- Question: [Sunday, 24th Tishreiy, 5784]
Due to the major terrorist attacks and barrage of missiles that have occurred throughout in Israel over Shabbos I am receiving WhatsApp messages from relatives in the USA who are worried sick and asking as to my well-being and as to that of my family. It is no longer Shabbos here in Israel although I have yet to answer them as it is still Shabbos by them. What should I do? If I don’t answer them they will continue sending messages and be worried sick.
Although in general one should not send a WhatsApp message to a non-observant Jew when it is still Shabbos in their area; in this scenario, you may do so for the sake of calming down the relative and prevent them from continuing to desecrate Shabbos in attempts to contact you.
Explanation: While it is forbidden to call a Jew in the United States while it is still Shabbos for him, even though Shabbos is already over for you in Israel, this is because it is forbidden for one to cause another Jew to transgress Shabbos and not because it is consider that you are doing work in a Shabbos prohibited time zone and location. Accordingly, sending an email and message to a nonobservance Jew on Shabbos may be more lenient than a phone call, being that one is not imposing on the individual to open the email and message on Shabbos and he can open it after Shabbos if he wishes, hence it not being a clear prohibition of Lifnei Iver. Nonetheless, in general, one should be stringent even in this. This certainly applies if one knows for certain that the individual will open the message right away and hence desecrate Shabbos due to one’s sending it at a time that it is Shabbos for them, in which case it most certainly that one would enter the prohibition of Lifnei Iver or Misayeiah.
Nonetheless, in the above case in which we are dealing with a time of war in which relatives are worried sick, there is room to be lenient. This is due to three joint reasons: 1) the health of the inquiring relative may be affected due to his fear and panic of the unknown, and hence it may be permitted on this ground alone for him to do a rabbinical prohibition with an irregularity [as we rule by a Choleh Sheiyn Bo Sakana], such as viewing the message of an already turned on phone for the sake of finding out of the well-being of his relative and calming himself down. 2) being that it is possible that the relative can try to help the individual if he is in a situation of danger, it therefore may not be considered a desecration of Shabbos for him at all to inquire as to your well-being. 3) by informing the relative he will stop inquiring and you’ll hence save him from future desecration of Shabbos. A similar allowance is recorded in the Poskim regarding informing a Hatzalah member that he is no longer needed for an emergency call that he will otherwise travel to, if you can inform him without biblically desecrating Shabbos. In such a case some Poskim allow one to rabbinically desecrate Shabbos in order to inform the paramedic that he is no longer needed in order to save him from desecrating Shabbos unnecessarily. Now, in this scenario in which it is not Shabbos for the person who is informing the nonobservance relative, perhaps even the dissenting Poskim would agree that one may do so in order to stop them from further desecrating Shabbos.
Sources: See Nishmas Avraham 338:1; SSH”K 40:85; Shevet Halevi 8:193; Kinyan Torah 3:41; Minchas Asher 1:22; Vayaan David 3:22; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:33