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Ask the Rabbi #25

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Ask the Rabbi

June 11, 1994; Issue #25

This issue is sponsored by El Al - Israel National Airlines

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  • Isn't there something wrong with sending mail (snail-mail) on Fridays?
  • What is Olam Haba?
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
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  • Isn't there something wrong with sending mail (snail-mail) on Fridays?

    Josh from Chicago asked:

    Dear Rabbi,

    I was told that even in the USA one should not mail letters on Fridays because he is causing a non-Jew to work for you on Shabbat, which is forbidden. It makes sense to me, but I know a lot of my Orthodox friends mail their letters on Fridays. Are they breaking the (Torah) law?

    Thank you,

    Dear Josh,

    According to Jewish Law one is allowed to mail a letter on Friday for delivery by a non-Jewish mailman. The reason: Since he is not specifically asked or required to deliver it on Shabbat, you are not asking him to work for you on Shabbat. He would be like any other contracted-worker, with whom it is permitted to do business on Fridays. It's permitted to mail the letter even if the mailman tells you he will deliver it on Shabbat, because it was his choice to deliver it then, and not per your request.

    "Special Delivery" or a telegram is a different story. In this case you are requesting delivery on Shabbat, and it would therefore be forbidden. However, there are ways to send these messages in the case of an emergency -- in such a case consult your LOR (Local Orthodox Rabbi).

    In a future edition of this column I intend to deal with the related topic of sending E-mail that is "delivered" on Shabbat.

    • Sources:
    • Shulchan Aruch - Orach Chaim, 247:1.
    • Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagen - Mishna Brura, Orach Chaim, 247:a,c,d.
    • Rabbi Yeshaya Neuwirth - Shmirath Shabbath Kehilchata, 31:20-21.

    What is Olam Haba?

    Aaron Tapper from Johns Hopkins University wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    What is Olam Haba?

    Dear Aaron,

    Literally, the phrase "Olam Haba" means the "World to Come." Western Society understands the "after-life" as two different places: "Heaven" and "Hell." Heaven is where people are rewarded after life, and Hell is where they are punished. However, Judaism does not accept this idea of two different places. Rather, there is one Olam Haba. Its nature, however, depends on one's manner of conduct in this world.

    A powerful, yet cryptic description of Olam Haba is found in the writings of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin:

    "The actions themselves of the person constitute the reward in Olam Haba. After the soul departs from the body it rises to take pleasure and satisfaction with the light, energy, and worlds of Kedusha (Holiness) that have been added and multiplied by his good actions. This is what the Sages meant when they said that "All of Israel have a portion TO the World-to-Come [We translate it as IN the World-to-Come, but the literal translation is TO the World-to-Come] and not IN the World-to-Come. "IN" implies that Olam Haba is ready and waiting from the time of Creation, as if it where something with a separate existence, and if man warrants he will receive a portion of it for his reward [like a piece of candy waiting in G-d's pocket to be given to whoever deserves it]. In truth, Olam Haba is [made up of] the actions of the person, which he expanded and added and perfected into a place for himself [to dwell]....and so it is with the punishment of Gehenam, the sin itself is his punishment [it becomes the "space" that he will occupy during the time of his "reward"].

    As you can see, this is a very complex subject; too complex to deal with in such a short column. I advise you to study the following source texts for a better understanding of this fundamental topic.


    • Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan - The Handbook of Jewish Thought, Moznaim Publishing Corporation, edited by Abraham Sutton, 23:11-19.
    • Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin - Nefesh HaChaim 1:12.
    • Rabbi Y.M. Tucazinsky - Gesher HaChaim (The Bridge of Life).

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