Corrective for Signing on Shabbat  

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Dear Rabbi Simon
Shavua tov. I had a distressing Shabbos. Due to a very unfortunate oversight, I was locked out of my flat on Friday night–with my dog on the inside. With the help of a neighbour, I managed to summon a locksmith to rescue the two of us. However, the tradesman insisted that I sign a form in order to carry out the work. I know that writing is one of the 39 melakhot which are forbidden on Shabbat. Yet I was unable to withstand the temptation to sign, and so I did. I feel terrible about my weakness. Is there any way I can atone for that, like fasting?

Dear Siggy
Thank you for your poignant and real-life Q. Here are my thoughts:
Fasting is a classic means of penance, but many people nowadays find doing so quite onerous. Plus, fasting can result in diminished concentration in prayer, Torah study and work (and more). I would therefore suggest a half-day fast (until midday, about 11:50am this time of year). Alternatively, you can designate an upcoming fast for this purpose and “double-dip”.

There is a further idea, however, which is closer to the teshuvat ha-mishkal (“repentance commensurate with the sin”) advocated by the classic mussar sources: Research the melakhah of writing and compose (and circulate) a short halakhic essay on the subject. In this way, you can sensitize and educate your peers and others about the prohibition of writing on Shabbos, and counteract the effect (in a spiritual and psychological way) of your weakness (on one occasion) in this area.
I hope this is helpful.
Best wishes
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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