Ask the Rabbi

  • All the Questions

Inviting a Shabbat Guest who will drive.


Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 17, 5777
Am I allowed to invite my friend to my house on friday, if I know he’ll be driving home after candle lighting?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I attach here is a copy of an article I wrote hat deals with your question, and I hope you find it interesting. In short – while there are varying opinions – the best thing for you do to do would be to invite your friend, but to offer them the opportunity to spend all of Shabbat with you if they want. Then, even if they refuse the offer, and choose instead to take you up just on the Friday night dinner, you have no responsibility for their driving on Shabbat. If this option is difficult for you, then there are opinions that allow you to invite the guest just for dinner, even knowing that they will drive home afterwards. Blessings. Inviting Shabbat Guests Who Will Drive Rabbi David Sperling A common problem that arises is inviting non-religious people for a Shabbat meal. On the one hand, an intrinsic part ofthe Shabbat experience is inviting guests over to share the Shabbat with us, especially if this is one of their few (or only) positive Jewish experiences, which may help them in their own Jewish growth. On the other hand, more often than not, it is obvious that to invite them will involve their driving, or other desecrations of the Shabbat. Even though they would most likely break the Shabbat anyway, is it permissible to invite them, when they will now be driving because of our invitation ? Lifney E'ever. The Torahtells us not to put a stumbling block before the blind (Vayikra, 19:14). The definition of this commandment is two-fold: (1) not to give bad advice, and (2) not to help someone sin. The sinner, though committing the sin with eyes wide open, is none-the-less considered "blinded" by his desire to sin, and if we provide the means for the sin, we are putting a stumbling block in his way. The case of helping someone sin applies when they cannot sin without our help. The example given of this is when the object with which the person needs to sin is on one side of the river, and he is on the other side, unable to reach over. If we pass the object over we are infringing the law of Lifney E'ever.(See Gemara Avodah Zara 6a). When he is able to acquire the object needed for sin by himself, we then do not transgress a Torahcommand, but rather the rabbinic prohibition of helping sin in general - mesaya'a l'dvar avayrah. The First Approach. Rav Moshe Sternboch, (a prominent rabbi on the Aidah Charaidit in Jerusalem), addresses our question in his book of responsa Tshuvot V'Hanhagot (Vol. 1, responsa 358). After expressing the positive outcomes resulting from inviting non-religious guests - that they will themselves become more observant and gradually desist in their desecration of the Shabbat - he poses the question of whether this invitation is itself an infringement ofLifney E'ever. He writes:- It seems that the basis for the prohibition of not putting a stumbling block before the blind is similar to that of causing a real blind person to stumble. But if your intent is only for the good of the person, it is not called a stumbling block. This is similar to a doctor who operates on a patient. He is not considered as having broken the Torahprohibition of striking someone, [because his purpose is to heal]. So here too, his intention is not to cause them evil, or to give them bad advice, but he only hopes to direct them and lead them to the truth. That they break the Shabbat because of this, is entirely of their own doing, that they bring upon themselves, and does not fall into the category ofLifney E'ever. This is because he does not tell them to drive, but rather informs them that it upsets him. It seems that Rav Sternboch does not see the invitation as providing the means for the guests to sin. They "bring this upon themselves" he says, indicating that this is not similar to providing the object of sin to the sinner.The choice to drive is theirs, and it exists independent of our invitation. However there is a question of giving bad advice. Here Rav Sternboch takes the novel approach that the definition of bad advice is determined by one's intent. This though is not so clear. Could one not say that bad advice is an objective reality ? Good or Bad Advice ? In determining whether the advice is considered bad or not, I heard an interesting interpretation from Rav Henkin. He suggests that when we are dealing with the sub-section of Lifney E'ever concerning advice, there may be room to define good and bad advice in relation to the long term outcome. Even though it would be forbidden to provide the means for people to sin in order that in the long run they desist from sinning (to run mixed services in a synagogue in order that in the long run they will change over to separate seating), when we are dealing with advice the situation may be different. Advice may be measured by its long term goals. Just as financial advice that suggested you take a short term loss, in order to attainultimate gain, would be considered good advice, so too perhaps inviting someone to come for Shabbat, which entails desecratingthe Shabbat by traveling, may be considered long term good advice because it draws one closer to the Torah . (See further for Rav Henkin's ruling on our question). Rav Sternboch's Ruling. In his conclusion, Rav Sternboch stipulates several conditions to allow one to invite a non-Shabbat observant guest to visit on Shabbat. Firstly, in order to refrain from a desecration of G-d's name, one should ensure that the guests do not park directly in front of your house on Shabbat. Secondly, one should "constantly inform them of the seriousness of breaking Shabbat, and the sweetness of its observance." Apart from these conditions however, Rav Sternboch does not distinguish between whether the guest lives close enough to walk, or not. The Second Approach. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l takes a completely different approach. He addresses the question of whether one can invite people to come and pray on Shabbat in the synagogue when we know they will break Shabbat by driving there (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim Vol. 1, responsa 99). He writes :- "To invite those who live so far away that it is impossible for them to attend without breaking the Shabbat is certainly forbidden. This is even worse than Lifney E'ever, because it is considered as enticement (maysit). Even though the sin of enticement liable to the punishment ofstoning is only enticement to worship idols, nonetheless, the sin and its heavenly punishment , with all its strictures... exists in enticement to any sin. This is clear from the gemara in Sanhedrin 29, where Rav S. bar Nachman said in the name of Rav Yonatan, "From where do we know that we don't make claims to help an inciter ? From the snake [in the Garden of Eden]. "Even though the snake's incitement was not to worship idols, but rather to eat of the tree of knowledge, we see that it is considered maysit to incite to any sin... The sin of Lifney E'ever exists even if they don't live so far away as to have to drive, but when we know that they will not walk anyway. Though in this case it is not considered incitement. And if we don't use a form of invitation, but rather just an announcement that there is a prayer service ... and your intention is just to inform those who live nearby, but you know that others will come by car, it seems that there is no enticement, but concerning Lifney E'ever it is not clear..." This line of reasoning is mirrored by Rav Feinstein in other responsa (see ibid responsa 99), and also by Rav Wossner in his Shevet HaLevi (Vol. 1, responsa 235, Vol. 4, 134:4). There he forbids a mohel to circumcize a baby on the Shabbat if he fears this will result in the desecration of the Shabbat by the arrival of the guests. (Though concerning theperforming ofa brit,there are many opinions which would allow the mitzvah to go ahead on Shabbat). Rav Feinsteins' Maysit and Lifney E'ever. The widening of the definition of an enticer, maysit, to including enticement to any sin is a novel approach taken by Rav Feinstein.(The case of the snake in the Garden of Eden itself may be considered as incitement to heresy, being equal to G-d which is akin to idol worship {Rav Henkin}.) The classical commentators all limit their discussions of maysit to the case of enticement to idol worship (see Rambam Sefer HaMitzvot, Lo Ta'asay 16). However the question of livney e'ver as understood by Rav Feinstein needs investigation. He appears to understand that the prohibition of Lifney E'ever applies even though we are not providing the sinner with the means to sin. This is because causing the sinner to sin is akin to providing him with the object with which to sin. This thought is echoed in the Chazon Ish (Avodah Zara 62) where he writes that even if one does not provide the object of sin, but rather creates the conditions under which the sin can occur, it is an infringement of Lifney E'ever.For example, let's assume that an idol worshipper owned a cow, but would not think of offering it up to the idol because he wouldn't want to be left without a cow. If we then sell him a cow (that he could not have acquired elsewhere), this act now enables him to sacrifice his first cow to the idol . This is paramount to providing him with the idol sacrifice itself. So too other opinions rule that even if the person could have sinned by himself, if we draw him into sin, it is considered Lifney E'ever, even though the sin itself could be performed without our help. There are those who argue though, and limit biblical Lifney E'ever to a situation where the sinner can only sin due to our intervention (Zera Emet, Vol. 2, 19) (See the work Lifney E'ever Chapter 4, para. 4). According to these sources expanding Lifney E'ever's applications, it would seem that inviting a guest who will drive on Shabbat is forbidden. However, we could perhaps argue our case to be different, because most of the time, the sin ofdriving would likely occur even without our encouragement. The Hazon Ish and others discuss situations in which the sinner would not have thought about doing the sin at all without our intervention. But here, unfortunately, the reality is that most non-religious people would drive on Shabbat anyway. Other Lenient Factors in Lifney E'ever. Even if this line of thought is rejected,there are other lenient factors which we may rely upon:- We learn from the mishnah in Shevi'it (Chapter 5,6) that we can sell implements that may be used for forbidden labor during the sabbatical year, if the implements also have a permitted use. This is because we are allowed to rely on the possibility that the buyer will not sin. There are authorities who rule that even if this possibility is very slim, one can nevertheless rely on it (see Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 4, responsa5, section 4). In our case if we invite guests who could possibly walk, even though in all likelihood they will drive, this ruling would apparently allow our invitation. Some authorities hold that there is no Lifney E'ever in an act of speech as opposed to actually handing over an object of sin (Mechtam L'David and the Beit Yehudah quoted in the S'deh Hemmed). In our case we are only issuing a verbal invitation. This opinion is countered by the Rambam, who writes explicitly that Lifney E'ever applies to purely verbal commands also (see Rambam on the mishnah in Terumah Chap. 6, 3). Rav S.Z. Aurbach's zt"l Ruling. In the work Contemporary Halachic Problems (R. Bleich, Vol. 4), where our question is also addressed, a letter of Rav S.Z. Aurbach zt"l is quoted. He writes:- It is permissible to invite even a person who lives at a distance from the place of prayer and to offer him a place to sleep close to that place in a manner such that he will not need to desecrate the Shabbat. Even if he does not accept the offer, there is no obligation to tell him to refrain from coming because of that, nor is it necessary to admonish him that it is forbidden to travel by automobile. By offering the guest an alternative to breaking the Shabbat, we are not placing a stumbling block before him at all. The decision to drive is now certainly ofthe guest's own volition. Rabbi Y.H. Henkin related that he also ascribes to this opinion. Helping The Sinner According To Rabbinic Law. We mentioned above that even when Lifney E'ever does not apply, it is still rabbinically forbidden to help or encourage the sinner in any way at all. Depending on the rulings we have quoted above, we may still need to address this question. Here too there is reason to be lenient. Firstly, according to the Shach (Yoreh Deah 151,6) in his commentary on the Rema there, he rules that there is no limitation on helping non-religious Jews sin. Even though the Shach could be interpreted differently, and many rabbis argue with him, we can accept this ruling in combination with other leniencies. Secondly,the Netziv (Meshiv Dvar Vol. 2, 31)rules that we may assist if the sin will only actually follow at some future time, and not directly at the moment of our intervention. For example, one may conduct a wedding ceremony for a couple who will undoubtedly break the laws of family purity, because their sin will not occur at the time ofour marrying them. In our case also, the sin does not occur at the time of our invitation. Thirdly, the S'deh Hemmed writes that when the sin is carried out with the sinner's own property, there is no problem of assisting. In Conclusion. It appears then that if there is good cause to invite non-religious people for Shabbat, one can be lenient and invite them despite the fact that they will drive. Even though Rav Feinstein rules strictly in this matter, and Rav Sternboch leniently, the "middle-ground" offered by Rav Aurbach, and agreed upon by Rav Henkin, would be the prudent course to adopt. By offering the guest the possibility not to sin, we both distance ourselves from the prohibition of Lifney E'ever, and increase the likelihood that our guest will benefit from a more authentic Shabbat experience by not desecrating the Shabbat.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר