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Q&A From the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

Untimely Assistance

Rav Avraham Yeshaya Cohen

June 18, 2020

Q:  May one ask a non-Jew before Shabbos to do melacha on Shabbos? Conversely, may one ask him on Shabbos to do melacha after Shabbos?

A:  The answers to your questions depend upon the reason for the prohibition of amirah l’akum (asking a non-Jew to do melacha). Several are offered:

  • Rashi (Avodah Zarah 15a) says that the prohibition is based on the pasuk in Yeshaya, mimtzo cheftzecha v’dabeir davar: It is forbidden to talk about and plan melacha on Shabbos, which certainly includes asking someone to do melacha.
  • The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 6:1) says the reason is that if one asks a non-Jew to do melacha, he may come to do it himself.
  • The Smag (lo sa’aseh 75) quotes from the Mechilta (Bo 12:16) that we derive from kol melacha lo yeiaseh vahem that melacha of a non-Jew is forbidden. (The Smag is unsure whether this is a Biblical prohibition or an asmachta.)
  • The Me’iri (Avodah Zarah 21a) says the reason is shelichus: If one asks a non-Jew to do melacha, it is considered as if he did it himself.
  • The Ritva (Shabbos 122a) says the reason is that it would turn Shabbos into chol, i.e., if melacha were permitted it would make Shabbos feel like a weekday, and the Torah mandates that Shabbos be different from chol.

If one would ask a non-Jew before Shabbos to do melacha on Shabbos, there would certainly not be Rashi’s problem of v’dabeir davar, since he is not talking about the melacha on Shabbos. However, the Me’iri’s issue of shelichus would certainly still apply, and the other reasons would likely apply as well.

In the reverse case, where he asked the non-Jew on Shabbos to do melacha after Shabbos, Rashi’s reason would forbid it, but the other reasons would not.

In practice, amirah l’akum is forbidden in both cases.

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