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[18] Amira L'Akum: A Non-Jew's help on Shabbos (Part 3 of 5)

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


The Rabbinic enactment of Amira L’Akum prohibits telling a non-Jew to do any kind of forbidden Melacha (work) on Shabbos or Yom Tov including those which are only forbidden rabbinically. For the sake of certain Mitzvos, however, the Sages permitted telling a non-Jew to perform rabbinically forbidden actions. This situation is called שבות דשבות (two rabbinical prohibitions), whereby since asking the non-Jew in the first place is forbidden rabbinically if the Melacha one asking the non-Jew to do is also forbidden rabbinically, it is allowed for the sake of a Mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 307:5). (To apply this rule, one must be knowledgeable as to which prohibitions are biblical and which are rabbinical and to which Mitzvos this applies. A halachic authority should be consulted.)

An example where this is allowed is if one doesn’t have wine or challah or basic food for his Shabbos meal, it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to bring them even though it would involve carrying it through an area with no eruv. This would be considered a שבות דשבות if the non-Jew would not need to do any biblically forbidden act to bring those items.

This exception only applies to essential Mitzvos for Shabbos as in the above case, but not for Mitzvos which are not essential or are not connected to Shabbos. For example, one may not ask the non-Jew to bring fruits, even to enhance the Shabbos meal, as only wine for Kiddush, challah, and the basic food is allowed (Mishna Berura 325:60 & 325:62, Kaf Hachaim 325:118). Some poskim are more lenient, permitting asking a non-Jew to bring any food or beverage that enhances Shabbos (Aruch Hashulchan 307:18).

Another example is having a guest who is visiting from out of town, or a guest who otherwise would have nowhere to eat, and one realizes on Shabbos that one does not have enough chairs, he may ask a non-Jew to bring chairs from a neighbor’s house even when there is no eruv. In contrast, whilst inviting a neighborhood family over for a Shabbos is a Mitzvah, seeing as they have a place to eat the Shabbos meal, it does not qualify for this exception (Rema O.C. 333:1). One may not ask a non-Jew to cook more food for a guest, even if otherwise they would have no food, as this is a biblically forbidden Melacha.

Note: It is forbidden to ask a non-Jew to perform a rabbinically forbidden Melacha, even for a Shabbos essential Mitzvah, which could have been performed in a permitted fashion before Shabbos but was not due to negligence (Mishna Berura in Shaar Hatzion 244:35).


In similar vain one may ask a non-Jew to do rabbinically forbidden Melacha on Shabbos

in cases of צורך גדול 'Extreme need' (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 307:5, Rambam Shabbos 6:9-11).

This includes cases where there will be a substantial financial loss - הפסד מרובה (Magen Avrohom O.C. 307:7, Mishna Berura 307:22). What constitutes a "substantial loss" depends on many factors and should be evaluated by a halachic authority on a case-by-case basis. One example would be to ask a non-Jew to insert the plug of a freezer back into the socket (which is a Rabbinic prohibition according to most opinions) if it is full of expensive meat so that it does not spoil.

In the above cases, i.e. whenever is it allowed to ask a non-Jew to perform a rabbinically forbidden Melacha either for a Mitzvah or to save substantial loss, one may ask explicitly and is not required to hint the request.

As a reminder, both of the above exceptions only allow asking a non-Jew to do rabbinical prohibitions. But if, for example, one remembered on Shabbos that they left their car in a place where the city will tow it or where it could get stolen, one may not explicitly ask a non-Jew to move it, even to avoid substantial financial loss, as driving the car will constitute a biblically prohibited action.

However, in cases of sudden extreme loss, such as a fire, a serious water leak, or one's car is in immediate threat of being stolen, one may hint - but not ask explicitly - for a non-Jew to help, even if they will perform a biblically prohibited action (Shulach Aruch O.C. 307:19 & 334:26, Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchoso 30:13). The reason this is allowed is that our sages were concerned that within the panic over one's valuables, if this was not allowed, one may come to perform these forbidden activities themselves on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Gemara Shabbos 121a).

We will BeH continue this topic next week.


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