Halacha for Monday 18 Sivan 5784 June 24 2024

Babysitting On Shabbat

Question: May one hire a babysitter to watch one’s children on Shabbat and pay her on Friday or on Motza’ei Shabbat or is this forbidden?

Answer: The Gemara (Baba Metzia 58a) states that our Sages enacted that one may not pay a worker for work performed on Shabbat, for this is similar to monetary transactions which are forbidden on Shabbat.

Hiring a Worker to Watch a Child
The Tosefta states, “If one hires a worker to watch one’s cow or child, one may not pay him for the work he has provided on Shabbat.” The Rif, Rambam, Rosh, Tur, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 306, Section 4) rule accordingly.

We see that one may not pay a watchman or a babysitter for what they have watched on Shabbat, for this constitutes “Shabbat wages” which our Sages have forbidden to pay.

Shabbat Wages in a Collective Manner
Nevertheless, the Tosefta and the Poskim point out that one may pay Shabbat wages in a collective manner, i.e. if one has hired a guard to watch one’s possessions throughout the entire week, one may pay the guard his wages for the entire week although the payment includes the Shabbat wages as well.

Thus, the same applies to a babysitter in that if it was stipulated in advance that she should watch the children for the entire week and her salary is not determined on an hourly or daily basis, rather, for the entire pre-determined period that she is to watch the children, she may be compensated for watching the children on Shabbat as well since this is being included with the rest of her salary.

However, if the babysitter is paid on an hourly or daily basis, one may not pay her for the work she has done on Shabbat and she may not accept such compensation either.

For the Purpose of a Mitzvah
Nevertheless, when there is a Mitzvah purpose, a babysitter may receive compensation for her work on Shabbat, for our Sages never intended to prohibit such a situation. It is for this reason that the Kenesset Ha’Gedolah writes that it is customary to pay midwives for their services. Similarly, the Poskim write that it is customary to pay Chazzanim (cantors) and those who blow Shofar for the services they provide on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

On the other hand, the Poskim write that one who receives compensation for work one has performed on Shabbat shall not see any blessing from this money. The Poskim therefore write that it is preferable that such individuals receive their Shabbat wages in a collective manner, such as, in the form of compensation for his prayers during the week as well. In his Sefer Yalkut Yosef, the great Rishon Le’Tzion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a writes that he heard from his father, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, that if one received a salary for a service performed on Shabbat, one should use this money to purchase some item related to a Mitzvah, such as Torah books and the like, for by purchasing an item related to a Mitzvah with this money, one shall see blessing from this money in this way.

Summary: If one hires a babysitter to watch one’s children on Shabbat, one may not pay her for the services she performed on Shabbat. Thus, one should make up with the babysitter that she watch the children on another occasion (besides for Shabbat) as well and she will then be paid collectively for the entire babysitting period. Similarly, when requesting reimbursement, the babysitter should request to be paid collectively for the entire babysitting service and not specifically for the babysitting she had done on Shabbat (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 6, page 3).

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