Why isn't it a sin for Orthodox Jews to ask non-Jews to turn on lights?

My family, Christians, have on occasion been asked by orthodox Jewish neighbors to turn on/off their lights, stoves and other mechanical devices. We are happy to comply as we like our neighbors.

However, if it is a sin for Jews to perform these functions, is it not a sin for them to persuade other persons to commit a transgression? For example, if I inveigle another person to commit a robbery for my benefit, am I not as culpable as the actual thief? Therefore, aren’t the people who ask me to sin in their stead also also sinning?

Please refrain from anti-Semitic posts here. I’m just trying to come to an understanding of the Jewish vs the Christian concepts of sin and why, if it’s not okay for them to do something, it is okay, in their view, for me to do it.

Now I was raised a Jew. But I don’t practice and I am - at best - a terrible one.

But I do know rules lawyers. It’s not a sin, it’s just outside the bounds. No one said a non-Jew couldn’t do it, so it’s OK. the rule simply states that a Jew can’t use such gear. God’s cool with it because the covenant doesn’t cover non-Jews. Since they’re not bound by it, asking them to do so is A-OK.

Not unlike the Amish up in Pennsylvania. They might not be able to drive cars, but they can take buses to get where they want to go.

god’s rules are full of loop holes

Yeah you’re not committing a sin. Unless you live by a set of rules that say you shouldn’t do the stuff either.

The contract is between Jews and God, not everyone and God.

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the rules fundamentally serve to spiritually ground Jewish people and remind them who’s the boss. It’s not the rule itself that’s so important. It’s the intent behind the rule. It can be argued that utilizing a shabbos goy is okay since the extra effort in flagging someone down essentially acts as the nod of respect intended by the regulations.

And this make sense to me, in an insane-in-the-membrane kind of way. It’s relatively easy to do something privately, never questioning it since it’s tradition and this is how it’s always been done. But actively soliciting the help of an outsider requires you to constantly justify to yourself why what you’re doing makes sense. It requires having some guts and conviction.

it’s not a sin for a non-Jew, because a non-jew is not bound by Jewish law via the covenant. Jews have, to some degree, a contractual relationship with G-d – they made an agreement and it doesn’t bind non-signatories. Other peoples were offered the covenant, and didn’t take it, and that’s fine for them. Non-jews simply have no obligation to obey the 613 mitzvot (“commandments”/“beneficial actions”) but rather, only the Noahide commandments.

Jews don’t believe that failure to be Jewish is a source of sin – there’s nothing wrong with not being Jewish.

This might help:
http://www.jewfaq.org/gentiles.htm

And yet voice-activated devices are not allowed. But the devices are not Jewish and therefore not bound by the Covenant …

It would seem that telling a person do something directly forbidden is more wrong than telling a device.

Are they asking them beforehand - not on Shabbat, but before it? If so, this is allowed. If they are asking them on Shabbat to turn on the light for them, that is pointless, since it is as forbidden to ask to turn on the light as it is to turn on the light yourself.

As for your statement of: “is it not a sin for them to persuade other persons to commit a transgression”? It is a “sin” (I wouldn’t use that word, it is just not allowed) for Jews to turn the lights on/off on Shabbat. It is allowed for non-Jews to do so. So they are not persuading your relatives to commit a transgression.

Hmm, I thought the halacha was that you are actually not allowed to ask a non-Jew directly to do a melacha and instead need to hint, unless it’s a situation creating possible danger. Such as, “It’s pretty dark in this room,” instead of “Hey, Non-Jewish Neighbor, can you turn on the lights?”

Here’s a rather lengthy article by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff on the subject.

It certainly is a sin for an Orthodox Jew to ask a non-Jew to turn on a light on the Sabbath, excepting certain circumstances. The reasons behind why those circumstances are valid exceptions are complex, so I won’t go into them here, but your initial instinctual reasoning is correct.

During the Yom Kippur war (1973), I was in the Student Union building when approached by a Jewish friend asking me to tune a radio in one of the lounges to a specific (news) channel.
She had somehow heard of the war, but had to run the 1/2 mile from her home to a public place to get someone to turn on and tune a radio for her.

Wasn’t she still violating the “no fire on holy days” (or whichever) rule? Had she asked the day before, she would have been cool, right?

Orthodox Judaism is basically 5000 years of continuous rules-lawyering. It’s what they do.

I remember reading in Richard Feynman’s autobiography about when he was approached by some Orthodox Jewish students who wanted to know if electricity was analogous with fire: as a physicist he at first treated the question seriously, until he realised with disgust that they only wanted to play semantic games to fuel a debate about whether a Jew could justify turning on a light on the Sabbath. So he left them to it

Damn straight. You’d think more of us would be into D&D.

My uncle grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. he made a lot of money lighting fires and turning on stuff for the Jewish neighbors.
To me, it seems strange-you are commanded to do no work-but you circumvent the law. That doesn’t seem right.

Would rolling dice and adjudicating combat count as “work”?

Edit: What about clapper lights?

I read that Rabbi’s linked article, all ready to scoff and think,“How fucking ridiculous is all this? Just turn on the fucking light, already.” But I ended up finding the whole thing kind of…beautiful in its own way. Hm.

ETA: Yeah, monstro, I see what you mean. It DOES make sense in a weird way.

I read your comment and thought “yeah, I’ll read it then.” And it’s even dumber than I would have imagined. I don’t see how it makes any sense. It’s not even trying to trick god. It’s trying to trick themselves. And doing a really poor job of it, I might add.

I lived with a non-orthodox Jewish guy for about a year and it was hysterical - I ended up making a fair amount of money cooking and doing stuff like turning off and on lights, turning stoves off and on, occasionally picking up forgotten ingredients at the store for neighbors. The hinting that went on for doing stuff that wasn’t prearranged was fun - You know, some coffee-mate would be absolutely lovely in this coffee, it would go so much better with some Entemanns coffee cake too … :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah. That is what I thought too, Cerealbox. And it’s true, because we I don’t believe in god, the shit seems dumb as hell to me at first glance. But when I really try to see it from their view, it is kind of elegant. I wish I could explain better, but I just can’t. There is a certain loveliness about seeing someone make an earnest effort to keep a set of laws that are there for the sole purpose of keeping your word. You don’t go to heaven or stay out of hell or anything for going to these extremes, you just get the satisfaction of knowing you kept your word with god, albeit with some slick shit in the mix. I don’t know. I get it.