Friday, May 20, 2022

Moed Koton 12: A Permitted Practice?

On this daf, we find a case of maris ayin.

A certain religious tobacconist wished to sell his wares on Shabbos to make additional income. He asked the rov of his town if there was some halachic way to permit this.

After spending some time considering the question, the rov told him that there was a way: “All you have to do is declare the tobacco ownerless for Shabbos and have a non-Jewish seller in your shop. Our sages say that one can declare an object ownerless for even one day, and the poskim apply this principle post facto. For example, even though a Jew’s animal may not perform melacha on Shabbos, one who rents an animal to a non-Jew until Friday and the non-Jew fails to return it must avoid violation by declaring the animal ownerless for Shabbos. In my opinion, you can do the same to bolster your income.”

Needless to say, this heter caused quite a stir. The parnassim of the man’s community decided to refer this matter to one of the gedolei hador for adjudication to prevent strife within the community.

When this question was presented to the Chasam Sofer, he responded that the town rov should not have issued this psak: “The Ridvaz writes that relying on declaring property ownerless even before three people is a last resort only to be used in the case of very great loss. He also permits it if the owner will fall into trouble with the government if he refuses to rent his animals out for work on Shabbos. But even disregarding this, there is the serious halachic problem of maris ayin, which is prohibited if people know the melacha being performed on Shabbos is for a Jew. How much more so is this prohibited regarding Jewish property where everyone knows he is making a profit on Shabbos! There is not even any loss in this case. It is certainly incumbent on the community to protest this blatant chilul Shabbos.”

The Chasam Sofer concluded, “I am sure that the rov will rescind his decision without any reservation immediately. Even our forefathers did not insist that they were always correct. We should not hold ourselves above them. If he changes his mind, he will surely not be embarrassed in this world or the next” (Shu”t Chasam Sofer).

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