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[17] Amira L'Akum: A Non-Jew's Help on Shabbos (Part 2 of 5)

We continue detailing the exceptions when one may use a non-Jew's help on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and how these can be used below.


If a person is incapacitated due to health, they may ask a non-Jew to perform a forbidden act of work for them on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The illness does not have to be life-threatening, and one may do so even for a חולה שאין בו סכנה - an ill person whose life is not at risk, or a 'Choleh' (Mishna Berrura O.C. 328:47). This category is defined as a person who is feeling so unwell that he or she would go to bed (e.g. someone with a severe cold or flu). Similarly, when an illness causes a person so much pain that he cannot function normally, that person is considered to be incapacitated (Shulchan Shlomo 328:23).

Therefore, one may ask a non-Jew to drive to a drug store and buy a patient medicine; to turn on a light for them; to turn on the heat or the air conditioner. One may also tell a non-Jew to adjust an electric hospital bed for a sick person.

It should be noted that if it is possible to achieve the objective treatment without asking a non-Jew, then we must do that (Beis Yosef 330:4). Therefore, if the medication can be obtained without having a non-Jew drive to the store, one must obtain it in a permissible way.

Young Children: The above applies to adults, however, young children are treated as 'ill with no risk to life' even when they are healthy. Therefore, if a child has a need, that if left unfulfilled, may lead to any sickness, one may ask a non-Jew to do even a biblical prohibition (Rema O.C. 328:17). For example, if an infant will only eat a certain baby food which was not prepared before Shabbos, one may tell a non-Jew to prepare and cook that food. Similarly, a child who experiences fear of the dark is considered a Choleh. Therefore, if the fuse in the house blows and the lights are off, one may ask a non-Jew to repair the fuse on Shabbos (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa p.53).

The poskim debate the maximum age at which a child has the constant status of a Choleh with the leniency described above. All agree that it applies to children under 3 (as per Rav S. Z. Auerbach zt’l, Harav Elyashiv zt”l, and Rav Wosner zt”l), with some saying it extends up to age 6 (Tzitz Eliezer), and others allowing until age 9 (Minchas Yitzchak).

In practice, for children between ages 3 through 9, it is dependent on the relative strength or weakness of the child. If they are relatively weak, they may be treated as a Choleh, but if they are relatively strong, they should not be included in this category (Minchas Chein vol.1 p51).

Coldness: It is interesting to note that all people, even healthy adults, are considered to be ill when it pertains to cold weather. Therefore, whilst in general turning on the heat on Shabbos is a biblical prohibition, our sages determined that people who live in a house that is not adequately heated are likely to become ill and are treated as Cholim. Thus, it is permitted to tell a non-Jew to turn on the heat in a house that is very cold (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 276:5).

If the house is adequately heated for the average adult, then one may not ask a non-Jew to turn on the heat. However, if there are children or elderly who require additional heat present, it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to turn on the heat (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa p.52).

Should I hint or can I clearly ask? In short, hinting only applies when one is not directly benefiting from a non-Jew, and as such one can clearly ask the non-Jew in all the above cases. This is because when our sages permitted asking a non-Jew to assist us (such as illness, for some Mitzvahs, Pesik Reisha, Bein Ha'shmashos, etc.), they allowed it outright. The concept of hinting is used only in the specific case of indirect benefit, whereby the non-Jew is removing an impediment that results in benefit for the Jew. We will explain more about indirect benefit and its usage later in this series.

We will BeH continue this topic next week.


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