Jews and Non-Jews - Part 2
Real questions, submitted by actual OU Torah followers, with their real answers. NOTE: For questions of practical halacha, please consult your own rabbi for guidance.
(Referring to the building of the Temple in I Kings)
Q. How could the holiest, most beautiful building be built by non-Jewish workmen?
A. Thanks for your question. I assume you belong to a shul, and I assume that your shul was designed by architects and built by contractors. Now, I imagine that the shul could have just hired Jewish architects and contractors but in all likelihood they took bids and hired whoever could do the best job for the best price.
Now imagine that money was literally no object. Wouldn't they hire the best, most prestigious firms despite the religious affiliation of the workmen? There's no reason why the Temple should be any different. The biggest praise to God is to have the most beautiful building possible erected to honor Him, not the second-most beautiful building built by Jews.
As an aside, non-Jews are God's children, too. As you saw in subsequent chapters [in I Kings], they were also actively encouraged to come worship at the Temple. So you're right that it was primarily a Jewish edifice but it was also used to promote the brotherhood of mankind under God.
(Shortly after posting this article, a reader commented that he learned that, had the Beis HaMikdash been built by tzaddikim, as the Mishkan was, it would not have needed constant maintenance. While I am not familiar with that midrash, it doesn't surprise me. The OP asked why Shlomo hired the workmen he did, and I gave a reason to support that course of action. This is not to suggest that one couldn't argue that a different course of action might have been preferable.)
Q. I have heard that non-Jews can take upon themselves the laws of Noah as well as any other commandments such as eating kosher, laws of niddah, and the Sabbath (though they do not keep the Sabbath the same as a Jew).
A. Yes, non-Jews can observe most mitzvos voluntarily even though they are not obligated to do so. Keeping Shabbos is actually the big exception since the Torah tells us that Shabbos is a unique bond between God and the Jews (Exodus 31:17), but this is easily overcome by making sure to do something on Shabbos that Jews are not permitted to do.
Q. Can a non-Jew drive a Jewish person to shul on Shabbat if the weather is too hot, cold or storming? Free of charge, just pick them up, take them, drop him or her off?
A. This is actually not permitted. A person is not permitted to have a non-Jew perform acts of labor for him on Shabbos. For example, if I'm reading in a dim room and a non-Jewish friend turns on the light for me, I have to leave the room so as not to benefit from labor he did on my behalf. However, if he turns on the light for himself, then I'm allowed to benefit from it.
Another exception is a communal need. For example, if the lights or heat in a synagogue are out, it is permitted to have a non-Jew turn them on. Even so, the rules as to what one may have done and how are extremely complicated. If you want to know more, you can read here and click "next" for a few more articles (through #656).
Rabbi Jack's latest book, Ask Rabbi Jack, is now available from Kodesh Press and on Amazon.com.