Parashat Va’etchannan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs this Monday at 12:30 pm PST on my live cam and on YouTube. Facebook Fan Page.

This week we study Parashat Va’etchannan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11).

Kirk emails:

Is someone allowed to make a profit on shabbat even if they don’t violate the 39 malachot? In other words, if a Kosher caterer caters a kiddush, but has workers do the work while they are present supervising, is that permissible? Is it okay because they are not technically violating the malachot?

If so, then a person technically can go to his office and read documents for work and have meetings as long as he/she doesn’t talk on the phone, etc.

Rabbi Rabbs responds:

Hello Kirk,

Thank you for watching the show and for your excellent questions.

Many Jews work on Shabbos, but without doing malachos. For instance, shul rabbis work very hard on Shabbos. However, they are paid for their work all week, not for their Shabbos work. Another example is the chazan who sings on Shabbos or the Ba’al Koreh that reads the Sefer Torah. He is paid for his practice time during the week.

As for caterers, I can answer that with some authority, because I used to work in kashrus, and I have supervised kosher catered affairs on Shabbos. The basic rule is that I had to do some work eruv Shabbos so that I was paid for my time PRIOR to Shabbos. After that, I can work all I want to on Shabbos. The only problem was being paid for hours I worked during Shabbos.

The same principle applies to the caterers and their staffs. You pay them for preparing, not for their hours worked ON Shabbos.

As for malachos, caterers are NOT permitted to do malachos on Shabbos and neither are their staff employees. Period.

So, in the end, no malachos performed, everyone paid for their time PRIOR to Shabbos.

I hope that makes sense.

As for going to the office to read documents, that’s a bit more complicated, and I would defer that question to your local Rav. One thing that makes it more complex than catering food is that whereas all of the ovens and stoves are covered and have knobs removed so as to avoid accidentally doing any cooking on Shabbos, that might not be the case in the office where a person is accustomed to picking up a pen and writing stuff down, and writing is a melachah.

I know that we don’t do business transactions on Shabbos as a precaution of coming to write something down, and that might be a concern when going to the office, especially if the documents involve a transaction. But, again, I would advise getting a psak from your local rabbinic authority.

Also, there is the concern about doing stuff that is weekday-related, as
Shabbos is set aside as a holy day in which we don’t do weekday tasks such as read work-related documents, even if you read them at home.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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