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Table of contents Ethic and Judaism Spring 2007 - Pesah 5767

    • Editorial - March 2007

    • Prevention and Intervention
    • 1967 – 2007 - Quo vadis Israel ?

    • Negotiating in Bazaar
    • Islamism Multiculturalism and the Jews

    • The Kepiro Affair

    • Jerusalem and Baku
    • Yevda Abramov
    • Journey into the unreal

    • Jerusalem - Istanbul

Judea and Samaria
    • Rebirth of a Vineyard

Ethic and Judaism
    • An Accessory or Just a Friend?

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An Accessory or Just a Friend?

By Rabbi Shabtai A. Rappoport an observant Jew with a young family. His education and philosophy cause him to put the importance of a proper observation of the Shabbat on a pedestal among his family's values. The festivity of the Shabbat is acutely felt in A.'s home throughout the Shabbat, starting even at the hours prior to candle-lighting, at the meals to which several guests are usually invited, at the studying sessions A. has with his children, until the Havdalah ceremony at the end of the Shabbat. A. wholeheartedly wishes to pass down his high regard of the Shabbat to his children; in the same manner he received it from his late parents.

One week a non-observant relation of A.'s wife expressed his wish to join the family for the Shabbat dinner. He adamantly refused to stay overnight at A's house, and insisted on coming just for the meal. Of course, he said, he will not offend A.'s and his neighbors' feelings by parking his car near his home and driving away from there on the Shabbat. He will rather park his car at a distance, walk over and back, and drive to his own apartment in another part of the town. As much as A. and his wife want to have this relative join them, and get closer to him, they doubt whether they are permitted to invite him on these terms. Are they not causing him to violate the Shabbat, which is a great offence against the Jewish Faith? For millennia Jews have willingly given their lives in order to adhere to their Faith, particularly for the preservation of the laws of Shabbat. Could they now turn a blind eye when their guest will desecrate the Shabbat in order to join them for a meal?

Is one, indeed, allowed to pretend not to notice when a fellow man commits a transgression? The Torah writes: "You shall rebuke your fellow and not sin on his account" (Leviticus XIX, 17). It is interpreted in the Gemara as meaning that "if a man sees something unseemly in his neighbor, he is obliged to reprove him" and even that "if he rebuked him and he did not accept it… he must rebuke him again" (Arachin 17, b). The Gemara further quotes a dispute among the sages as to "how far shall reproof be administered" whether until the admonisher shall be beaten by the reproved, until he shall be cursed, or only until he shall be scolded. The foremost Torah authority in XVI century Poland, Rabbi Shlomo Luria (known as Maharshal) rules that when it is obvious that the transgressor will not accept the rebuke, there is no obligation to rebuke him (Maharshal's Commentary to Sefer Mizvot Gadol, Essin 11). It seems that Maharshal interpreted the extent of reproof discussed in the Gemara mentioned above, as denoting the effort that must be devoted in order to prevent further transgression. The obligation to devote this effort stems from the responsibility one has over his fellow and not from an obligation to express abhorrence towards the transgression. Had it been the latter, the expected effect would have been irrelevant. Maharshal's ruling was accepted and quoted by Torah authorities throughout the following centuries.

Since the relative refuses to stay overnight by A. and will certainly not walk all the way to A.'s home, the only acceptance of a rebuke by A. will be not to come for a meal at all. But such an acceptance is irrelevant, because it is obvious that he will violate the Shabbat wherever he will be, whether by driving, smoking, cooking or any other activity forbidden on the Shabbat. Hence A. is not obliged to further reprove the guest, as far as the commandment of reproving a transgressor.

However, there are two further issues, one a Biblical prohibition, and the other Rabbinical. The Biblical commandment prohibits "putting a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus XIX, 14). The Gemara (Pesachim 22, b) quotes an interpretation making the "blind" a person who is about to transgress a commandment - since his better judgments was blinded by his disposition of evil (Maimonides Book of Commandments Prohibitions 199) – and the "stumbling block" a possibility to sin. Hence one is prohibited from enabling another to sin.

This prohibition has two possible interpretations. One exposition stems (like the obligation to reprove a sinner according to Maharshal) from one's responsibility towards the "blind" that is about to sin. The other stems from the understanding that enabling a sin makes the person who made the sin possible an accessory to the sin. The first interpretation has its source in another prohibition that the Sages read into the verse of "putting a stumbling block before the blind". This prohibition is against knowingly giving a bad advice - "stumbling block", whether personal, commercial or social, to an ignorant person - "blind", who may act on this advice and "fall down".

The noted XX century Torah authority, Rav Moshe Feinstein noted that according to the first exposition, aiding a person in violating a Rabbinical prohibition consists a Biblical transgression. Violating a Rabbinical prohibition is no less serious than a bad financial investment. Since giving bad financial advice is a Biblical transgression, so is aiding a person in violating a Rabbinical prohibition. It follows, somewhat paradoxically, that a person who aids another in violating a Rabbinical prohibition commits a worse offence than the violator himself. According to the second exposition, being an accessory to a Rabbinical violation, cannot be worse than the violation itself (Dibrot Moshe, Shabbat Siman 2).

The prohibition against "putting a stumbling block before the blind" is applicable only when without the aid – the "stumbling block" the transgression could not have taken place (Avodah Zarah 6, b). This is not true in A.'s case, since his guest would violate the Shabbat whether he comes over to A. or not. However, there is a Rabbinical prohibition against assisting a person in violating commandments, even though he could do so unaided (Toshafot, Shabbat 3, a, Dibur Ha'Mtchil Bava De'Reisha).

Rav Moshe Feinstein elucidates an interesting point. The only possible reason to this Rabbinical prohibition of aiding a transgression, is that the accessory expresses his approval of the transgression. He is not only an accessory to the deed itself – which could be performed without his aid – but to the attitude of disregarding G-d and his commandments.

However, when the nature of the cooperation is such that it implies no approval whatsoever of the transgression, the Rabbinical prohibition – which covers the cases where the violation would take place even when unaided – does not apply. The same argument led Rav Moshe Feinstein in a ruling considering inviting a non observant business partner for a meal, when it is known that he will not recite the blessings required before eating (Igrot Moshe, Volume VIII, Orhach Chaim Part V, Siman 13). Another argument raised in the above mentioned responsum, is that a person who violates the commandments due to a non religious education he received since his early childhood is considered a non-willing offender (Maimonides Laws of Insurgents 3, 3). Hence, aiding his violation could be regarded as aiding in non-violation, which, of course, is not an offence.

Accordingly when A. invites this relative for a Shabbat meal so that he gets close to the observant branch of the family, and get acquainted with his time honored heritage, he does not become an accessory to the violation of the Shabbat performed by his guest. He is doing the correct deed of friendship required towards every Jew, particularly towards one's own flesh and blood. Thus A. may invite his non-observant guest without devaluating his regard for Shabbat, or deprecating his adherence for the Jewish faith.

It should be noted that the above ruling depends on two factual premises. One is that no reproach of the guest will prove effective, hence there is no obligation to rebuke him for violating the Shabbat. The other is that this guest will violate the Shabbat whether he comes to visit or not, hence there is no offence of "putting a stumbling block before the blind". These premises are possible only when considering a particular person in specific circumstances. When discussing a standing invitation for a Shabbat visit, or organizing a group activity on Shabbat which involves several people arriving there by driving their cars and thus violating the Shabbat, and more so, organizing a perpetual Shabbat group activity, these factual premises cannot be taken for granted. Hence, in these cases inviting non observant Jews whose arrival involves violation of the Shabbat is forbidden.

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