Shabbat Laws

Translated/adapted from "A Summary of the Shabbat Laws" (published by Machon Ohaley Shem)

Laws 7-17:
Work by a non-Jew on and before Shabbat
Laws 18-21:
Traveling in the days before Shabbat
Laws 1-6

Preparing for Shabbat

Law #1
Two details were explained about Shabbat by the prophets; The honor of Shabbat and the pleasure of Shabbat. They are derived from the verse, (Yeshaya 58,13) “And you called Shabbat a pleasure to sanctify the honorable G-d”. How we honor and take pleasure in Shabbat? The Rabbis wrote, we honor Shabbat with clean clothing and clean table overings and we make it a pleasure by the enjoyment of eating and drinking. Many other laws have been extracted from these principles such as bathing and lighting candles, all of which will be explained.
Law #2
Other examples of honoring Shabbat are: cleaning the house and singing extra songs during prayers. Other examples of taking pleasure in Shabbat are: lighting Shabbat candles on time, sleeping, and eating fish and meat and drinking wine. The reward for honoring and taking pleasure in Shabbat is stated explicitly (Isaiah 58/14) "then they will take pleasure in G-d." The Rabbis added that one who does so, "will be forgiven all of his sins" and "will be saved from the judgment of Gehinom."
Law #3
One who purchases and prepares many foods for Shabbat is praiseworthy. One who does not have ‘ready cash’ but only assets should use them as collateral to borrow money to buy food, and G-d will repay him. When the Sages said that on Rosh Hashanah is determined all of a Jew’s income for the year, this means what he needs to sustain himself on all the weekdays. However, Shabbat and holidays expenses are not included in this amount! For whatever a Jew lavishes for Shabbat and holidays is an additional stipend. One who has no possessions to use as collateral, should not borrow because once he no longer has assets, he is no longer obligated to spend for Shabbat. Nevertheless, even someone in this situation should not have less than two cooked foods at each Shabbat meal.
Law #4
“Remember the Shabbat to sanctify it, etc.” Beit Shamai ruled ‘one should remember the Shabbat (already) from Sunday, that if someone comes across something nice during the week, he should set it aside for Shabbat. It is said of Shamai, the Elder, that every day, he ate in honor of Shabbat. How so? If he would find a nice animal, he would take it and say ‘this is for Shabbat. If later he found an even nicer animal, he would put it aside for Shabbat and eat the first one during the week. He would, in fact, eat the original animal in order to have the better one on Shabbat. Hillel, the Elder, acted differently. He said ‘Bless G-d, every day He provides our needs’. (Hillel would eat or use what he found when he found it and trust that G-d would find an even nicer food or object in time for Shabbat.) Yet even he would agree to Shamai’s deeds as being more correct. So, if someone is sent food that is to be eaten on Shabbat, it is preferable to refrain from eating it during the week, though not forbidden.
Law #5
The Sage Ezra ruled that laundry should be done on Thursday in order to honor Shabbat with clean clothes since on erev Shabbat (Friday) there is often no time because one is busy with other Shabbat preparations. It is a very big mitzvah to bake challah (and to make enough to bless on ‘taking challah’). Every household should make their own challahs for Shabbat and not buy bread from the market, as on weekdays. This is in order to honor the Shabbat. In places where it is acceptable to eat bread baked by non-Jews during the week, nevertheless, it is good to be wary of doing so on Shabbat and holidays. A person should only eat kosher, home-made bread, to honor the Shabbat and holidays (except Pesach, of course!).
Law #6
On erev Shabbat —Friday daytime —one should not have a large meal, even in the morning. This is because on Shabbat we are supposed to eat and drink in abundance and with a hearty appetite, and if one ate a lot before Shabbat, he will not do so properly on Shabbat itself. Nevertheless, a large meal connected to a mitzvah, such as at a Circumcision or Firstborn Redemption, may be eaten. Even if afterwards one was not able to eat the Shabbat meal, it is fine because the first meal was also for the sake of a mitzvah. However, even under these circumstances, it is better to make a ‘mitzvah meal’ early in the day and to eat only a little, with the exception of the close relatives, mohel and sandak.
Laws 7-17

Work by a non-Jew on and before Shabbat

Law #7
(’Work’ is here defined as an act forbidden to a Jew to perform on Shabbat ). The Sages forbade asking a non-Jew to do something forbidden for a Jew on Shabbat, whether he be paid for it or not. This is because that becomes an emissary of the Jew. This law applies even if the Jew asked the non-Jew before Shabbat to do something on Shabbat ; and also applies even if the Jew does not necessarily need the work done on Shabbat, per se.
These rules are hinted to in the Torah in regards to Shabbat and holidays: “all work you shall not do on them”—referring even to someone else who is not required to rest on Shabbat and holidays. Regardless, the main point is that the sanctity of Shabbat will not come to be perceived as insignificant (by asking a non-Jew to do something forbidden to a Jew), and also it could eventually lead to the Jew coming to do these types of work by himself.
Even if the Jew did not ask him, the Sages decreed that if a non-Jew worked for the sole and direct benefit of the Jew, it is forbidden to derive benefit from this act. (For example, if the non-Jew lit a candle for the Jew without being asked, the Jew may not benefit from its light.) It is even forbidden to benefit from this act after Shabbat until the same amount of time after Shabbat passed as it took the non-Jew to do the work. If a Jew sees a non-Jew doing work that the Jew will benefit from, he should chastise the non-Jew. Under certain circumstances, it is permissible to benefit from an action done on Shabbat by a non-Jew. These exceptions should be discussed with your Rabbi.
Law #8
(The laws about when it is permissible for a non-Jew to rent a business from a Jew and keep it operating on Shabbat are complicated. The main problem is with something like a store, because even if you rent it to a gentile, others might think that you are paying the non-Jew a salary for his work and therefore making profit from his Shabbat efforts. If the non-Jew could not possibly be an employee, or it was unknown that the Jew was the owner, it may be permissible.) It is permissible to hire a non-Jew to do a job for a Jew, as long as you do not specify that the work must be done on Shabbat, but there are a few conditions to this law: 1.) You must set a payment for the work in advance, even if you do not actually pay at that time. 2) Be careful not to give so much work that the non-Jew would be forced to work on Shabbat in order to complete the tasks. 3) All work must be disconnected from the earth. If the work entails building a house or planting a field (work connected to the earth), it is forbidden to have a gentile do the work, since everyone knows that the land belongs to a Jew.
Law #9:
(continued from last week) If a gentile who was contracted by a Jew finished his assigned work on Shabbat, the Jew may benefit from that labor even during that Shabbat itself. This is because the gentile completed this work in his own interest, in order to be paid, not so that the Jew would make use of his labor on Shabbat. Nevertheless, it is preferable not to benefit from the work of the gentile because it was done on Shabbat, and even after Shabbat to wait the duration of time it took to do the work. There are stricter opinions which do not permit it even then. Therefore, only in a pressing case should one make use of the gentile’s work.
Law #10
A Jew who goes into partnership with a gentile should be careful 1) that the non-Jew works on Shabbat solely for his own profit, NOT for the benefit of his Jewish partner, and 2) that NONE of the profit attained on Shabbat must be for the Jew, even though, as partners, generally profit is split. If the partnership is based on sharing the work equally, they may not arrange that the gentile work on Shabbat, and the Jew on a weekday in exchange because their partnership is based on a FULL week of work, including Shabbat, and the Jew would be benefitting by the gentile working for the partnership on Shabbat.
Law #11
A Jew may not say to his gentile partner “We will divide the profit evenly; every Shabbat that you worked, I worked a corresponding weekday.” This is because the time the gentile worked on Shabbat is also accounted to the Jew, who would thereby receive profit from Shabbat itself. However, if the partners agreed from the beginning of their business that on Shabbat, solely the gentile partner would work—the Jewish partner having no part or profit in the business that day—and solely the Jewish partner on a weekday, this is permitted. This is allowed because the gentile is in no way substituting the Jew, nor does the Jew receive any profit from business on Shabbat. If the condition of the Jew’s total absence from work matters and profits on Shabbat was not made at the start of the business, the partnership may be dissolved, annulling all previous business conditions, and then the partnership renewed with the new necessary condition added.
Law #12
It is permitted for Jewish and gentile partners to agree that on Shabbat, solely the gentile partner will work—the Jewish partner having no part or profit in the business that day—and solely the Jewish partner on a weekday. If this indeed is a condition of their partnership, then when dividing profit, they may do so equally, the Jew profiting from the weekdays he worked alone, and the gentile from his work on Shabbat es. So too may a Jew rent his part of merchandise to his gentile partner on Shabbat, but must add another day or two to the rental besides Shabbat itself. Or, a Jew may contract his gentile partner to work on Shabbat, and if any profit is made, then the Jew will receive a certain sum of money. This is permissible because everyone knows that the gentile is a partner, and he works for his own interest in making profit. business conditions, and then the partnership renewed with the new necessary condition added.
Law #13
It is permissible to lend tools and other ‘work’ objects to a non-Jew even though the non-Jew will use them to do forbidden work on Shabbat. We, not our tools, are commanded to rest on Shabbat. Work animals are an exception because the Torah commands that they rest, too.
Law #14
On Friday (erev Shabbat ) it is forbidden to rent a tool to a gentile, even to rent it for an extended period of time. This is because the deal is set close to Shabbat making it appear that the gentile is doing labor on Shabbat in place of the Jew who profits from this work. This law applies except in a case where the gentile pays to rent the tool for all days of the week excluding Shabbat.
Law #15
It is permissible to lend vessels, tools, etc. to a gentile, even immediately preceding the commencement of Shabbat, and even when the object is to be used on Shabbat. This is because the Jew receives no benefit from the labor performed with it, and it is obvious that the gentile is not acting in place of the Jew.
Law #16
It is forbidden to rent or lend an animal to a gentile. This is because the gentile will also use the animal for work on
Shabbat violating the Torah command to Jews “in order that your ox and donkey should rest” (Ex. 23/12), and a Jew is responsible even for a small ‘work’ performed by his animal in violation of Shabbat. This law applies even when the animal was hired much in advance of Shabbat, and even if the gentile promised to do no labor with the animal on Shabbat. (Other halachic sources mention ways how it may be permissible to lend or rent an animal to a gentile, etc.)
Law #17
Even immediately preceding Shabbat, one can hire a gentile to deliver a letter or other object, when payment is predetermined. This is because the gentile is not acting for the Jew’s sake or in his place, but rather to receive payment. Therefore a Jew may mail a letter on Friday even though it will be handled throughout Shabbat by non-Jews. It is forbidden, however, to verbally specify that a delivery be made on Shabbat, or even to verbally give a delivery deadline knowing this will require the gentile to work on Shabbat. (Therefore there are differing opinions about sending ‘overnite’ or ‘express mail’ on Friday).
Laws 18-21:

Traveling in the days before Shabbat

Law #18
One should not set out to sea less than three days before Shabbat (from Tuesday night). This is because it takes three days to accustom to sea travel, and only after will someone be able to enjoy Shabbat. However, one who travels by sea for the purpose of carrying out a mitzvah (which includes business purposes or visiting a friend—excluding pleasure sailing such as a cruise), is permitted to set sail even Friday afternoon, and even if enjoying Shabbat will be impossible. This is because being occupied with one mitzvah overrides the obligation to carry out another mitzvah. Nevertheless, a Jew should request of the gentile captain to pause sailing during Shabbat itself; then, if (as expected), the ship continues sailing, the Jew is not liable. River travel, in which case there is no sea-sickness, is permissible even when setting out on Friday afternoon, but a Jew must be careful that there are not other instances of Shabbat violation included in his travel (to be explained later.)
Law #19
A Jew may not undertake freshwater sailing within three days before Shabbat if he knows that Shabbat may be violated. Moreover, if a person knows that they will inevitably desecrate Shabbat by going on a boat, even for a life or death situation they are forbidden to sail, as it will appear as if they are deliberately entering into a situation which will inescapably entail Shabbat desecration. Similarly it is also forbidden to sail on a ship where the majority of passengers are Jews, because even if a Jew will not personally violate Shabbat, but instead have a Gentile perform any prohibited “labor”, the Gentile’s work is obviously on behalf of the Jews’ benefit over Shabbat.
However, if most of the passengers on the ship are Gentiles, and therefore any work is performed primarily for their benefit, a Jew may sail on such a ship. All of the above applies when sailing on Tuesday night and thereafter; before this, a Jew is permitted to set sail in any of the above mentioned circumstances. (some authorities have ruled that this is permitted only when the sailing is non-pleasure purposes, such as for one’s livelihood). Nevertheless, a Jew should not travel on a boat where Shabbat is unnecessarily violated (for example, a ship that could cease sailing on Shabbat, but does not).
Law #20
The reason the Rabbis differentiated between the first three weekdays and the last ones is because the first 3 weekdays are connected to the previous Shabbat and not the following one. For this reason, a Jew is not required to avoid doing something during the first three weekdays which could eventually cause him or her to violate the coming Shabbat. Whereas the last three weekdays do relate to the coming Shabbat and therefore a Jew must be careful not to do things on them which may cause Shabbat to be violated. An example of this is that a medical procedure should not be scheduled to be performed within the three days (from Tuesday night) preceding Shabbat. This is because 1) the Jew will not be able to enjoy Shabbat, and 2) post-procedure examinations and treatments may require Shabbat to be violated.
Law #21
From Friday morning, A Jew should not walk more than a distance of 3 parsahs (a 4 hour 48 minute journey), so that he or she will arrive at their destination midday and in time to prepare for Shabbat. A Jew can ride a horse or drive farther than 3 parsahs but should not travel for more than the 4 hour 48 minute time allotment. However, if someone’s family or host is expecting and preparing for him or her, then travel throughout the day is permissible. But even with a host, if someone will nevertheless still have to prepare Shabbat for him or herself, then travel of more than 3 parsahs is forbidden. A practical example of questionable Friday travel is when flying: the not-infrequent technical difficulties and delays create a risk of violating Shabbat.

Laws 22-53

Laws 54-103

Laws 104-149

Laws 150-195

Laws 196-219

Laws 220-240

Laws 241- 309

Back to top Back to Shabbat Laws menu

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION