Shabbat 151a) says that Reuven may ask Simon to watch Reuven’s fruit that are out of Reuven’s techum Shabbat but within Shimon’s. The Rashba (accepted by the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 263:17) extrapolates from this that if Reuven accepted Shabbat early, he may ask Shimon, who did not yet accept it, to do work on his behalf. Why don’t we say that the action relates to the one who requested through shelichut (agency), as we do to forbid the work done by a non-Jew on behalf of a Jew on Shabbat (see Rashi, Shabbat 153a)?

Three answers appear in the poskim: 1) The prohibition to ask others was not instituted when one has or had (in the past) a way to not be forbidden to do the work himself (Beit Yosef, ad loc.; Magen Avraham 263:30). In the above cases, Reuven could have not accepted Shabbat and could have gone to the fruit via “burgenin.” 2) One accepts Shabbat only regarding prohibitions he performs himself (Levush 263:17; see Shulchan Aruch Harav, K”A 253:8). 3) Reuven may request of Shimon something that is not a melacha in regard to Shimon (Taz 263:3; Levushei S’rad 307:12).

In our case, the Beit Yosef and the Levush would seem to forbid the matter, as the work is being done during Reuven’s actual Shabbat, and ostensibly he has and had no way of doing the action at that time in a permitted way. In some ways our case is more lenient in that the request was made before Shabbat. However, while that is helpful in regard to the issue of not involving oneself in matters that are forbidden on Shabbat (Rashi, Avoda Zara 15a), regarding the aforementioned element of shelichut there seems to be a problem. According to the Taz, there should be no problem, as the important thing is that you were asked to do work on Motzaei Shabbat. Among the reasons we were lenient in the case of the stock orders was that the Taz’s approach is the strongest and most accepted (see Mishna Berura 263:64; Minchat Shlomo I, 19; Ta’arich Yisrael 8). We also noted, as a few poskim did, that if we rule stringently, when the owner of a kosher bakery in NY visits Israel, his bakery must be closed 7 hours before Shabbat in NY.

However, my halachic intuition tells me this case is worse. In the permitted cases, the work was intrinsically permitted even for Reuven, just that he was in an “artificial situation” that precluded his specific involvement (i.e., out of techum, early Shabbat). In our case, a person in America wants melacha that he would normally do himself done involving activities in America specifically during Shabbat. Modern technology allows him to find someone to do the work from a “halachic time warp” from a place where Shabbat is out. Is it clear that the Taz and Rashba would extend their leniency to that which is, from the requester’s perspective, an intrinsic violation of Shabbat? Would we allow someone to have Jews in different places in the world run his life or his business by remote control from various continents? This would seem to violate the Rambam’s (Shabbat 6:1) logic for the prohibition of amira l’nochri: one who treats Shabbat lightly enough to have work done by a non-Jew may come to do those things himself.While important talmidei chachamim found “sympathy” for my logic of stringency, it is difficult to forbid such a thing without a source. Our Rosh Kollel, Rav Carmel, acknowledged the problem of having someone “out of Shabbat” remotely operate household items during the requester’s Shabbat, but reasons that the “ethereal” world of Internet follows the place of the person who enters it (marit ayin does not apply there).

In the final analysis, you may fulfill your friend’s request.

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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