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In my town, the local (non-Jewish) council, in a gesture to the Jewish community, set certain traffic light crossings to automatically go green (Walk) for pedestrians every 30 seconds or so. This is activated for Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Is there any discussion about whether this might be a Marit Ayin? If non-Torah observant drivers see a traffic light go red, and then notice that the pedestrian light goes green, they will very likely assume that the person waiting pressed the button for this to happen.

However, they also might not. There are circumstances where cross-junctions go green for pedestrians on one of the crossings at a time, when it is the right time to do so (i.e. when the lights are arranged such that no cars are supposed to drive that way anyway), and occasionally, they will just do this automatically on a cycle even with nobody pressing it.

Drivers might not be aware of these complex rules though, but they also might just not think about it.

Is anyone aware of any discussion on this, regaring Marit Ayin specifically?

Either way, things could be worse.

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    +1 for the things could be worse reference. Feb 4 at 17:31
  • That story from Australia is bone- chilling! Great question, here are my kashot- a) if it's known that there are already automatic crossings, why would our first instinct be to worry people might think it's one of the manual ones? B) does the concept of Marit Ayin apply to the thought process of people publicly driving on Shabbat? Feb 4 at 21:15
  • That article was written awhile back. Do you know of any follow up by either the rabbie or with the implementation?
    – Shababnik
    Feb 5 at 8:25
  • There's also an issue if standing by the crosswalk and cars slowing down for you. Amira lnochri issue deoiraysa
    – Moishe
    Feb 15 at 15:18
  • @Moishe yes and even worse if a non-shomer shabbat Jew slows, however, I doubt that applies to locations where cars never stop, such as at a pedestrian crossing with lights.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 15 at 15:34

1 Answer 1

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+50

This was a difficult and great question!

Just to put it out there, in no way am I paskeining anything here, this is just out of מקורות וסברות.

The way I would like approach this question is by analyzing when one can be lenient in cases of Marit Ayin, and based on that apply it to this case. So let's begin.

Leniency 1: We usually don't apply Marit Ayin to derabbanan's (gzeira legzeira): In Yechaveh Daat 3:59 he uses the Rema in Yoreah Deah 87:3 with regards to cases that we don't apply Marit Ayin when dealing with one derabbanan already. For example drinking parve milk with chicken would be allowed. Pesach flour during pesach even though it looks like wheat flour, and there are many more like this. So with regards to this question if you hold like many poskim (look here and here) that electricity on shabbat is derabbanan, then using the crosswalk would be okay since two derabbanan’s are at play here.
Look here for the sugya of Gzeira Legzeira:

Leniency 2: Things not mention in the Torah are not forbidden because of Marit Ayin: The Pri Chadash Yoreh Deah 87:7 holds based on Tosfoat Chullin 104b, Yad Malachi Klalei Dinim 414, Gilyon Maharasha Yoreah Deah 298:1, Shu”t MIshneh Halachot 5:95, Arugot Habosem Kuntres Hateshuvot Siman 13, and others say that if Chazal did not say its assur to do X because of Marit Ayin then we cannot make a fence ourselves for it. The reason being because Marit Aiyn were placed specifically on cases that are common (similar to next answer), and the Gemera in Eruvin 63b, Beitza 2b, Ketuvot 56b, Gittin 5a, 44a, Bava Kama 84b, and Bechorot 3a (I mentioned all these cases so one can compare one case to another) says מילתא דלא שכיחא לא גזור ביה רבנ, Chachmim didn't enact things that are not common. Therefore in this case, the Torah doesn't talk about a case of using traffic light crossing that turns green automatically (or anything similar to the least of my knowledge), therefore making it permissible as well.

Leniency 3: We usually don't apply Marit Ayin to things that are known: The Mishnah in Kilayim 9:2 talks about material that looks like wool and linen but are actually not, are kilayim. The Rosh, Bartenura there says the times have changed and everyone knows what wool and linen look like and therefore one could wear materials that look like wool and linen. The Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 298:1 paskens like this as well. So my assumption is that there is some sort of siman, sign, or letter that went out to people that basically says something like “please be advised of traffic light crossing that turns green every 30 seconds,” and once people know about this or see a sign, there is no Marit Ayin since its common knowledge.

Leniency 4: Going in a Car after Candle Lighting is similar to this case: Igrot Moshe OC 1:96 says it is permitted for a man to drive to shul after his wife has lit candles. This is not considered Marit Ayin, since it is well known that a man can do melacha until eighteen minutes after his wife has lit candles. Even if a few people might think he did something wrong, it is not Marit Ayin since those who think he did something wrong are ignorant. So perhaps the same logic here, the Jew walking to shul just needed to wait 30 seconds which is permitted, and it's the ignorance of the non religious driver thinking he pressed the button, since there are other ways that the traffic light turns green (based on motion of cars etc).

Different approach to be lenient based on the fact that Marit Ayin is derabbanan: Beitza 9a, Geonim, Rif, and Rosh Beitza 9:14. בשו”ת פני יהושע ח”ב סימן ב, and others (look here on my answer for Marit Ayin being derabbanan according to everyone)

Sfeikot that can be taken into consideration are: Maybe the person driving won't be looking at people crossing, the driver will get there but see the person coming on to the next sidewalk on the other side without realizing how he crossed, maybe that shabbat the system didn't work and it worked regularly, and maybe the driver did not even have in mind that the person walking pressed the button. So taking all the sfiekot into account, and assuming we hold that Marit Ayin is derabbanan one could be lenient as well.

Finally, here Rav Asher Weiss says that Marit Ayin all depends on the time and location, so each case needs to be looked at by an authoritative Rabbi. Therefore no one (besides a Rabbi in that area or a big posek) can really give a true precise answer.

Hope this helped!

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  • Good to have you back Avishai
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 16 at 21:56
  • Happy to be back as well Apr 16 at 22:01

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