Tammuz 5770 – Email Sent On Shabbos By A Non-Religious Jew

Tammuz 5770
Email Sent on Shabbos by a non-Religious Jew
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Lichvod Rabbi Tendler,

Am I allowed to respond to an email that was sent to me on Shabbos by a non religous Jew?

Thank you!

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Thank you for a very intriguing and interesting question.

In a situation where Melacha has been done by one Jew on behalf of another Jew, it will be forbidden to benefit from the Melacha even after Shabbos only if the following three conditions are met:

1. The Melacha that was done is considered a Melacha D’Oraysoh according to all opinions (see the Mishna Berura Siman 318:2).

2. The Melacha was done intentionally, despite the fact that the person who did it knew it was wrong.

3. There is an actual tangible benefit to the person for whom this was done (e.g. food was cooked for him/her on Shabbos, and by eating it they are benefiting from Melacha that was done on their behalf.)

In the case of an e-mail that was sent to you on Shabbos, in most cases none of the above conditions have been met. The act of sending an e-mail is not clearly an Issur D’Oraysoh in of itself. The probability is that the person who sent it did not realize they were doing something wrong. And finally, reading and responding to an e-mail is not necessarily a tangible benefit- it may be something that you have no benefit from (e.g. a bad joke, or a request for assistance) or may be something that you don’t appreciate at all (e.g. a bill).

Therefore, it would be permitted to respond to an e-mail sent to you on Shabbos, even if you know it has come from a non-religious Jew.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler