Story LineHotel PaymentRabbi Meir Orlean
The Hoffmans were spending Pesach at a hotel with their baby. The program included many shiurim and lectures on assorted topics.
On Shabbos afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman wanted to attend a certain lecture together. “The baby needs to sleep, though; I need someone to watch him in the room,” Mrs. Hoffman said to her husband. “Do you have any ideas?”
“Our neighbors are here with their teenage daughters,” replied Mr. Hoffman. “See if one of them is willing to babysit for two hours.”
“Do you think it’s OK to ask them?” asked Mrs. Hoffman. “They’re on vacation!”
“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” said Mr. Hoffman. “If it’s not good for them, they won’t do it.”
The Hoffmans went down and found their neighbors sitting and talking 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. If it’s not good, I’ll find some other arrangement.”
“I’m willing to babysit for $20 an hour,” said one of the girls, Rivki.
Mrs. Hoffman was about to close the deal, when her husband said, “Not so fast, Rivki.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Rivki. “We’re just sitting here; I can earn some money.”
“It’s Shabbos,” said her father. “Although babysitting does not entail any melachah (prohibited work), working for pay on Shabbos is inherently problematic, even if you are just sitting in the room.”
“But I’ve babysat on Shabbos before,” said Rivki. “After Shabbos people came and gave me money, and you didn’t stop me.”
“They can give you a gift afterward,” said her father, “but you can’t take a job and charge payment” (Mishnah Berurah 306:15).
“What’s the problem?” asked Mrs. Hoffman.
“Rabbi Dayan is over there,” said Rivki’s father. “Perhaps he can explain better.”
Rabbi Dayan explained, “The Gemara (B.M. 58) teaches that a person is not allowed to charge payment for work on Shabbos (s’char Shabbos), even permitted work,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “It is a kind of commerce. Similarly, one is not allowed to charge rental payment for Shabbos or Yom Tov. However, if the payment for Shabbos is not distinct, but included in a larger payment, it is permitted (b’havlaah). Therefore, a weekly or monthly salary or rental fee is permitted, if there isn’t a specific reckoning for Shabbos” (O.C. 306:4).
“I don’t understand,” said Mrs. 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 chazzan comes just for Shabbos and Yom Tov, and gets paid for his services.
“Payment to the hotel is not schar Shabbos, since the hotel has operating expenses during the week, so that it is b’havlaah,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The payment covers, for example, purchase of food and cleaning the room before and after Shabbos” (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 28:70).
“Furthermore, since the hotel ‘day’ is not reckoned from sunset till sunrise, but rather 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’hilchasah 28:67-68).
“What about the chazzan just for Shabbos?” asked Mr. Hoffman.
“Shulchan Aruch writes that it is prohibited and some allow,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Those who allow maintain that Chazal did not prohibit for the purpose of a mitzvah. It is not a source of blessing, though, and therefore better if it’s b’havlaah. The practice is to permit it, but the hiring itself cannot be done on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
“The Poskim allow payment to a doctor or midwife; either because it is a mitzvah, or they provide care also before or after Shabbos, or there is potential danger in the future if they won’t receive proper compensation” (O.C. 306:5; Mishnah Berurah 306:24; Aruch Hashulchan 306:12; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 28:74-75; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 8:42-43).
From the BHI HotlineA Valid Sale?
Q: I rent an apartment, and my landlord allows me to store items in his basement. I want to place a box of whiskey, which is chametz, in a room in his basement that he plans to sell to a non-Jew. I understand that I still have to sell my whiskey myself, but when reading the mechiras chametz contract, I noticed that it says that I am leasing the area in which the chametz is found to the non-Jew. Since I do not own that room, is it a problem for me to sell the chametz, or is the sale valid since that room is being sold or leased to a non-Jew by the landlord?
A: We need to preface the answer to your question by explaining the history of mechiras chametz.
Originally, chametz that was sold would actually be transferred to the property of the non-Jew, which was easy in olden times when only minimal quantities of chametz were generally sold. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 448:3) rules that one must give his sold chametz to the non-Jewish purchaser, and may not leave it on his own property.
The question is why this is necessary, since it is generally permissible for a Jew to keep a non-Jew’s chametz in his house, as long as he is not responsible for damage or loss to it and it is concealed behind a barrier of at least ten tefachim so that he does not mistakenly eat it on Pesach (ibid. 440:2).
The Acharonim offer several reasons why this heter does not apply to chametz that has been sold:
Since the non-Jew never touches the chametz, it seems as though it still belongs to the Jew, and it is therefore forbidden for him to keep it in his house.
Since this chametz initially belonged to the Jew, it is even more likely that he might mistakenly eat it on Pesach (Mishnah Berurah 448:12).
Since a non-Jew cannot complete a purchase simply by paying for the item, but must also make a physical kinyan (see Shach 194:1) in order for the sale to be considered final, the non-Jew has to actually move the chametz into his own property (Chok Yaakov 448:14).
Over time, as many Jews began to deal in spirits made from fermented grain, which is chametz, it became extremely difficult for them to move all of their barrels of whiskey and beer into a non-Jew’s property. The Bach therefore allowed a new type of sale in which the room holding the chametz would be sold to the non-Jew, which would mean that the chametz is being held on the non-Jew’s property — as long as the Jew would not enter that room for the duration of Pesach so he would not mistakenly drink it.
[The kinyan on that chametz would be made as an addendum to the purchase of the property, through a kinyan agav (C. M. 202:1). A full discussion of all the kinyanim made in today’s chametz sales is beyond the scope of this article.]
A renter obviously cannot sell the room in which he stores chametz, but he may sublet that room to the non-Jew (Mekor Chaim 440:3), and then sell the chametz along with it (see Shach 202:2). Some say that a tenant must receive permission to sublet a room to a non-Jew from his landlord (Shivas Tzion 10). The Poskim rule, however, that if the landlord is Jewish, we can certainly assume that he agrees to this sort of subleasing, because it is widely known that it is necessary for mechiras chametz. Furthermore, even a non-Jewish landlord generally agrees to a sublease of only a portion of the tenant’s total space for a short time, because it is considered standard business practice to allow others to use some space for storage (Shu”t Divrei Malkiel vol. 4, 22:9). The assumption of consent is even more likely to be valid because the tenant is not actually earning money on the sublease; the entire purpose of the agreement is to avoid the chametz prohibition (Shu”t Maharshag, vol. 1, 56:3).
In your case, since your landlord allows you to store chametz in his basement and has allowed you to use that space, you would be allowed to sublet that space to the non-Jew (see Taz, C. M. 189, and Ketzos Hachoshen 1). In truth, however, you do not have to sublet to the non-Jew, because your landlord has already created a rental agreement with a non-Jew, so the space doesn’t belong to you and the chametz is not considered to be in your property. The kinyan on the chametz can be made with a kinyan agav through a different space you lease to the non-Jew (see Choshen Mishpat 202:2).
Q: Am I allowed to measure the Kiddush cup or weigh the matzah and maror on Seder night?
A: Chazal prohibit measuring accurately or weighing on Shabbos and Yom Tov, even for household use, since this is a manner of commercial practice (O.C. 323:1; 500:2; 506:1).
Nonetheless, they permit measuring for the purpose of a mitzvah. For example, one is allowed to measure a mikveh, or to take measurements of a sick person (O.C. 306:7).
Thus, it is permissible to measure the size of the Kiddush cup or to weigh the shiurim of matzah and maror on Seder night, especially with a household scale (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 29:40; Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 9:7).
However, one should preferably not wait until Yom Tov but measure beforehand, or else approximate. Furthermore, even if it is necessary to weigh on Yom Tov, one should preferably avoid using weights, instead weighing against a utensil with a known weight (Kaf Hachaim 306:63; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 29:).
Of course, one may not use an electronic scale for weighing on Shabbos or Yom Tov.