By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It was a bizarre exchange last Monday between Israel’s new finance minister, Yair Lapid, and Moshe Gafni, Member of Knesset for the Degel HaTorah party, who is now in the opposition. Gafni attacked Lapid for posting on Facebook on Shabbos. Lapid responded, “I’m entitled to send messages on Shabbat. I do not keep Shabbat. I don’t tell you what to do on Shabbat, you don’t tell me what to do on Shabbat. I don’t ask you, what does this say? I am entitled to post on Facebook whenever I want.” (The exchange can be found 17 minutes in at youtube.com/watch?v=waFyYgKn_e4).
Seemingly, Moshe Gafni wished to score some political points with his constituency by pointing out that Lapid had posted on Facebook on Shabbos. In a sense, Gafni may be benefiting from Lapid’s Facebook post on Shabbos. The question is whether what MK Gafni did is halachically permitted. He must have seen the Lapid post in order to use it against him. Does this constitute benefiting from the by-product of a Shabbos violation—something called “maaseh Shabbos”?
To answer this question, we will begin with a general overview of maaseh Shabbos and then apply it specifically to the case of Gafni and Lapid.
The term “maaseh Shabbos” is, unfortunately, not one that is well known in Torah-observant circles, but it is a concept with enormous halachic ramifications. Literally, it means the by-products of Shabbos violation. If someone had, chas v’shalom, violated Shabbos by cooking, sewing, carrying, or planting, what is the halachic status of the product of his Shabbos violation? May it be used by him? What about by others? Does it make a difference if he actually did it for the others as well? If so, is it forever forbidden to them?
There is another type of maaseh Shabbos (Type #2), and that is when a gentile did something involving a Shabbos prohibition on behalf of a Jew. Generally speaking, there are two prohibitions regarding gentiles performing work on behalf of Jews on Shabbos. There is the prohibition of amirah l’akum, asking the gentile to do it, and there is also the prohibition that the sages have placed upon the item itself. The poskim seem to indicate that this second type of maaseh Shabbos enactment forbidding the product of what a gentile did on behalf of a Jew actually predated the enactment of maaseh Shabbos involving when a Jew has performed an act of Shabbos violation. In this article we shall explore both types.
It should be known that the concept of maaseh Shabbos is not limited to foods that were cooked. Rather, it is applicable in many other situations as well as to all 39 of the Shabbos melachos. It applies to clothing that was sewn, fires that were lit, and items that were planted. It applies to Biblical prohibitions as well as to rabbinic prohibitions.
There is also a difference between Shabbos violation where the active presence of something has been created, and a Shabbos violation where there is an absence of something else. For example, if someone turned on a light, it would be forbidden to benefit from that light. However, if someone shut off a light, we have a situation where the Shabbos violation created an absence of something. Someone would therefore be permitted to sleep in such a room (see Mishneh Halachos Vol. VI #78).
There is also an issue called “bichdei sheyaasu.” When a gentile does something for a Jew, it is not even permitted on Saturday night (Beitzah 24a). Rather, one must wait the amount of time that it would have taken to do it as well. For example, if a gentile cooked rice for a Jew on Shabbos and it takes 30 minutes to cook rice, the rice may not be eaten until 30 minutes after Shabbos is over.
In this manner one does not gain from the fact that it was done on Shabbos. There are rare times when even when a Jew does the melachah we must wait this waiting period of bichdei sheyaasu. Generally speaking, however, the sages did not place the requirement of bichdei sheyaasu when a Jew did the violation, because we are not concerned that a Jew will come to tell other Jews to violate the Shabbos.
Background And Reasons
The Talmud (Kesubos 34a) records a debate regarding maaseh Shabbos. Rav Acha and Ravina argue as to whether maaseh Shabbos is forbidden by Torah law or by rabbinic law. The final halachah is that it is forbidden only by rabbinic law.
What is the reason for the prohibition? One reason is that it is a means to prevent future or further Shabbos violation. Another reason is that the prohibition will serve to further our appreciation of the gift that is Shabbos.
The Gemara (ibid., Chulin 15a, and Bava Kamma 71a) further records a debate between the Tannaim as to the parameters of the prohibition. The two categories under discussion are (1) when Shabbos was violated by accident—b’shogeg; and (2) when it was violated intentionally—b’meizid.
There are three views:
1. Rabbi Meir is of the opinion that when Shabbos is violated unintentionally, there is no prohibition placed on what was cooked or made. However, when Shabbos is violated on purpose, one may not benefit from that which was done until motzaei Shabbos.
2. Rabbi Yehudah is of the opinion that one may never benefit from a Shabbos violation on Shabbos itself and one must wait until motzaei Shabbos even if it was done unintentionally. If it was done on purpose, however, the person who did it can never use it. It is forbidden forever.
3. Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar states that b’shogeg, others may eat of it on motzaei Shabbos, but never for the Shabbos violator. B’meizid, however, it is forbidden forever for everyone—for him and for others.
There are also two possible types of “others.” Others could mean complete strangers and complete strangers only, or it could mean all others, even those for whom the maaseh Shabbos was intended.
According to which opinion do the Rishonim rule?
The Rambam, Rif, and Shulchan Aruch rule like Rabbi Yehudah. For the Shabbos violator the maaseh Shabbos is forbidden forever, and for everyone else it only becomes permitted on Saturday night.
Tosefos and the Vilna Gaon, however, rule more leniently. They rule like Rabbi Meir, who permits everything on Saturday night and do not forbid it at all if it was done b’shogeg. None of the Rishonim rule in accordance with Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar, however.
How does the Mishnah Berurah, which is the final halachah, rule? He rules (318:7) that when it is l’tzorech—when necessary—one may rely upon the Vilna Gaon when the Shabbos was violated b’shogeg. What about when it was violated on purpose? The Mishnah Berurah does not state that one can rely on the Vilna Gaon’s opinion in such a case. The clear indication is that in cases of intentional Shabbos violation, the Mishnah Berurah rules stringently.
Definition Of B’shogeg
There are three types of Shabbos errors that would be considered b’shogeg.
1. If one thought that it was permissible to do this action.
2. If one followed the ruling of a rabbi, even though it turned out to be incorrect (see Magen Avraham 318:3).
3. If one forgot that it was Shabbos (See Mishnah Berurah 318:6).
Another question arises as to the status of a non-religious Jew. Is a non-religious Jew who violates Shabbos considered to have violated it willfully? Or perhaps we would look at him as if it is shogeg since he may think it is permissible to violate Shabbos?
This question is most significant. If it is the latter, then when it is l’tzorech we could perhaps use the by-products of his maaseh Shabbos on Shabbos itself. Another difference would be as to whether he, the Shabbos violator, is ever permitted to use the item in question.
Definition Of ‘Others’
The Magen Avraham (siman 318:2) writes that it would appear to him that if the Shabbos violation was done for others, then they too are considered just like the person who did the maaseh Shabbos himself. This would mean that, according to Rabbi Yehudah, if person X cooked for person Y, then the food is forever forbidden to both X and Y. It is only permitted to Z, after Shabbos. X did not make anything for Z. Later on, however, the Magen Avraham seems to say that the Beis Yoseph in Yoreh Deah 99:5 indicates that in our case, it would be permitted for all others.
The Ksav Sofer (responsa O.C. #50) explains that the Magen Avraham’s change of heart refers to someone who generally observes Shabbos but will occasionally violate it on purpose. If, however, the person does not keep Shabbos at all (as Mr. Lapid readily admits in the tape), then the by-product of his Shabbos violation is forbidden to them forever.
Three Ways To View
A Secular Jew
There are three different ways to look at the maaseh Shabbos of a secular Jew, and one additional factor to discuss.
The Chazon Ish (Y.D. 2:16) states that in our times every Shabbos violator is considered a “tinok shenishba,” like a child that was kidnapped and is not to blame for his lack of knowledge. He is therefore considered to be shogeg.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l (I.M. O.C. I #33), however, was not so lenient. He writes that it is difficult to place all Shabbos violators in this category, as there are many who have seen and heard about religious Jews and the Torah.
The Pri Megadim in his Eishel Avraham (325:22) discusses the possibility that a Shabbos violator might even be treated as a gentile in regard to this matter, and the waiting period would have to be bichdei shayaasu—enough time to complete it after Shabbos.
Finally, Dayan Weiss adds a third issue, and that is of chillul Hashem. Even if halachah permits it, to benefit from Shabbos violation performed by a Jew is a grave desecration of the Divine Name. Thus, Rav Weiss forbids entering a bus that arrived moments after the Shabbos is over because it specifically left on Shabbos in order to arrive on time.
To The Knesset Case
With this background, let us now analyze whether Lapid’s Facebook post was forbidden to be used by MK Gafni.
According to the Ksav Sofer’s reading of the Magen Avraham, if a Jew were to violate Shabbos purposefully, the by-products of his violation are forever forbidden to those for whom he did the Shabbos violation.
But is Lapid’s Facebook posting a purposeful Shabbos violation? One may argue that perhaps we should be considering it shogeg on account of the more permissive view of the Chazon Ish. The Rema (Y.D. 159:3) defines a tinok shenishba as one who does not know of the Torah of Israel at all. While the Chazon Ish clearly disagrees, the consensus of poskim is to go with the view of Rav Feinstein.
But wait. To whom exactly did Lapid direct his post? If it was not to the public, then perhaps MK Gafni would be considered “others” who would be permitted to benefit from the maaseh Shabbos on Saturday night! Alas, this does not seem to be the case. Lapid posted his Facebook remarks on that fateful Shabbos day for all of his Israeli readers—including MK Gafni.
The conclusion? Although it may be possible to create a snif-heter—combining the views of the Vilna Gaon and the Chazon Ish—generally speaking, one should be stringent. Maaseh Shabbos is a serious topic that needs to be studied more. This is true both in this country as well as in Israel. The details of this rabbinic enactment are complex. Hopefully, this article is a good start. v
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