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Shabbat Parashat Toldot| 5766

Moreshet Shaul

(from the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l)

Violating Shabbat to Facilitate Emigration From Russia- part I (from Chavot Binyamin, siman 14)


[As we remember but can forget, Jews were unable to emigrate from the Soviet Union for decades. Among their troubles was the strong pressure to abandon their Jewish, national and religious heritage. When the “Iron Curtain” was first lifted, it was unclear how long the privilege to leave Russia would last. The question was raised whether a Jew was permitted to violate Shabbat in order to expedite a fellow Jew’s departure, thus opening the way for him to have a religious lifestyle. The following is Rav Yisraeli’s analysis of the halachic questions involved, not a final ruling.] 

The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 306) cites the Rashba’s response, dealing with a parallel case to ours. A girl was forcibly taken from her home by a Jewish apostate on Shabbat with the intention to remove her from the Jewish fold. The Rashba ruled that her father could not violate Shabbat to run after her, as her life was not in danger. His source is the gemara (Shabbat 4a) that one may not do even a small aveira (transgression) in order to save another from a bigger aveira.

The Beit Yosef (ibid.) points out that Tosafot argues with the Rashba. The gemara says that we force the master of a half-slave, half-free-man to set him free, which is usually forbidden, because otherwise he cannot fulfill the mitzva of procreation. Tosafot explains that we make the master commit a small sin to enable the slave to fulfill a mitzva for one or both of the following reasons: the mitzva of procreation is a great one; the slave is not to be blamed for being in the position that he cannot perform the mitzva and, therefore, deserves help. The Beit Yosef says that in the Rashba’s case, both of Tosafot’s arguments apply, as staying within the fold is a greater mitzva than the aveira of violating Shabbat, and the girl was not at fault. Thus, Tosafot must argue with the Rashba. The Gra suggests that the Rashba’s explanation of the gemara is that there is no prohibition to set free a slave who is already half-free.

  It is not fully evident whether the Rashba’s or Tosafot’s opinion is accepted as halacha. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 306:14) brings Tosafot’s opinion, and the Mishna Berura (ad loc.) says that this includes a case where the father will have to violate a Torah prohibition. On the other hand, the Rama (ad loc.) instructs the reader to look at 328:10, where the Rama writes as follows: “We do not violate Shabbat in order to save someone whom they want to force to transgress a great aveira.” The Rama (ibid.) cites the aforementioned Rashba as his source and instructs the reader to return to siman 306. It is unclear if and how the Rama reconciles the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling in siman 306 with his own in siman 328.

The Taz (306:4) says that the two sources are complementary. The Shulchan Aruch’s case is where the girl is expected to be apostatized and will remain such perhaps her entire life. In that case, one can violate Shabbat to save her, as Tosafot said. The Rama, in contrast, is talking about a case where one will be forced into violating a serious aveira once. Here, where the violation will remain an isolated event, for which the violator will not even be culpable because of the duress, one is not to violate Shabbat to save him.

The Magen Avraham (306:29) gives a similar answer. Compared to being apostatized for life, violating a single Shabbat is a small aveira. Therefore, it is preferable to violate one Shabbat so that another can keep many, future Shabbatot. He also cites the Bach who says that there is less reason to save a person when the violation will be coerced. The Magen Avraham responds that on the contrary, where there is coercion, there is more reason to violate a law in order to save her. Both agree that fundamentally one can violate a serious aveira to save another from a greater one.

We continue next week to find the source for these opinions and compare their nuances.

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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
 in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
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