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Split Decision

By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

In the summer months, I often arrive home from shul after making an early Shabbos and find someone dressed in Shabbos clothing looking around for a Jew who hasn’t accepted Shabbos yet. Either a light was left on or off, or perhaps the air conditioner wasn’t set at the right temperature. After sundown on Friday night, a Shabbos goy would have to be located to rectify the situation. The laws of amirah l’akum are complex. In a nutshell, one is not allowed to directly ask a gentile to perform forbidden labor for him. Furthermore, even if one hinted to the gentile what he would like done, he is not allowed to directly benefit from the labor that was performed for his sake. Many are unaware of this second restriction.

However, there are many situations where the second restriction is not applicable. For example, suppose a Shabbos goy turned off a bedroom light to enable a Jew to sleep. When the individual sleeps, he is not considered to be directly benefiting from the forbidden labor performed for him. There was an obstacle to his sleep that was removed. In the reverse situation, suppose his room was completely dark and a Shabbos goy illuminated his room to enable him to read. He would not be halachically permitted to utilize the light, since it was the result of forbidden labor performed for his sake. If, however, there was already sufficient light to read but the added light makes it more comfortable to read, he would be allowed to continue reading. This would not qualify as benefiting from forbidden labor.

These laws are complex; the brief introduction here was meant merely to dispel the myth that hinting to a Shabbos goy removes all prohibitions. Even with hinting, one is still not allowed to directly benefit from the Shabbos labor.

In the early-Shabbos scenario, does asking a Jew who has not yet accepted Shabbos have the same restrictions as asking a Shabbos goy? The Shulchan Aruch (263:17) quotes an opinion that it does not. The Rema and other poskim seem to accept this opinion as authoritative. Therefore, one would be allowed to directly ask a Jew who has not yet accepted Shabbos to perform a labor on Shabbos that he himself is enjoined from performing because he has already accepted Shabbos.

Furthermore, there would be no restriction on deriving benefit from that labor. Consequently, if one who already accepted Shabbos forgot to turn on a light in his dark library, he could directly ask a Jew who has not yet accepted Shabbos to turn on the light, and he would be allowed to read in the room. Reading, in this scenario, is considered deriving direct benefit from labor, but it is permitted.

The Rema adds that the same leniency applies to motzaei Shabbos. Suppose the time to end Shabbos has already arrived, but one does not want to say “Baruch HaMavdil bein kodesh l’chol” in the middle of his third meal. If he did say it, he would be left with an unresolved quandary as to whether he should recite “Retzeih” in bentching. To avoid that situation, he would rather not say “Baruch HaMavdil.” According to the Rema, he may still directly ask another Jew who already concluded his Shabbos to perform melachah for him.

Why are we so lenient when it comes to asking a Jew who has not yet accepted Shabbos or has already concluded his Shabbos to perform melachah while the person making the request is observing Shabbos? One reason offered by the Magen Avraham is that the Jew who is observing Shabbos technically does not have to be observing Shabbos now himself. It was his prerogative to accept Shabbos early, and it’s his prerogative to observe Shabbos after the z’man. Since he does not have to be observing Shabbos himself now, we are lenient and let him ask another Jew to perform forbidden labor for him.

If you have already learned the daf, no doubt you are wondering, What does any of this have to do with this week’s daf? Actually, the connection is not a stretch. There is a major she’eilah raised by the poskim. If someone from Chutz La’aretz is visiting Eretz Yisrael for Sukkos, he is obligated to observe two days of yom tov and must refrain from forbidden labor on the second day as well. May the “chutznik” ask a resident of Eretz Yisrael to perform forbidden labor for him? It is a big tumult in the poskim, and one is certainly advised to seek halachic guidance.

When I attended yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael, all the Ashkenazim in my yeshiva observed two days of yom tov. The Sephardim, on the other hand, followed personal rulings of Rav Ovadiah Yosef and observed only one day. (He had a much more relaxed standard of what is considered moving to Eretz Yisrael.) However, as I recall, the Sephardim did not want to cause a machlokes in yeshiva and were generally AWOL during second day of yom tov. I further recall that they were very reluctant to be used as Shabbos goyim.

Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, offered a defense of the poskim who rule that someone from Chutz La’aretz may indeed ask someone from Eretz Yisrael to perform melachah for him. He says it is akin to asking a Jew to perform melachah while the requester has already accepted Shabbos. One might argue that there is no comparison. As the Magen Avraham pointed out by early Shabbos, it was the individual’s own prerogative to accept early Shabbos; here the visitor from Chutz La’aretz must observe two days yom tov since that is the custom of the place from which he hails. Not so! The chutznik could make a decision on the spot to stay in Eretz Yisrael.

There seems to be a bit of confusion about what exactly Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, held. However, in one place he writes regarding an American that was so enthralled with the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael and yom tov experience there that while he was observing yom tov sheni, he made a spontaneous decision to permanently settle in Eretz Yisrael. It is instantly no longer yom tov for him. He immediately becomes a resident of Eretz Yisrael and only has to keep one day yom tov. The second yom tov day is transformed into either isru chag or chol ha’moed. He may be required to put on tefillin now, which he didn’t don during Shacharis because it was still yom tov for him then!

Thus, argues Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, the two situations are indeed somewhat analogous. The American is only keeping two days yom tov because of his decision to reside in America. He could change his mind and become a resident of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, just as one may be lenient to ask a Jew to perform forbidden labor while the requester has already accepted Shabbos, so too may an American ask an Israeli to perform forbidden labor for him. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman ruled that initially an American in Israel should be stringent and not ask an Israeli to perform melachah for him.

As an interesting postscript, the sefer Dinim V’Hanhagos (p. 104) writes that the Chazon Ish, even while he was a permanent resident of Eretz Yisrael, observed the second day of yom tov in a limited fashion. He refrained from performing biblically prohibited yom tov labors on that day. v

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at

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Posted by on August 16, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.