Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Hoffmans were spending Pesach at a hotel with their baby. The program included many shiurim and lectures on a variety of topics.

On Shabbos afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman wanted to attend a certain lecture together. “The baby needs to sleep, though,” Mrs. Hoffman said to her husband. “I need someone to watch him in the room. Do you have any ideas?”

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“Our neighbors are here with their teenage daughters,” replied Mr. Hoffman. “See if one of them is willing to babysit for two hours.”

Mrs. Hoffman went down and found the neighbors sitting in the lobby. “I’d like to hire one of the girls to babysit in the room for two hours,” Mrs. Hoffman said to them. “I know it’s your vacation, so I’m willing to pay a little more than usual.”

One of the girls was about to say yes when her father interjected, “It’s Shabbos. Although babysitting does not entail any melacha, working for pay on Shabbos is problematic even if you’re just sitting in a room.”

“But I’ve babysat on Shabbos before,” said Rivki. “After Shabbos, the family gave me money and you didn’t stop me from accepting it.”

“They can give you a gift after Shabbos,” said her father, “but you can’t take a job and charge money.” [Mishna Berurah 306:15]

“Rabbi Dayan is over there,” he continued. “Perhaps he can explain better.”

“The Gemara [Bava Metzia 58] teaches that a person is not allowed to charge payment for work on Shabbos (s’char Shabbos),” Rabbi Dayan said. “It is a manner of commerce. Similarly, one is not allowed to charge rent for Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, if the payment for Shabbos is included in a larger payment (b’havla’ah), it is permitted. Therefore, a weekly or monthly salary or rental fee is permitted if there isn’t a specific reckoning for Shabbos.” [Orach Chayim 306:4]

“I don’t understand, though,” said Mr. Hoffman. “We pay the hotel for their services on Pesach and Shabbos. We pay for each day that we rent the room. Not only that, a cantor comes just for Shabbos and Yom Tov and gets paid for his services!

“Payment to the hotel is not s’char Shabbos since the hotel has operating expenses during the week, so that it’s b’havla’ah,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The payment covers, for example, food and cleaning the room before and after Shabbos.” [Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasa 28:70]

“Furthermore, since the hotel day is reckoned from morning to morning, each ‘day’ includes part of a weekday,” added Rabbi Dayan. “This applies to almost all commercial rental reckonings nowadays.” [Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasa 28:67-68]

“What about the chazzan who comes just for Shabbos?” asked Mr. Hoffman.

Shulchan Aruch states that it is prohibited but that some allow it,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Those who allow it maintain that Chazal did not forbid this kind of transaction when a mitzvah is involved. It is not a source of blessing, though, and therefore better if done b’havla’ah – e.g., including the preparation before Shabbos. The practice is to allow it as long as the hiring itself is not done on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Poskim allow payment to a doctor or midwife – either because a mitzvah is involved, they also provide care before or after Shabbos, or a dangerous situation will arise in the future if they don’t receive proper compensation.” [Orach Chayim 306:5; Mishnah Berurah 306:24; Aruch HaShulchan 306:12; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasa 28:74-75; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 8:42-43]

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.