499. Unreasonable Deadlines; Non-Jewish Contractors on Shabbos

73:4 The fourth condition that must be met in order to permit a non-Jew to do labor for a Jew on Shabbos is that the Jew must not require that the non-Jew do the work on Shabbos. Even if the Jew does not explicitly say that the non-Jew must work on Shabbos, if he sets the deadline so that is impossible to get the job done without working also on Shabbos, it is forbidden. Similarly, if the non-Jew is delivering a letter for the Jew, who told him to have it delivered by a certain date that required traveling also on Shabbos, it is forbidden. If the local market day is Shabbos, a Jew may not give a non-Jew money on Friday in order to purchase something that he knows will only be available on Shabbos. The converse is also true: the Jew may not give the non-Jew an object to sell for him on Shabbos. However, if the Jew does not explicitly require that the non-Jew do so on Shabbos, then it is only prohibited if he gives him the money or the object on Friday; on any other day it is permitted to give a non-Jew such work to do. (The Mishnah Brurah disagrees and does not permit it even at the very beginning of the week – MB 307:15.) It is advisable not to live in a city where the local market day is Shabbos because it will inevitably create compromising Shabbos situations. If the market place is not in the Jewish neighborhood, it is then not a problem.

73:5 The final condition is that the work being performed by the non-Jew may not involve things that are connected to the ground, such as buildings or crops. Therefore, a Jew may not allow a non-Jew to perform construction for him on Shabbos even if they agreed beforehand on a flat fee for the entire project. If this creates an extremely difficult situation, then an authority must be consulted. The non-Jew may not even chisel stones or prepare boards for the building in public if it is known that they belong to a Jew. (Some authorities permit this so long as it is not known that the work is being done for a Jew – Rema 244:2. If the lumber or stones belong to the non-Jewish contractor, it is permitted so long as he does not do so on the Jew’s property – Mishnah Brurah 244:14.) Similarly, one may not permit a non-Jew to plow, reap, or otherwise work in his field even if they set a predetermined flat rate. However, if the non-Jew receives a percentage of the crop as his fee, and doing so is the commonly-accepted practice in the area, then it is permitted for the non-Jew to work the field on Shabbos. Also, if the field is in an area that is so remote that no Jews live within a Shabbos boundary (techum – 2,000 cubits or about 0.57 miles) of it, then it is permitted even for a non-Jew hired for a pre-determined flat rate, though still not for an hourly wage.

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