Deriving Benefit from a Heater that was Lit on Shabbat

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

 

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In memory of our grandparents, whose yahrzeits fall this week:

Shmuel Nachamu ben Shlomo Moshe HaKohen Fredman (10 Tevet)

Chaya bat Yitzchak David Fredman (15 Tevet)

Shimon ben Moshe Rosenthal (16 Tevet)

By their grandchildren and great-grandchildren,

Aaron and Tzipora Ross and family

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Question:

 

We share a barrack with non-observant soldiers, and on Shabbat they light a kerosene heater in the room. May we remain in the barrack and derive benefit from the heat attained through Shabbat desecration? Is this to be likened to food that was cooked intentionally on Shabbat, which is forbidden the entire day even to others? If so, what are we to do in such a situation?

 

Answer:

 

            First of all, regarding your question whether this case is similar to that of food cooked on Shabbat, you presumably refer to what is cited in the Bei'ur Halakha (318, s.v. achat) in the name of the Chayyei Adam, that the prohibition to derive benefit from Shabbat desecration (ma'aseh Shabbat) only applies to something that was physically changed by that desecration, e.g., food that was cooked on Shabbat, or the like. But something that was moved from one domain to another, or the like, is not subject to this prohibition. The question is thus whether the benefit one derives from the warmer air, rather than from the fire itself, with heating up the air not being a change of physical state.

 

            In my opinion, this assumption is exceedingly dubious, for the issue here is not the benefit, but the forbidden act, and the question is whether a prohibition takes effect on results brought about by an act of Shabbat desecration. Regarding this we say that if something underwent a physical change, the law of ma'aseh Shabbat applies to it, for the ma'aseh Shabbat is considered significant even after the forbidden act has been carried out, and therefore the prohibition can take effect upon the resulting material. But if there was no physical change, i.e., in a case of carrying an object from one domain to another – then the forbidden act is not correlated to the object, and there is no ma'aseh Shabbat upon which the prohibition can take effect. In our case, however, the prohibition can take effect on the fire.

 

This idea is explained by the Rashba in Shabbat (130) in the name of his teacher (Rabbeinu Yona), and the Ritva also cites it in the name of Rabbeinu Yona in Eiruvin (41 and 68). As cited in the Rashba:

 

And my master, of blessed memory, wrote in his Halakhot that both a Shabbat violation that involves an action and a Shabbat violation that does not involve an action are included in the law of amira le-akum [the prohibition to ask a non-Jew to perform a forbidden act on behalf of a Jew], as stated by the Rif. However, the meaning of "ma'aseh melakha" is not as suggested by my master. For even someone who carries by way of the roof performs a forbidden labor. And if [the distinction is] because it is not a labor forbidden by Torah law, it should have said: And there is no difference between a Shabbat violation that involves an action forbidden by Torah law and a Shabbat violation that does not involve an action forbidden by Torah law. Rather [the phrase] "that involves an action" means that there is a novel [result] introduced in the object itself, e.g., the formation of a utensil, baking, cooking, heating up water, and the like, where the object itself has been altered. This action is then similar to what we said according to Rabbi Yochanan Ha-sandlar, [namely that] ma'aseh Shabbat is forbidden by Torah law, and there [in that context] ma'aseh Shabbat only applies to baking, cooking, and the like. But [regarding] bringing utensils or food from one domain to another, [the objects] are certainly not forbidden, even according to Rabbi Yochanan Ha-sandlar when they are brought, because there is no novelty introduced to them by their being prepared on [i.e., in violation of] Shabbat. And therefore [while] we are stringent about amira le-akum, even when [in conflict with] a mitzva in a case where he alters the object itself, because it is more blatantly a “weekday [non-Shabbat appropriate] activity,” but regarding a Shabbat violation which does not involve a change in the object itself, e.g., carrying an object from one domain to another, it is not a blatant “weekday activity,” and they were not stringent about asking a non-Jew to do it. These are the words of my master.

 

            Yet this distinction will not help in our case, for where the forbidden labor was performed with full intention, it is explicitly stated in the aforementioned Bei'ur Halakha (318) that even where there is no physical change in the object, it is forbidden to others until the end of Shabbat.

 

As for the reason for this stringency, it seems that the distinction based on whether there has been a physical change to the object applies exclusively to a labor performed by a Jew, in which case a prohibition applies to the object itself. Just as according to the one who says that ma'aseh Shabbat is forbidden by Torah law, this is derived from the verse, "For it is holy to you" – just as that which is holy is forbidden to be eaten other than in the specified manner, so too ma'aseh Shabbat is forbidden – a similar stricture should apply according to the accepted position, that ma'aseh Shabbat is forbidden by Rabbinic decree. But the law is different with respect to a labor performed by a non-Jew for the sake of a Jew, where the prohibition is a preventive measure lest the Jew come to ask the non-Jew to perform the labor for him. For this reason, the prohibition applies even when there is no physical change in the object, as explained in several places in the Gemara. The Rishonim therefore say in various places that we are more stringent about a labor performed unintentionally by a non-Jew than about a labor performed by a Jew, as is explicit in Tosafot in Eiruvin (39b-40a, s.v. ee mashkachat) and in Shabbat (122a, s.v. ve-im bishvil). As stated in Shabbat:

 

For in the case of a Jew we are not concerned that if we permit him to eat it, he will come to cook intentionally, for that is a prohibition punishable by stoning, and he is stringent about it. But a non-Jew who performs a labor for the sake of a Jew, if you permit it to him, he will come to tell the non-Jew to do it for him.[1]

 

            Nevertheless, Tosafot in Eiruvin (41b, s.v. be-meizid) write that produce transported past its Shabbat limit unintentionally may be eaten, whereas if transported intentionally it may not be eaten:

 

The implication is that nobody may eat it. And even though were it brought [by a non-Jew] for a particular Jew it would be permitted to another Jew – since the transgression was performed by a Jew, we are stringent.

 

            Thus we see that in a case of an intentional violation, we are more stringent regarding labor performed by a Jew than by a non-Jew. And since in the case of work performed by a non-Jew, we forbid the product even if there was no physical change (as is evident from Shabbat 123 and elsewhere), it follows that in the case of labor intentionally performed by a Jew, we forbid the product even if there was no physical change. And in the case of a Jew, we are even more stringent, in that the product is forbidden to all people, and not just to the person on whose behalf the work was done.

 

            In any event it is clear that in the case of intentional Shabbat desecration, there is no room for leniency regarding labor performed by a Jew relative to labor performed by a non-Jew, and whatever is forbidden in the latter case for the Jew on whose behalf the work was done, is forbidden in the case of a Jew for everybody.

 

            The Shulchan Arukh states (276) that if a non-Jew lit a candle for a Jew, it is forbidden to all, even to those for whom the candle was not lit initially. See there in the Magen Avraham, who explains that we are more stringent regarding a candle than regarding the Shabbat limit (for there, if something was brought from outside the limit for a particular Jew, it is permitted to another Jew), and only if the non-Jew lit the candle for himself is a Jew permitted to use its light. The Shulchan Arukh’s formulation is as follows: "The same applies to one who made a fire for himself or for a sick person. Some forbid in the case of a fire as a preventive measure lest the non-Jew add to the fire for the sake of the Jew," namely, even if the non-Jew made the fire for himself.

 

            Now in the case before us, even if we say that with a kerosene heater there is no room for concern that the one who lights it will add to the heat on your behalf, as in the case of a candle, we have already established that with respect to labor performed by a Jew no distinction is made between whether it was made for him or for someone else.

 

It turns out then that one is forbidden to warm oneself up next to a fire lit by a Jew on Shabbat.

 

This is all true if the fire was not lit in the house of a Jew. But if it was lit in the house of a Jew, the Rema writes: "However, if the non-Jew did it on his own in the house of a Jew, the Jew is not required to leave, even though he derives benefit from the candle or from the fire." That is to say, if the non-Jew did it on his own for the sake of the Jew, but the Jew did not ask him to do it, the Sages did not require him to leave his house, even though he will perforce derive benefit. See Mishna Berura (276:12) in the name of the Beit Yosef, that the same applies if the Jew was spending Shabbat in an inn belonging to a non-Jew, that it is considered like his house, and he is not required to move out.

 

We must, however, still clarify whether this rule that he is not required to leave his house applies even in a case where it was a Jew who lit the fire, for there is room to argue that in the case of intentional Shabbat desecration on the part of a Jew, the law is more stringent, as explained above.

 

The source of this law is the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 16:9), cited by the Tur, and explained at length by the Beit Yosef. The language of the Yerushalmi is, "That we do not trouble a person to leave his house." This wording seems to imply that strictly speaking he should be required to leave, only that this is a great trouble, and therefore the Sages were lenient. According to this, there is room to say that if the labor was performed by a Jew, which is more stringent, they were not lenient. In any event, there is no proof that they were lenient.

 

The Arukh Ha-shulchan, however, writes (276:4):

 

Our master, the Rema, ruled (at the end of par. 1) as follows: "However, if the non-Jew did it on his own in the house of a Jew, the Jew is not required to leave, even though he derives benefit from the candle or from the fire." The reason for this is that this benefit is treated like benefit that a person derives against his will with no intention, and this is considered benefit that from which a person cannot remove himself, for how can we tell him to leave his house. And in a place where it is unavoidable and he has no intention, it is clear that it is permitted, as we find in Pesachim 25b.

 

            According to this, the Sages were lenient not only because of the trouble, but because there is no prohibition, for when the benefit is unavoidable and he has no intention of benefitting, it is permitted. According to this, the same law should apply when the labor was performed by a Jew as applies when the labor was performed by a non-Jew.

 

            To summarize: In a residence that is shared by religiously observant and non-observant Jews, if a heater was lit on Shabbat, the observant members may remain in the room, even if they derive benefit from the heater. They are, however, forbidden to draw near to the heater or do anything else to warm themselves up directly. And similarly, one should not enter a room in which a heater had been lit on Shabbat, if that room was not set aside as his living or work space.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


[1] See Peri Megadim, Mishbetzot Zahav 276:5