Q&A From the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline
Dayan Yehoshua Grunwald
May 6, 2021
Q We leave our Shabbos night soup on the stovetop, where a gust of wind from the window blew out the flame. May I ask a gentile to reignite the stove?
A Asking a gentile to light the flame violates the Rabbinic prohibition of amirah l’akum. As a general rule, it is prohibited to instruct a gentile to perform a melacha d’Oraisa, even for the purpose of a mitzvah. Therefore, even if we consider the preparation of necessary Shabbos se’udah food a mitzvah, one may not tell a gentile to do it. You also can’t direct a gentile in the manner of remez shelo bederech tzivui—hinting without mentioning the forbidden activity—as many poskim disallow this in the case of a melacha d’Oraisa in the home of a Jew. (See Sefer Amira Lenachri, end of ch. 37). Additionally, even if it were permitted, deriving benefit from melacha done on behalf of a Jew is forbidden, so you couldn’t eat the food.
One may not wrap towels around the pot, as that would constitute hatmanah (insulating), which is prohibited mid’Rabanan on Shabbos. If the oven was turned off just before Shabbos and remains hot, you may insert the soup pot into the oven.
You must contend with another problem as well: Your stove is emitting flammable gas into your home, and that poses a hazard, so you should tell a gentile to shut off the gas. Even if the dial will pass through “ignite” on the way to “off,” that’s not a problem of amirah l’akum because it is a shvus dishvus, as the ignition in this case is a melacha she’ein tzricha legufah, and for the purpose of safety it is certainly permitted. Additionally, the ignition is only a psik reisha—an undesired but inevitable consequence of a permitted act—which one is allowed to have a gentile do. If there is no gentile available, one may ask a child to turn it off with a shinui (variation), such as turning it with a spoon rather than the hand, as that would also be a shvus dishvus. If a child isn’t available either, an adult should do it.