Monday, October 12, 2009

Breishis: Shabbos Faxes and Phone Calls

Earlier Posts on Beresishis:

Spiritual/Emotional Divine Communion and Contemplating the Beauty of Nature

Beautification of Mitzvos and Conspicuous Virtue

The Nachash was First in a Series of Four

Parshas Bereishis includes the concept of Shabbos.  The onset and conclusion of Shabbos are local, and sweep across the globe from east to west along with the setting of the Sun on Friday and Saturday.  Similarly, the dates being different on the two sides of the international dateline means that if there were a north-south street in Anchorage, Alaska, when it would be Friday morning on the east side of the street, it would be Shabbos morning on the west side.  (Anchorage, and a mid-continental dateline, are cited here only for purpose of illustration, not as an assertion of normative halacha.)

One of my great Shabbos pleasures is hearing from my children in Israel. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be eating our seuda at the table, and sometimes I am preparing my shiur in the dining room, and the phone rings, the answering machine turns on, and we hear the voices of our beloved children in Yerushalayim, saying something like this: "Good Shabbos, Mommy and Daddy! I hope you're able to hear me. Shabbos was beautiful here, I spoke at the meal in the Yeshiva, I walked to the Kosel and didn't get arrested, we had a great Chumash shiur at Shalosh Seudos, and we're looking forward to hearing from you soon."

Obviously, my kids are calling from Yerushalayim long after their Shabbos is over, and we are hearing them while it is still Shabbos for us in America. Part of our oneg shabbos is watching the consternation on the faces of our guests, who begin to wonder that if this is how we keep Shabbos, who knows if the food in our house is kosher. So I let them wonder for a while, and then I explain why I hold this is muttar. But is it muttar? Are we allowed to hear the message on Shabbos?  Are my kids allowed to call us when it's after Shabbos for them but still Shabbos in America?

Basically, these are the issues: (Remember what I said about relying on anonymous halacha opinions you find on the Internet: see my profile in "About Me".)

1. Even though we do not require Shvisas Keilim, and so we are allowed to begin a melacha process before Shabbos that continues automatically on Shabbos, we are not allowed to do so in the case of Avsha Milsa, where the melacha creates a noise that is heard on Shabbos (OC 252:5, Rama). Would this not prohibit us from leaving the answering machine on where the entire purpose of leaving it on is so that calls will generate noise on Shabbos? Or may we do so because we are merely leaving the machines on; but it is not us who will be generating that noise-- it is no different than allowing a non-Jew to come on to my property and to use my keilim on Shabbos.

2. Obviously, the telephone call is for our benefit. If so, does this fall into the category of "Akum she'asa melacha bishvil Yisrael," in which case it is prohibited, (under the rubric of "amira le'akum," either because of  שליחות or   דבר דבר)  to benefit from the melacha until after Shabbos is over and bichdei she'ya'aseh (unless it was done by the akum for his own benefit and our benefit is secondary)? Or is amira le'akum limited to cases where someone or something is doing the melacha during Shabbos. Here, nobody is doing anything on Shabbos.

3. Is is muttar for a person for whom Shabbos is over to directly cause a melacha to be done in a part of the world where it is still Shabbos? Perhaps this is real chillul Shabbos, because he is actually doing melacha where it is still Shabbos-- he is being מחלל the אות of Shabbos, he is profaning the sign of Shabbos where the melacha is being done? Or is the idea of Shabbos a matter of personal conduct, and limited to the individual for whom it is Shabbos where he is?
This question can be much more serious than phone calls and faxes; what about the 'Shain Machine'?
The Shain Machine was invented by Rabbi Yehuda Shain to avoid Bishul Akum problems in factories. This is a mechanism which allows a mashgiach to call the factory and enter a code on the telephone which will ignite a fire at the factory, such that the fire cannot be turned on by anyone but the mashgiach, although workers at the factory can turn it off.
So, can a mashgiach, for whom it is Friday morning, turn on a fire in a factory in China when it is Shabbos in China? Can an Israeli, for whom it is long after Shabbat, turn on a fire in a (non-Jewish-owned) factory in Los Angeles, where they are holding by Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbos in pesukei dezimra?
The question also arises regarding sending email.  But it's hard to believe that rearranging a few electrons in the local server really raises any real chilul Shabbos issues.  אש שחורה על גבי אש לבנה on the screen may be kesiva, but not in the server.

There are exactly three approaches among the poskim.
1. It is absolutely 100% muttar lechatchila. (Rabbi Hershel Shachter, for all practical purposes, and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky- who says that Reb Akiva Eiger's teshuva 159 is irrelevant, and he's right- in Daf Kashrus volume 13 no. 9, June 2005, Rav Neuwirth in שמירת שבת כהלכתו 31:26 from Rav Scheinberg, and Me)
2. It is most likely assur Mi'Deoraysa. (I can't say until I verify his opinion and get his permission to quote him UPDATE OCTOBER 2011:  I had heard this in the name of Reb Dovid Feinstein.  I asked him last week, and he said that he holds it is muttar, period.  The person that quoted him to me was diametrically wrong.)
3. It is assur Mi'Derabanan, but only where the recipient is a Jew, based on Issue #2. (Rav Meir Bransdorfer of the Eida Chareidis in מבקשי תורה תשרי תשנ'ד כרך ב who brings the Radvaz in 1:76 to be mattir Issue #3 but assers on the basis of Issue #2 where the recipient is a Jew, citing the שו'ע הרב רס'ג בקונטרס אחרון אות ח. Lefi aniyus da'ati, the Radvaz is a very weak comparison, and the connection to the Shulchan Aruch Harav is very debatable.)

Now, this is not the only case where the opinions are diametrically opposed. (Another example is where you want to re-hang a picture that fell down on Shabbos, which the Mishna Berura is mattir, and the Chazon Ish holds it's assur mi'deoraysa. Also, the Tefilla Lishlom HaMedinah.) But here, the basic philosophy of Shabbos comes into play, which, to me, makes it more interesting. Furthermore, it is very hard to come up with a strong tzushtell in Shas, so the question is, in many cases, left to "יראה לי."

Another halacha that might involve some of the same issues:
What about Chametz in the US when you are in Israel, or vice versa? If you have Chametz in Israel, can you sell it when it's Pesach in Israel but not in the US where you are? What if you're in Israel: can you buy it back from the goy when it's after Pesach in Israel but still Pesach where the Chametz is? (I actually once had a shayla like this: someone from New York called erev Pesach and said he had forgotten to sell his chametz, and it was after noon already, when you can no longer sell the chametz. We told him he was up the creek, and he would have to pour all his expensive schnapps down the drain. He, being a Manhattan lawyer with a keen eye for a loophole, then asked whether he could still call a rov in Los Angeles, where it was still early morning, to sell his chametz. We (meaning me as interlocutor for Reb Dovid Feinstein) told him no. But that's not exactly what we're discussing here.)
If my use of the word might didn't make it clear, I know that it would be easy to propose possible distinctions between the issues of Chametz and Shabbos: if it's called issura bala before Pesach, if shelcha is a mi'ut, etc.  But without rayos, it's just speculation.
An interesting thing on this question is the tentativeness of the poskim: among the respectable authorities, almost nobody takes a firm stand on the issue of chametz.  See, e.g., Teshuvos Igros Moshe OC IV 95, last paragraph, where he says that you have to be machmir both ways-- mei'ikar hadin.  And see Oneg Yomtov 36, who brings "קצת ראיה" that the loaction of the Chametz is all that matters.  As Great Unknown points out in the comments, the Oneg Yomtov's raya is based on an assumption that Chazal would have mentioned the case of different time zones if it would yield any interesting halachic ramifications.  Rav Shternbuch, in his Mo'adim Uzemanim at the beginning of Mechiras Chametz, disagrees with the Oneg Yomtov, and holds that all that matters is the location of the owner.  As for the Oneg Yomtov's proof, he says that Chazal would not have proposed such a pshat as a legitimate interpretation of the intent of the author of the Mishnah, and so they ignored it, just as Great Unknown suggested.

Similar questions:
1.  Shevisas Be'hemto.  What if you and your animal are in different time zones-- it is Shabbos for you, but not where your animal is, or vice versa?
2. Oso ve'es Beno.  What if the two are shechted on the same day from your perspective, but they were in different days where they were shechted?  Reb Meir Simcha in Parshas Emor 22:28 says that your perspective doesn't matter.  If the mother was shechted where it was day, but it is already night where you are, you can shecht the offspring now, even though it is still the same day, from your perspective, as the shechitas ha'eim.  Then he says a most remarkable chiddush-- that in that case, since it is muttar to shecht the offspring that is in a different calendar day, one may even shecht another offspring that shares the calendar day with the mother.
3.  Chadash.  After the Churban Beis Hamikdash, it is not the offering of the Minchas Ha'omer that is mattir Chadash, it is the break of dawn on the sixteenth of Nissan that is mattir Chadash.  So, here's the question:  After Hei'ir Pnei Mizrach in Yerushalayim, which is mattir Chadash locally, what is the status of Chadash over in Los Angeles?  In some places, it's not even the sixteenth of Nissan yet, to say nothing of dawn on the sixteenth.  So is Chadash muttar or assur there?  Rav Tzvi Kaplan, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Kodshim in Yerushalayim, and son in law of Harav Michel Feinstein ztzl, says he asked this question to Reb Chaim Kanievsky.  Reb Chaim Kanievsky told him that as soon as it is Hei'ir Pnei Mizrach in Yerushalyim, all Chadash in the world becomes muttar.  Reb Tzvi was so shocked by this that he forgot the other questions he had prepared.  The reason he was shocked is because the Brisker Rov says that even Hakravas Ha'omer is not mattir Chadash in places where it's not daytime of the sixteenth yet, because hakravas ha'omer is only mattir on the day of the sixteenth.  This is diametrically opposed to what Reb Chaim Kanievsky said.
4.  Keilim that are koneh sh'visa.  Here's the case: we pasken (OC 397:8) that objects are limited to the techum of their owner.  If the owner of an object is outside the techum, you can't move the object daled amos, even in the house.  For example: My son is in Israel, I'm in the U.S., it's Shabbos, I can't borrow and wear his tie or sweater.  This is the factual Halacha.  But perhaps that is only true if it's Shabbos where the owner is.  If it's after Shabbos in Israel, maybe there's no din that his keilim are limited to any particular techum.

(to be continued. If you have an informed opinion or a makor, send it now.)


  1. The Chometz is A gavrah Cheftzah Thing

  2. Regarding question #3, it seems La'anius Da'ati clear that there is no problem Mi'Deoraysa. The argument is the following: The famous Nimukey Yosef (Isho Mishum Chitzov vs. shabbos candles) tells us that even if later effects of my action are considered my Maaseh, they are still considered something I did now (at time of action). That's why I can put a pot on the fire Friday afternoon, aiming it will be cooked on Shabbos (forget about Shehi'a). That is, the Mechayev is the action, not the result. If the action took place on Friday, we're ok.

    Applying space-time symmetry, same should work for cases where the action is in EY and result in US where it's still Shabbos. Since the Mechayev is not the light that went on in the US but my action in EY, and this action was done after Shabbos, it should be Muttar.

    Yet, I think there is a 4th problem not put forth here as far as I understand. Question #1 deals with Avsha Milsa on part of the fax/answering-machine owner. My Q.#4 is whether there is a problem of Avsha for the caller.

    Here I think there might be a problem. Avsha is always an Issur to do something on Chol that will cause (noisy) results on Shabbos. The same way it is Assur to put a timer on Motzash to play the music on my shabbos table 6 days later, it should be Assur to do it on someone's else shabbos table, which is space-separated and not time-separated.

    Rav Belsky talks about email (which typically is not noisy) and fax (depends). For a message played on a loudspeaker, sound all over the house, there might be a problem.

    Yet, Shmirat-Shabat allows a phone call. So the question is what exactly do we include under Avsha. I've never seen someone who's machmir on a/c, but many quote Avsha for dish-washers. Are they that much noisier? I've also seen Rav SZ Auerbach quoted as allowing to keep you fax open as long as the noise is not heard out of the room. So maybe a phone call is the same, or not.

    BTW, Rav Shachter is machmir (unlike quoted in the blog) based on Prof. Lev's point. Also, I didn't see the SSK attributes it to Rav Scheinberg. Third, I don't agree the Chason-Ish says hanging a picture is Deorayso.

  3. I knew someone would bring up the Nimukei Yosef! But there is a big difference between Reb Yochanan's Isho mishum chitzo and ma'aseh be'yadayim. The Nimukei Yosef himself says that the raya that it is all considered finished as soon as it begins is because otherwise, he would be pattur for the results because of din oneis. Also, we know that if he were to die before Shabbat began, the same rules of kim lei would apply. Here, however, the act is immediate and direct, unlike fire, and there is no Reish Lakish that argues and says mishum memono; and therefore he is not doing something that began and ended before Shabbat; he is doing something beyadayim on Shabbat. In fact, the Nimukei Yosef is a raya that it should be assur. His original postulate is that if we were to view his act as occurring on Shabbat, he would be chayav even though his involvement ended before Shabbat began, because he is actually doing the act on Shabbat.

    I like your point about the avsha problem for the caller.

    And yes, of course Avsha Milsa is something that one needs a mesora on, because it's utterly undefined in the poskim.

    The Chazon Ish, if I remember correctly, is talking about the problem of mosif al ha'ohel, but I don't know where it is.

    And I'll recheck the Prof Lev matter. How did you find that OU sheet so fast????

  4. The fact that it's immediate is a factor in deciding whether to consider it Beyadayim or not (and that's why we don't have a Reish Lakish here). It has nothing to do with the question of when and where is the Mechayev assuming it is considered Beyadayim. Thus I do say that he is doing something that began and ended after Shabbat; he is not doing anything beyadayim on Shabbat, just the effect is going to occur on Shabbat.

    In other words, I claim that if we assume the indirectness (is that a word?) of Aish to be irrelevant (holding like R. Yochanan), why is lighting a fire that would burn on the next Shabbos in EY would be different than lighting a fire that would burn the previous shabbos in the US?

    By the way, what would you say on the following case: I put a pot on the fire Shabbos afternoon. It is not cooked till Motzash. No chiyuv. Now, I do the same but the pot is taken by an airplane going west, getting cooked when and where the local time is Shabbos. Is it different than your case?

    I agree the Hava-Amina of the NY is against me. It is just that his Maskana is different.

    I'm not sure Mesorah is the right term. I think there was no much discussion of Avsha till the last decades. In fact, one may claim that today when usage of timers and automatic setup of machines is so common, the whole concept does not apply (see R. SZA on alarm clock)

    I think the consensus understanding of the Chason-Ish is that it applies only to where the item is fixed to the wall, not just loosely hanged (the CI does hold that a picture is Muktze Mechamas Chesron Kis though)

    OU sheet - wonders of google: I once read Prof. Lev's wonderful work, but I don't remember much of it.

  5. I like your case of the west-bound pot.

    I didn't mean mesorah, I meant shimush talmidei chachamim. But I certainly agree that whatever kulos we can find re avsha milsa would be a mitzvah, since now everyone knows that they are automatic and there is neither chashad nor zilzul. Maybe by a factory that is doing robotic manufacturing. But not in a private house.

  6. All the rest of you Talmidei Chachamim, come on! I need some more input here!

  7. regarding the chometz issue, the שו"ת עונג יום טוב או"ח סי' ל"ו is interesting. Note that his proof
    is based on the assumption that chazal would incorporate the concept of time zones in a היכי תמצא

  8. Eli- regarding your observation that Rabbi Shachter is machmir-- Yes, he is. He says אינו נכון to send an e-mail. But אינו נכון is not assur.

    I disregarded his אינו נכון because it is just an underhanded way of pushing Prof. Lev's thesis by intentionally misusing, or using a faulty understanding of, Reb Moshe's teshuva. Reb Moshe's chumrah deals with a case where this person set the timer before Shabbos and personally benefits from the melacha that results on his Shabbos. The melacha that results can be viewed halachically as if it were being done at his command on Shabbos, since he arranged for it to occur then, so it is similar to Amira Le'akum. Where the do-er and the melacha are both after Shabbos, it would probably not matter that it is being done on someone else's Shabbos.

  9. I think R. Shachter brings R. Moshe's tshuva to support the idea that even according to Beis-Hillel, the Heter is only if the Melacha starts before Shabbos, which essentially concords with Prof. Lev (and apparently the Rambam, didn't see it). This, per-se is not related to the question at hand, I agree.

    But, we could wonder why is it so that a Melacha starting on Shabbos is worse than something starting on Friday going into Shabbos. [R. Moshe says that in such a case the Melacha is unrelated to the Maaseh, but then he stresses that this is not to say he is considered doing it now]

    It is possible that the fact something *starts* on Shabbos makes it more of a problem of Zilussa. If so, it should apply for our case too, as Zillusa (like Avsha) maybe does not depend on the time of the Maaseh, rather on the effect.

    [I never understood the Amira LeAkum comparison in R. Moshe's tshuva; if automatic machines is a problem of Amira, why is it ok to start a machine working on friday into Shabbos? Do we have a Hetter of Amira LeAkkum if the Goy starts working Friday? This is before getting into the new Gzeyra issue, which he mentions and seems to retract a bit, saying it's "Ra'uy Leheasser" (?!)]

    As for Avsha - I didn't check but in Gmara and Poskim it appears for Reychayim, probably to be heard around the neighborhoood, to be compared to our-days factory; and maybe a wall-clock (again, making much noise every hour [btw, R. SZ seems to have understood the problem with the clock to be its ticking ??]). So, I think that taken together with the Svara of no Chashad nowadays, one can safely argue Avsha could be limited to something loud enough to be heard on the street. But I admit Poskim do bring this up for washing machines, dryers, dish-washers, etc.

    BTW, יגעת ומצאת תאמין, I did found someone quoting Rav Elyashiv as saying Avsha applies to a/c except for places where it is normally (i.e. on weekdays) used automatically - left open all day long using thermostats, like hotels, hospitals etc. Luckily this Chumra was not picked up yet in 90-degrees-75%-humidity-summers Bney-Brak.

  10. And also the new city they're talking about building in the Negev.

    I glanced at Reb Moshe's teshuva about timers, and I see that it's time for me to review it. I was relying primarily on shakla vetaria discussions we had with Reb Moshe on the issue, and didn't pay enough attention to the more careful written version. In my memories of our discussions, it's likely that he might have agreed with my ideas only as far as their being defensible, but not that he agreed with them.

  11. Great Unknown, thanks; I incorporated it into the post. But I'm having some trouble following the flow of thought in the Oneg Yomtov; the case seems to change in midstream.

  12. So I looked up Albeck; Hanoch Albeck, whose students, according to Wikipedia, include Avraham Goldberg and Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, both Wissenshaft Das Judentums / Masorti Jews from what I can tell. I don't know if you could say Albeck was immersed in the Yeshiva world. Although you and I imagine Shabtai Rappaport know of him, most Bnei Torah in Ponovezh or Chevron do not.

  13. So now you know why you liked this vort so much - שאני מינות דמשכא

    Albeck was certainly Orthodox. I think the association with Heschel does not give the right perspective here. Heschel was his student for Talmud, not Jewish though. By the way, [Hanoch] Albeck's daughter-in-law Pli'a Albeck was the sister of R. Avigdor Neventzal.

    Anyway, I'm quite sure most Yeshiva boys don't know who he is, not to mention saw his books. Yet, this specific vort has long-ago diffused to the MO yeshiva world (at least in Israel), now to Havolim, and in next generation probably to the equivalent of Rav Pinkus shmussen.

    Back to this post: I just saw in shul Rav Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 8:40) allowing sending non-commercial fax (אגרת שלומים) when the recipient fax is located in Shabbos time-zone. There is no much reasoning there, and he doesn't bring up Avsha at all.

    Another point regarding the original issue: some say Avsha only applies when the noise might suggest sopmeone is doing Melacha deOrayso. Modern phone system does not involve any deOrayso as far as I know (arguably even the Chason-Ish would agree there is no Boneh where the circuit is intended to be temporary).

    Since you mentioned discussing the Shabbos-clock issue with R. Moshe: can you explain his Amirah LeAkum idea? [in fact the whole Tshuva is highly puzzling; looks like there is some a-priori פאסט נישט feeling there]

  14. speaking of an unfollowable flow of thought: Albeck מאן דכר שמיה?

    Did I miss something somewhere?

  15. For the Chometz issue, here is a list of Marey-Mekomos [copied from Rav SA Stern]:

    עונג יו"ט סימן לו
    האלף לך שלמה סימן רו
    לבושי מרדכי תנינא או"ח מז
    חסד לאברהם ח"א לה
    ארץ צבי סימן פג
    מקראי קדש פסח סימן נה
    מנחת יצחק ח"ז כה
    אג"מ או"ח צד-צה
    נועם כרך יז
    הגש"פ מועדים וזמנים (מכירת חמץ א)

    two of the above were mentioned earlier here. The consensus seems to be that Me'ikar Hadin the owner place is relevant, not like the Oneg Y"T

  16. Sorry about the Albeck reference. It belongs in the last post, about Sukkos and Chanuka. Unless he has something to say about time zones too.

  17. I've just looked up the מקראי קדש.
    Towards the end he explicitly addresses the question of Shabbos and says it's muttar lechatchila to broadcast on the radio even if this creates electric currents and Hav'ara in the far-away radio receivers where it's Shabbos: "ואין היושב בא"י מוזהר שלא לגרום מלאכה בחו"ל". He too does not address Avsha.

    He does end with מ"מ כל בעל נפש ירחיק מזה but it seems this is only because of the לפני עור or מסייע problem, as the radio listeners abroad probably do that Be'Issur.

    BTW, R. Yosef Cohen (in the footnotes there) brings a nice Ra'ya for the Chometz issue from the Sugya of חיישינן שמא שוה פרוטה במדי as compared to המקדש בחמץ משש שעות ולמעלה אינה מקודשת. If my Chometz is not Assur in the US, isn't it the same as שוה פרוטה במדי? What if I can use the Concorde to actually bring the Chometz to where it is muttar. Does it make a valid Kiddushin?