From the Rav’s Desk: Jewish maid working on Shabbos

  1. Question: [Thursday, 13th Menachem Av, 5781]

I have a Jewish maid who works for me several days a week helping with housework. I would like her to start coming also on Shabbos to help me out in the home [of course only doing those things that are permitted to be done on Shabbos] but my question is regarding payment and if I’m allowed to hire her and pay her for her work on Shabbos?



It is permitted for you to hire her to work for you on Shabbos if the payment arrangement is that you set an agreed upon total fee for all her Shabbos work as well as some of the work that she does during the week, as opposed to her being paid per hour of work. Thus, for example, you can tell her that she should work for you also on erev Shabbos or Motzei Shabbos for a certain amount of time [or by being given specific chores and tasks to perform irrelevant of how much time they take], and likewise have her work on Shabbos for a specific amount of time [or by having her perform specific chores and tasks irrelevant of how much time it takes], and then pay her a set fee for both the pre or post Shabbos work and the Shabbos work itself. In this way the pre-and post Shabbos work and the Shabbos work is considered a single term of employment which cannot be separated under the employment agreement. It is forbidden, however, for the payment to be set up to be paid per hour of her work, even if she will eventually be paid for the entire weeks or months work, and will not actually be paid for her Shabbos work individually, nonetheless, this form of agreement is forbidden on Shabbos. However, it would be likewise permissible for you to tell her to work for you a certain amount of hours before or after Shabbos and a certain amount of hours on Shabbos itself, and then pay her a total amount for all those hours, without going into a per hour payment. For example, if you desire her to work a total of eight hours between erev/Motzei Shabbos and Shabbos combined, you can offer to pay her $80 total for the eight-hour period, even though it ends up when you calculate it that she’s being paid $10 per hour. Whatever the arrangement is, neither the employer or employee may refer to the payment as Shabbos payment, and they are rather to refer to it as weekend payment and the like, whenever they are discussing the payment.

Explanation: It is forbidden for a Jew to receive payment for his work on Shabbos unless the payment is given in the form of Havlah, which means that the payment is swallowed within the weekday payment. Now, it is only considered Havlah if the sum of payment does not include a specific sum allocated for the work done specifically on Shabbos, as in such a case it ends up that one is truly giving payment for Shabbos work, and just happens to be giving it to her together with the weekday payment, and this is not considered Havlah. Thus, it does not help the pay her for the entire weeks work which includes Shabbos, if the payment for the Shabbos work is per hour/day of work, as in such a case the Shabbos payment is unique and individual within the general payment. However, if you give a set price for two day’s worth of work that includes Shabbos, and is not per hour, then that is considered true Havlah, and may be arranged to be done on Shabbos.

Sources: See Admur 243:5 and 11-12; 244:15; 245:2; 246:1 and 13-15; 306:8-9 and 11; 334:7; 526:14; 585:11; Mahadurah Basra on Chapter 243; Michaber and Tur 246:1; 306:4-5; Rama 246:2 and 306:4; M”A 243:1; 246:3; 306:7; Bava Metzia 58a; Rambam Shabbos 6:25; Tosafos Shabbos 19a; Mordechai Shabbos 246; Rosh Shabbos ibid and 23:8; Rabbeinu Yerucham 12:12; Sefer Hateruma 221; Semag L.S. 65; Shibulei Haleket 113; Beis Yosef 243; Tzemach tzedek O.C. 49:3; Alef Hamagen 585:24; M”B 306:21; Piskeiy Teshuvos 306:6-9 and footnote 66


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