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Shabbat Parashat Chukat | 5769

Ask the Rabbi: Eating at someone's house whose business stays open on Shabba

Question: May I eat on Shabbat in the house of one whose store (in Europe) is open on Shabbat?


Answer: If the owner works in the store on Shabbat, one has to assume that he has the status of a mechallel Shabbat b’farhesia (one who desecrates Shabbat publicly), who loses all halachic ne’emanut (credibility) (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 119:6; see Shut Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 175 regarding operating a store on Shabbat). If a wife who does not violate prohibitions vouches for all the food’s purchase and preparation, it would be permitted to eat there. Your question implies that the owner only keeps the store open, and let’s assume with non-Jews selling and working. You also imply that the person seems to generally follow the laws of the Torah.

Since you give no details, we cannot say whether your acquaintance’s store is allowed to be open on Shabbat with non-Jews working in it. Some relevant factors include whether there is a non-Jewish partner and the nature of the partnership; whether it is known publicly that it is a Jewish-owned business; how the workers are paid and whether they are required to open on Shabbat. We will work with your apparent assumption that the owner violates a rabbinic prohibition by keeping it open. There is considerable debate, without a clear consensus, regarding whether the sweeping disqualification for chillul Shabbat b’farhesia applies to the violation of rabbinic prohibitions of Shabbat (see Baer Heitev, Yoreh Deah 2:15; Pitchei Teshuva, YD 2:8; Rabbi Akiva Eiger, ad loc.; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 2:16).

Besides the disqualification of a mechallel Shabbat, there is a general matter that one who does follow a halacha loses credibility. The gemara (Bechorot 30a) cites a machloket Tannaim whether one who is not trustworthy in one area of halacha is not trusted for anything or whether he is trusted in areas that are more severe and thus it is less likely that he would violate them. We accept the opinion that one is still believed regarding matters that are more severe (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.:5). On one hand, one who violated rabbinic prohibitions should not be suspected to violate ones of Torah origin (Bechorot 30a). On the other hand, when one eats by someone, he has to be sure that not only are there are not Torah violations but that there are also not rabbinic violations. Regarding questions of general kashrut, this should not be a problem because the transfer of distrust from a severe violation to a lighter one applies only when the violations are of the same general type (i.e., from forbidden food to forbidden food) and would not apply from Shabbat to kashrut (see Shach 119:12). Yet, if one wants to eat in this person’s house on Shabbat, don’t we have to be concerned that he will violate a rabbinic prohibition of Shabbat as he did regarding the store?

The solution to these problems is found in the Rama (YD 119:7). One does not lose reliability if he violated a prohibition that people don’t think is a real prohibition. Since there are cases where one may have his store operated on Shabbat and since, for a long time in many places, many have believed that doing so in general is not forbidden, the storeowner is not categorized as a mechallel Shabbat nor is he considered one who is suspect of sinning. Of course, it may be questionable if someone of this level knows enough to keep a sufficiently kosher home, but the matter of the store per se should not make it forbidden to eat in his house even on Shabbat.

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