Rabbi 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).