Instructing a Gentile on Shabbos

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Many of us have learned that it’s actually Rabbinically forbidden on Shabbos to ask a non-Jew to perform forbidden activities on Shabbos for us. The category of this falls on a title of “Amira L’Akum” (speaking to a Goy), and the basis of this is in a Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos, 6:1, which states that the reason it’s forbidden to instruct a Goy on Shabbos to do things for you is that it may cheapen the Shabbos, and you yourself may come to perform those very activities later on.

My initial question to this was that, what is the correlation between asking a Goy to help you with a forbidden activity? If anything, a Goy is FORBIDDEN from observing Shabbos in the manner we Jews do. Therefore one might ask, what’s the big deal?

After consulting a few people who were unsure of a straight answer, I finally asked my wonderful wife who utilizes the services of a maid every once-a-week. She explained to me as follows.

When you have a maid, say her name is Margarita (made-up name), and you ask her to turn on the light, turn on the heater/air conditioner, etc., you may become reliant on this kind of service week-by-week, and eventually set it as your Minhag to ask a Goy to do things for you, thereby abusing the Shabbos in that manner. Then comes the fateful Shabbos that Margarita isn’t available to cook, clean, and babysit. It turns out that your urn isn’t plugged in and you JUST HAVE TO have your morning cup of coffee. If you ask a Goy every Shabbos to do these activities for you, you may rationalize that “(sigh) I know it’s not right, but perhaps just this once I’ll break the Shabbos to have my morning coffee. I’ll never do it again, promise.”

By making a Goy perform actions for you, you’re cheapening the Taam of Shabbos, reducing it to a mere set of laws that can be broken at will. All these laws are only meant to enhance the Shabbos spirit. Therefore, having this fence allows us to say, “How can I do law X if I can’t even ask Margarita to do the same thing?”