The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
For six days work may be done and the seventh day is a day ofcomplete rest (31:15)
SNOW REMOVAL CONTRACT: A FOLLOW-UP
A recent column (Parashas Yisro, 5759) dealt with the
complicated issue of amirah la'kum in regard to snow removal
contracts. The question was: Is it permitted to sign a snow
removal contract, since one's driveway will be plowed on Shabbos
if snow accumulates as per the terms of the contract? After
examining the issue from all angles, we concluded that it is no
simple matter to permit such an arrangement. A suggested
loophole for allowing this type of contract was for the Jew to
instruct the non-Jew to "clear the driveway" without stating
explicitly that it be plowed. This was based on a ruling of the
Taz who permits instructing a non-Jew to wash dishes even though
the non-Jew will light a candle in order to see. We concluded,
however, that there is a basic difference between the two cases.
In the Taz's case, washing dishes is clearly permissible on
Shabbos. Indeed, when the maid is actually washing the dishes
she is performing no forbidden Shabbos Labor. It is only when
preparing to wash the dishes by lighting the candle that a
prohibited Labor is performed. But in the case of snow removal,
the actual removal of the snow is accomplished by means of a
forbidden Labor, driving a snow plow. The Jew is benefiting
directly from the prohibited Labor performed by the non-Jew, and
it is as if the Jew is instructing the non-Jew to use the plow
for the snow removal.
However, there are poskim who maintain that even in this case,
where the instructions will result in a prohibited labor being
performed by a non-Jew, it is still not considered amirah la'kum
because it was not specified that the driveway be plowed. The
non-Jew could, theoretically, "clear the driveway" with a shovel
and not transgress any Shabbos Labor. Plowing the driveway is
his choice and to his benefit (for plowing is easier and quicker
than shoveling). Instructions which, at the non-Jew's
discretion, may or may not entail performing Shabbos Labors, are
not considered amirah la'kum.
There are three cases discussed by the poskim which form the
basis for this approach:
It is permitted to instruct a non-Jew to "clean the floor," even
though he will use a mop and do so in a prohibited manner
(transgressing the Labor of Squeezing). This is because it is
possible for him to "clean the floor" in a permissible manner -
by pouring water on the floor and then pushing it aside(1). He
is performing forbidden Shabbos Labors only in order to make it
easier for himself. This is not amirah la'kum(2).
Using makeup remover on Shabbos may be prohibited because of the
prohibition of Smoothing, memareiach. It is permitted, though,
to instruct a non-Jew to "cleanse my face" even though the
non-Jew will use makeup remover to do so. This is permitted
because the face can be cleansed by scrubbing it with water,
which is permitted. The decision to use makeup remover rather
than water is made by the non-Jew, for his benefit, and it is
not based on the instructions of the Jew(3).
It is permissible to instruct a non-Jew to wash dishes even
though he will use a dishwasher for that purpose. This is
because the dishes can be washed on Shabbos in a halachically
permissible fashion, and using the dishwasher benefits the
non-Jew by making his job quicker and easier(4).
In all of the cases cited above, the Jew's orders, which could
be filled in a permissible manner, will actually be filled in a
prohibited manner. Still, it is apparent that the poskim were
lenient and did not view this as amirah la'kum. Accordingly, if
a Jew instructs a non-Jew to "clear the driveway," something
which could be done in a permissible manner with a shovel, then
the non-Jew may use his truck to accomplish the task more
efficiently. The fact that the job is actually being done in a
forbidden manner seems to make no difference.
What still needs to be clarified is the issue of maris ayin. It
is prohibited to allow a non-Jew to do work on the premises of a
Jew even if no specific amirah took place, because it appears as
if the Jew instructed him to do the job on Shabbos and thus
violated the prohibition of amirah la'kum. Whenever it is
prohibited to give orders, it is also prohibited to allow the
work to be done, since it appears as if an order was given. The
poskim clearly forbid such activities as allowing a non-Jew to
build on Jewish property on Shabbos(5), to do laundry on his
premises(6), or to remove debris from his yard7. According to
many poskim, these activities are prohibited whether or not they
are generally performed by day laborers or by contractors(8),
since it may appear as if the non-Jew was specifically
instructed to do the work on Shabbos(9).
But it is questionable whether maris ayin would apply in our
case. Once we have established that the order to "clear the
driveway" does not constitute amirah la'kum, we are not
concerned that it may appear as if a prohibited order was given.
This is apparent from the Taz himself, who was not concerned
with maris ayin when he permitted instructing the maid to wash
the dishes. The other poskim mentioned above followed the same
logic in their respective cases and were not concerned with the
fact that it appears as if prohibited instructions were given.
It seems from their rulings that maris ayin is not a problem.
The explanation for this view could be as follows: Maris ayin
is only prohibited if there is a clear-cut command to do a
prohibited Labor. In that case, even if the non-Jew is
specifically instructed not to perform the Labor on Shabbos, we
still do not allow him to perform a Labor on our premises since
it appears as if he was instructed to perform it on Shabbos, a
violation of amirah la'kum. If, however, there was no explicit
command to perform a prohibited Labor, we are not concerned that
others will think that instructions to perform a prohibited
Labor were given. Maris ayin, then, will not be a concern(10).
Since, as mentioned before, there is a permissible way of
instructing the non-Jew to clear the driveway, we need not be
concerned with the appearance of amirah la'kum, since it is
likely that the non-Jew was told "clear my driveway" or "do my
driveway", a permissible wording. It is not similar to building,
doing laundry or removing debris(11), since all of those tasks
can be accomplished only in a prohibited manner. Anyone who sees
a non-Jew performing those Labors on Shabbos for a Jew may
assume that the non-Jew was instructed to perform them on
Conclusion: After all is said and done, we must still conclude
that it is no simple matter to sign a snow removal contract that
allows for one's driveway being plowed on Sahbbos. Although it
seems from the poskim that the Taz's leniency applies in our
case as well, there are still some unresolved issues which
cannot be decided here(12). A question as complex as this should
be presented to an halachic authority for a decision.
1. Although there is no permissible method for a Jew to wash a
floor on Shabbos, see O.C. 337:4, there are permissible ways for
a non-Jew to do so; see Rama 337:2 and Mishnah Berurah 10.
2. Birkei Yosef O.C. 333:2, quoted in Kaf ha-Chayim 337:21. Harav
M. Feinstein is also quoted (The Sanctity of Shabbos, pg. 93) as
3. Igros Moshe O.C. 2:79.
4. Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 30:23. See Kol ha-Torah # 42, pg.
255 where Harav Y.Y. Neuwirth amends that if the noise of the
dishwasher is heard by others it may be prohibited because of
zilzul Shabbos. Harav M. Feinstein is also quoted (The Sanctity
of Shabbos, pg. 89) as prohibiting usage of a dish washer
because of zilzul Shabbos.
5. O.C. 244:1
6. O.C. 252:2.
7. Mishnah Berurah 244:13.
8. A contractor is a worker whose responsibilities to his
employer are job- related, not time-related. He is paid is for
the job, which he can do whenever he pleases. It is permitted to
contract with a non-Jew to do a specific job even if the Jew is
aware that the job will be done on Shabbos, so long as two
conditions are met: 1) The non-Jew is given enough time to do
the job so that he does not have to work on Shabbos; 2) The job
is not done on the Jew's premises on Shabbos, thus avoiding the
problem of maris ayin.
9. Mishnah Berurah 252:17 quoting Chayei Adam. There are poskim
(see Maharam Shick O.C. 95, 97 and Teshuvos M'harshag 1:41) who
maintain that the prohibition of maris ayin applies only to jobs
which are sometimes done on a contractual basis and sometimes
not (like snow removal, which may also be a one-time deal). But
jobs which are generally done on a contractual basis only are
permitted to be done even on a Jew's property on Shabbos. We are
not concerned that it appears as if the non-Jew was instructed
to do the job on Shabbos, since it is well known that these
types of jobs are commissioned on long-term contracts where
there is no specific order to work on Shabbos.
10. A somewhat similar idea is found in Igros Moshe E.H. 2:12 who
wonders why there is no prohibition of maris ayin to shave,
since it may appear as if a razor was used. He answers that
maris ayin applies only when there is a reasonable chance that
an aveira was done. Since, however, everyone knows that there
are permissible ways to shave, one need not worry that he will
be suspected of shaving in a forbidden way, since a permissible
way is easily available. For the same reason a woman may wear a
wig [which looks like her hair] and not worry that others will
suspect that her hair is showing.
11. See Nishmas Adam 44:1 who explains that removing certain
kinds of debris is a Biblical prohibition.
12. One unresolved issue is whether it is actually permitted to
clear the driveway with a shovel on Shabbos; see O.C. 333:1. If
it is not, then the Taz's leniency will not apply in our case.
[Bear in mind that when no eiruv exists, it is surely prohibited
to clear the driveway, even with a shovel.]