26 – Ma’aseh Shabbat and Lifnei Iver

01. Principles Behind the Prohibition of Benefiting from Melakha Done on Shabbat

The Torah commands us to refrain from melakha on Shabbat. The Sages added a protective fence by prohibiting deriving benefit from melakha done on Shabbat (ma’aseh Shabbat), as it is improper to benefit on Shabbat from Shabbat desecration. Whether the melakha was done knowingly (bemezid) or unknowingly (be-shogeg), it is forbidden for any Jew to benefit from the melakha for the rest of that Shabbat. Some maintain that if the melakha was done be-shogeg, one may benefit from it. Some rely on this opinion under pressing circumstances (as explained in the next section). For our purposes, shogeg means that one was aware of his actions but forgot that it was Shabbat or was unaware that this act is a forbidden melakha on Shabbat; we have translated it, here and elsewhere, as “unknowing.”

After Shabbat, anyone may benefit from a melakha that was done on Shabbat except for the perpetrator, if he did it be-mezid, who may never benefit from it (SA 318:1, as explained in section 7 below).

If a small child performed a melakha on Shabbat on behalf of an adult, during Shabbat no one may benefit from it. On Saturday night, anyone may benefit once enough time has passed that the melakha could have been completed after Shabbat. If the child did the melakha for his own sake, an adult may benefit from it on Shabbat (above, 24:4).

If a non-Jew did melakha on Shabbat for a Jew, no Jew may benefit from it until enough time has elapsed after Shabbat for the melakha to have been completed, so that no one benefits from melakha done on Shabbat and no one profits from work done by a non-Jew on Shabbat (above, ch. 25 n. 2). If a non-Jew did a melakha for himself, a Jew may benefit from it on Shabbat (above, 25:2). In some cases, one may hint to a non-Jew to do melakha on Shabbat (above 25:3). For the sake of a mitzva, or to avoid great loss or suffering, one may ask a non-Jew to do a rabbinically prohibited melakha (25:4).

02. The Prohibition of Benefiting from a Melakha Performed on Shabbat

As we have seen, if a Jew knowingly performs a melakha on Shabbat, neither he nor any other Jew may benefit from it during Shabbat. Even if he did the melakha unknowingly, according to most poskim no one may benefit from it, because the Sages did not want any Jew to benefit from melakha done on Shabbat (SA 318:1). Others maintain that only if the melakha was done knowingly is it forbidden to benefit from it on Shabbat; in contrast, if the melakha was done unknowingly, one may benefit from it. Some allow one to rely on this opinion when necessary (MB 318:7). A non-observant Jew who is aware that it is Shabbat and that the action he is taking may be prohibited is considered to be transgressing knowingly. Even those who are lenient maintain that one may not benefit from his melakha on Shabbat.[1]

Therefore, if a Jew turned on a light on Shabbat, neither he nor any other Jew may benefit from the light. As we have already seen, some maintain that under pressing circumstances, as long as the light was turned on unknowingly, one may benefit from it. Under normal circumstances, though, or if the light was turned on knowingly, one may not benefit from it.

Nevertheless, if one could have engaged in a certain activity with difficulty even without the light, one may also engage in this activity after the light is turned on. For example, if a light in a stairwell was turned on on Shabbat, as long as one could have ascended the stairs in the dark, one may do so in the light. However, one should not run up the stairs, as this would constitute taking advantage of the light. If a bathroom light was turned on on Shabbat, one may still use the bathroom, since one could have done so without light as well. However, if one could not have arranged certain items in one’s home without the light, one may not arrange them using the light. If there was originally enough light to read, even with difficulty, and then an additional light was turned on, one may continue reading even though it has become easier.

If a light in a room was on and one knowingly turned it off, one may sleep in the room. Even though it is now easier to sleep there, it is permitted, since there is no direct benefit from the melakha; it simply removed an impediment to sleep.

If a Jew turned on a radio or music player on Shabbat, one may not benefit by listening to it. However, if it would be inconvenient to leave the room, he need not do so, since the sound was turned on against his wishes, and he does not want to benefit from it. Even if a non-Jew turned on such a device, one still may not benefit from it, both because it is a weekday activity and because it detracts from the honor due Shabbat (above 22:19).

One is not obligated to stay out of his room because his roommate sinned by turning on the heat in their shared room. However, le-khatĥila he should try to prevent his roommate from transgressing. If he was unsuccessful, he should have in mind not to benefit from the prohibited action. He should not move toward the heater in order to warm up. Rather, he should remain in his usual place. If he benefits against his will, he is not transgressing. If he can open a window in order to avoid benefiting from the heat, this is preferable (based on Rema 276:1; AHS ad loc. 4; MB ad loc. 11-13).[2]

Some maintain that one must not even fulfill a mitzva through a melakha that was performed on Shabbat. Others maintain that since mitzvot were not given for our benefit, doing a mitzva cannot be considered deriving benefit from a melakha. In their opinion, if a light was turned on during Shabbat, one may study Torah or pray by its light. One who wishes to follow this leniency has an opinion to rely on. However, if food was cooked on Shabbat, all agree that one may not eat it. Even though eating it would fulfill the mitzva of oneg Shabbat, since the way one fulfills this mitzva is by experiencing pleasure, it would violate the Sages’ decree forbidding benefit from a melakha done on Shabbat. Similarly, if a light was turned on during Shabbat, one may not eat by its light.[3]


[1]. According to R. Meir, one who cooks on Shabbat unknowingly may eat the food on Shabbat, while one who cooks knowingly may eat the food only after Shabbat. According to R. Yehuda, if one cooked food on Shabbat, whether knowingly or unknowingly, no one may eat from the food on Shabbat. After Shabbat, others may always eat the food. The one who cooked the food may eat it after Shabbat only if he cooked it unknowingly, while if he did so knowingly he may never eat it (Ĥullin 15a). Since there is an accepted principle that in a disagreement between R. Meir and R. Yehuda we follow R. Yehuda, most Rishonim rule that one may not benefit on Shabbat from melakha that was done unknowingly. This is the opinion of Rif, Rambam, Ramban, and many others. This is also the ruling of SA 318:1. Nevertheless, according to a minority of poskim (Tosafot, Ĥullin 15a; Sefer Ha-Teruma; Ritva; Vilna Gaon), in this case the halakha follows R. Meir, since the Talmud goes on to say that Rav taught his students R. Meir’s opinion on the topic. MB states that in a time of need, one may benefit from an unknowing violation on Shabbat (318:7). However, if one picked fruit unknowingly on Shabbat, even those who are lenient concede that one may not benefit from it, since it is muktzeh.

[2]. This is the ruling in Ha-tzava Ka-halakha 34:1-2 and Yalkut Yosef 318:36. It would also seem to be the opinion of Har Tzvi, OĤ 1:185. However, the one who turned on the light, the heat, or the radio knowingly, as well as the person who told him to do so, technically must leave the room in order to avoid benefiting from the melakha (MB 276:13; Yalkut Yosef 318:14, n. 20).

[3]. See Sdei Ĥemed (Kuntres Ha-klalim, Ma’arekhet Mem, Klal 95), which quotes dissenting opinions. These are also cited in Ha-tzava Ka-halakha 33:7 and Yalkut Yosef 318:18-20. When dealing with a physical pleasure such as eating, one should be stringent, as it is not clear that any authority would be lenient. See Ĥayei Adam 62:6 and Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:126. When there is no physical pleasure involved, then since it is a rabbinic dispute, one who wishes to be lenient has an opinion to rely on. This applies even more so if the melakha was done unknowingly, as then one can take into account the authorities who follow R. Meir and permit benefiting from it.

03. Cases In Which Deriving Benefit Is Permitted

The prohibition on deriving benefit on Shabbat from the unknowing performance of a melakha applies only to a case of a melakha that is prohibited by Torah law. In contrast, if a rabbinically prohibited action was done unknowingly, one may benefit from it on Shabbat. Nevertheless, if it was done knowingly, it has the same status as a Torah prohibition: one may benefit from it only after Shabbat (MB 318:3 and BHL ad loc.; Yalkut Yosef 318:3). For example, the Sages prohibited separating teruma, ma’aser, and ĥalla on Shabbat, because it resembles tikun (fixing or improving) of the produce. If one unknowingly performed the separation on Shabbat, the “improved” produce may be eaten on Shabbat, but if he did this knowingly, it may not be eaten until after Shabbat (MB 339:25; above 22:5).

If one unknowingly turned on an electrical appliance without a heating element (e.g., a fan, air conditioner, or refrigerator), since some maintain that this action is not prohibited by Torah law, one who wishes to be lenient and benefit from the appliance has an opinion on which to rely. However, if one turned on a heater with metal heating coils or a light bulb with an incandescent filament, he has definitely transgressed a Torah prohibition. Thus, even if it was done unknowingly, he may not benefit from the results of his action on Shabbat. In the case of the heater, he should open the window or leave the room to avoid benefiting from the melakha.[4]

If one performed a melakha obliviously (mitasek), there is no prohibition on deriving benefit from it, since the melakha had no intent. This is true even if the melakha is prohibited by Torah law. For example, if one absentmindedly brushed his hand or leaned against a light switch and turned it on, one may derive benefit from it.

There is a difference between shogeg and mitasek. As noted, shogeg means that one was aware of his actions but forgot that it was Shabbat or was unaware that this act is a forbidden melakha on Shabbat. When the Temple stood, one who did a melakha be-shogeg was obligated to bring a sin offering. In contrast, mitasek means that one did a melakha obliviously, without being aware of his actions. Such an act did not obligate its perpetrator to bring an offering. Since mitasek is less severe than shogeg, there is no prohibition to benefit from what was done obliviously.[5]

However, if one absentmindedly turned on a light out of habit, as he does all week long when entering a room, he is considered shogeg. Even though he was not thinking explicitly about what he was doing, nevertheless since the intent of his action was to turn on the light, he is considered shogeg and one may not derive benefit from his melakha.


[4]. As we have seen above (17:2 and n. 1), according to many contemporary authorities, turning on an electric appliance with no incandescent filament or heating element is only rabbinically prohibited. Even though in practice we tend to be stringent and treat turning on electricity as a Torah prohibition, here we may also take into account the opinion of those who follow R. Meir. According to him, even if one transgresses a Torah prohibition, as long as it was unknowing, one may derive benefit from it. This is the approach of Yalkut Yosef 318:56.

[5]. Among those who say mitasek does not constitute a transgression are Leĥem Mishneh (1:5) and Eretz Tzvi §76. Some are stringent and maintain that even mitasek constitutes a transgression, and therefore one may not derive benefit from a melakha done be-mitasek (Oneg Yom Tov; Minĥat Barukh). According to R. Akiva Eger, in some cases mitaskek has the same status as shogeg. Nevertheless, in practice, one may be lenient in all cases of mitasek. First, the prohibition on benefiting from melakha done on Shabbat is rabbinic, so in cases of uncertainty we are lenient. Second, the poskim who follow R. Meir are permissive even in the case of shogeg. This is also the opinion of Az Nidberu 6:17 and Yalkut Yosef 318:23. See Orĥot Shabbat 25:4.

04. Benefiting from an Action That Did Not Alter an Item

Some say that if a melakha did not physically alter an object, like if it was transported from a public domain to a private domain, the item does not become prohibited, and one may benefit from it on Shabbat in the private domain (Rabbeinu Yona and Ritva). The same would apply to food that was transported via motor vehicle on Shabbat; since the food itself underwent no change, it would not be prohibited. However, others maintain that there is no difference between types of melakhot (Tosafot, Ramban, and Rashba). Even if the melakha did not alter the food at all, one may not benefit from it on Shabbat if it was transported in a prohibited fashion. In practice, le-khatĥila it is proper to be stringent, but under pressing circumstances one may rely on those who are lenient, particularly if the melakha was done unknowingly.[6]

If a melakha that was performed on Shabbat enables an additional, permissible action to occur, one may benefit from the permissible action. For example, if a hammer was fixed on Shabbat, it may not be used, even for permitted purposes like cracking nuts. However, if one violated this prohibition and cracked nuts with the hammer, he may benefit from the nuts, since the act of cracking the nuts is not intrinsically forbidden.

If a locked door was unlocked in a forbidden fashion, such as with the use of an electronic key card, some say that one may not enter the room through that opening, since the door was unlocked in a prohibited fashion. Others maintain that one may enter, since unlocking the door did not create anything new; it simply removed an impediment to entering. Be-di’avad, in a time of need, one may be lenient. If a refrigerator door was opened and the refrigerator light went on, one may remove food from the refrigerator (see above, 17:9).

If a Jew who does not observe Shabbat approached an automatic door and thus caused it to open, one may not enter through it. Only under pressing circumstances may one be lenient. If another Jew passed by and unintentionally caused the door to open, one may enter through it (see above, 17:11).[7]


[6]. According to Rabbeinu Yona and Ritva, if the object was not physically altered, the prohibition of ma’aseh Shabbat does not apply to it. This is also the opinion of Korban Netanel. In contrast, Tosafot, Ramban, and Rashba as well as Har Tzvi maintain that this is not grounds for leniency. In practice, if the melakha was done unknowingly, in times of need one may be lenient. (This is the implication of Ĥayei Adam 9:11; MB 318:7; and BHL 318:1 s.v. “aĥat.”) Under pressing circumstances, one may be lenient even if the melakha was done knowingly, since the prohibition of ma’aseh Shabbat is rabbinic. See Yabi’a Omer, 10:25. This applies when soldiers have been brought food by a vehicle on Shabbat: under pressing circumstances, they may eat the food. However, if their consumption of the food will cause additional Shabbat desecration in future, they should not eat it (Ha-tzava Ka-halakha 35:10). All agree that if fruit was knowingly brought from outside the teĥum (at a height of under ten tefaĥim), one may not benefit from it, as explained in Eruvin 41b and SA 405:9. According to Rabbeinu Yona, the reason for this is that the Sages reinforced their own safeguards.Regarding melakha performed by a non-Jew, all agree that Hotza’ah is just as severe as other melakhot. For example, if a non-Jew delivered something to a Jew via an action that is prohibited on Shabbat by Torah law, the Jew may not benefit from it until enough time has elapsed after Shabbat that the item could have been brought after Shabbat. This is to make sure that Jews do not ask non-Jews to do melakha for them on Shabbat. If a non-Jew performed a rabbinically prohibited melakha, then the Jew for whom the melakha was performed may not benefit from it until enough time has elapsed after Shabbat that the melakha could have been done. Other Jews may benefit from it even on Shabbat (SA 325:10), as explained in 25:1 above.

[7]. According to Mor U-ketzi’a, Ma’amar Mordechai, and Nehar Shalom, if a fire was lit on Yom Tov (which is prohibited) and then used to cook food, one may benefit from the food since cooking is not prohibited on Yom Tov (in opposition to Taz 502:1, which forbids). This indicates that one may benefit from a consequence of ma’aseh Shabbat. A key that was transported via a public domain is subject, as we saw in the previous note, to a disagreement about whether one may benefit from a melakha that did not physically alter an object. Under pressing circumstances, one may be lenient. In any case, if the door has already been unlocked with that key, entering through the doorway does not constitute benefiting from the transgression itself, but rather from a consequence. As we said, in such a case one may benefit. This is the opinion of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (however, Igrot Moshe, OĤ 2:77 prohibits; see 2:71 as well).

In contrast, if a door was unlocked in a prohibited fashion, such as with an electronic key card, then it would seem that one may not benefit by entering, since the very act of unlocking was done in a prohibited manner. (As we saw, according to Tosafot, Ramban, and Rashba, ma’aseh Shabbat applies to Hotza’ah even though the item is not changed.) This is certainly the position of Igrot Moshe, and it seems to be that of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as well. Nevertheless, according to R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Melakhim Omnayikh, p. 525), it is permissible because opening the door is simply removing an impediment, and this kind of benefit is not prohibited. Furthermore, even without this explanation, we saw above in n. 6 that under pressing circumstances one may rely upon the opinion of Rabbeinu Yona. If a refrigerator door was opened and the refrigerator light went on, even R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach allows removing food from the refrigerator, since the light was turned on only incidentally (SSK 10:16 and n. 47). For further discussion of all these cases, see Orĥot Shabbat 25:29-32 and §14 in the Birurim section.

If a non-observant Jew opened an electric door by approaching it, one should be stringent and avoid taking advantage of his transgression, as doing so is a desecration of God’s name. However, under pressing circumstances, where there is no choice, one may rely on Rabbeinu Yona (as mentioned above in 17:11 and n. 11).

05. If One Did an Action of Disputed Permissibility

The prohibition on benefiting from a melakha done on Shabbat only applies when the action is clearly prohibited. However, if the action is the subject of dispute, even if general practice follows the stricter opinion, one may benefit be-di’avad from the melakha. This is because the entire foundation of the prohibition on benefiting from work done on Shabbat is rabbinic, and since we are lenient whenever there is a uncertainty pertaining to a rabbinic rule, we follow the lenient position in the dispute over whether this act is prohibited (Pri Megadim; MB 318:2).

For example, if one cooks raw meat, it is clear that he has transgressed, and the food may not be eaten on Shabbat. However, if one took partially-cooked food that is edible under pressing circumstances and placed it on a fire until it cooked fully, it may be eaten on Shabbat. Even though the halakha follows the opinion that doing so is prohibited by Torah law (SA 318:4), since there is an opinion that if the food was already edible, cooking it further is not prohibited (above, ch. 10 n. 1), if one transgressed and cooked such food on Shabbat, it may be eaten.

Similarly, if one took cold soup that had been cooked before Shabbat and heated it on a plata on Shabbat, although many maintain that he has violated Torah law (SA 318:4), it may be eaten, because Rambam allows doing this (above, 10:5-6).

Let us say one took a tea bag, put it in a glass, and poured boiling water over it directly from an urn, which is a kli rishon. Doing so is prohibited because, according to most poskim, pouring boiling water from a kli rishon cooks the outer layer of the food (above, 10:7-8). Nevertheless, be-di’avad one may drink the tea, because some maintain that one does not violate Bishul by pouring hot water over a tea bag, only by placing the tea bag directly into a kli rishon (Rashbam, Ramban, Rashba).

06. Power Outages

If there is a power outage, whether local or citywide, Jewish technicians may do what is necessary to restore power to all the area’s residents. This is because many areas have sick people whose lives would be at risk without the electric equipment they need. Because of the possibility of loss of life, the area’s electricity supply must be restored. Moreover, since the restoration is permissible, all residents of the neighborhood may benefit from it (above, 17:5). If there was food on the plata that cooled down while the electricity was off and then warmed up again when the electricity was restored, it may be eaten even if the food was not fully cooked beforehand, and only finished cooking after the electricity was restored, since it was cooked in a permissible manner.

If a small area lost electricity and it is clear that there is no risk to life involved, one may not restore the electricity. If the electricity was nevertheless restored, and as a result a light came on, one may not benefit from it. This means that anything that could not have been done without the light may not be done using the light (as explained in section 2 above). If food warmed up as a result of the electricity that was restored impermissibly, one must wait until it cools off before eating it. If food finished cooking as a result of this transgression, one may not eat it (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in SSK ch. 32 n. 182; see above, 10:3).

07. Benefiting after Shabbat from a Melakha Performed on Shabbat

As we have learned, one who performs a melakha on Shabbat be-shogeg may benefit from it immediately after Shabbat, as may other Jews. If he transgressed be-mezid, he may never benefit from it, though others may benefit from it after Shabbat. For example, if one knowingly cooked food on Shabbat, he may never eat it. Others, including those he cooked for, may eat the food after Shabbat (MB 318:5). Similarly, if one built a house on Shabbat, others may benefit from it after Shabbat, but he may never use it. However, he may sell the house to others (MB 318:4).

One who knowingly laundered his clothes on Shabbat may not wear them even after Shabbat, because one may never benefit from a melakha that he performed knowingly on Shabbat. A solution in such a case is to wash the clothes again during the week, after which he may wear them (Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Vayeĥi 19).

If a non-observant Jew regularly performs melakha on Shabbat for other Jews, they may not benefit from this melakha even after Shabbat. Only when a melakha is done occasionally may those on whose behalf the melakha was done benefit from it after Shabbat, as there is no concern that they will ask him to desecrate Shabbat again so that they can benefit after Shabbat. However, if he does this melakha regularly, they may never benefit from it. For example, one may not buy bread from one who regularly bakes it on Shabbat in order to sell it after Shabbat, even if all the ingredients are kosher. Eating it encourages him to continue desecrating Shabbat, and they would take part in his transgression. Similarly, no Jew may eat at a restaurant where a Jewish chef cooks on Shabbat for customers who will come after Shabbat.

One may not watch sports games or other televised events after Shabbat if these events were filmed by Jews on Shabbat. Since the filming involved intentional Shabbat desecration on the part of the videographers for the sake of their viewers after Shabbat, the viewers may not benefit from this Shabbat desecration. The same applies to fruits and vegetables brought to market on Sunday. If it is known for certain that they were picked by Jews on Shabbat, no Jew may eat them.[8]

Technically, one may buy dairy products from a dairy farm that desecrates Shabbat when milking the cows (see above 20:4), because the milk produced on Shabbat is mixed with the milk produced on other days. Thus, for any bag of milk that one buys, it is uncertain whether it was milked on Shabbat. Since the prohibition of benefiting from melakha done on Shabbat is rabbinic, in cases of uncertainty we may be lenient. This also applies to a factory that produces paper all week long, including Shabbat. Technically, one may buy its paper. Nevertheless, it is always preferable to buy products from factories and companies that observe Shabbat. If all Shabbat observers were to unite in order to strengthen Shabbat observance, it would be possible as a temporary measure to forbid any benefit from the products of factories that desecrate Shabbat (see Yalkut Yosef 318:72, 74-5; Orĥot Shabbat 25:57-61).


[8]. If a Jew knowingly cooked on Shabbat for his friend, after Shabbat only the cook may not enjoy the food; the friend may do so immediately after Shabbat, as explained in Beit Yosef and MB 318:5. However, Responsa Ketav Sofer, OĤ 50 limits this law to a case in which the cook is an observant Jew; in contrast, if the cook is a mumar, a Jew who regularly commits this transgression, then the people for whom he undertook the melakha may never benefit, because that would encourage him to continue desecrating Shabbat. Responsa Har Tzvi, OĤ 180 is lenient and allows the people for whom the melakha was done to benefit after Shabbat, as long as the desecration was not done in accordance with their wishes. Nevertheless, many Aĥaronim maintain that one should be stringent (Or Le-Tziyon 2:30:1; Yalkut Yosef 318:6 and 318:71-76; Orĥot Shabbat 25:8).A pot in which a non-observant Jew knowingly cooked kosher food on Shabbat, according to MA (following Rashba), has the same status as the food he cooked and is therefore prohibited until he performs hagala. Pri Megadim and MB 318:4 state this as well. Others maintain that only the food is forbidden, not the pot. This is the lenient position of Ra’ah and Rosh, who are not discussing ma’aseh Shabbat but rather bishul akum, the general prohibition for Jews to eat food cooked by a non-Jew. The laws of ma’aseh Shabbat are not as strict as those of bishul akum. For example, in the case of bishul akum no Jew may ever eat the food, while with ma’aseh Shabbat the food is forever forbidden only to the person who cooked it (and according to R. Meir, even the cook may eat it if he cooked the food unknowingly). Accordingly, the lenient position of Ra’ah and Rosh in a case of bishul akum should certainly apply to ma’aseh Shabbat as well (Erekh Ha-shulĥan 318:1; Livyat Ĥen §42). In any case, according to all opinions, a pot that was used to cook food on Shabbat may be used by anyone besides the cook, the same way that they may eat the food itself after Shabbat.

08. After Shabbat

Starting half an hour after Shabbat ends, one may listen to news broadcasts produced by Jews, since sufficient time has elapsed for the producers to have collected the material and write the stories after Shabbat. However, one who listens to the news immediately after Shabbat transgresses the prohibition on benefiting from melakha done on Shabbat. Starting fifteen minutes after Shabbat, one may listen to other types of programs, because in that amount of time a news program can be prepared for broadcast. Even if the technicians and newscasters live far from the studio and desecrated Shabbat to travel to the studio, since the listeners gain nothing from this desecration, it is not forbidden to listen to the broadcast.

When Shabbat is over in Israel, one may not listen to broadcasts by Jews in America, since Shabbat there ends between seven and ten hours later than in Israel. Thus, one who listens in Israel would be benefiting from the Shabbat desecration of American Jews. For the same reason, one who is in Israel must wait approximately two hours after Shabbat ends before listening to Jewish broadcasts from Western Europe. In contrast, one may listen to broadcasts produced by non-Jews immediately after Shabbat in Israel ends.

One may travel by bus starting half an hour after Shabbat, as that is a reasonable amount of time for the bus driver to reach one’s stop without having desecrated Shabbat. If the bus route is so long that it is clear that the driver started the route when it was still Shabbat, some forbid riding the bus (Minĥat Yitzĥak 9:39; Orĥot Shabbat 25:62), and others permit (Mishneh Halakhot 7:50). Many maintain that there is technically no prohibition because one who boards the bus half an hour after Shabbat does not benefit from the fact that the bus traveled on Shabbat; nevertheless, they continue, it is proper to be stringent as a protective measure (Tzitz Eliezer 13:48; SSK 59:9; Yalkut Yosef 318:76).

09. Interacting with Non-Observant Jews and Lifnei Iver

The Torah commands: “Do not put a stumbling block before the blind” (Vayikra 19:14), meaning that one may not cause another person to transgress (MT, Laws of a Murderer 12:14). This commandment is known as “lifnei iver” (“before the blind”). If the other person would have transgressed even without his aid, many maintain that the accessory has not transgressed the Torah prohibition on causing others to sin. However, he has transgressed the rabbinic prohibition of aiding (mesayei’a) a transgressor. Therefore, one may not allow a non-observant Jew to borrow his car or radio on Shabbat.

Similarly, one may not give directions to a Jew who is driving on Shabbat and stops to ask for directions, even if the driver may actually end up spending more time driving without directions. There are two reasons for this. First, one may not aid a transgressor. Second, one may not speak on Shabbat about things that are prohibited on Shabbat (above 22:9). It is proper to apologize to the driver and explain that giving him directions is forbidden on Shabbat.[9]

An observant soldier may leave the light on in the bathroom before Shabbat, even though he knows that at some point a non-observant soldier will turn it off. One does not need to waive his right to leave the light on just so that his non-observant friend does not transgress by extinguishing the light. Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that his non-observant friend would turn the light on and off in any case (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in Ha-tzava Ka-halakha 31:5).

One may invite a non-observant Jew for an entire Shabbat, even if he knows that after Friday night dinner his friend will drive home. This is as long as one honestly offers him a place to stay, such that the invitation does not necessitate Shabbat desecration. Although some forbid this, one may be lenient when one’s intent is to spread love among Jews, bringing people closer to Torah and to each other. However, sometimes it is proper to be stringent for educational reasons.

Some are stringent and forbid a synagogue to host the celebration of a bar mitzva from a non-observant family when it is clear that some of the guests will drive to the synagogue. They maintain that the synagogue’s agreement to host the bar mitzva is like accepting and aiding Shabbat desecration. Others permit it on the grounds that these guests would be desecrating Shabbat in any case. Furthermore, the synagogue members did not ask anyone to drive, and in fact they would prefer that people come on foot. In practice, as long as the non-observant guests are respectful of the synagogue and are careful not to desecrate Shabbat inside it, the synagogue may host the bar mitzva. Nevertheless, according to many, it is still preferable to advise the family to have the boy called up to the Torah on a Monday or Thursday during Minĥa instead of on Shabbat.

There is a similar disagreement about hosting a brit mila on Shabbat when it is clear that many family members will desecrate Shabbat by driving to the brit. In practice, a mohel may perform the brit on Shabbat in this situation.[10]


[9]. R. Avigdor Nebenzahl reports in the name of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (in the journal Kotlenu vol. 14, pp. 254-255) that it is preferable to give the driver directions so as to minimize his driving on Shabbat. Nevertheless, Tzitz Eliezer 15:18 and Yalkut Yosef vol. 2, p. 180 prohibit doing so. See Re’akha Kamokha, pp. 152-156. There is a dispute regarding the nature of the prohibition of aiding a Jew to transgress in a situation where he can transgress even without that aid. Some say that the prohibition is rabbinic (Tosafot; Rema, YD 151:4); according to others, Rabbeinu Ĥananel and Rambam maintain that it is prohibited by Torah law (Melumdei Milĥama, p. 33f); still others maintain that if the transgressor is a mumar and sins knowingly, there is no prohibition at all (Shakh, YD 151:6). It is generally assumed that the prohibition is rabbinic.

[10]. According to Igrot Moshe (OĤ 1:98-99 and 4:71), one may not invite a non-observant Jew to a Shabbat event if it is clear that he will drive, but if necessary, he may notify the non-observant acquaintance of the event. Shevet Ha-Levi 8:256 states this as well. Shevet Ha-Levi 1:205 and 4:135 forbid holding a brit on Shabbat if this will lead people to desecrate Shabbat by driving to the brit and taking pictures. In contrast, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that one may invite a non-observant Jew for Shabbat as long as the guest is given the opportunity to stay without desecrating Shabbat. This opinion is cited in Rivevot Ephraim 7:402 and Sho’alin Ve-dorshin vol. 2, pp. 18-19. Tzitz Eliezer 6:3 states that one may hold a brit on Shabbat even when this may lead to Shabbat desecration. See Re’akha Kamokha, pp. 157-163. In the text above, I am lenient, since non-observant Jews will desecrate Shabbat in any case. Besides, while they are in the synagogue they will not desecrate Shabbat, so one is not aiding them in their transgression by inviting them but in fact minimizing it. Nevertheless, to ensure that a bar mitzva celebration is free of transgression, it is preferable to celebrate by having the boy called up to the Torah on a Monday or Thursday at Minĥa. The guests may form a minyan for this purpose. Since some of the participants will not have heard the Torah reading that normally takes place every Monday and Thursday morning, they may read the Torah with the berakhot as part of Minĥa (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 22:9). This way, there is no problem with traveling or taking pictures of the event. In contrast, performing a brit mila on the baby’s eighth day is mandated by the Torah; if the eighth day is Shabbat, the brit should take place on Shabbat.

10. Keeping Websites and Vending Machines Open on Shabbat

If a Jew owns a vending machine, and most of its users are Jewish, he must disable it for Shabbat in order to avoid aiding their desecration of Shabbat. If most of the customers are non-Jews, he need not disable it (see SSK 29:28-29 and n. 75). The money that the non-Jews put in the vending machine is not considered payment for work done on Shabbat, since they are paying primarily for the product and not to operate the machine itself.

Some maintain that websites designed for a Jewish audience must be disabled on Shabbat so that they do not aid transgression. Since this is difficult practically, the site owner is not obligated to take them down; after all, the site visitors can easily desecrate Shabbat by visiting other sites, and as long as the site owner has done nothing to promote his site on Shabbat, there is no prohibition. However, if the site is primarily commercial, and most prospective customers are Jews, it means that the owner of the site benefits from the Shabbat activity, so he must make efforts to disable it for Shabbat. If this is very difficult, it is not obligatory. Since those who access the site are already desecrating Shabbat knowingly and regularly, some maintain that the prohibition of aiding someone’s transgression does not apply. In contrast, if most of the customers are non-Jews, it is not necessary to disable the website for Shabbat. The purchases made on Shabbat are not considered payment for work done on Shabbat since the work to set up the site was done during the week.[11]


[11]. See also Orĥot Shabbat 22:41. In n. 55, it states that a commercial website has the same status as a vending machine. It is true that some are stringent, as discussed in Kedushat Ha-Shabbat vol. 2, p. 15f. Nevertheless, what I wrote in the main text seems most reasonable. This is also the conclusion of Responsa Be-mar’eh Ha-bazak 5:37-40. I will now explain the underlying principles. According to Responsa Maharil Diskin (Kuntres Aĥaron §145), one is not obligated to spend money to avoid violating lifnei iver, even though it is a Torah prohibition. According to Atzei Ĥayim (YD 5), one need not spend money to avoid mesayei’a, as it is only a rabbinic prohibition (though one would need to spend to avoid lifnei iver). In any case, leaving a website up is certainly no more than mesayei’a, as there are always alternative websites. According to Shakh, there is no prohibition at all of aiding a mumar’s violation of halakha. Therefore, if it is difficult for one to take down his website for Shabbat, he is not obligated to do so. Furthermore, the owner of the website is not transgressing the prohibition of buying and selling on Shabbat, since he is not doing anything. Rather, what takes place on the site is a commitment to complete the transaction. The money is not collected from the customer’s account until after Shabbat. If a site earns money based on page views or subscriptions, we can say that the payment is for setting up the site and publishing content, which is how we permit paying rent or for use of a mikveh on Shabbat. It is assumed that the payment is for the cleaning and heating of the premises, which takes place before Shabbat (Noda Bi-Yehuda, OĤ 2:26; see above, 22:14 and n. 9). We may also take into account the position of BHL 244:6, which permits accepting money for work done on Shabbat if one would otherwise sustain a major financial loss. One need not worry about marit ayin, since everyone understands that no Shabbat desecration on the part of any Jew is necessary in order to keep a website open on Shabbat.