Benefitting From Chillul Shabbat
Many living on the east coast ask about their watching on Motzaei Shabbat, a baseball game being played on Shabbat on the West Coast. The problem is that the game’s announcer is Jewish and is regrettably violating Shabbat. Since the Halacha forbids benefitting from a Jew’s violation of Shabbat, the question is whether we define hearing the announcer as benefitting from Shabbat violation.
Halacha vs. Hashkafa
Technically, one can argue that only on Shabbat are we forbidden to benefit from another Jew’s Chillul Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 318:1). However, on Motzaei Shabbat, we are not prohibited from benefiting from work done by a Jew on Shabbat. Moreover, the Jew will violate Shabbat regardless of whether religious Jews watch the game. Thus, viewers do not break Lifnei Iveir Lo Titein Michshlol (Vayikra 19:14), the prohibition to cause another to sin. Finally, one might not be formally defined as benefitting from Chillul Shabbat just by listening to the announcer’s voice.
Nonetheless, from a Hashkafic (Torah outlook) perspective, it is horrifying to watch such a game. How can a religious Jew not be pained by seeing his fellow Jew violate Shabbat, the Ot (sign) of the Brit Olam, the eternal covenant between Hashem and our people?!
Jews Care About Each Other
It is a fundamentally important point for us to be profoundly concerned about our brethren’s physical and spiritual welfare. If a Jew on one side of the world is in pain, even Jews on the other side should be disturbed by their fellow Jew’s suffering. Even if the Jew lives in great comfort far away from his suffering brother, the empathy must not lessen even a bit.
The Gemara (Menachot 37a) asks whether we define a two-headed person as one or two people. The Shitah Mekubetzet (ad. loc.) cites a Midrash that relates how Shlomo HaMelech resolved such a question that came before his court.
“Shlomo heated water, covered one of the heads, and then poured the scalding water on the other. Both heads screamed in pain. Thereupon, Shlomo ruled, “It can be deduced that both heads have a single source and (the twins) should be deemed a single person.”
Many apply a similar test to determine if we are a united people. The test is if someone pours hot water on the head of one Jew, does the other Jew scream in pain?
Despite living in the comfort and security of the King’s palace, Esther nonetheless risked her life to advocate before Achashverosh on behalf of our people. She told the following to the king after the second time she appeared before him without being summoned (Esther 8:6).
“Ki Eichacha Uchal V’Ra’iti BaRa’ah Asher Yimtza Et Ami, how can I tolerate seeing the sorrow befalling my people, V’Eichacha Uchal V’Ra’iti B’Ovdan Moladti, how can I tolerate seeing the destruction of my people?”
Nechemia similarly lived in the comfort and security of a high-ranking minister to the Persian Emperor Artachshasta. Nonetheless, he told the king (Nechemia 2:3), “How can I not be deeply saddened when the walls of my ancestral capital are consumed by fire?”
Watching a Jew Violate Shabbat
Returning to viewing a Jew violating Shabbat, the religious Jew lives in spiritual comfort as he honors and enjoys Shabbat and its bonding time with our Creator. However, the Jew who violates Shabbat is a Jew in deep spiritual distress. To paraphrase Esther, “How can I not be pained when seeing a fellow Jew destroy his Neshama and sever his connection with Hashem by violating the holy Shabbat.”
How can a Jew with concern for his brother enjoy watching a ballgame when he sees his brother’s Chillul Shabbat? Therefore, I tell those who ask this question that one should not watch such a game.
Rav Ovadia Yosef
On a technical note, Rav Ovadia Yosef (in a letter cited in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chazon Ovadia, Shabbat, ch. 78, footnote 33) rules that one may not watch shows or games that have been played on Shabbat. He writes that since there are most likely Jews producing these items, one will benefit from Melachot performed on Shabbat.
The Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvot, positive Mitzva number 205) notes that some think that if another Jew violates the Torah, it is his problem and none of my concern. However, the Rambam condemns such thinking as the “Hephech HaTorah, the opposite of Torah.” A basic Torah value is Jews’ concern for each other. Accordingly, it is unthinkable to watch a ball game when one sees and hears another Jew violating Shabbat.
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.