The LINK Kollel in Los Angeles hosted a very successful three day Yarchei Kallah on the subject of “Commerce on Shabbos” with Rabbi Yosef Kushner of Lakewood, New Jersey. Rabbi Kushner wrote the ground-breaking book on the subject and is a member of Lakewood’s Bais Vaad and Bais Hora’ah (the latter headed by his esteemed father-in-law, the renowned Posek, HaRav Shlomo Miller.) Rabbi Kushner was flush off a very popular Yarchei Kallah that he had conducted in New Jersey, sponsored by BMG. The LINK Yarchei Kallah took place over the Legal Holiday of January 1st and continued through Shabbos and Sunday.
Both the Friday and Sunday sessions were proceeded by a complimentary breakfast and directed chavrusa learning of the relevant sugyos, staffed by the Avreichim of the Kollel. This was followed by one shiur on Friday morning and two shiurim on Sunday by Rabbi Kushner, which in turn were followed by lengthy question and answer sessions which energized his audience further. Nearly 50 people attended each of the days. Rabbi Kushner’s affable manner and his quick wit buttressed his obvious mastery of the subject. All the shiurim were delivered with lucidity and clarity.
The Friday shiur dealt with the issues involving employing Gentiles on Shabbos. He differentiated between a per diem (hourly) worker versus a contractor who get paid to get the job done regardless of the time spent. The former cannot do any melachah for a Jew even if they wish to do it on their own time or at their home (e.g. a secretary who wants to take home work to do on Shabbos). Even a cleaning lady who is doing permissible work in a Jewish home on Shabbos could not be asked to do a melachah if it’s related to her normal weekday tasks (or even if she does it on her own volition). A contractor, by contrast (such as a dry cleaner, a car repair shop, the post office) , can do melachah for a Jew on Shabbos if the Jew doesn’t specifically request that it be done on Shabbos (e.g. there was enough time for it to be done before or after Shabbos).
He also spoke about a Jew who owns an apartment or commercial office building or a nursing home, and employs a Gentile manager or superintendent. When the tenants or residents need repairs or other melachos done for them on Shabbos, this can create problems since the manager is employed by the Jewish owner. Rabbi Kushner advised that the tenants and residents specifically be empowered in their rental agreements to give orders to the manager directly so that the manager is really working for them as well.
Over Shabbos, Rabbi Kushner gave two Halacha shiurim, where he spoke about how to pay a Gentile on Shabbos for permissible work and how to “hire” a worker in a permissible fashion. He also discussed the leniency to ask a Gentile to do a permissible task that inevitably entails a Shabbos violation (p’sik raisha) and the leniency to ask a Gentile to do an act of hachanah (preparation for after Shabbos) for a Jew as long as it is not clearly evident that it is so (e.g. washing dishes after Shabbos lunch). He also gave a shiur on some of the deeper hashkafic aspects of menuchah on Shabbos (spiritual rest), including one’s inner-peace (menuchas hanefesh).
On Sunday, the first shiur centered on earning money on Shabbos (such as a caterer, chazzan, Baal Korei, youth group leader in shul, babysitter). He cautioned that it was not so simple to lump this together with their weekday work (havla’ah) or to say they were being paid for their preparation time before Shabbos (s’char batalah) and one must consult with a Rav to do this in a permissible manner (if that is indeed possible). He also discussed contracts that first take effect on Shabbos (e.g. rental agreements) and the halachic issues involved.
In the second shiur on profiting from Shabbos sales, he weighed in on gaining from “passive” business such as vending machines and internet websites (including E-bay auctions that conclude on Shabbos.) He generally permitted these as long as the target audience was primarily Gentile. He did stress that ideally, a Jew should not operate such platforms on Shabbos if it would entail thinking on Shabbos about his business.
In a final shiur delivered later that day to the community Rabbonim, organized by the Rabbinical Council of California, he spoke on the many halachic issues that arise when a Jew owns a nursing home that obviously employs many workers on Shabbos.
Recordings of all the shiurim are available by e-mailing the LINK office, firstname.lastname@example.org