The emperor said to R. Joshua ben Hanania, "Why is the aroma of Sabbath food so fragrant?" He replied, "We have a seasoning called Shabbat which we pour into [the food] and the aroma becomes fragrant." "Give me some of it," said the emperor. R. Joshua said, "It is efficacious to those who observe the Sabbath, but is of no benefit to those who do not observe the Sabbath."
Extending Sabbath Invitations to the Non-Observant
One of the happier developments of recent decades is the return to religious observance on the part of countless individuals. Young people, perceiving a spiritual vacuum in their lives, have come to appreciate the purpose and richness of meaning to be found in a life devoted to shmirat ha-mizvot Their quest has been guided by a cadre of teachers and outreach professionals and a network of committed laymen drawn from all sectors of the Orthodox community. This newly awakened interest has spawned a plethora of publications designed to meet the thirst for knowledge manifested by the newly observant. This phenomenon is also reflected in problems addressed in contemporary halakhic literature.1Two volumes devoted to the particular and unique problems encountered by ba‘alei teshuvah (or better, returnees to Jewish observance) and their mentors are to be highly recommended: R. Moshe Newman and R. Mordecai Becher, Avotot Ahavah (Jerusalem, 5752); and R. Moshe Weinberger, Jewish Outreach: Halakhic Perspectives (Hoboken, 5750).
Congregational rabbis and Talmud Torah teachers have long found themselves in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, it is often their professional duty to organize and to encourage attendance at Synagogue services as well as participation in educational and social events held on Shabbat. On the other hand, they are fully aware that many of the invitees will travel to and from these events by means of prohibited forms of transportation. In recent years, with the proliferation of organizations and programs devoted to introducing uncommitted and unobservant Jews to the richness of the Jewish heritage, the problem has become even more vexing. To a large extent, success of such programs, and with such success the hope of effecting a transformation in the lives of the persons reached in this manner, depends upon exposure to a Shabbat atmosphere. But again, for some individuals, encouragement to participate in such programs is tantamount to an invitation to engage in forbidden modes of travel.
The ramifications of the halakhic issues posed by this dilemma may well vary with the nuances of particular situations. Unfortunately, a comprehensive survey of the underlying halakhic considerations and their application in varying circumstances has, as yet, not been forthcoming. Nevertheless, a number of brief discussions of various scenarios as well as statements in the form of general guidelines have appeared.
An early discussion of one of the many guises of the problem is presented by R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, I, no. 98. For pedagogic reasons, a synagogue apparently wished to institute a youth minyan. However, by virtue of the fact that the youngsters lived at some distance from the synagogue it was certain that they would travel by car. In a brief and somewhat cryptic statement Rabbi Feinstein declares that it is "obvious and clear" that institution of a youth minyan under such circumstances is forbidden. Presumably feeling that any further discussion would be superfluous, Iggerot Mosheh adds simply that "training" with regard to prayer assuredly does not take precedence over "training" with regard to Sabbath observance. The clear implication is that children should be taught to remain at home rather than to violate Sabbath prohibitions even for the purpose of participating in synagogue services. Rabbi Feinstein adds that, in such cases, establishing a youth minyan would be tantamount to an overt directive to participate in synagogue services even if such participation entails desecration of Shabbat. Hence the very establishment of a youth minyan under such circumstances seems to convey an incorrect lesson and to inculcate a false system of values. Rabbi Feinstein emphasizes that these considerations pertain even if the children are below the age of bar mizvah. Although it can hardly be anticipated that pre-bar mizvah children will themselves drive to the synagogue, the cogency of Rabbi Feinstein's comment is not diminished by its contextual superfluousness.
Rabbi Feinstein does not at all enter into a discussion of whether anyone other than a father bears a formal responsibility for the "training" (ḥinnukh) of a child or whether there is an obligation to admonish a minor to desist from a prohibited activity. His response is simply that the innovation, albeit well-intentioned, is counterproductive. The inadvertent but inescapable effect of such activities is to confirm children in their non-observance of the Sabbath and to teach them that Sabbath observance is of lesser importance than communal prayer. That is a far more serious matter than responsibility for individual acts of omission or commission on the part of minors. Transmission of a false value system is assuredly prohibited to all.
In the immediately following responsum, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, I, no. 99, a responsum actually authored some two years prior to the preceding responsum, Rabbi Feinstein offers somewhat broader guidance. The question posed to him is whether it is permissible to invite people to attend synagogue services when it is known that they will travel by automobile in order to do so. He responds by ruling that it is forbidden to extend such invitations to people living at a distance from which it is impossible to come by foot on the grounds that the invitation constitutes a forbidden act of "placing a stumbling block before the blind" that is prohibited on the basis of Leviticus 19:14. He further advances a novel thesis in declaring that an invitation of such nature entails an additional transgression in the form of "enticement" (meisit). Deuteronomy 13:7-12 establishes successful enticement to commit an act of idolatry as a capital transgression. Citing the statement of the Gemara, Sanhedrin 29a, declaring the serpent that tempted Eve to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as having had the status of an "enticer," Rabbi Feinstein argues that enticement to commit any infraction constitutes a distinct sin, although only enticement to idolatry constitutes a capital transgression.2Iggerot Mosheh’s assertion that the prohibition against “enticement” is not limited to idolatry is not found in earlier sources and is directly contradicted by R. Meir Dan Plocki, Klei Ḥemdah, Parashat Re’eh, sec. 4. The serpent’s declaration, “You shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), constituted enticement to deny a fundamental principle of faith. Denial of fundamental principles of faith constitutes heresy which, in turn, is tantamount to idolatry in other areas of Jewish law as well, as shown in this writer’s “Be-Bi’ur Shitat ha-Rambam be-Sheḥitat Akum u-Mumar,” Bet Yiẓḥak, XX (1989), 279-284.
Iggerot Mosheh further rules that the prohibition against "placing a stumbling block" applies even if travel by foot is not impossible but "it is known" that the invitees will nevertheless travel by automobile for the sake of convenience. However, he asserts that in such cases the prohibition against "enticement" is not applicable.
Iggerot Mosheh further discusses the even more usual situation in which explicit language of invitation is not employed but an announcement with regard to services is made for the benefit of those residing within walking distance although "it is known" that others who live beyond walking distance will also respond. Rabbi Feinstein declares that, in such circumstances, the prohibition against "enticement" does not apply but expresses doubt with regard to the applicability of the prohibition against "placing a stumbling block before the blind." Unfortunately, he does not spell out the reasons or considerations pro or con that give rise to his uncertainty. He further declares that, insofar as children and students who are offered inducements for attending services are concerned, it must be explicitly announced that prizes or rewards will be available only to those who come on foot.
The matter is revisited a third time by Rabbi Feinstein in Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, IV, no. 71. In that responsum, Rabbi Feinstein writes that a teacher "did well" in not encouraging students to attend synagogue services on Shabbat since "there is reason to suspect" that they would engage in prohibited travel on Shabbat in order to do so.
In the latter responsum, Rabbi Feinstein also addresses another related question. The teacher's duties included informing students of the date of a program or celebration to be held on Shabbat and preparing them to take part in that program, i.e., coaching them in preparing parts for a play or the like. An obvious analogous problem arises with a much higher degree of frequency with regard to bar mizvah teachers who must determine the date of the bar mizvah and teach the student the haftorah.
Rabbi Feinstein responds by noting that, should the teacher decline to perform those duties, another instructor would surely be found for that purpose. That, he claims, removes the act from the ambit of the biblical prohibition against "placing a stumbling block before the blind." Nevertheless, a rabbinic prohibition remains in place even under such circumstances. However, concludes Rabbi Feinstein, since 1) the instruction does not take place immediately prior to the Shabbat on which the program is to be held and 2) it is not certain that the children will travel by automobile, "it is possible" that the teacher need not sacrifice his or her position by refusing to perform such duties.
Again, Iggerot Mosheh fails to cite precedents or to explain his reasoning. The distinction that Iggerot Mosheh draws in stating that no biblical prohibition against "placing a stumbling block" pertains in situations in which that act will readily be performed by another is a matter of significant controversy. As a paradigm of "placing a stumbling block before the blind" the Gemara, Avodah Zarah 6a, offers the example of a person extending a cup of wine to a Nazirite and declares that a biblical transgression is incurred only if the Nazirite and the person extending the cup of wine to him are standing on opposite banks of a river, i.e., only if it would be impossible for the Nazirite to reach the wine without the assistance of the other person. If, however, both are on the same side of the river, no biblical transgression is incurred since the Nazirite, if he chose to do so, could reach the wine without assistance. But what of a case in which physical assistance is required but other individuals are available who are ready and willing to offer such assistance? Tosafot, Haggigah 13a, indicates that, if a non-Jew is available to offer the necessary assistance in commission of a transgression, a Jew rendering the same assistance is not in violation of a biblical prohibition. Mishneh le-Melekh, Hilkhot Malveh ve-Loveh 4:2, distinguishes between situations in which a non-Jew, who bears no culpability for "placing a stumbling block," is available to render such assistance, and situations in which only a fellow Jew is available for such aid. Mishneh le-Melekh reasons that, in a situation in which the transgression can be performed only with the forbidden cooperation of a Jew, the individual who renders such assistance is culpable. Since all Jews are equally bound not to render assistance, no Jew can claim that the transgression would have been committed even in the absence of forbidden assistance. Accordingly, the person who actually provides such aid is guilty of "placing a stumbling block before the blind."
A number of authorities, including R. Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer, who authored a classic and comprehensive responsum devoted to the ramifications of this prohibition, Teshuvot Ketav Sofer, Yoreh De 'ah, no. 83, take issue with Mishneh le-Melekh. Nevertheless, many writers, including Sedei Hemed, Ma 'arekhet ha-Vav, klal 26, sec. 9, and R. Ya'akov Kanievski, Kehillat Ya 'akov, Likkutim, II, no. 6, declare that the weight of authority supports the position of Mishneh le-Melekh.3For additional sources see R. Isaac Elijah ha-Kohen Adler, Lifnei Iver (Ofakim, 5749), chap. 3, sec. 5. Since in the case discussed by Iggerot Mosheh it must be presumed that only Jewish teachers were available to provide the required services, those authorities would maintain that the availability of other teachers has no impact upon the applicability of the prohibition against "placing a stumbling block before the blind."
Inviting or encouraging forbidden forms of travel constitutes "placing a stumbling block" even though such travel could readily have been undertaken without an express invitation. Causing a transgression by presenting a forbidden substance to a person who had no prior intention of committing a transgression, although he was fully capable of doing so without assistance were he to have desired to do so, constitutes a violation of the biblical prohibition.4See, however, Sedei Ḥemed, Ma‘arekhet ha-Vav, klal 26, sec. 7 and cf., Lifnei Iver, chap. 4, sec. 4. Moreover, it seems to this writer that the very act of extending an invitation whose acceptance entails commission of a sin constitutes "harmful advice" that is independently prohibited as a form of "placing a stumbling block before the blind."
A quite similar question is frequently posed with regard to inviting guests to one's home on Shabbat. Many individuals involved in outreach endeavors directed toward persons who have not had the benefit of a traditional Jewish upbringing and designed to motivate them to adopt a Jewish lifestyle have found that invitations to a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal often leave a profound impression and contribute greatly to developing an ongoing personal relationship. They have also found such invitations to be a most effective way of providing a meaningful experience in Jewish living. However, not infrequently, the invited guests choose to avail themselves of forbidden forms of transportation. R. Moshe Sternbuch, Teshuvot ve-Hanhagot, I, no. 358, reports that he was consulted by a newly-observant young man regarding the propriety of inviting his parents to Shabbat meals in the hopeful anticipation that their enjoyment of Shabbat would, over a period of time, lead them to become observant. His concern was that it might be improper for him to do so because of the fact that they customarily travel to and from his home by automobile.
Rabbi Sternbuch responded with a short but novel analysis of the prohibition "nor shall you place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14). Rabbinic tradition as recorded in Mekhilta, ad locum, teaches that this verse serves as a prohibition against counseling a person in a manner that does not serve that individual's best interests and, as stated by the Gemara, Pesaḥim 22b, as a prohibition forbidding a person to assist another in the commission of a transgression. Rabbi Sternbuch asserts that this interpretation does not yield an absolute prohibition with regard to facilitating a transgression. In light of the phraseology employed in this verse, Rabbi Sternbuch argues that the prohibition applies only in situations in which an act is designed to cause damage or harm in the form of a transgression but that any act intended to yield an ultimate benefit is, by definition, not a "stumbling block." The intention to benefit, argues Rabbi Sternbuch, is, in effect, exculpatory. Rabbi Sternbuch compares this prohibition to the prohibition against "wounding" which does not apply in the case of a physician who performs a surgical procedure designed to promote health and well-being. Accordingly, concludes Rabbi Sternbuch, an invitation designed to advance the spiritual well-being of the parents cannot be categorized as a "stumbling block" and hence is not forbidden.
Rabbi Sternbuch's thesis is appealing but, at least as formulated by him, it is not supported by the sources that serve to define the prohibition. His comparison of "placing a stumbling block" in order to achieve a goal that is beneficial and laudatory to therapeutic "wounding" is entirely inapt. Causing a person to transgress is regarded by the Mekhilta as explicitly forbidden by this commandment; causing the transgression is defined as a malum per se. Therapeutic "wounding" is permitted, not because of the benevolent intent of the physician, but because therapeutic wounding is, by definition, not a battery. Rambam, Hilkhot Hovel u-Mazik 5:1, carefully states that one who wounds "in the manner of an aggressor" (or, according to a variant reading, "in a humiliating manner") is guilty of a biblical infraction. A surgeon performing his professional duties does not commit an act fitting that description.
There is, however, a long list of sources that discuss the question of whether it is permissible to cause a person to "stumble" and commit a comparatively minor transgression in order to preserve him from a more severe transgression as well as the related question of whether it is permissible to cause a person to commit a single transgression if doing so will effectively preclude him from committing a multiple number of transgressions. Those discussions focus upon the net effect of action over inaction rather than upon benevolent intent.
The Shabbat invitation question might be recast in precisely those terms: May a person be invited to desecrate the Sabbath in order to preserve him from multiple acts of desecration in the future? Avnei Nezer, Yoreh De'ah, no. 126, permits the sale of improperly slaughtered animals to a habitual sinner because the net effect is to prevent the more numerous transgressions incurred in eating meat of a nonkosher species. Similar reasoning is tentatively employed by R. Akiva Eger in a gloss on Yoreh De'ah 181:6 in resolving a related question and in contemporary times by R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Minḥat Shlomoh, no. 35, sec. 1, and is advanced as a consideration by R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah, I, no. 72. Tiferet Shmu'el, in his commentary on Rosh, Baba Mezi'a 5:3, comments that "perhaps" it is permitted for a borrower to accept funds under conditions in which payment of a premium for use of the funds is prohibited as usury by rabbinical decree if, in doing so, he denies the lender the opportunity to use the same funds for an interest-bearing loan that is biblically proscribed. A similar view is suggested by Maḥazit ha-Shekel, Oraḥ Hayyim 163:2.
On the other hand, R. Chaim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Hoshen Mishpat 9:3, rules that it is forbidden for a litigant to present a gift to a judge in order to dissuade him from unjustly favoring the opposing party. Acceptance of a bribe is forbidden even if the gift is designed to prevent a prohibited miscarriage of justice and its presentation even under such circumstances, rules Birkei Yosef, constitutes a forbidden form of "placing a stumbling block." R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Ẓiz Eli'ezer, XV, no. 19, notes that R. Akiva Eger and Maḥazit ha-Shekel make their points only tentatively and also cites equivocal language with regard to the applicability of the rabbinic prohibition against "assisting transgressors" even when the "assistance" is designed to prevent a biblical infraction.5See also the discussion presented in Lifnei Iver, chap. 20. It should also be noted that even the permissive views regard such acts as permissible only in situations in which it is a certainty, or a near certainty, that more serious transgressions will be avoided. That is assuredly not the case when invitations are extended as part of a process of encouraging adoption of an observant lifestyle but without any assurance of success.
Nevertheless, there are a number of other factors delineating the parameters of the prohibition concerning "placing a stumbling block" that impact upon each of the earlier posed questions:
1. Sedei Hemed, Ma 'arekhet ha-Vav, klal 26, sec. 32, cites a number of authorities who declare that "placing a stumbling block" serves to prohibit only conduct requiring a physical act and, consequently, mere oral assistance or encouragement to transgress is not included in the prohibition. Mikhtam le-David, Yoreh De'ah, no. 33, invokes the dictum excluding transgressors from agency, "The words of the master and the words of the student, whose words does one obey?" as establishing as well that there can be no culpability for verbal encouragement of transgression since the transgressor must always be presumed to be following his own inclination.
Nevertheless, Rambam, Hilkhot Terumot 6:3, declares that there is culpability in the eyes of heaven for causing or assisting in sin in any manner "even through mere speech." Similarly, Rambam, Hilkhot Hovel u-Mazik 5:13, followed by Shulḥan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 380:2, states that a person who directs another to commit a tort "is an accomplice in the sin and is a wicked person for he caused a blind person to stumble and has strengthened the hands of evildoers." It cannot be maintained that, by definition, "placing a stumbling block" involves a physical act since the Mekhilta, Kedoshim 2:14, explicitly includes offering harmful advice as a biblical violation of the prohibition.6Cf., Lifnei Iver, chap. 7, sec. 1. Indeed, as noted earlier, it would seem that encouraging or inviting a person to commit a transgression constitutes "placing a stumbling block" before the blind for two reasons: 1) it facilitates transgression; and 2) ipso facto it constitutes harmful advice.
2. In most of the cases in which these questions arise, the invitation to attend programs or synagogue services need not absolutely involve forbidden travel. Quite often, the destination is within walking distance even though the distance makes walking inconvenient; at times, if one wishes to do so, it is possible to secure accommodations for Shabbat within walking distance. May one create a situation in which it is not absolutely necessary for a person to transgress, although it is likely that he may do so? In effect, the question is, since the transgression can be avoided if desired, does such an invitation constitute a stumbling block?
The Mishnah, Shevi'it 5:6, enumerates specific agricultural implements which may not be sold during the course of the Sabbatical year but excludes a number of other implements and concludes with the explanatory statement: "This is the principle: everything whose use is designed for a transgression is forbidden; [everything whose use is designed] for a transgression and for a permitted activity is permitted." Similarly, a subsequent Mishnah, Shevi'it 5:8, records that Bet Hillel permits the sale of a plow animal to a person suspected of ongoing violations of the prohibition concerning agricultural activity during the Sabbatical year "because he can slaughter it." Ritva, Avodah Zarah 15b, understands the Mishnah as positing the rule that even in situations involving a biblical transgression, i.e., the purchaser could not have committed the transgression but for the assistance of the seller, such sale is permitted because an object that can be used for a legitimate purpose is, by definition, not a stumbling block If so, since the invitation to services and the like could be acted upon without transgression, extending an invitation under such circumstances would appear to be permissible according to Ritva.
There are, however, at least two authorities, Tosafot Anshei Shem and Mishnah Rishonah, who, in their respective commentaries on Shevi'it, interpret the permissive ruling of the Mishnah regarding the sale of utensils that can be used for both permissible and forbidden purposes as limited to situations in which such utensils are also available from other sources. Availability from other sources transforms the situation to one comparable to individuals standing "on the same bank of the river" in which the prohibition against abetting a transgressor is only rabbinic in nature. Nevertheless, a host of authorities, including Teshuvot Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, no. 19; Teshuvot Pnei Yehoshu'a, Yoreh De'ah, no. 3; R. Isaac Elchanan Spektor, Ein Yizḥak, I, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 13; as well as Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De 'ah, I, no. 72 and Oraḥ Hayyim, II, no. 62, in effect follow the position of Ritva in permitting assistance of a nature that can be utilized either in a legitimate or a forbidden manner.7Cf., Teshuvot Imrei Yosher, II, no. 115, and Ḥazon Ish, Shevi‘it 12:9.
There is one other aspect of the ruling of the Mishnah in Shevi'it that is germane, viz., the definition of an implement "used for both permitted and forbidden purposes." Must the implement be used by the majority of people for permissible purposes, or is it sufficient if even a minority uses the implement for permitted purposes? With regard to the parallel rule governing the sale of a farm animal, Ramban, Ran and Rashbam, in their respective commentaries on Baba Batra 92b, appear to be of the opinion that there must be at least an equal chance that the purchaser will use the animal for a permissible purpose, i.e., he will slaughter it for meat rather than use it for plowing his fields. On the other hand, Rashi, Avodah Zarah 15a, and Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 15a and 15b, permit the sale of the animal even if the majority of customers purchase such animals for a forbidden purpose.
Among later authorities, R. Chaim Sofer, Teshuvot Maḥaneh Hayyim, I, no. 47 and Teshuvot Zivḥei Ẓedek, II, no. 18, rule that a sale of this nature is permissible only if the majority of purchasers utilize the object sold for permitted purposes.8Cf., also, R. Abraham I. Kook, Shabbat ha-Areẓ 7:5 as well as sources cited in Lifnei Iver, no. 13, sec. 3 and ibid., Birurim ve-Ḥakirot, no. 1, sec. 8. However, it seems that Taz, Yoreh De'ah 151:1, permits such a sale even if only a minority of customers use the purchased object for a legitimate purpose.9See Lifnei Iver, no. 13, sec. 3, p. 75. This is also the position of Teshuvot Imrei Yosher, II, no. 115. R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Ẓiz Eli'ezer, IV, no. 5, chap. 4, citing Teshuvot Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, no. 19, rules that the sale is rendered permissible on the basis of the mere possibility that the object sold will be used for a legitimate purpose. This also seems to be the position of R. Yechiel Ya'akov Weinberg, Seridei Esh, II, no. 19.
It would appear, however, that none of these authorities would sanction the sale of an implement that can be used for a legitimate purpose if it is known with certainty that the purchaser will use it in a forbidden manner. R. Shlomoh Kluger, Tuv Ta'am va-Da'at, Mahadura Telita'ah, II, no. 50, forbids the sale of a razor to a person who is known to shave with a razor even though the implement can be used in a permissible manner to cut hair growing on the head since it is certain that he will also shave with it. A similar view is espoused by R. Moshe Mordecai Epstein, Levushei Mordekhai, Mahadura Tinyana, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 48.
Nevertheless, Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah, no. 72, finds grounds to permit the sale even under such circumstances. Iggerot Mosheh argues that a person who violates agricultural proscriptions and who buys agricultural implements that can be used for permitted purposes will almost certainly use them for forbidden purposes as well. Yet, the Mishnah permits such sale. Iggerot Mosheh reasons that this is permitted since the sale is designed for a permitted purpose and hence does not constitute a '"stumbling block;" any forbidden use is the result of the purchaser causing himself to stumble. Iggerot Mosheh points out that, if this line of reasoning is not accepted, it would be forbidden to sell pots and pans to Sabbath desecrators since they will certainly use those utensils for cooking on the Sabbath. This position is reiterated in Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, II, no. 62, although in the latter responsum it is expressed with a measure of hesitation (ein hetter zeh barur). According to those authorities who understand the ruling enunciated by the Mishnah in Shevi 'it as referring only to situations in which similar implements may be acquired from other sources, there is no basis for deducing such a principle with regard to the biblical prohibition. Moreover, the ruling of the Mishnah in Shevi 'it may be limited to situations in which it is possible that the implement may be utilized solely for a purpose that is entirely legitimate.10Cf., Lifnei Iver, Birurim ve-Ḥakirot, no. 1, sec. 8.
3. It is also possible, and indeed likely, that, even if acceptance of the invitation necessarily entails forbidden travel, the invitation will not be accepted, in which case no transgression of Shabbat prohibitions will occur. However, that contingency does not serve to render the invitation permissible since, as pointed out by Teshuvot Maḥaneh Hayyim, I, no. 46, the sale of implements designed solely for agricultural use is forbidden even though it is entirely possible that they will not be put to any use. Nevertheless, language employed by Toldot Yizḥak in his commentary on the Palestinian Talmud, Shevi'it 5:3, indicates that "placing a stumbling block," by definition, is limited to situations in which the transgression is certain to occur because an act "cannot be called placement of a stumbling block unless the unfortunate effect is known at the time that it is placed before him. But if it is doubtful whether [the victim] will perform the unfortunate act and it is within his power not to do so, this is not presenting him with a stumbling block; rather it is called causing himself to stumble." A similar view is expressed by R. Aharon Kotler, Mishnat Rabbi Aharon, I, no. 3. Those authorities apparently understand that, in prohibiting the sale of agricultural implements to a person suspected of violating regulations pertaining to the Sabbatical year, the Mishnah is addressing situations in which actual prohibited use of those tools is virtually a foregone conclusion. According to those authorities, extending an invitation that, if accepted, is likely to result in forbidden travel would be permissible in situations in which it is not at all certain that the invitation will be accepted.
In a letter addressed to the administration of Yeshivat Ohr Sameach in Jerusalem, R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach 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 Sabbath. 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.11A less literal translation of this letter is published in Jewish Outreach, p. 80.
Rabbi Auerbach presumably maintains that the offer of a place of lodging obviates the prohibition against "placing a stumbling block" even if there is little likelihood that it will be accepted and is in agreement with the authorities who maintain that the prohibition is limited to situations in which a transgression will necessarily result. According to Rabbi Auerbach, such an offer once made need not be withdrawn even if it becomes clear that it will indeed lead to transgression; since the offer does not constitute a stumbling block, it is the invitee who causes himself to stumble in insisting upon transgressing.
Withdrawing the offer or admonishing the invitee regarding the infraction might nevertheless be required as a form of tokhaḥah or admonition in fulfillment of the command "you shall admonish your fellow" (Leviticus 19:17). Rabbi Auerbach presumably maintains that, because of the prevalent lack of awareness of the nature and severity of the infraction, it is permitted and indeed preferable to refrain from admonishing the transgressor until such time as a receptive relationship is established. In that manner the prospects for success and acceptance of admonition and instruction will be enhanced.12For an examination of sources discussing the miẓvah of tokhaḥah see Lifnei Iver, part 4 and Jewish Outreach, pp. 1-30.
Use of Mircrowave Ovens on Shabbat
Microwaves are waves generated by electromagnetic radiation and include frequencies between 100 million and 300,000 hertz (cycles per minute) and hence are located in the spectrum between ultra-high-frequency television and the far infrared. They are known as "microwaves" because they are between 30 centimeters and one millimeter in length. Microwaves pass through some objects, e.g.. pottery and paper, without effect, much in the same way that light waves pass through transparent substances. Substances such as metal reflect microwaves in a manner analogous to that of a mirror reflecting light. Other substances, primarily liquids, absorb the microwaves which then vibrate the molecules of the substance they have penetrated with the result that heat is produced.
Microwave ovens are box-like appliances that produce microwave radiation than can be harnessed for purposes of cooking. Microwave radiation cooks by means of vibrating liquid molecules within the food placed in the oven. Since the walls of the microwave oven and the food containers are made of substances that do not absorb microwaves they are unaffected by the cooking process and remain cold other than for a minimal amount of heat that may be transferred secondarily through contact with the heated food or that may be radiated by the food. Microwave cooking differs fundamentally from other forms of cooking in that conventional cooking is accomplished by means of transference of heat from an external source to the foodstuff, whereas microwave cooking involves no external source of heat whatsoever; rather, the heat is produced internally within the food as a result of friction caused by vibration of molecules.
The question that has been raised with increasing frequency in recent years in the wake of increased use of microwave ovens is whether or not utilization of this medium in preparation of food constitutes "cooking" in the halakhic sense of the term. The question is usually framed as a query with regard to whether such an act is intrinsically forbidden on Shabbat as one of the thirty-nine forbidden forms of labor. The identical question may be raised with regard to whether microwave cooking of milk and meat in combination is forbidden. Although, by virtue of rabbinic decree, milk and meat that have been mixed together in any manner may not be eaten, the ban against the act of cooking milk with meat as well as the prohibition against deriving any benefit from the cooked dish is limited to the halakhically defined notion of cooking. Upon reinstitution of sacrifices one may anticipate a similar question will be posed with regard to whether or not it is permissible to roast the paschal sacrifice in a microwave oven.13Other areas of Halakhah contingent upon a technical definition of cooking include the broiling of liver or meat without previous soaking and salting, baking of maẓah, the blessing to be recited over baked bread, boiling water for purposes of kashering utensils, cooking wine so that it may be touched by a non-Jew, the biblical prohibition against consumption of uncooked blood, cooking of already cooked food on Shabbat which does not constitute a biblical prohibition and others. See Pri Megadim, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, Mishbeẓot Zahav 318:1; Minḥat Ḥinnukh, no. 7; and Prof. Ze’ev Low, Teḥumin, VIII (5747), pp. 1-33. The applicability of the prohibition against eating food cooked by a gentile to food prepared in a microwave oven is discussed by Prof. Ze’ev Low, Moriah, Shevat 5750, pp. 98-104.
The availability of frozen bread and ḥallah dough for baking in a microwave oven renders the question of whether bread baked in such fashion requires recitation of ha-moẓi and birkat ha-mazon as well as the suitability of use of such bread for Sabbath and Yom Tov meals a topical issue. Shulḥan Arukh 168:16 rules that the blessing for cake is pronounced over bread baked by the heat of the sun. Tur Shulḥan Arukh, however, declares that if the dough is fashioned into a proper loaf the blessing for bread is to be recited. Bi ‘ur ha-Gra rules in accordance with the view of Shulḥan Arukh. However, Mishnah Berurah 165:92 advises that one should be careful not to eat a quantity of such bread sufficient “to cause satiation” (kedei sevi ‘ah) other than with other bread upon which the requisite blessing has been pronounced. It would appear that, mutatis mutandis, the selfsame considerations and opinions apply to bread baked in a microwave oven.
For purposes of Sabbath strictures, the Gemara, Shabbat 39a, declares that it is entirely permissible to use the heat of the sun for cooking. A dispute exists between R. Yosi and the Sages with regard to whether a secondary form (toladah) of solar heat may be used for cooking purposes on Shabbat, e.g., whether food may be roasted in a material that has been heated by the sun's rays. The normative ruling is that such cooking is forbidden by rabbinic decree lest confusion arise between use of materials that have been heated by the sun's rays and use of materials that have been heated in a similar manner by fire. No such decree was promulgated to forbid use of solar heat directly because it was assumed that the distinction between utilization of the heat of the sun and application of heat produced by fire was readily apparent and that permitting the practice of cooking in the heat of the sun to continue unabated would not lead to forbidden forms of cooking.
Rashi, in his commentary on Shabbat 39a, explains that utilization of the heat of the sun for cooking on Shabbat is permitted "because such is not the manner of cooking." R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, III, no. 52, points out that, although use of direct solar heat may not constitute a usual form of cooking, there is nevertheless nothing unusual about the use of derivative forms of solar heat for cooking purposes. Thus, use of boiling water for cooking is entirely usual. The nature and quality of such cooking is the same regardless of whether the water has been boiled over a fire or has been brought to a boil by exposure to the sun.14Cf., however, R. Ezekiel Landau, Ẓlaḥ, Pesaḥim 74a, and idem, Noda bi-Yehudah, Mahadura Tinyana, Yoreh De’ah, no. 43. Yet, boiling in the thermal "waters of Tiberias" is permitted by biblical law, because the original source of heat is the sun rather than fire. Such cooking, argues Iggerot Mosheh, cannot be regarded as unusual.15In rebutting this view, Prof. Low cites the description of baking in the heat of the sun recorded in the Gemara, Pesaḥim 37a. There is, however, nothing in that text to indicate whether that mode of cooking was common or unusual. Moreover, it should be noted that, although forbidden acts are not biblically proscribed when they are performed in an unusual manner, they are forbidden by virtue of rabbinic decree. Why then, queries Eglei Tal, Melekhet Ofeh, sec. 44, is cooking in the sun's rays not similarly forbidden by rabbinic decree?
Iggerot Mosheh explains that Rashi must be understood as focusing, not upon the unusual nature of the act of cooking per se, but upon the fact that such cooking, because of the source of heat involved, is not comparable to the "cooking" that was undertaken in the course of construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, i.e., the boiling of dyes used in preparation of the various materials that entered into the construction of the Tabernacle. It is, of course, the various forms of labor utilized in constructing the Tabernacle that serve as the paradigm for acts forbidden on the Sabbath. Ordinary fuel, rather than the heat of the sun, was used for purposes of "cooking" materials used in the construction of the Tabernacle and hence, for that reason alone, solar cooking is not forbidden on Shabbat. Rashi's comment to the effect that this is not the usual form of cooking must be understood as necessary in order to explain why cooking by means of the heat of the sun is not regarded as a derivative (toladah) form of cooking since it is at least comparable to the method of cooking employed in the construction of the Tabernacle. The proscribed forms of labor include many activities that, although they were themselves not employed in the Tabernacle, are sufficiently similar in nature to be included in the prohibited categories of labor. In order to obviate that question, Rashi indicates that use of solar heat for cooking is uncommon; hence such cooking is not regarded as even derivatively similar to the type of cooking associated with the construction of the Tabernacle. Accordingly, cooking by use of any form of heat derived from the sun, rather than from fire, is not excluded because such forms of cooking are unusual; rather, cooking by means of such heat is excluded because, since such sources of heat are derivatives of solar heat, those forms of heat are not encompassed within the paradigmatic form of cooking that serves as the basis of the prohibition.
Basing himself on this analysis, Iggerot Mosheh concludes that any form of cooking that is entirely usual and common must be regarded as a derivative of the proscribed cooking employed in the construction of the Tabernacle, regardless of the source or nature of the heat used in the cooking process. Accordingly, Iggerot Mosheh rules that use of a microwave oven for cooking on Shabbat constitutes a transgression of a biblical commandment.
R. Benjamin Silber, Oz Nidberu, I, no, 34, notes that if Rashi's comment is to be understood in this manner, it would follow that, if use of solar heat in cooking should at any time come into vogue as a common practice, such cooking would have to be regarded as prohibited by biblical law. This, he argues, is already the case in Israel where solar heaters are commonly used for heating tap water. Accordingly, if Rashi's comment is to be understood in this manner, such heating constitutes a form of "cooking." R. Joshua Neuwirth, Shemirat Shabbat ke-Hilkhatah, 2nd edition (Jerusalem, 5739), chapter 1, note 127, presents a similar objection in the name of R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach. Magen Avraham, Oraḥ Hayyim 301:57, compares drying clothes in the sun to cooking by means of solar rays and rules that drying clothes in the sun on Shabbat similarly involves no biblical transgression. Rabbi Auerbach cogently notes that drying clothes in the sun is certainly a common and usual practice. If so, the clear implication of Magen Avraham's remark is that even conventional use of solar heat for cooking does not render the act biblically forbidden.16Prof. Low similarly cites Magen Avraham in refutation of the position espoused by Iggerot Mosheh.
Iggerot Mosheh's analysis of Rashi's view leaves a serious question unresolved. As recorded in Exodus 12:9, the paschal sacrifice must be roasted and cooking the sacrifice in water is explicitly forbidden. The Gemara, Pesaḥim 41a, declares that cooking the paschal sacrifice in the thermal "waters of Tiberias" does not constitute a transgression of the negative commandment prohibiting cooking in water. Eglei Tal, Melekhet Ofeh, sec. 44, notes the obvious difficulty. If cooking by means of the heat of the sun is merely an uncommon or unusual mode of cooking it must nevertheless be categorized as being intrinsically a form of cooking. Unlike the rule with regard to Sabbath prohibitions, unusual forms of cooking are included in the prohibition regarding preparation of the paschal offering.17See, however, R. Elchanan Wasserman, Koveẓ Shi ‘urim, Ketubot 60a, who asserts that unusual acts are not only outside the ambit of Sabbath prohibitions but are also excluded from other biblical prohibitions. Thus, he argues, there is no biblical prohibition against cooking the paschal offering by means of solar heat. The same is true with regard to heat derived from the sun: Just as cooking in the “waters of Tiberias” on Shabbat is not biblically forbidden since the heat is derived from an unusual source so is cooking the paschal sacrifice in the “waters of Tiberias” excluded from the biblical prohibition. Cf., R. Benjamin Silber, Oz Nidberu, I, no. 34. If so, cooking the paschal sacrifice in the "waters of Tiberias" should constitute a transgression of the prohibition against cooking the sacrificial animal. Eglei Tal explains that, in terming solar cooking an "unusual" form of cooking, Rashi intends to indicate that cooking by means of solar heat is intrinsically different from conventional cooking, i.e., for halakhic purposes, solar heat and heat of a fire are regarded as qualitatively different. Hence, preparation of food by means of solar heat does not constitute "cooking," not because it is not analogous to the cooking performed in the construction of the Tabernacle, but because, by definition, it is not "cooking." There can be no question that, according to Eglei Tal, microwave cooking is similarly, by definition, not to be regarded as cooking; microwaves are even less similar in nature to a flame than are solar rays.18See also R. Gedaliah Rabinowitz, Torah she-be-’al Peh, XXIV (5743), who attempts to explain the “unusual” nature of solar cooking in another manner.
R. Benjamin Silber, Oz Nidberu, I, no. 34, understands Rashi's comment, not as addressing the question of why cooking in the heat of the sun is not forbidden by biblical law, but as addressing the question of why such cooking was not proscribed by rabbinic decree. In resolving that question, Rashi comments that, since cooking directly in the rays of the sun is uncommon, such cooking is not likely to be confused with forbidden forms of cooking and hence the Sages found no reason to prohibit use of solar heat in cooking on the Sabbath.19A similar analysis of Rashi’s comment is presented by Prof. Low, ibid., p. 31. See also Prof. Low’s analysis of Rashi presented in a later article published in Torah she-be-‘al Peh, XXXIV (5753), 102-104. If Rashi's comment is understood in that vein, there is no basis for regarding microwave cooking on Shabbat as halakhically forbidden.
Moreover, even if Iggerot Mosheh's understanding of Rashi is accepted as correct, it seems to this writer that his conclusion to the effect that cooking in a microwave oven on Shabbat is a transgression of a biblical prohibition does not necessarily follow. Whether or not use of solar heat is sufficiently similar to the mode of cooking employed in the construction of the Tabernacle to constitute an analogous form of cooking may well be a matter of debate. However, the basic premise, viz., that only those modes of cooking are forbidden that are similar in nature to the type of cooking employed in the construction of the Tabernacle is unexceptionable. The cooking employed in the making of dyes involved the transfer of heat from one body to another, i.e., from the flame to the dyes. Thus, transfer of heat seems to be a necessary condition of "cooking" as an activity prohibited on Shabbat. Indeed, it is certainly arguable that this element is a sine qua non of the definition of cooking as a halakhic concept for all areas of Jewish law. Heat generated by microwaves involves no transfer of heat whatsoever; rather, it is sui generis to the foodstuff itself. If so, not only would microwave cooking be excluded from the biblical prohibition against cooking on Shabbat, but boiling the paschal sacrifice in water heated by microwaves would not constitute a violation of the prohibition against cooking the sacrifice.
It further appears to this writer that microwave cooking on Shabbat does not constitute a forbidden form of cooking even by virtue of rabbinic edict. The Sages forbade only cooking by means of a medium heated by the sun's rays, e.g., water or cloth; they did not forbid cooking in the sun's rays directly. The underlying rationale is that the observer will not be aware that the heat of the water or of the cloth was derived from the sun and may err in assuming that all forms of cooking, other than cooking directly over a fire, are permitted on Shabbat. The same observer will readily recognize that the sun is not fire and that, although cooking in the sun is permitted, cooking over a flame is not. Microwaves should certainly be treated no more stringently than sun rays and indeed microwaves are far less comparable to fire than the sun. Thus, although cooking in water that has been heated in a microwave oven may well be included in the rabbinic transgression, cooking directly by means of microwaves themselves is entirely analogous to cooking in the heat of the sun.20Prof. Low, Teḥumin, VIII, 31, argues that microwave cooking is to be regarded as included in the rabbinic edict forbidding cooking in heat derived from the sun because it takes place within an oven and a microwave oven is readily confused with an ordinary oven. That argument may have merit with regard to promulgation of a new decree but is irrelevant to delineation of existing rabbinic legislation. It is certainly permissible to cook food enclosed within a box provided that the heat utilized for this purpose is exclusively solar heat. A box or oven using microwaves as the source of heat is no different.
R. Israel Rosen, Shanah be-Shanah, 5743, draws attention to an entirely different consideration in arguing that microwave cooking may constitute a biblically prohibited form of cooking on the Sabbath. R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Kovez Ma'amarim be-Inyanei Hashmal be-Shabbat (Jerusalem, 5738), p. 85, note 3, makes an interesting observation with regard to use of a heating element21For the sake of accuracy it should be noted that Rabbi Auerbach speaks of an “electric fork whose edges are distant and a circuit is created by means of the water.” This categorization seems to be imprecise since 1) there is no commercially available heating device that relies upon the water to complete the electric circuit and 2) such a method seems to be highly inefficient and impractical for use in boiling water. The theory propounded by Rabbi Auerbach seems equally cogent when applied to an ordinary immersion-heating element. for purposes of boiling water on Shabbat. Rabbi Auerbach argues that since the heat is generated by means of an electric current rather than by a flame it must be regarded as being a derivative of the "sun" and hence cooking in such a manner is forbidden only by virtue of rabbinic decree. Accordingly, Rabbi Auerbach advised that hospitals, for example, use such a method for boiling water on Shabbat when hot water is necessary in the treatment of seriously ill patients, e.g., for purposes of sterilizing instruments or the like. Rabbi Auerbach reports that Hazon Ish disagreed and maintained that since electric current "generally" produces a flame it must be regarded as an "embryonic" fire and, asserted Hazon Ish, an "embryonic" flame is no less a fire than is a "derivative" of a flame. One can readily understand that Rabbi Auerbach finds this comparison farfetched, to say the least.
Rabbi Rosen purports to find a source for Hazon Ish's position in the comments of R. Menachem ha-Me'iri, Shabbat 38b. Me'iri rules that an egg may not be cooked in lime (sid) on Shabbat. It is readily understood that one may not cook in lime that has been heated by fire. Me'iri, however, asserts that it is also forbidden to cook in lime that has been heated and that has become cold because, even if it has cooled, "the heat coming from the power of fire has not departed from it; rather, it becomes concentrated at the time [the fire] is extinguished." Me'iri, presumably, is describing a procedure in which the lime becomes hot as a result of a chemical reaction set into motion by means of mixing the lime with water.22See Teshuvot Lev Ḥayyim, III, no. 74. However, as Rabbi Rosen quite correctly notes, remarkable as Me'iri's position is, heat released by lime is readily distinguishable from heat generated by an electric current: Lime—on the basis of Me'iri's own description—at one point absorbs the heat of a fire and hence the fire may be regarded as latent in the lime; electric current used to heat a coil is not the stored heat of a fire and never produces a flame. Nevertheless, Rabbi Rosen tentatively argues that, since microwaves are generated by electricity, the use of microwave ovens should be regarded as biblically forbidden according to the position of Hazon Ish. This argument is only tentative for, as Rabbi Rosen himself notes, the electric current does not heat the food cooked in microwave ovens; the current merely produces microwaves. The microwaves, in turn, generate heat in the foodstuff. It is difficult to perceive the microwaves—removed and separate as they are from the electrical current and themselves entirely incapable of generating a flame—as constituting an "embryonic" flame.
A quite similar discussion of Me'iri's view and its application to microwave cooking is presented by Prof. Ze'ev Low. Prof. Low, Teḥumin, VIII, (5747), 26, reports that microwave ovens commonly contain "a burning wire that emits electrons." Accordingly, basing himself upon the comment of Me'iri, he advances the argument that the heat produced by the effect of the microwaves should then be considered a derivative of fire. Prof. Low dismisses that argument on the basis of a number of considerations. Chief among those considerations is the fact that the microwaves are separate and distinct from both the wire and the food. Since, unlike lime, the microwaves themselves are not heated at any point, they cannot be regarded as a receptacle or conduit of heat.23See also Prof. Low, Torah she-be-‘al Peh, pp. 99-100.
However, distinguishing microwave cooking from prohibited forms of "cooking" does not necessarily mean that no other form of prohibited activities are associated with use of a microwave oven for purposes of cooking. One of the thirty-nine forms of labor prohibited on the Sabbath is "banging with a hammer" (makeh be-patish), i.e., completing a manufacturing process. The Palestinian Talmud, Shabbat 7:2, maintains that this category of prohibited activity is applicable to the preparation of food as well. Although there is some controversy with regard to this matter, many authorities, including Rema, Oraḥ Hayyim 318:4; Levush, Oraḥ Hayyim 318:4; Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham, Oraḥ Hayyim 318:16; and Teshuvot Maharsham, I, no. 164, rule that cooking of food on Shabbat involves this infraction. Nishmat Adam, Hilkhot Shabbat 20:5, asserts that the prohibition is attendant upon food that cannot be eaten without cooking. In disagreement with this position, Tehillah le-David, Oraḥ Hayyim 314:4 and Bi'ur Halakhah, Oraḥ Hayyim 314:4, maintain that the Babylonian Talmud rejects the view expressed in the Palestinian Talmud and maintains that this category of forbidden labor does not include the preparation of foodstuffs on the Sabbath. Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, III, no. 52, regards the controversy as unresolved.
Quite apart from the prohibition against "cooking" food on Shabbat, any act resulting in the heating of a wire or coil is obviously forbidden. Moreover, Hazon Ish, Oraḥ Hayyim 50:9, maintains that the completion of any electrical circuit on Shabbat constitutes a proscribed act of "building" (boneh).24Cf., R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Koveẓ Ma’amarim be-Inyanei Ḥashmal be-Shabbat (Jerusalem, 5735), Milu’im, no. 1, reprinted in idem, Minḥat Shlomoh, no. 11. Somewhat similarly, R. Isaac Schmelkes, Teshuvot Bet Yizḥak Yoreh De'ah, Hashmatot, no. 31, and R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Ha-Darom, no. 32 (Tishri 5731), reprinted in his Teshuvot Aḥi'ezer, IV (Bnei Brak, 5746), no. 6, maintain that generating a flow of current is rabbinically forbidden as a form of "causing to be born" (molid), i.e., the generation of a new entity similar in nature to the generation of a flame which is forbidden by rabbinic decree even on Yom Tov when cooking is permitted. Although, theoretically, a microwave oven could be constructed in a manner such that there is a constant flow of electricity even when it is not in use, in practice, the electrical circuit is completed by the closing of the door of the microwave oven.25Cf., the footnote appended by the editor of Teḥumin to Prof. Low’s article, ibid., p. 24, note 5. Furthermore, as has been noted earlier, the microwaves themselves are emitted by "a burning wire that emits electrons." Thus closing the door of the microwave oven also serves to cause the microwave-producing wire to become heated. Accordingly, even if the microwave oven is turned on before Shabbat, closing the door of the oven—as it is presently designed—constitutes an act forbidden on the Sabbath. Since this arrangement has been adopted not only for reasons of economy and practicality, but for considerations of safety as well, construction of an oven designed to produce microwaves even when the door is open would be highly inadvisable.
Yet another barrier exists with regard to the use of most currently manufactured microwave ovens for purposes of cooking on Shabbat. Unlike food baked or broiled by means of external sources of heat, food cooked by means of microwaves does not brown on the surface. In order to give food cooked in microwave ovens the taste and appearance of conventionally cooked food, many manufacturers have added an electrical element for the specific purpose of browning food cooked in microwave ovens. Since cooking on Shabbat by means of an electrical element is forbidden, use of an oven containing a browning element on Shabbat is obviously also forbidden.
For all of these considerations including the unequivocally negative view of the late Rabbi Moses Feinstein, use of microwave ovens on Shabbat remains a matter of theoretical speculation rather than practical application.
Cosmetic Powder On Shabbat
The use of most cosmetics, including, but not limited to, lipstick, rouge, mascara, eyeshadow, as well as cleansing and moisturizing creams, on the Sabbath is forbidden. The application of cosmetics prepared in stick or pressed block form involves a biblically proscribed act of memaḥek, or "scraping." Included in the prohibition is not only the reduction of a solid substance to a powder, but also removing the roughness from the surface of a material by means of grinding, polishing, rubbing or smoothing. A second prohibition, which applies to liquid makeup no less than to cosmetics prepared in a solid state is zove 'a or "dyeing." All manner of dyeing, painting and coloring is forbidden on the Sabbath.
There is, however, some controversy with regard to the circumstances under which the act of coloring or painting constitutes a biblical infraction and the circumstances under which such an act constitutes a rabbinic infraction. Rambam, Hilkhot Shabbat 9:13, maintains that only the application of a pigment or coloring agent which causes a "permanent" change in the color of the object to which it is applied constitutes a biblically proscribed act. According to Rambam, the use of a coloring agent in circumstances in which the color produced is not durable (eino mitkayyem) is not biblically proscribed but is forbidden by rabbinic decree.26The precise definition of mitkayyem (lit: “permanent” or “enduring”) with respect to Sabbath laws is the subject of some doubt among latter-day authorities. Mishnah Berurah, Sha ‘ar ha-Ẓiyun 303:68, questions whether the term is to be understood literally, i.e., as connoting permanent pigmentation, or whether adherence of the coloring substance for the period “of the Sabbath day” renders the color “mitkayyem.” In another context, Bi’ur Halakhah 340:4 suggests that only an effect which is quasi-permanent or intended to endure for an extended period of time is to be regarded as mitkayyem. Minḥat Ḥinnukh, no. 32, sec. 15, regards adherence for even a brief period (zman mah) as mitkayyem. See also, R. Abraham Chaim Noe, Keẓot ha-Shulḥan, Badei ha-Shulḥan 146:20; and R. Abraham Blumenkrantz, Le-Torah ve-Hora ‘ah: Sefer Zikkaron (New York, 5749), pp. 203-205.
A coloring agent which adheres for even a minimal period of time is generally regarded as being in the category of eino mitkayyem. Sefer Mizvot Gadol and Sefer Yere'im disagree with Rambam and maintain that, when there is intent to paint or color a substance or object, the act is forbidden by virtue of biblical law even if the intention is only for a temporary or transitory pigmentation. Hence, according to all authorities application of liquid as well as solid-state cosmetics on Shabbat constitutes a forbidden form of "dyeing;" the sole dispute is whether the prohibition is biblical or rabbinic in nature.27Cf., however, Me’iri, Shabbat 95a, and other lesser known early-day authorities cited by R. Abraham Blumenkrantz, Le-Torah ve-Hora’ah, p. 205. Thus, Hayyei Adam, Hilkhot Shabbat 24:2, states that a woman "who paints her face or hands" incurs a rabbinic transgression according to Rambam even though the "paint" is a substance lacking in durability (davar she-eino mitkayyem), while according to Sefer Mizvot Gadol the infraction is biblical "since such is the wont of women (kivan she-darkan bekakh).28For alternative explanations see R. Abraham Blumenkrantz, loc. cit. However, Mishnah Berurah 303:79 rules that the "painting" or "dyeing" involved in the application of cosmetics is rabbinic in nature by virtue of an entirely different consideration, i.e., Mishnah Berurah rules that the painting of the human skin on Shabbat involves a rabbinic, rather than a biblical, transgression even if the coloration is designed to be "permanent" in nature.29See also R. Mordecai Brisk, Teshuvot Maharam Brisk, no. 23; cf., however, Minḥat Ḥinnukh, no. 32, sec. 15.
In an early responsum, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, I, no. 114, Rabbi Moses Feinstein explicitly affirms the prohibition against the use of lipstick on Shabbat whether in a solid or in a liquid (i.e., lip gloss) form. Rabbi Feinstein, however, adds a further comment: "But to cast (lizrok) white powder on the face which does not remain at all (she-eino mitkayyem klal) does not involve a prohibition of 'dyeing.'" It has been generally assumed that Rabbi Feinstein's ruling reflects no major halakhic novellum, but was predicated upon the entirely empirical presumption that talcum powder, when "cast upon the face," does not adhere to the skin but instead tends to fall off. A similar ruling was much earlier recorded by R. Abraham Chaim Noe in his halakhic compendium, Kezot ha-Shulḥan, VIII, Badei ha-Shulḥan 146:20.
This is certainly the sense in which Rabbi Feinstein's ruling was construed by the Debrecziner Rav, R. Moshe Stem, Teshuvot Be'er Mosheh, VI, no. 123. The Debrecziner Rav permits the use of white powder on Shabbat but forbids the use of colored powder. While signifying his agreement with Rabbi Feinstein's ruling regarding the use of white powder on Shabbat, the Debrecziner Rav takes sharp issue with R. Ephraim Padawer, Piskei Hilkhot Shabbat, I (New York, 5735), 7:5, who quotes Rabbi Feinstein as permitting the use of colored powder as well. The Debrecziner Rav protests, "In truth, Iggerot Mosheh explicitly permits only white powder. ..I do not know on what basis the author wrote in his name the opposite of his words which are explicit in his work (Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, I, no. 114)."
The practical effect of this ruling is rather dubious since it does not seem to be the case that women customarily utilize talcum powder or white face powder as a cosmetic other than in conjunction with other cosmetic agents which do adhere to the skin. Although the practical application of this halakhic ruling is not enhanced thereby, it appears to this writer that the consideration that women do not customarily use talcum powder as a coloring agent in and of itself renders the practice permissible. Mishnah Berurah 303:79 and 320:58 points out that the prohibition against "dyeing" is applicable only with regard to a substance which is customarily used for dyeing or coloring purposes. Thus, there is no restriction against handling foodstuffs, such as cherries and the like, which stain the skin. Similarly, Mishnah Berurah 303:79 rules that a male may apply colored substances to his face since it is not the custom for men to use such substances for purposes of coloring or staining. Thus, there is no question that talcum powder may be applied to the body of a child on the Sabbath and, arguably, such powder may be used by women as well on the grounds that it is not the usual practice to use talcum powder as a coloring agent. In a like manner, R. Yechezkel Posen, Sefer Kizur Hilkhot Shabbat 21:4, writes: "Nevertheless, it may be permitted [to a woman] to apply that powder (face powder) to her face in order [to absorb] sweat if the color of the powder is the same as the color of the skin… since her intention is not for coloring."
The language of his earlier responsum notwithstanding, Rabbi Feinstein, in a brief item appearing in Le-Torah ve-Hora'ah, no. 7 (Elul 5737), p. 28, declares that his earlier ruling applies with equal force to "colored powder" as well. Were the ruling understood as applying only to colored powder possessing the selfsame property ascribed to the "white powder" discussed in Iggerot Mosheh, i.e., colored powder "which does not remain at all," the permissive conclusion could readily be explained. The prohibition against dyeing applies only in situations in which the coloring agent adheres to the surface upon which it is applied. Accordingly, the application of colored powder "which does not remain at all," but which falls off without adhering to the skin, would appear to be entirely permissible. This conclusion would also appear to be consistent with the ruling of Kezot ha-Shulḥan. Although, in formulating his ruling, Kezot ha-Shulḥan sanctions only the use of "powder" and explicitly forbids the use of a colored base, he permits the use of powder on Shabbat on the grounds that "it is dry and does not adhere firmly (ve-einah mitdabbeket dibbuk gamur) to the skin of the face." It would follow that colored powder of a similar nature would also be permissible. The permissive rulings of Rabbi Feinstein and Kezot ha-Shulḥan are also endorsed by R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi'a Omer, VI, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 38 and Yeḥaveh Da'at, IV, no. 28.30See also R. Abraham Blumenkrantz, Le-Torah ve-Hora’ah, pp. 206-207. Nevertheless, two extraneous questions would be in order: one, empirical; the second, pragmatic. 1) Is such a powder commercially available? 2) What cosmetic purpose would be served by use of such a powder?
Further clarification of Rabbi Feinstein's position is contained in a letter reproduced and translated in the October-November, 1984 issue of Jewish Woman's Outlook. Rabbi Feinstein states that upon "testing and investigation" it appears that blanket permission cannot be given for the use of even "white powder" since most powders sold as cosmetics contain an oil base which causes powder to adhere to the skin. A similar distinction is drawn by Rabbi Yosef. Rabbi Feinstein reports, however, that there are indeed some cosmetic powders which do not remain on the skin and, hence, use of those powders is permissible He cautions, however, that "without experience in assessing a matter of this nature it is difficult to make a determination."
The item which appears in Jewish Woman's Outlook includes an addendum enumerating specific cosmetic powders which purportedly conformed to the criteria specified by Rabbi Feinstein, viz., cosmetic powders which do not adhere to the skin. Hence, consistent with Rabbi Feinstein's ruling, the use of those cosmetics on the Sabbath is permitted. Those products were tested by Rabbi David Weinberger, who was then a member of the kollel of the Rabbinical Seminary of America and who is a highly competent scholar in his own right. Rabbi Weinberger cautions that "no base or water be applied to the face" prior to the application of the powder. Quite obviously, such application would have the effect of causing the powder to adhere to the skin. Kezot ha-Shulḥan, Badei ha-Shulḥan 146:20, notes that, for the same reason, powder may not be applied on Shabbat even if the cosmetic base has been applied prior to the Sabbath.
Attempts to confirm the findings reported in Jewish Woman's Outlook were unsuccessful. Five of the cosmetic powders approved for Sabbath use were selected at random and applied to the surface of the skin. In each case the color remained clearly visible for periods varying between 60 and 90 minutes. Ordinary talcum powder was found to be recognizable for 45 minutes subsequent to application. An attempt was made to remove those products by brushing and rubbing the skin lightly. No appreciable difference was found in the effort required to remove the approved substances as distinct from the effort required to remove non-approved substances. To be sure, since such tests do not lend themselves to precise quantification, the assessment of the results is largely subjective. Nevertheless, it would appear to this writer that those substances are encompassed within the category of davar she-eino mitkayyem, i.e., substances which adhere but which do not adhere for an extended period of time, and hence the use of such substances is proscribed de minimis by virtue of rabbinic decree.
It should be noted that Iggerot Mosheh's permissive ruling regarding the use of talcum powder has been challenged by at least one prominent authority. R. Joshua Neuwirth, Shemirat Shabbat ke-Hilkhatah, I (Jerusalem, 5739) 14:58, note 158, quotes the noted Jerusalem scholar, R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, as forbidding even the use of talcum powder on the Sabbath "for whenever there is intention to color even for a short period of time on what basis [are there grounds] to permit [the practice]?" Rabbi Auerbach's ruling is predicated upon two empirical presumptions, both of which are entirely cogent: (1) Talcum powder, when applied to the face, is designed to modify skin color. (2) Talcum powder does adhere to the face for at least a minimal period of time.
R. Israel Abraham Landau, Teshuvot Bet Yisra'el (Brooklyn, 5736), no. 56, forbids the use of talcum powder on different grounds. The Palestinian Talmud, Shabbat 7:2, declares that application of a substance designed to enhance the white color of the face constitutes a forbidden form of melaben, i.e., "whitening" or cleaning. However, R. Yeshayah Kaufman, writing in a publication of the kollel of New Square, Zera Emet, Iyar 5744, points out that Amudei Yerushalayim, ad locum, records a variant reading of the text of the Palestinian Talmud which completely changes the meaning of that statement. Moreover, accepting the published version of the text, R. Mordecai Brisk, Teshuvot Maharam Brisk, II, no. 98, sec. 20, shows that this position is rejected by the Babylonian Talmud.
Teshuvot Maharam Brisk, I, no. 23, accepts the premise that application of talcum powder is designed to effect some change in facial color but nevertheless permits its use on Shabbat. Maharam Brisk bases his ruling upon a determination that the cosmetic "painting" or coloring of human skin is prohibited only by virtue of rabbinic decree and that use of a davar she-eino mitkayyem is similarly forbidden only by virtue of rabbinic decree. He further adduces authorities who maintain that, although deepening or enhancing an already existing color on Shabbat is forbidden, such an act is not forbidden by biblical law but is proscribed only by rabbinic edict. The application of white powder to the skin is designed to enhance or highlight the natural color of the skin. Since it enhances an already existing color but does not change the basic color, such an act, argues Maharam Brisk, is only rabbinically enjoined even if its effect would be permanent. Hence, application of talcum powder on Shabbat would be forbidden only upon a configuration of three rabbinic decrees: (1) a prohibition against coloring by means of a davar she-eino mitkayyem; (2) a prohibition against painting or coloring human skin; and (3) a prohibition against enhancing an already existing color. Although Maharam Brisk concedes that acts involving a configuration of two rabbinic edicts are indeed proscribed, he asserts that rabbinic legislation does not forbid acts involving the configuration of three rabbinic decrees.31Cf. Pri Megadim, introduction to Oraḥ Ḥayyim, Hanhagat ha-Sho’el ve-ha-Nish’al, I, sec. 14. Maharam Brisk forbids the application of colored powder on Shabbat since such use would involve a configuration of only two rabbinic prohibitions.
Although the consideration is not applicable to the ordinary use of cosmetics, there may be grounds for permitting the use of cosmetic agents designed to hide a disfiguring birthmark or skin blemish when the cosmetic is applied by a non-Jew. Tosafot, Shabbat 50b, declares that a condition which causes a person embarrassment of a magnitude such that the individual is ashamed to appear in public constitutes a form of grave pain. Thus, the psychological anguish which may result from not being able to engage in normal social intercourse is halakhically regarded as a form of severe pain. A person experiencing such pain is, arguably, in the category of a patient afflicted by a "sickness of the entire body" on whose behalf a non-Jew may be directed to perform an otherwise forbidden act as recorded in Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 328:17. Indeed, were the remedy to involve an act forbidden only by virtue of rabbinic edict, the act might be performed even by a Jew provided that it is performed in an unusual manner, e.g., by use of the left hand. However, as stated by Mishnah Berurah 328:54 and 328:57, only rabbinically proscribed acts may be performed in an unusual manner under such circumstances. Therefore, since cosmetics generally utilized for such purposes require use of substances involving the biblical prohibition of memaḥek, they may be applied only by a non-Jew. A liquid substance which does not involve the prohibition of memaḥek is, minimally, a davar she-eino mitkayyem, the use of which, for some authorities, as indicated earlier, entails a biblical prohibition of "dyeing" and, if designed to adhere for a significant period of time, the use of such a substance constitutes a biblical transgression according to other authorities as well. In light of those considerations, a substance designed to cover a disfiguring blemish should be applied only by a non-Jew.
Cooking is enumerated among the thirty-nine activities specifically forbidden on the Sabbath. The prohibition against cooking precludes not only placing uncooked food over a fire but also replacing partially cooked food on the stove. Rema, Oraḥ Hayyim 253:2 and Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 318:4, rule that food which has not been thoroughly cooked may not be replaced on the stove even though the food is already readily edible. Use of a blech or metal covering which is placed over the flame serves only to eliminate the rabbinic ban which prohibits returning even already thoroughly cooked food to the stove and allowing incompletely cooked food to remain on the stove during the Sabbath. Although no act of cooking is involved, these practices are forbidden by rabbinic decree lest one be prompted to "stir the embers" in order to increase the intensity of the heat. This rabbinic prohibition is suspended when the flame is covered on the principle that covering the flame manifests absence of concern for maximization of heat. However, use of such metal covering in no way mitigates the biblical prohibition attendant upon replacing food which is less than thoroughly cooked upon a stove. Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 254:4, rules that, when return of a pot to the stove is forbidden, the replacement of a lid upon a pot on the stove is forbidden as well. Placing a lid on a pot serves to contain the heat which, in turn, causes the cooking process to proceed more rapidly. Hence placing or replacing a lid upon a pot constitutes an act of cooking.
Since cooking on the Sabbath is forbidden, it has long been the practice among Jews to prepare a stew-like dish, known as cholent, containing various ingredients which is placed upon the stove on Friday and allowed to remain overnight on a low flame. The food is then removed in time for the midday meal on the Sabbath. Ingredients vary in accordance with ethnic and culinary preferences. Popular varieties of cholent contain meat, potatoes, beans and barley in various combinations and proportions. Among Oriental Jews it is customary to use rice as the staple ingredient. During the medieval period this culinary dish was known as ḥamin or "hot food." It is now usually referred to by Western Jews as "cholent" which some linguists maintain is derived from the French chaud, meaning "hot," or chaleur, meaning "heat." It has been conjectured that the term may be a contraction of the French words chaud and lent, meaning hot and slow, to form a word connoting "slow heat." A less likely suggestion is that the term cholent originated as a contraction of the German or Yiddish words shul ende, meaning "end of synagogue services," the hour at which the Sabbath-day meal is customarily eaten. Although the meaning of the term may be obscure, the practice of eating cholent is ubiquitous and, for many, is closely associated with enjoyment of the Sabbath day. For that reason recent discussions of a halakhic problem posed in the preparation of this dish have aroused wide interest.
In Israel, due to the almost prohibitive cost of beef, it is common to use fowl in the preparation of the cholent. The long and slow cooking process has the effect of making the relatively soft chicken bones quite edible and tasty. Of late, there has been some debate among rabbinic scholars in Israel with regard to whether or not it is permissible to remove some of the cholent prepared in this manner on Friday evening and thereafter replace the pot on the stove or, for that matter, whether the lid of the pot may be raised and replaced. This question is addressed by Rabbi Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, IV, no. 76. A conflicting view is expressed by Rabbi Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach in the Heshvan 5742 issue of Moriah and by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hoffman in the Shevat-Adar 5742 issue of Ha-Pardes.
Rabbi Feinstein rules that the prohibition against cooking does not extend to bones since bones are not deemed to be a foodstuff. He maintains that there exists no prohibition against cooking bones even by a person intent upon consuming them subsequent to cooking because whether or not an item is deemed a foodstuff is determined by general practice rather than by subjective inclination. A contrary view was earlier expressed by R. Joshua Neuwirth in the second edition of his highly regarded compendium of Sabbath laws, Shemirat Shabbat ke-Hilkhatah, I (Jerusalem, 5739) 1:18, in the name of Rabbi Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach.
In his contribution to Moriah Rabbi Auerbach explains the basis of his negative ruling. Rabbi Auerbach reports that, contrary to the assumption of Rabbi Feinstein, both meat and bones are commonly consumed by persons eating this type of cholent. Hence, concludes Rabbi Auerbach, even though bones are not included in the prohibition against partaking of carrion or of milk and meat which have been cooked together, nevertheless, in a locale in which bones are customarily eaten, they must be deemed a foodstuff which may not be cooked on the Sabbath. In a subsequent responsum addressed to Rabbi Auerbach, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, IV, no. 77, Rabbi Feinstein expresses incredulity at the report that it is common practice in Israel to eat the chicken bones found in the cholent. Nevertheless, he readily concedes both that the halakhah as formulated by Rabbi Auerbach is correct under the circumstances described by the latter and that Rabbi Auerbach is more familiar than he with the eating habits of Israelis.
In point of fact, a similar problem may well exist in other countries as well. Rabbi Feinstein notes that the entire question of replacing a cholent pot on Friday evening did not arise in earlier times. In Europe, until recent times, it was customary to place the cholent not upon the stove, but within an oven which was subsequently sealed in order to preserve the heat. The cholent was therefore not removed on Friday evening in order to eat some portion of that dish in the course of the evening meal both because of the inconvenience involved and because the loss of escaped heat would interfere with proper cooking of the cholent. Thus the practice of removing a portion of the cholent on Friday evening is of fairly recent origin. It is entirely likely that the cholent may not yet be fully cooked at the time of its removal on Friday evening, particularly if it has been placed on the stove late in the day on Friday. Under such circumstances, it is not permitted to return the cholent to the stove.
Rabbi Hoffman argues that this practice is forbidden under virtually all circumstances. He notes that, even when the other ingredients are otherwise fully cooked, the flavor of the meat is enhanced by continued cooking in the juices of the bones throughout the night. Hence, argues Rabbi Hoffman, return of the pot to the stove so long as the taste of the cholent continues to improve through further cooking is encompassed within the biblical prohibition as indicated by Mishnah Berurah 318:91. Accordingly, Rabbi Hoffman advises that the cholent not be removed from the stove prior to the noon meal on Shabbat. The factual assumption underlying this line of reasoning is subject to question and, in all likelihood, will vary from one cholent recipe to another.