Halachic "Deceit"

Is one permitted to deceive with respect to halacha? It seems that under certain circumstances this is indeed allowed. It must be noted at the outset that this refers to matters between man and G-d and never to a situation between one man and another. The Almighty left "backdoors" in the Torah which we can use in times of great need. We are not deceiving the Almighty, rather we are able to find solutions within the boundaries of the Torah for unique circumstances.

 Many of the halachic solutions developed by The Zomet Institute might give the appearance of trickery, as a way of taking advantage of loopholes which the Torah never intended to be used in this way. An example is the use of a mechanism of gramma (indirect action) to operate essential equipment on Shabbat. And this often raises the question: Isn't this deceit?

But the answer is a resounding no! Using a legal fiction with respect to man-made laws is indeed a way of taking advantage of the legislators, who did not foresee the consequences of all the possible cases. But within the framework of the laws of the Creator, who can see everything from beginning to end, there is no such thing as a loophole. The Almighty purposely left us gaps so that we can achieve a necessary result in a permitted way. It is not because He "forgot" to close the loophole. Just the opposite! He left us workarounds so that we can utilize them when necessary, within the framework of the halacha. Thus, various halachic "deceits" can be viewed as similar to "decrees by the sages," which exist to benefit the public under special circumstances.

Here are some familiar examples of "halachic fiction:" the sale of chametz before Pesach, selling cattle before the birth of a first child, Pruzbul (arranging for the court to formally collect a loan which would otherwise be cancelled during Shemitta), sale of land to a non-Jew during Shemitta, and a heter isska to allow interest on loans. In addition, an eiruv which allows the people in a city to carry outside of their homes is also a type of halachic "fiction."

This is the way to look at the concept of gramma which is so often used by The Zomet Institute for medical and security needs. Our sages derived the principle from the language in the Torah: "Do not perform any labor" [Shemot 20:5]. "It is the act that is forbidden, but gramma is permitted" [Shabbat 120b].


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