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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Pay for Overtime on Shabbat

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I work for a Jewish institution doing important work with Jewish groups from a range of religious and political affiliations. There are periodic Shabbatons (of sorts), which provide positive religious exposure for many participants who need it, although that is not the organizer’s main interest. My boss told me I can report and receive pay for “overtime hours” over Shabbat. Is it permitted to do so? A negative ruling may encourage them to mold the pay arrangement to obviate the problem.

 

Answer: We will discuss whether this arrangement violates s’char Shabbat (pay for permitted services one provided on Shabbat), which is forbidden rabbinically like other commercial activity, lest one come to write (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:4).

The most common way to allow receiving money for work that was done on Shabbat is through havla’ah – having the Shabbat-related money “swallowed up” when combined with weekday pay, as pay for a period of work that includes Shabbat (ibid.). However, it is not enough for the pay to be received together with that from weekdays, if the obligation was accrued in a way that some of it is connected distinctly to Shabbat (see Rama and Biur Halacha ad loc.). Regarding our case, it is forbidden to receive special overtime money for work done on Shabbat (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:64). Orchot Shabbat (22:(158)) suggests that it is permitted to receive pay at a higher rate for work on Shabbat than for during the week, but only when his salary is set in a way that includes a certain amount of required work on Shabbat. However, for one’s pay to be changed based on a fluctuating amount of work one does on Shabbat is forbidden. Still, though, if the overtime includes related work before or after Shabbat, it is permitted if you can generally specify hours for the weekends without specifying how many of the hours were for Shabbat itself or list the exact times (see  Shemirat  Shabbat K’hilchata 28:65).

Another area of leniency to explore, if the above does not help, is the matter of pay for doing a mitzva. The Beit Yosef (OC 306) cites a machloket whether s’char Shabbat is prohibited when the work done is for a mitzva. There are indications in the gemara both ways. The gemara in Pesachim (50b) says that a meturgeman (one who translates laining into Aramaic – now practiced primarily in Yemenite communities) will not see blessing from his salary. This implies that it is permitted, just frowned upon. On the other hand, the gemara (Nedarim 37a) says that a Chumash teacher may take money for teaching on Shabbat because it is done with havla’ah. Apparently, the mitzva of teaching Chumash does not justify taking money for Shabbat. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 306:5) cites both opinions, with a preference toward the strict opinion. On the other hand, the minhag is that chazanim get paid on Shabbat. On yet another hand, some chazanim also get paid for davening they do during the week (including Selichot), and thus havla’ah plays a role. Other chazanim can stretch havla’ah and say that part of their pay is for preparing during the week (see Aruch Hashulchan OC 306:12; discussion in Orchot Shabbat 22:(149)).

Your case includes an educational element that can make the machloket of pay for a mitzva on Shabbat relevant. It is not important whether your employers intend for the same mitzva element, as s’char Shabbat applies (directly) only to the worker (see Mishna Berura 306:21), and you have the mitzva in mind. Still, it is likely forbidden and even more likely not a good omen. Therefore, it is proper for your employers to restructure compensation for your efforts.

Another possibility is for you to have a maximum salary for a global amount of work that exceeds your base job, based on expected overtime. In this case, the money you get will be with havla’ah. Overtime hours (not necessarily on Shabbat) can factor in specially in fulfilling your maximum work obligation, and you can report your Shabbat hours in arriving at the number. If you do not make it to those hours, they can take off from your salary.

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