“However, most probably, in my view, they only forbade this if the Jew told the gentile to go with him. But if the gentile is going of his own volition, the Jew is permitted to benefit from his lit candle since we say that the gentile lit it for his own need as it is not evident that he is pursuing this route specifically to accompany the Jew. The Jew can benefit as long as we have no reason to suspect that the gentile will add more oil for the Jew’s benefit.
“This is similar to a gentile who rides in an elevator with a Jew without the Jew asking him to do so. Since we see that the gentile is using it [for his own benefit], riding with him is permitted.
“I am aware that one must be very careful regarding this leniency. However, there are buildings with three or four stories or more, and not everyone is able to go up or down the stairs by foot. A person is not expected to be stuck in his house for the entire Shabbat day. And what is a Jew to do if he is in an [apartment building] that is inhabited by a majority of Jews and it is not always possible to find a gentile who wishes to go up [for his own purpose]? In cases of necessity like this, I find reason to lean toward leniency [even when the gentile is acting on behalf of the Jew] because the gentile is [also] using the elevator himself. We [therefore] opt to say that he is riding it for his own need and a Jew may benefit from his labor.”
Regarding a Shabbos elevator – one that automatically stops on every floor – my uncle, Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l (Responsa of Modern Judaism, vol. I, p.71), notes authorities who permit its use (see the responsum of the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Responsa Ivra 19:2). Certainly, the elevator keypad controls must be completely disabled and the doors must remain open at each floor long enough to allow one to safely embark and disembark. Many of the authorities who permit using Shabbos elevators do so only for the elderly who find it difficult to climb numerous flights of stairs. (From Rabbi Henkin’s responsum, however, it seems that if the Shabbos elevator is properly equipped, one may use it on Shabbat regardless of one’s age.)
(To be continued)Rabbi Yaakov Klass
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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