Halacha for Wednesday 13 Sivan 5784 June 19 2024

Taking a Taxi on Erev Shabbat

Traveling on Erev Shabbat
The Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 249) states that it is forbidden to set out on a long journey on Friday when one will arrive at one’s destination shortly before the onset of Shabbat, for in this way, one will not be able to adequately prepare for Shabbat.

However, if one is traveling to a place where others are expecting one’s arrival and they will be preparing his Shabbat needs for him, one may even begin a longer trip on Erev Shabbat.

Thus, nowadays, when one travels to places where people expect one’s arrival, such as one traveling to a hotel or to family for Shabbat, one may begin a longer trip on Erev Shabbat, even if one arrives shortly before Shabbat.

How Early Must One Depart
Nevertheless, the Ohr Le’Zion (Volume 2, Chapter 16) quotes Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt”l as having ruled that one must head out at least one hour before Shabbat begins so that even if one has an issue on the way, in general, most issues can be resolved within an hour, and one would still arrive by the time Shabbat begins.

Indeed, the Yalkut Yosef (new edition, Chapter 249, page 349) writes that one must plan one’s trip carefully while taking into consideration any conceivable delays on the way so that one may arrive at one’s destination before Shabbat and not enter doubtful situations of Shabbat desecration, G-d forbid.

Getting Stuck on the Road
It has happened many times that people, even very religious ones, start driving to another city too late on Friday and because of traffic and the like, they were forced to pull over and spend Shabbat on the side of the road, without adequate food and beverage. Sometimes, this endangered the lives of these individuals and other times, they had to call an ambulance to pick up the children. Thus, one must act wisely and leave early enough to avoid such issues. If the family is lagging behind in their preparations, one should pitch in and help out as much as possible in order to avoid tremendous aggravation later.

Outside of Israel where most people work on Fridays until later in the afternoon, there are those who only arrive home shortly before Shabbat begins and this can cause issues of Shabbat desecration or entering Shabbat without showering and while dressed in weekday clothes. There is no question that this poses great disrespect for Shabbat when one arrives home tired and extremely stressed and even before he enters the house, he is rushing to the shower and to run to the synagogue. Our Sages spoke loftily about one who honors Shabbat; surely, part of honoring Shabbat is entering it calmly and deliberately and not in a hurry while bogged down with thoughts of work and business.

Atoning for Shabbat Desecration
The Sefer Petach Ha’Devir, authored by Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Binyamin Pontrimoli zt”l, head of the rabbinical court of Izmir, a question was posed by religiously observant Jews who had left the big city on Friday to spend Shabbat in the village of Bungar because their families were there as a result of a plague that was raging in the city. These individuals took a train to a nearby town and from there, they hired a horse and wagon to take them to Bungar. On the way, the wheel or the wagon broke and as a result, they were forced to remain riding on the wagon with all of their belongings for a half-hour past sunset. They asked the sage what they could do to atone for the sin of Shabbat desecration they had committed.

The Petach Ha’Devir concludes that they must rectify for this with fasts and the like, however, the first thing he instructed them to do was to accept upon themselves not to set out on a journey on Friday less than two and a half hours before Shabbat begins.

Hiring a Taxi
The Ohr Le’Zion writes that it is forbidden to hire a taxi on Friday afternoon to take one to one’s destination when the taxi driver will not have enough time to return home without desecrating Shabbat, for the passenger is causing the driver to desecrate Shabbat. Some mistakenly claim that this is not an issue, for the driver would be desecrating Shabbat anyway, however, this is incorrect, for the driver is now desecrating Shabbat specifically because of the passenger who hired him.

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