Just Like Carrying In A Karmelis
‘Tithing When Night Falls’
Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s brother, Rabbi Bunim, sent him the following question: Is it permitted to draw up a deed of sale before Shabbos with the stipulation that the transaction take effect on Shabbos? The question is similar to the one regarding automatic vending machines owned by Jews and patronized by gentiles on Shabbos. Both questions revolve around the same issue: Does the prohibition against conducting business on Shabbos extend to transactions that occur automatically?
Melachos That Are Begun On Erev Shabbos
The Gemara states that in most cases it is permitted to begin a melachah on erev Shabbos even though that melachah will be completed on Shabbos. For example, one may soak fabric in dye on erev Shabbos and allow it to continue soaking on Shabbos. Similarly, traps may be set on erev Shabbos even though they may spring on their prey on Shabbos (Shabbos 18a). Although a person is forbidden to work on Shabbos, there is no prohibition against letting one’s possessions work.
The Avnei Nezer (O.C. 51) explains that this might not apply to business transactions, however. When a fabric is soaked in dye, it needs no further action from its owner. Even if the owner would die, G-d forbid, the fabric would continue absorbing the color. The person is therefore entirely disassociated with the continued progress of the melachah. Therefore, it is permitted to begin such a melachah on erev Shabbos.
However, a business transaction consists of two elements: an agreement and a transfer of ownership. A person can theoretically reach a business agreement on erev Shabbos with the transfer of ownership to take place on Shabbos itself. In such a scenario, if the person would die in the interim, the transaction would be null and void. He is therefore still involved in the sale, even if he doesn’t have to take any further action to carry it out. We must therefore ask: Does the prohibition of conducting business on Shabbos apply only to the agreement, or to the transfer of ownership as well?
The Maharam Shick (O.C. 131) rules that it is permitted to arrange a deal to take effect on Shabbos while Rabbi Akiva Eiger (159) postulates that it is forbidden. One of the proofs cited to permit such an arrangement stems from our sugya. As we know, it is forbidden to separate terumos and maasros on Shabbos. By separating tithes, one causes fruit to become permitted for eating. Our Sages deem this comparable to fixing a broken object, which is forbidden. Nevertheless, we find in our Gemara that one may stipulate on erev Shabbos that certain designated fruit should become terumos and maasros once Shabbos begins. Clearly, it is permitted for the tithing to take effect on Shabbos, provided that the actions to affect this consequence were completed on erev Shabbos. Presumably, the same should be true with a business transaction.
Two Halves Of The Same Person
The Avnei Nezer (ibid.) rejects this proof, explaining that as a general rule, when two people perform a melachah together, one beginning it and one concluding it, they are both exempt from punishment. If a single person begins a melachah on erev Shabbos and concludes it on Shabbos, he is also exempt from punishment based on the same principle. He performed only half the melachah on Shabbos. Although he is not punished, the act is still forbidden. Yet, concerning carrying from a karmelis – which is only a rabbinic prohibition – it is permitted to lift up an object on erev Shabbos and carry it out on Shabbos.
Tithing on Shabbos is similarly a rabbinic prohibition. That’s why a person can stipulate that the tithing of some of his fruit should take effect on Shabbos. Preparing the tithes for separation is half of the prohibition. The other half is the actual tithing. Just like carrying in a karmelis, it is permitted to perform half the rabbinic prohibition of tithing on Shabbos.
Unlike tithing, however, conducting business on Shabbos is a biblical prohibition, based on a passuk from Tanach, “If your refrain on Shabbos…from pursuing your interests” (Yeshaya 58; see Rashi, Beitza 37a). Therefore, one may not even conduct half of a business transaction on Shabbos.