Question: Does the Halachah permit a business, or a store owned by a Jew and
a non-Jew in a partnership, to remain open on Shabbos?
Discussion: Shulchan Aruch rules that it is permitted for a Jew and a
non-Jew to form a business partnership if they stipulate at the outset that
any work done on Shabbos is totally under the non-Jew’s jurisdiction, i.e.,
that only he is responsible for the work done on Shabbos and that he is the
sole recipient of that day’s profits. To offset the Jewish partner’s loss of
profit made on Shabbos, he will receive the profits of a corresponding
weekday. Entering into such an agreement is permitted even l’chatchilah, as
long as these stipulations are spelled out in a legally binding contract and
not merely agreed upon verbally by the two parties.
Mishnah Berurah (note 6) adds that if, at the end of the accounting period,
the partners are unable - or unwilling - to determine the respective profits
and losses of each day, they may divide the profits and losses equally
between them. It is important to stress that this leniency may be relied
upon only in the exact scenario described by Mishnah Berurah – that they
were unable or unwilling to determine the daily profits when it came time
for an accounting. But if the business was set up in a manner in which it
would be impossible to determine the profits and losses of each day, then it
is evident that the entire agreement is a hoax and it is not valid.
A slightly different type of partnership permitted l’chatchilah, and
mentioned by Rama, is based on the principle that the non-Jewish partner
assumes no obligation to work on Shabbos. He may still elect, of his own
free will, to work on Shabbos anyway. Once he does so, it is permitted for
his Jewish partner to split the Shabbos profits with him. This holds true
even if the non-Jewish partner understands that the Jew will be displeased
if he fails to work on Shabbos and might even end the partnership. As long
as the non-Jewish partner is not contractually obligated to work, such a
partnership is permitted.
But this type of arrangement is allowed only if the non-Jewish partner does
the work himself. If, however, the partners employ another non-Jew to do the
work on Shabbos, and he is paid with the joint funds of the partnership, he
would essentially be working for the Jew as well and that would be
forbidden. The only way a non-Jew could be hired to work on Shabbos for the
partners would be for him to work for them during the week, get paid for a
week’s work, and not suffer a cut in his salary should he refrain from
working on Shabbos.
One additional note: When a Jew and a non-Jew enter into one of the
partnerships described above so that their business may remain open on
Shabbos, it is vital that the Jewish community be aware that the business is
owned – at least partially – by a non-Jew. If the community is not aware of
the non-Jew’s stake in the business, it is forbidden to keep the business
open on Shabbos.
Until now, we have discussed legitimate, l’chatchilah partnerships which
would allow businesses to remain open on Shabbos. But in addition to these,
there are many other types of b’diavad arrangements that have been
formulated over the years. In the responsa of some of the great poskim of
yesteryear, we find many different types of “sale documents” and other
arrangements which permit a Jewish business to remain open on Shabbos under
certain, limited conditions. It cannot be stressed enough, however, that
many of these loopholes and creative halachic solutions were formulated
under duress, in response to the dismal conditions that existed in earlier
times, when many governments did not allow Jews to own their own businesses.
Grinding poverty and limited parnassah options motivated the poskim to find
temporary solutions for an intolerable situation. Today, when conditions
are altogether different, it is disingenuous to cite such halachic
precedents. In addition, contemporary poskim are in agreement that one
should do his utmost to avoid entering into any type of a “Shabbos
partnership” with a non-Jew, since such arrangements are exceedingly
complex and tend to lessen sensitivity towards Shabbos observance.
The ones affected the most are often the members of the owner’s family, who
are confused about their family’s operating a business on Shabbos. As
the Chafetz Chayim himself writes in Beiur Halachah, those who are
careful to keep Shabbos in its pristine form and do not look for any
leniencies or loopholes, will surely be blessed with great financial success
during the rest of the week. One need not rely on “Shabbos profits” to make
Question: Is it permitted to buy stock shares in a public company whose
board members are non-Jews who operate the company on Shabbos and Yom Tov?
Discussion: Yes, it is permitted. The poskim explain that buying shares in a
company is not the same as becoming a partner in the company. Buying shares
is merely a method of investing. The buyer hopes that the value of his
shares will rise and enable him to turn a profit when he sells them; he has
no intent or interest in becoming an owner or a manager of the business.
Although all publicly traded companies must have an annual meeting where
officers are elected by the shareholders, it is well known that this is
merely a formality, and after all is said and done, the power to run the
company remains in the hands of the board; the individual minority
shareholders have no say or power to speak of. Thus, buying minority shares
in a non-Jewish company which operates on Shabbos and Yom Tov is not
considered as if one is becoming a partner with a non-Jew and is permitted.
What about buying stock shares in a public company whose board members are
non-observant Jews who operate the company on Shabbos and Yom Tov? Is that
considered as if the investor is contributing to the company’s finances and
thereby aiding and abetting Shabbos desecrators? Most contemporary poskim
rule that buying stock shares is not considered to be aiding and abetting
Shabbos desecrators as there is no shortage of investors who are ready and
able to buy shares. Anyone who buys shares does so for his own investment
purposes and not for the purpose of financing the company.
Question: Many banks offer a service whereby customers may instruct the bank
to pay their utility or other bills on a specific date of the month. Should
one refrain from using this service since a payment may be made on his
behalf on a Shabbos or Yom Tov?
Discussion: There is no halachic reason not to use this service. While it is
true that a payment date may fall on a Shabbos or Yom Tov, and one may not
instruct a non-Jew — even before Shabbos — to perform a service on his
behalf on Shabbos, in this case there is no action performed by a
non-Jew on Shabbos; the entire process from beginning to end is automated.
The bill is actually paid through a computer transaction from one account to
the other. There is no halachic restriction on having a machine perform a
service on Shabbos on behalf of a Shabbos-observant Jew, if the machine is
programmed in advance to do so.
1. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:90.
2. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:90; 2:65. See Cheshev ha-Eifod 2:6 for a dissenting
3. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:90.
4. Igros Moshe, O.C. 2:65; Shevet ha-Levi 5:26.
5. Koveitz Teshuvos 3:37; Shevet ha-Levi 3:23. See Mishnah Berurah 245:10
6. Seridei Aish, O.C. 23, relates that implementing these various
lenincies was subject to controversy among the Rabbis of his time. He asked
the Chafetz Chayim for his opinion on the matter. The Chafetz Chayim replied
that since there are such serious pros and cons, he preferred to avoid
taking a stand.
12. Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:7; Minchas Yitzchak 1:72; 3:1-27; Rav Y.S. Elyashiv
(written ruling, published in Mamon Yisrael, pg. 32). For a dissenting
opinion, see Bris Yehudah, pg. 43. [Whether or not it is also permitted to
buy enough shares that the board must would have to take his opinion into
consideration is questionable: Although Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:7 clearly
forbids doing so, he seems to have recanted in Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:54.]
13. Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:7; Minchas Yitzchak 5:18.
14. O.C. 307:2. [Although in our case there is no direct command to pay the
bill on Shabbos but rather to do so on a specific date of the month, it
still would be prohibited to specifically tell a non-Jew to do so, since
that date will, at one time or another, fall out on Shabbos. This is
halachically considered as if he instructed the non-Jew to make payment on
Shabbos; based on Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:44, s.v. aval.]