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Shabbat Parashat Matot | 5768

Workers in the House When Shabbat Has Been Accepted Early

Ask the Rabbi

Question: If I start Shabbat early, can my contractor (all workers are non-Jewish), who is building an extension to my house, work until regular Shabbat begins in town.  
Answer: As a rule, as you seem to be aware, one may not allow workers to work on his house on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 244:1). Conceptually and sometimes practically, there is a distinction between a case where the worker is paid per time (po’el), in which case it would be forbidden, and a case where he is paid by the job (kablan), in which case it would be permitted (ibid.). However, the Rabbis did not allow even a non-Jewish kablan to do work on a Jew’s house or in another public type setting where people might suspect (marit ayin) that he is the Jew’s po’el.
In such cases, a reasonable amount depends on the extent to which people are likely to actually suspect him. For example, when the work is done outside the limits where Jews go on Shabbat it is permitted (ibid.). Let us then look at matters practically. Even if people see your workers working and think you told them to do so, it might still not be a problem, After all, that which people see happening, work being done a half-hour before Friday sunset, is okay because, as far as they know, you did not yet accept Shabbat. This is reminiscent of a halacha regarding an Israeli spending a second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora that falls out on Friday. The Radvaz (accepted by the Mishna Berura 496:13 and others) says that he can cook on Friday without an eiruv tavshilin because those who see him cooking don’t know that he did not make an eiruv tavshilin.
We might be reluctant to rely on this idea. First of all, halachically, we have not succeeded in finding anyone who discusses whether prohibitions of marit ayin apply or do not apply for the above reason during tosefet Shabbat (the time added on to Shabbat). (There is a question whether rabbinic prohibitions, in general, apply during tosefet Shabbat, but we will leave that issue for now). Furthermore, since you may go home and make kiddush while hammers are still banging in the extension, there would seem to be a practical problem of marit ayin.
However, there is still a straightforward way to allow the work. The Rama (Orach Chayim 261:1, based on Mahari Weil 116) allows an individual to ask a non-Jew to do work for him after he has accepted Shabbat early. The Mishna Berura (261:18) confirms that this is true even when there is not a mitzva-related need for the non-Jew’s help. (See Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:17, who allows asking even a Jew to do work for him at this time if the latter did not yet accept Shabbat.) Now, let us make a simple calculation. If it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to do work at that time, one can certainly allow him to do work in his house even if it is seen publicly. The reason for the general prohibition is that one might think he hired the non-Jew as a po’el. Realize though that the problem is not that he is paid but that he is working on a Jew’s behalf. Thus that which people might think you are doing in a worst-case-scenario (namely, that after accepting Shabbat early, you asked a non-Jew to do work for you) is in fact permitted, and marit ayin does not apply.
This being said, if indeed the work is being done within the confines of your home and your household sees or hears the work, there is an issue of the matter being out of the proper spirit of Shabbat. It would seem that the permission to use a non-Jew during tosefet Shabbat is intended primarily for incidental work or work that is done away from his proximity. Therefore, if it is possible, we would urge you to either make Shabbat at the regular time or ask the workers to finish an hour or so earlier. If this causes significant problems, one can rely on the straight halacha that the restrictions of what a non-Jew can do for you on Shabbat do not apply to tosefet Shabbat.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
MinaPresser bat Harav David and Bina
on the occasion of her yahrzeit 24 Tammuz
and members of her family who perished in the shoah Al Kiddush  Hashem
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R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga   Brachfe
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