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Shabbat Parashat Terumah| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Using a Driver on Motzaei Shabbat Who Did Not Make Havdala

Question: May one get into a taxi on Motzaei Shabbat when the driver is a Jew who, in all likelihood, did not make Havdala, considering that it is forbidden to do melacha before Havdala?


Answer: The gemara (Shabbat 150a) tells of one who wanted to chop wood after Shabbat before Havdala and was allowed to do so only after reciting an informal Havdala (which we call Hamavdil). We accept the opinion that this declaration, that Hashem has distinguished between holy and mundane days, is recited without Hashem's Name (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 299:10). In any case, it is agreed that before some form of Havdala (full, in Ma’ariv, or Hamavdil) it is forbidden to do melacha. Therefore, you are, arguably, aiding one in transgressing, which is forbidden under the general category of lifnei iver (see Vayikra 19:14).

First we should note that the Rama (ad loc.) cites the opinion of Rabbeinu Yerucham that some melachot (e.g., lighting a flame and carrying) are permitted, and only more “complete” melachot are forbidden (e.g., weaving and writing). While the Rama prefers the stringent opinion, one would not be forbidden to enter a taxi if its driver is acting in a manner that is permitted according to a legitimate opinion. The Tzitz Eliezer (XI, 34) assumes that driving a car is the more serious type of work, which even Rabbeinu Yerucham forbids. This is not obvious, as the Taz (ad loc. 9) says that it depends if a person often will do it as a matter of course on Motzaei Shabbat, and many people drive on a regular basis after Shabbat (sometimes starting with returning from shul). Perhaps he is bothered by the taxi’s professional context.

The major discussion is about the nature of the prohibition of melacha before Havdala. Is it that the prohibitions of Shabbat continue until one ends them (similar to the fact that one can start Shabbat with a declaration on late Friday afternoon)? Or is it a separate matter that since there is a mitzva to honor Shabbat as it leaves with Havdala, it is wrong to commence work before doing so. Rashi (Shabbat 150a) and Rabbeinu Yerucham (see Taz, ibid.) seem to take the latter approach, and there are indications from the gemara that this is the correct outlook (see Divrei Yehoshua II, 108).

If it is a problem of postponing the mitzva and not transgressing a more standard aveira, then we have strong room for leniency. On a simple level, there are many sources that indicate that lifnei iver does not apply when the problem is somewhat weak or indirect (the gist of Shulchan Shlomo 299:15, in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach). Below we will cite a strengthened version of this idea. The Tzitz Eliezer adds an interesting twist. If the problem is the delay of the mitzva, then it does not apply to one who has no intention of doing the mitzva at all. He reasons that if we did not make that assumption, it would be forbidden at many times of day to feed non-daveners (even if they will make berachot) because it is forbidden to eat before tefilla. This observation could be reconciled according to Rav Auerbach’s observation as well.

Rav Shternbach (Teshuvot V'hanhagot II, 161) prefers the approach that there is a continued Shabbat prohibition. Yet, he says that lifnei iver does not apply because the taxi driver is continuing to do the same melachot that he was doing previously (this would not apply to a car service that works only when called). [Further development of the concept of lifnei iver on the Torah and rabbinic levels is beyond our scope]. The problem of the continued melacha approach may also be removed or mitigated by the practice of some (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata, op. cit.) to get the driver to say “Shavua tov,” which might indicate his interest that Shabbat no longer be with him.

that it is permitted. We will discuss several explanations as to why.

For one or more of the reasons above, it should not be surprising that several poskim say (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 59:8) and standard practice is we think that one may call, hail, or get into a taxi with one who did not recite any form of Havdala.


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