New Sefer on Rav Shulchan Aruch

By BJLIfe/Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Posted on 02/16/18

The Rav Shulchan Aruch, written by Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Lubavitch, has always been a favorite Acharon of various Gedolim and Poskim.  The reason for this is that there are entire gems and nuggets of Torah thought that can be revealed in the Rav Shulchan Aruch’s re-statement of a halachic topic.

Now, for the first time, these remarkable nuggets have been gathered and examined by a brilliant Talmid Chochom in an aptly named new sefer entitled, “Yesodei HaShulchan v’Zikukei Orosav.”  There are 693 pages in this Sefer.

This Halacha Sefer, written by Rav Shmuel Zaiontz, is concerned mostly with understanding the Rav Shulchan Aruch’s (the Graz) positions on the laws of Amira L’Akum.  It is a remarkably well written sefer that is unique in that the author attempts to unfold the latent processes of reasoning of the Graz in his many halachic positions.   There are 101 simanim which deal with a number of fascinating halachic issues at great depth.   The author is familiar with the vast oeuvre of the halachic literature pertaining to the subject – from the Rishonim to the Acharonim and from Sephardic to Litvish to Chassidic Poskim.

There is also a very detailed treatment of Schirus (loosely translated as daily worker) and Kablonus (loosely translated as independent contractor).  Often there is a fine line between these two halachic concepts.

Anyone studying Hilchos Amirah L’Akum, Schirus and Kablanus in depth should get hold of this sefer.


As an introduction, there are three reasons cited in the Rishonim as to why the Sages forbade us from asking a gentile to perform work for us on Shabbos.

One reason, provided by the Rambam, is that we might come to treat Shabbos lightly and do the Malacha by ourselves. Another reason, provided by Rashi, is based on a verse in the Navi that our very speech has to be different on Shabbos. A third explanation, also given by Rashi, is that the Sages treated it as if the person performing the melachah, the forbidden act, were our direct messenger. We, the Litvish world, rule in accordance with all three of these reasons.


A central thesis that runs through the Sefer is that the issue of “direct messenger” is actually alluded to in the Pasuk in the Torah of “Lo ye’aseh” – it should not be done.  This alludes to the notion that it should not be performed by others – i.e. gentiles.

The fact that this Pasuk plays such a strong role in the halacha – leads to answers as to why Chazal did not allow Amirah L’Akum on a Deoraisah prohibition for the performance of a Mitzvah (or for three other cases as we shall soon see).  Rav Zaiontz explains that this prohibition is more stringent than others by virtue of the fact that the “Lo ye’aseh” allusion is actually a Pasuk.  The Rav Shulchan Aruch gives much greater credence to this reason than to the other two.  Rav Zaiontz elaborates on this on page 676 of his Sefer.


As an aside, for Litvish Jews, there are four heterim to allow Amira l’Akum for derabanan violations.  The first is “hefsed merubah”—a substantial monetary loss. Under these circumstances, one may ask a gentile to perform a rabbinic prohibition, but not a Biblical prohibition.   Rav Zaiontz’s thesis explains why this is – very neatly.

For the needs of a mitzvah, we may ask a non-Jew to perform acts which we are not allowed to perform due to rabbinic decree but also not a deoraisa. For example, if one forgot to purchase challah for Shabbos lunch, one may ask a gentile to go to a supermarket and purchase a challah; purchasing on Shabbos is a rabbinic prohibition.

Another leniency is “kavod ha’berios”—human dignity. One may ask a gentile to perform a rabbinically prohibited act on Shabbos if it is necessary for maintaining human dignity.  Examples of this are embarrassment, such as when one has ripped or soiled clothing.  Thus, a gentile may be asked to violate what would normally be a Rabbinic prohibition in order to save someone from embarrassment.  This would not apply to a deoraisah.

One may also do so for “tzaar”—to alleviate suffering, considerable pain, or even for Miktzas Choli – a slight illness.  Dayan Weiss (Minchas Yitzchok Vol. III #23) gives an example:  If it is extremely hot in the house or the shul, one may ask a non-Jew to turn on the air conditioner, since there is suffering. Turning on an air conditioner is a rabbinic prohibition according to most authorities.  But we now understand why Chazal limited the leniency to only Derabanan violations.

In the first Siman, the author explores the Graz’ position regarding asking a gentile to perform other prohibitions – aside from Shabbos. He cites the Gemorah BM 90a which is inconclusive, a debate among the Rishonim about it and that there are conflicting passages throughout Shulchan Aruch.  Rav Zaiontz cites the Graz’s stringent position but nonetheless proves that the Graz holds that on Shabbos – it is more stringent.   Although one can argue that this is clear from the fact that the Gemorah clearly forbids Shabbos and is inconclusive regarding the other prohibitions – Rav Zaiontz explains that the direct messenger reason applies exclusively to Shabbos.  He applies the Rambam’s reason for the other prohibition.


In Siman 7, Rav Zaiontz deals with the issue of which is more stringent – violating Amira L’Akum or violating Shabbos through a Grama.  Rav Zaiontz does a thorough analysis of the topic and applies it to both Derabanan violations and Torah ones.  His conclusion is that for biblical Mitzvos Grama is worth, but not for Rabbini violations.


In Siman 8, Rav Zaiontz addresses the issue of one who had accepted Shabbos early and wants someone who had not accepted Shabbos yet to do some Malacha.  Rav Zaiontz cites the Graz’s lenient position and explains it based upon Rishonim who discuss the parameters of the intention of someone ho accepted Shabbos early.


In Siman 80, Rav Zaiontz discusses whether or not there is a similar prohibition of Amirah L’Behaima – asking a pet, for example to perform a Malacha. He cites Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Ohr L’Tzion V. I #23) who proves from a Gemorah in Shabbos (19a) that there is such a prohibition – from the fact that the Gemorah did not give a simpler answer to a question regarding dogs.  Rav Zaiontz then asks a question that Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein Shlita asks on Rav Abba Shaul that the Gemorah was speaking about a case where the owner owned the dog.  He then explains that it is quite possible that Chazal did not expand the prohibition to include pets because animals are already covered under a different Shabbos prohibition.


There is no question that this Sefer is a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the Rav Shulchan Aruch’s views.  The Sefer provides a roadmap to the sugyos throughout the Rishonim and Acharonim.  Rav Zaiontz has managed to unfold and elucidate the GRaZ’s views in a remarkable way.

The reviewer can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com