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For the week ending 2 February 2013 / 21 Shevat 5773

Shabbat 121 - 127

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • Non-Jew or Jewish minor extinguishing a fire for us
  • Covering excrement and killing dangerous creatures
  • Benefiting from the creative work of a non-Jew
  • The laws of muktzah objects that may not be handled
  • When fragments of a vessel or an oven may be handled
  • A stone in a water bucket or covering a barrel
  • Shuttering a window
  • Exerting to remove things to make room for guests and students
  • The importance of hospitality
  • A reward in both worlds
  • Judging others favorably
  • What may be moved to make room

For the Honor of Shabbat

  • Shabbat 121a

When a fire broke out on Shabbat in the home of Yosef ben-Simai, the non-Jewish government officials in Tzipori rushed to extinguish it because he was in charge of the kings finances. He did not allow them to do so because of the honor of Shabbat. Then a miracle happened! It suddenly began to rain and the fire went out. When Shabbat was over he sent a generous reward to each of the men who had come to put out the fire and a lavish reward to their leader.

When word of Yosefs refusal to allow the non-Jews to put out the fire came to the attention of the Sages, they said that it had not been necessary for him to prevent them from extinguishing the fire even though it had been forbidden for him to do so himself. They cited the Mishna which states that if a non-Jew comes to extinguish a fire on Shabbat, one must not ask him to do so but neither must he tell him not to do so.

The question arises, however, as to why Yosef insisted on not taking advantage of his right to be passive while the non-Jews put out the fire. The answer, explains Maharsha, lies in the words "because of the honor of Shabbat". No mention is made that his action was prompted by his mistakenly assuming that a violation of Shabbat would occur if he remained silent. What motivated him was his concern that other Jews might suspect that he had actually asked those non-Jews to extinguish the fire.

Even though the halacha does not demand that a Jew be concerned about such a possibility, this did concern our hero because such an impression would be an affront to the honor of Shabbat.

What the Sages Say

"One who judges another favorably will be judged favorably by Heaven."

  • The Sages in a Beraita

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