Lifnei Iver, when it is permitted

Eduyot (4:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 days ago

The fourth perek lists the debates between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel where the former takes the lenient position. The eighth Mishnah explains that despite their different halachic positions, they would not refrain from marry one another or sharing each other's utensils (despite ruling differently regarding cases of tumah). The Bartenura explains that this was because they would let each other know about cases that the other ruled was prohibited or tameh. The Gemara (Yevamot 14b) explains that their behaviour was motivated by love and friendship.

The comment of the Gemara led the Tifferet Yisrael to understand that were it not for their love for one another, there would have been no need for them to share that, e.g. a vessel was impure according to the other person's opinion. This is despite the fact that when using the vessel or getting married, the other party would be violating a prohibition according to their understanding. In other words, the prohibition of lifnei iver – causing another to sin – does not apply in the case where it is permitted according to the facilitator.

The Ahavat Eitan however argues that no proof can be brought from that statement in the Gemara. When the Gemara comments on their love and friendship it is only related to the fact that they married one another and shared keilim. The sharing of information however is not related to this point and is discussed earlier in the Gemara. The Ahavat Eitan argues that they would have been obligated to warn the other if the other was going to violate a prohibition according to their understanding. Nevertheless, were it not for the affinity they had for each other, they would have kept a distance and not relied on the shared information. The Mordechai (14b) rules accordingly, that one would be obligated to inform that other if they were going to violate a prohibition according to their understanding.

The Meiri agrees that it is indeed forbidden for one to provide another with something that he maintains is forbidden. That being that case, if one is given something by a reliable individual who is aware of their halachic differences, if the provider is silent, he need not be concerned he was give something that he considers forbidden. (See Rama YD 119:7)

The Ritva (14b) however differentiates between two cases. While it is forbidden to enable the other to violate a prohibition (according to their understanding) they need not stop them. Applying this to our Mishnah, were it not for their friendship, one could have violated a prohibition (according to his understanding) by interpreting the silence of the other party – and there would have been nothing wrong with his silence. Yet due to their love, they would prevent the other nonetheless – "what you despise, do not do to your friend". The Ritva cites the Gemara (Chulin 111b) as the source for this ruling.

How do we understand this distinction between permitting standing idly by and prohibiting facilitating the transgression?

The Shach (YD 119:20) explains that it is forbidden due to the prohibition of lifnei iver. The distinction then makes sense, because lifnei iver applies when facilitating a transgression.

The Pri Chadash (O.Ch, 496, minhagei issur ve'heter 23) argues that providing the other with an object that the other maintains is forbidden, does not constitute lifnei iver (consistent with the Tifferet Yisrael above). What then does he do with the above cited Gemara? The Pri Chadash differentiates between where the state of the object is recognisable to the other. If it is, since the provider permits it and the receiver recognises it as a forbidden object, there is no prohibition of lifnei iver. The truth is, where lifnei iver normally applies, whether or not the other person recognises that it is forbidden is irrelevant. Why then if the other person does not recognise its status is it forbidden to supply him with the object? He answers, because it is simply "not right" for one to cause another to go against their position.

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