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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5781

Ask the Rabbi: Benefitting from Childs Violation during Bein Hashemashot

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: We forgot to plug in our hot plate, and so we asked our child (9 years old) to plug it in 11 minutes after sunset. We second-guessed ourselves in the morning. Was it permitted? If not, could we have used the hot plate then and benefitted from the food that was on it?


Answer: Some things are forbidden on Shabbat but permitted during bein hashemashot (=bhsh), which is treated like a safek (doubt) of night/Shabbat, including asking a non-Jew to do melacha for Shabbat needs, e.g., lighting a candle (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 261:1; ibid. 342:1 expands it a little more). Since some poskim and communities (see Be’ur Halacha to 343:1) allow children to do things on Shabbat that adults may not, we understand your idea of using a child during bhsh (after the community accepts Shabbat, leniency is harder – see Piskei Teshuvot 343:4). However, since plugging in a hot plate, with its very hot filaments, is a Torah-level melacha, it is also forbidden by Torah law to encourage a child to do so (Mishna Berura 343:4). Since bhsh, is a safek of Shabbat, asking a child to do a full melacha is a safek Torah prohibition, and facilitating a mitzva (a Shabbat meal) would not be sufficient justification.

 During the first 13 minutes after sunset, there is arguably a double doubt: 1. Bhsh is a safek; 2. Maybe Rabbeinu Tam is correct that bhsh begins only an hour or so after sunset (see Be’ur Halacha to 261:1). However, most poskim say that since our communities’ clear minhag is to discount Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion (i.e., on Saturday we do melacha some 35 minutes after sunset), we should not consider this a reason to be more lenient than the regular halachot of bhsh (Orchot Shabbat, 25:(78); Dirshu 261:14).

On our presumption that you erred, what is the halacha b’di’eved? We rule that one may not benefit from violations done during bhsh (Mishna Berura 261:6, against Zayit Ra’anan II:5). When a child violates Shabbat, benefit is forbidden if he did it on behalf of others (Magen Avraham 325:22).

However, perhaps eating the food is permitted even if done by an adult on Shabbat proper. If the food was nominally cooked, then even if plugging in the hot plate caused it to become fully cooked and heated a cooled-off liquid, benefit is permitted. This is based on the rule that when there are serious opinions to permit something, as in these cases (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 318:4 and Be’ur Halacha ad loc.), benefit b’di’eved is permitted even for those who rule stringently l’chatchila (Mishna Berura 318:2). There is also room for leniency based on the fact that the work was done b’shogeg (based on a mistake, including a halachic one). Of the three opinions in Ketubot 34a, we generally accept the middle opinion, which forbids benefit on Shabbat even b’shogeg (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 1), but in case of need many rely on the lenient opinion (Mishna Berura ad loc. 7, based on the Gra ad loc.).

Regarding the food on the hot plate, there is a complication. The plugging in created a new situation of food being on a heat source when it was not when Shabbat started (like hachzara). This is often forbidden because one might stoke the coals or because it looks like cooking (Mishna Berura 318:98). If one makes a mistake on these matters, the food is forbidden in benefit (Shabbat 38a). Here you did the equivalent of actually stoking the coals, but paradoxically, the reason we are stringent is because people are lax because they don’t think the possibility of stoking the coals is a big deal. Here the main mistake was about doing a melacha, which people do take seriously, and there is no need for extra stringency b’shogeg. There are too many permutations to address as far as whether you also violated hachzara, but if you follow the opinions to take food directly from the refrigerator to a hot plates, you should not be impacted here.

As far using the hot plate if and when you become aware of the mistake, it is permitted only according to the Gra (above), as a clear Shabbat violation created its heat.

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