Shabbat Parashat Miketz| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Saving Some From Sin and Causing Others a Greater Sin - Part I - From Amud Hay’mini, siman 37
A certain rabbi raised the question of what one should do if he finds out on Shabbat that an eiruv is down. By announcing the news, he can save some from a rabbinic prohibition of carrying without an eiruv. On the other hand, this would likely cause some, who will continue carrying anyway under the difficult circumstances, to carry intentionally, as opposed to unknowingly.
The questioner cited the Netivot Hamishpat’s opinion (234:2) that if one unknowingly (b’shogeg)violates a rabbinic law, he does not require atonement, because, under those circumstances, it is not considered that he committed a sin. He said that it follows from that approach that it is unnecessary to inform people that the eiruv is down. On the other hand, he also cited the Nachalat Tzvi (on Yoreh Deah 303) that, except in cases where doing so would cause someone significant embarrassment, one is required to inform someone who does not realize that he is violating a rabbinic law. The questioner posited that even the Netivot Hamishpat agrees that it is necessary to inform one who is violating a rabbinic law either because it is unbecoming for one to violate a halacha or because the one who is aware of what is going on has an obligation to prevent sins. Then the question remains about what to do when some will react correctly to the information of the fallen eiruv, and others will not.
The Sdei Chemed, in fact, brings several opinions that one is required to try to prevent someone from violating a rabbinic law b’shogeg. Although one can possibly say that this does not indicate that a violation b’shogeg is an act of sin, R. Akiva Eiger (Shut 8) says that the two concepts are indeed linked. If so, we have to determine why it is that the Netivot does not feel that there is an act of sin when someone violates a rabbinic law b’shogeg.
It appears that we should distinguish, within the Netivot’s approach, between the type of shogeg involved. The Netivot discusses a case where someone sold his friend food that is not kosher from a rabbinic perspective. Indications are that the seller was assumed to be a reliable Jew, whom one has a full halachic right to trust. Thus, the buyer, who ate the rabbinically non-kosher food, had an oness (a situation where one is induced without fault to sin). In that case, the Netivot says that we do not consider him to have committed a sin or require atonement. Despite the element of oness, if the food was non-kosher on a Torah level, then the one who ate it requires atonement, according to the Netivot. We do have precedent for this in the case of a woman who remarries after two witnesses falsely say that her husband died. She requires a korban (as atonement) even though she had every right to trust the witnesses (Yevamot 87b). However, Rashi (ad loc.) says that there is an element of shogeg (quasi-culpability) in that case since she would have been wise to wait to see if the witnesses were correct. In the Netivot’s case, where there is no reason to expect that the food’s status would become clearer by waiting, we would expect that even regarding a Torah prohibition, no atonement should be necessary, and the matter requires additional consideration.
The Sdei Chemed also cites opinions regarding the need to inform one that a close relative had died, which would enable him to refrain from things that are forbidden for mourners. The Bnei Yehuda permits inviting an unknowing mourner to a party, and the Bnei Chayi allows one to not inform his wife of a death and partake in marital relations even on the day of death, when the violation is from the Torah. The latter work explains that since the wife had no reason to suspect that her relative had died, violation of the laws of mourning was oness, which does not require atonement after the fact, nor does it require one to prevent her from “sinning” in the first place.
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