Shabbat Parashat Matot| 5766
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I live in Israel but have a business in America. I speak with some of my managers after work hours. May I call non-Jewish workers on Saturday night, which is still Shabbat in America?
Answer: It is correct to ask only about non-Jewish workers, as speaking to Jewish workers clearly violates, “lifnei iver lo titen michshol” (not causing one to sin). A non-Jew is obviously not doing anything wrong, but would you violate the rabbinic prohibition against enlisting a non-Jew to do work for you on Shabbat (amira l’nuchri)?
One might claim that since at the time you want to talk to the non-Jew, it is not Shabbat for you, the laws of Shabbat, including amira l’nuchri, do not bind you. However, we find that it is forbidden to ask a non-Jew before Shabbat to do work for you on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 307:2).
In Bemareh Habazak (V, 43) we dealt with this issue by breaking amira l’nuchri down into its components. There are three basic reasons brought to forbid amira l’nuchri. One is that it violates the rule that one may not discuss matters that pertain to activities that are inappropriate on Shabbat, including melachot (forbidden activities on Shabbat) (Rashi, Avoda Zara 15a). This element stresses the Jew’s involvement and is thus not an issue in our case. After all, your call, which you make after Shabbat, is appropriate for you.
Another rationale for amira l’nuchri is that when a non-Jew does work at a Jew’s behest, it is, on a certain level, as if the Jew is doing it through his agent (Rashi, Shabbat 153a). This also should not be a problem, as even if you were to do the melacha yourself at the time that the non-Jew does it on your behalf, it would be permitted, as Shabbat is finished.
The Rambam (Shabbat 6:1) has another opinion regarding the idea of amira l’nuchri. He says that it is “so that Shabbat will not be light in their eyes, and they [the Jews] will come to do it themselves.” This also seems to not apply, as one who waits until after Shabbat to ask a non-Jew is not treating Shabbat lightly.
Despite all of this, Rav Zilberstein (Melachim Omnayich 3:(15)) entertains the possibility that it is forbidden for a Jew to ask a non-Jew to do melacha for him when it is Shabbat only in the non-Jew’s place. He tries to prove that a non-Jew’s work on Shabbat is considered a (permitted) violation of Shabbat. His proof is from the halacha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 298:5) that one cannot make a beracha at Havdalah on a candle that a non-Jew lit on Shabbat, because it is a “light that did not rest.” He does not fully explain his reasoning, but one could explain the stringency in two ways. First of all, the Rabbis forbade asking a non-Jew, even before Shabbat, to do melacha on Shabbat. Our case may fit under that prohibition’s parameters, and it may not make a difference whether or not the prohibition’s logic applies. (One of the most complicated issues in halacha is if and when a rabbinic injunction that was made under certain circumstances applies to cases where the original logic doesn’t apply.) Another explanation may be based on the Rambam, that treating Shabbat lightly, by having a non-Jew do work on one’s behalf, can lead to real violations. It is possible that as long as it is Shabbat in the non-Jew’s place, there is an element of taking lightly.
In the final analysis there is an understandable consensus of recent poskim that our case is permitted (see Bemareh Habazak, ibid.; Yisrael V’hazemanim 34:4) because the logic of the prohibition of amira l’nuchri does not apply. We offer one proviso. If it is publicly known that it is a Jewish-owned business, then even non-Jewish workers should not do work on the premises when it is Shabbat locally, even if it is not Shabbat for the owner (Chelkat Ya’akov, OC 87). This is because the problem of work being done at such a business (Shulchan Aruch, OC 243) is based on the wrong impression to the public (marit ha’ayin), and that depends on the local populace.
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