Friday, January 29, 2010

Bundle Up

The Gemora states that catching a cold or heat related illness is considered a negligent illness. The Gemora teaches us that “everything is in the hands of heaven except for heat and cold.”

Tosfos explain that all mishaps and occurrences that happen (in contrast to misfortunes that we actively bring to ourselves, for example jumping into a raging ocean) in our life, is not a random act attributed to queer and meaningless fate. Rather, everything that occurs in our lives, whether big or small, is directly caused by G-d. There is one exception to this Law of Occurrences - illnesses that are caused by heat or cold. This is exclusively in man's department.

There is an interesting difference between the two. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim Siman 276 Seif 5) rules that in cold places, it is permitted to tell a non-Jew on Shabbos to make a fire (or in today’s vernacular - turn on the heater) for the little children (because for them, it’s cold, even in weather where the adults are comfortable). Once there is a fire, everyone is allowed to benefit from it. However, the Taz and others add that one may not sit close to the fire out of concern that one might momentarily forget and make the fire larger. In a place where it’s extremely cold, one may tell a non-Jew to light a fire (even for adults). The reason for this is, as the Shulchan Aruch puts it, “Everyone is considered ill in regard to the cold.” The ill here refers to the category of “an ill person that is not in danger,” and therefore, we are not allowed to make a fire, but a non-Jew can, because a non-Jew may be specifically asked to perform forbidden labor when there is an ill person, without the hints that usually must accompany an “Amirah Li’akum” (telling a non-Jew to do a melachah on Shabbos).

Similarly, in a case where the air conditioner is on, and it is very cold, one may ask a non-Jew to turn it off. However, if it is very hot, there is no such concept of “Everyone is considered ill in regard to heat.” Although some (Minchas Yitzchak and others) permit to ask a non-Jew to turn on an air conditioner for different reasons, Reb Moishe Feinstein forbade it (Igros Moshe Yoreh De'ah Chelek 3 Shaila 47 Ois 2).