Shabbat Parashat Vayetzei| 5766
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Violating Shabbat to Facilitate Emigration From Russia - Part II - From Chavot Binyamin, siman 14
[Last week we saw a machloket between the Rashba and Tosafot as to whether one can violate Shabbat to save another from apostasy. The Taz and Magen Avraham said that we accept Tosafot’s approach (to allow it) in a case where the seized person’s violations are expected to be life-long.]
How did the poskim extract from Tosafot that one can violate even Shabbat to save another? After all, Tosafot referred to violating the “light” aveira of releasing a slave. One can suggest that as long as the violation being obverted is greater than the one that is being violated, we make no further distinctions. Even so, what is the source to allow one to perform an aveira that he was not personally forced into?
The Magen Avraham (=MA) (306:29) hints at a gemara that answers the questions. The gemara (Yoma 85b) searches for a source that one can violate Shabbat to save his or another’s life. R. Shimon ben Menasya deduces from one of the p’sukim about keeping Shabbat that it is worthwhile to violate one Shabbat to enable Shabbat to be kept many times. The Magen Avraham understands this as a general rule that one should violate an aveira if it is necessary to enable a qualitatively greater fulfillment of mitzvot by himself or another. It is interesting that his source is the same as that of violating a prohibition to save a life (pikuach nefesh). The Taz (306:5) says that this spiritual salvation from continuous sin is no less important than saving a life, and that is what justifies violating commandments.
Let us identify practical differences between the Taz and MA. According to the Taz, the allowance to compromise a certain commandment for a spiritual need shares parameters with the laws of pikuach nefesh. Thus, even though the Rama (OC 328:10) does not allow violating Shabbat to save one’s friend from great sin, it is because the friend will not be culpable because he was forced to sin. The MA argues on the distinction based on culpability and says that the distinction is between a one-time violation and recurring ones. Only in the latter case is it religiously worthwhile to violate the “smaller” aveira.
Another difference between the two poskim is in a case where the victim was responsible for his/her own predicament. The MA says that we allow one to save another from a bigger sin only when he is not to blame. However, according to the Taz, that the spiritual danger is tantamount to saving his life, we must save him if he was negligent. (We violate Shabbat to save someone from death unless he endangered his life through attempted suicide, not simply negligence.)
Why does the Rashba not deduce from the aforementioned gemara that one can violate Shabbat to save another from a life of sin? The gemara brought several potential sources that one can violate Shabbat to save a life, including the aforementioned. However, the gemara concludes that only Shmuel’s source cannot be deflected. Shmuel learns from “and you shall live by them” (Vayikra 18:5) that the mitzvot of the Torah are fundamentally to bring life, not death. Rishonim dispute, whether given Shnuel’s source to violate Shabbat to save a life, we still accept the concept that it is worthwhile to violate one Shabbat to enable Shabbat to be kept many times. The Sh’iltot says that it is still true and, therefore, one can violate Shabbat to save the life of a fetus, because of its potential to keep Shabbat in the future. (A fetus is not considered a full life.) The Rosh brings those who say that we cannot violate Shabbat based on hopes for the future. The Taz says that in light of all the sources, religious lifesaving is like any other lifesaving and is attempted at almost any cost even when there was negligence and there is doubt about its prospects. The MA, who is based on the rules of preference, says that in order to do violate an aveira in the process, there must be a lack of negligence and there should be confidence that the steps are needed and will succeed.
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