Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to content

December 8, 2021 | ד׳ בטבת תשפ״ב | TODAY'S DAF: Taanit 26

Business on Shabbat and Yom Tov? – Gefet #10

Why is There a Prohibition to Do Business on Shabbat and Yom Tov? Is it possible to perform this operation without any prohibition? Rashi has a three part mystery. Join us in solving it.

 

Why is There a Prohibition to Do Business on Shabbat and Yom Tov?

We have an accepted rule regarding hilchot shabbat and yom tov that for every prohibition there is a reason. However, regarding doing business, we are faced with the question of why is this action prohibited when it can be done without transgressing any of the avot melacha! Our sugiya is one of the doors through which we can clarify this point. This time we will examine Rashi and the complexity of his position on the sugiya.

The mishna on daf 36b states:

משנה. כל שחייבין עליו משום שבות, משום רשות, משום מצוה, בשבת – חייבין עליו ביום טוב. ואלו הן משום שבות: לא עולין באילן, ולא רוכבין על גבי בהמה, ולא שטין על פני המים, ולא מטפחין, ולא מספקין, ולא מרקדין. ואלו הן משום רשות: לא דנין, ולא מקדשין, ולא חולצין, ולא מיבמין. ואלו הן משום מצוה: לא מקדישין, ולא מעריכין, ולא מחרימין, ולא מגביהין תרומה ומעשר. כל אלו ביום טוב אמרו, קל וחומר בשבת. אין בין יום טוב לשבת אלא אוכל נפש בלבד.

The gemara asks why do we not consecrate objects for the beit hamikdash, take valuation vows, consecrate objects for use of the cohanim, nor separate teruma and ma’aser sheini on shabbat and yom tov, if these are mitzvot? It answers that the reason for all of these is that it is similar to doing commerce. Rashi comes to our aid in deciphering the connection between commerce and the list mentioned in the mishna:

משום מקח וממכר – דלמקח וממכר דמו, שמוציא מרשותו לרשות הקדש, ומקח וממכר אסור מן המקרא דכתיב ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר (ישעיהו נח), אי נמי: מקח וממכר אתי לידי כתיבה שטרי מכירה, ואם תאמר: הויא לה גזרה לגזרה, כולה חדא גזרה היא.

Rashi here explains that all of these actions are similar to commerce or are likely to lead to writing documents which is prohibited from the Torah. 

Rashi’s words suggest an interesting diyuk. Rashi brings two different possibilities for the reason for the prohibition of doing business – one is based on the words of Yeshayahu, where it seems to be connected to the unique character of the day, and the second is a decree aimed at preventing one from transgressing one of the 39 melachot: writing. 

We need to clarify what is the relationship between these two reasons brought consecutively by Rashi – why is it prohibited to do business on shabbat? We will examine the note of Rabbi Akiva Eiger in גליון הש”ס:

רש”י ד”ה משום מקח וממכר וכו’ אסור מן המקרא. עיין רש”י לעיל דף כז ע”ב ד”ה אין פוסקין.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger sends us to look in Rashi on daf 27, and as is characteristic of him, suffices with the reference only, which turns it into a sort of riddle which, by opening the source, will illuminate new things for us. 

The mishna and gemara on daf 27 discuss the prohibition of setting the price for an animal on shabbat: 

משנה. אין נמנין על הבהמה לכתחלה ביום טוב, אבל נמנין עליה מערב יום טוב, ושוחטין ומחלקין ביניהם.

גמרא. מאי אין נמנין? אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל: אין פוסקין דמים לכתחלה על הבהמה ביום טוב.

Rashi explains why lechatchila it is prohibited to set a price for an animal on shabbat:

גמרא. אין פוסקין דמים – דמקח וממכר בשבת וביום טוב אסור, בספר עזרא (נחמיה יג).

 

Rashi on daf 27 brings another source for the prohibition of doing business from Ketuvim: a passuk from Nechemia. The question arises – what is the relationship between the three sources that Rashi brings for the prohibition of doing business?

We will again present each of the three sources and will expand on each one:

  1. Doing business is prohibited because of the passuk in Yeshayahu 58:13: 

אִם־תָּשִׁ֤יב מִשַּׁבָּת֙ רַגְלֶ֔ךָ עֲשׂ֥וֹת חֲפָצֶ֖יךָ בְּי֣וֹם קָדְשִׁ֑י וְקָרָ֨אתָ לַשַּׁבָּ֜ת עֹ֗נֶג לִקְד֤וֹשׁ יְקֹוָק֙ מְכֻבָּ֔ד וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ֙ מֵעֲשׂ֣וֹת דְּרָכֶ֔יךָ מִמְּצ֥וֹא חֶפְצְךָ֖ וְדַבֵּ֥ר דָּבָֽר

  1. Doing business is prohibited from the pesukim in Ezra and Nechemia 13:

בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֡מָּה רָאִ֣יתִי בִֽיהוּדָ֣ה׀ דֹֽרְכִֽים־גִּתּ֣וֹת׀ בַּשַּׁבָּ֡ת וּמְבִיאִ֣ים הָעֲרֵמ֣וֹת וְֽעֹמְסִ֪ים עַל־ הַחֲמֹרִ֟ים וְאַף־יַ֜יִן עֲנָבִ֤ים וּתְאֵנִים֙ וְכָל־מַשָּׂ֔א וּמְבִיאִ֥ים יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם בְּי֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת וָאָעִ֕יד בְּי֖וֹם מִכְרָ֥ם צָֽיִד: (טז) וְהַצֹּרִים֙ יָ֣שְׁבוּ בָ֔הּ מְבִיאִ֥ים דָּ֖אג וְכָל־מֶ֑כֶר וּמֹכְרִ֧ים בַּשַּׁבָּ֛ת לִבְנֵ֥י יְהוּדָ֖ה וּבִירוּשָׁלִָֽם: (יז) וָאָרִ֕יבָה אֵ֖ת חֹרֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֑ה וָאֹמְרָ֣ה לָהֶ֗ם מָֽה־הַדָּבָ֨ר הָרָ֤ע הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַתֶּ֣ם עֹשִׂ֔ים וּֽמְחַלְּלִ֖ים אֶת־י֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת: (יח) הֲל֨וֹא כֹ֤ה עָשׂוּ֙ אֲבֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וַיָּבֵ֨א אֱלֹהֵ֜ינוּ עָלֵ֗ינוּ אֵ֚ת כָּל־הָרָעָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את וְעַ֖ל הָעִ֣יר הַזֹּ֑את וְאַתֶּ֞ם מוֹסִיפִ֤ים חָרוֹן֙ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְחַלֵּ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּֽת: פ (יט) וַיְהִ֡י כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר צָֽלֲלוּ֩ שַׁעֲרֵ֨י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֜ם לִפְנֵ֣י הַשַּׁבָּ֗ת וָאֹֽמְרָה֙ וַיִּסָּגְר֣וּ הַדְּלָת֔וֹת וָאֹ֣מְרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א יִפְתָּח֔וּם עַ֖ד אַחַ֣ר הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת וּמִנְּעָרַ֗י הֶֽעֱמַ֙דְתִּי֙ עַל־הַשְּׁעָרִ֔ים לֹא־יָב֥וֹא מַשָּׂ֖א בְּי֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת: (כ) וַיָּלִ֨ינוּ הָרֹכְלִ֜ים וּמֹכְרֵ֧י כָל־מִמְכָּ֛ר מִח֥וּץ לִירוּשָׁלִָ֖ם פַּ֥עַם וּשְׁתָּֽיִם: (כא) וָאָעִ֣ידָה בָהֶ֗ם וָאֹמְרָ֤ה אֲלֵיהֶם֙ מַדּ֜וּעַ אַתֶּ֤ם לֵנִים֙ נֶ֣גֶד הַחוֹמָ֔ה אִם־תִּשְׁנ֕וּ יָ֖ד אֶשְׁלַ֣ח בָּכֶ֑ם מִן־הָעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔יא לֹא־בָ֖אוּ בַּשַּׁבָּֽת: ס 

  1. Doing business is prohibited as a decree lest one come to write. 

The first two sources point to an איסור דאורייתא or something close to this. The words of Yeshayahu are described by Rashi as a Torah prohibition – a surprising expression which points to a type of prohibition which is stricter than a rabbinic prohibition. Ezra’s adamentness that the nation not do business on shabbat also seems to be connected to a Torah prohibition and not to a decree. However, the third source points to a prohibition whose strength is rabbinic, and is a fence around a different prohibition. In light of these three different sources brought by Rashi, the question arises – when is the prohibition against doing business a prohibition which is more than a rabbinic prohibition, and what is the source and character of this prohibition, which is not one of the 39 melachot?

The rishonim and achronim have different approaches which can shed light on our Rashi. 

The Ramban’s approach to the mitzvah of resting on shabbat:

The Ramban on the Torah, in Vayikra 23:24, asks as to the language of the Torah: why does the Torah refer to chagim as “שבתון”? The Ramban brings the statement of Rav Ashi from Shabbat daf 24 where he says that there is a mitzvah to rest on shabbatot and chagim, and one who does not do this transgresses a positive mitzvah. The Ramban is surprised by his words and asks what is the halachic meaning of this “שבתון” – the prohibition of doing melacha is generally connected to specific actions which were spelled out. To what then is the mitzvah of “שבתון” referring? The Ramban suggests the following: 

ונראה לי שהמדרש הזה לומר שנצטוינו מן התורה להיות לנו מנוחה בי”ט אפילו מדברים שאינן מלאכה, לא שיטרח כל היום למדוד התבואות ולשקול הפירות והמתנות ולמלא החביות יין, ולפנות הכלים וגם האבנים מבית לבית וממקום למקום, ואם היתה עיר מוקפת חומה ודלתות נעולות בלילה יהיו עומסים על החמורים ואף יין וענבים ותאנים וכל משא יביאו בי”ט ויהיה השוק מלא לכל מקח וממכר, ותהיה החנות פתוחה והחנוני מקיף והשלחנים על שלחנם והזהובים לפניהם, ויהיו הפועלים משכימין למלאכתן ומשכירין עצמם כחול לדברים אלו וכיוצא בהן, והותרו הימים הטובים האלו ואפילו השבת עצמה שבכל זה אין בהם משום מלאכה, לכך אמרה תורה “שבתון” שיהיה יום שביתה ומנוחה לא יום טורח. וזהו פירוש טוב ויפה: 

This approach of the Ramban can clarify Rashi: if a person does a single act of business, he transgresses a rabbinic decree lest he come to write. But if there is an active market on shabbat, the entire character of the day of shabbat as a day of rest is damaged by the business that is taking place, and then the positive מצווה דאורייתא of “שבתון” is transgressed. In light of this, we can understand why Ezra was so strict about the people not doing business. Ezra was speaking out against their reality in which the people were transgressing on a Torah level, as the special character of shabbat was ruined because of the market that was active outside of Jerusalem. We can understand from here that the character of the prohibition is connected to the words of the navi: “ממצוא חפצך ומדבר דבר”. The damage is on a Torah level, and is based on a passuk, as Rashi says, but it is expressed through damaging the character of the day, meaning in the way that we speak and the actions that we do, which are described by the navi. 

These words of the Ramban illuminate and clarify Rashi’s position, as well as a strange halacha in the Rambam. The Rambam in Hilchot Shabbat 1:1 writes:

נאמר בתורה שמות כ”ג תשבות אפילו מדברים שאינן מלאכה חייב לשבות מהן, ודברים הרבה הן שאסרו חכמים משום שבות, מהן דברים אסורים מפני שהן דומים למלאכות ומהן דברים אסורים גזרה שמא יבוא מהן איסור סקילה, ואלו הן. 

The opening of the Rambam’s words is strange – chapter 21 deals with a host of rabbinic laws, and so why does the Rambam open with a statement about a Torah law? The Chatam Sofer in חלק ה’ בהשמטות סימן קצה addresses this question in his answer to the question of whether or not a person who opens his store on shabbat or yom tov is considered to have transgressed shabbat on a Torah level. The Chatam Sofer discusses this and says that while there is no punishment of stoning for this, he is still transgressing shabbat, as he is not fulfilling the positive mitzvah of “שבתון” that is mentioned by the Ramban. The Chatam Sofer claims that this is also the explanation for the Rambam in this halacha. In the background of the rabbinic prohibition lies a דאורייתא mitzvah. The merchant who transgresses rabbinic prohibitions which hurt the character of the shabbat will also cause transgression of a positive Torah level mitzvah of resting. 

Summary:

We have seen three different explanations in Rashi as to the basis of the prohibition of doing business – two of them point to a Torah law while the third states that we are dealing with a rabbinic law. With the help of the Ramban, we saw that there is a דאורייתא mitzvah of rest on shabbat. A person who damages the unique character of shabbat by widespread transgression of rabbinic prohibitions will transgress this mitzvah as well. The Ramban helps to understand Nechemia 13 who describes Ezra’s great effort to fight the market that was active in Jerusalem on shabbatot, and also to understand the Rambam’s strange wording. 

 

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni

Rabbanit Shimoni has learned at Migdal Oz, Matan, and the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She holds a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a BEd in Torah Shebe’al Peh and Jewish Thought from Herzog College. She is currently studying towards an MA in Jewish Thought Education at Herzog College. Rabbanit Shimoni taught gemara and halakha at Pelech High School and served as a ramit for shana bet at Migdal Oz. She directs Meshivat Nefesh, the online responsa program of the rabbaniyot of Beit Hillel. She is also a plastic artist and member of “A Studio of Her Own.
Scroll To Top