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

After detailing the prohibition and exceptions, we conclude with some final Halachos and also explain the reasons for the prohibition of Amira L'Akum.


We have previously discussed that whilst in general instructing a non-Jew to do any prohibited Melacha is a serious Rabbinic prohibition (at a minimum - see below), in certain instances Melacha (forbidden work) performed by a non-Jew is permitted. One should be careful not to extend these leniences to other situations and consult a competent Halachic authority with questions. Also, when using a non-Jew to do normally forbidden work, the intention should not be, G-d forbid, to circumvent the observence of Shabbos, but rather to enhance the honor of Shabbos.


As mentioned at the beginning of these Halochos, even when we don't ask for help we may not benefit from Mealcha done on our behalf. As a result, if, for instance, a non-Jew sees our cold food on Shabbos and turns on the hotplate, we may not benefit from the hot food until after Shabbos, and even then we must wait until the time it would have taken us to heat it ourselves after Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 307:20).

It's worth noting that if we do not benefit directly from the action performed for us, for example, if the non-Jew switched off a light, we may derive benefit from this as we solely benefit from the removal of an impediment rather than the action itself.


It's worth noting that if a Jew performed a Biblically forbidden Melacha on Shabbos or Yom Tov, regardless of who he did it for and what the intention was we may not benefit from it until after Shabbos or Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 318:1). If a Jew performed a Rabbinically prohibited act, most opinions allow benefiting from it if the act was unintentional (Mishna Berrura O.C. 31:3 from the Vilna Gaon).

For example, if a Jew turns on a light intentionally we would have to leave the room regardless of why they did it. However, if it was unintentional - שוגג, we may be lenient and remain in the room, based on a) those that say electricity is a Rabbinical prohibition (Minchas Shlomo Ch. 11) and b) the prevalent opinion above that one may benefit from a Rabbinically forbidden Melacha that was performed unintentionally.


The Passuk in Shemos 12:16 says כׇּל־מְלָאכָה לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂה "No work shall be done". The Mechilta Derebi Yishmael (12:16:2), quoted by Rashi, explains this to mean that not only may a Jew not do work himself on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but one also may not have others, i.e., non-Jews, perform Melacha (forbidden work) on their behalf. This is the Biblical source for the prohibition of Amira L’Akum, telling a non-Jew to do forbidden work on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

According to some authorities, this is a Biblical Prohibition, derived from the aforementioned verse (Smag as quoted in Beis Yosef Orach Chaim 244). The generally accepted opinion, however, is that the prohibition is only alluded to and that this is an 'Asmachta', a Torah hint. Thus, the prohibition is essentially a Rabbinic prohibition, albeit a particularly stringent one because it is hinted at in the Torah. (See Mishna Berura 243:5).

Many reasons are given for the prohibition, here are three of the most commonly quoted:

  • The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 6:1) writes that it is in order to prevent us from being casual with the laws of Shabbos.

  • Rashi (Shabbos 153a) writes that the prohibition is due to the concept of 'שליחות', agency; i.e. the non-Jew is viewed as the Jew’s agent and, thus, the work done by an agent on his behalf is considered as having been done by the Jew himself.

  • Rashi elsewhere (Avoda Zara 15a), says that Amira L’Akum is prohibited because of the Navi Yeshaya’s warning against "דַבֵּר דָּבָר", speaking about forbidden work on Shabbos (Yeshayahu 58:13).

Regardless of the reason, the prohibition of Amira L’Akum is a very strict one. Even if one stands to lose a great deal of money, it remains prohibited to instruct a non-Jew to perform prohibited work for a Jew, unless explicitly allowed by our sages such as detailed above.

In the merit of observing Shabbos properly may we see much Beracha and Hatzalcha!


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