14. A Jew is forbidden to tell a Gentile (1) on Shabbos, to do anything
that he (the Jew) is forbidden to do himself (2); doing so falls under the
category of rabbinic prohibitions called "Shvus" (3). It is forbidden even
to hint to him to perform such a task. Furthermore, one may not instruct a
Gentile before Shabbos, to perform a certain task on Shabbos (4).
Similarly, on Shabbos, one may not instruct a Gentile to perform a
forbidden task after Shabbos. This, however, is not considered a "shvus"
prohibition, since the melacha is being performed after Shabbos. Rather,
the prohibition stems from the verse "and you will honor it by
not...pursuing your affairs" (Isaiah 58:13). Accordingly, if the matter
concerns a mitzvah, it is permitted.
(1) Gentiles are not obligated to observe the laws of Shabbos, but a Jew
is forbidden to ask a Gentile to work on his behalf.
(2) There are three different reasons given by the Rishonim (early Talmudic
authorities) as to why the Sages created this prohibition:
a) So that Jews will not take the prohibitions of Shabbos lightly, and end
up violating the Shabbos themselves (Rambam, Laws of Shabbos, 6:1)
b) Instructing a Gentile on Shabbos itself to perform a Melacha would be a
violation of the Rabbinic restriction, based on a verse in Isaiah (58:13),
which forbids the discussion, on Shabbos itself, of any prohibited activity
(See HY 90:4).
c) In Jewish law, one's agent is the equivalent of oneself (except when the
agent is committing a crime). The Sages extended this concept to include a
case of a Jew enlisting a Gentile to perform Melacha for him on Shabbos,
making it tantamount to the Jew doing the Melacha himself.
All three reasons have been accepted by Halachic authorities and must be
applied to each case. Therefore, one may not ask a Gentile on Shabbos, or
even during the week to perform a Melacha for him on Shabbos. Applying
reason (b), one may not even ask a Gentile on Shabbos to perform a Melacha
for him after Shabbos.
(3) This includes a whole range of activities which are not considred
"melacha" (Biblically prohibited creative activity) but which nevertheless
were prohibited by the Sages either because they are similar to a
particular melacha or because they might lead to the inadvertent
performance of a melacha.
(4) There are certain exceptions to this rule, as is evident from the
widespread use of a "Shabbos Goy." Some of these exceptions will be dealt
with in this chapter, so please wait until the end of the chapter before
sending your questions.