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The question of working on Shabbat seems so easy to answer one would be ashamed to ask. Of course it is forbidden... But...the world is a complicated place and thus things gets complicated as well.

The question is as follows. We have a synagogue with no hazan, old one passed away. When we required a hazan to come do the service on Shabbat. He stated that he wanted money in order to come. Is that not work ? We asked, and his answer, He is not working, he is a talmid showing us what he learned and practiced all week, and we in return pay him to continue the work and the learning cycle.

But as it was a small synagogue, and perhaps to prove a point it came to pass that we ran out of money, and so, the hazan refused to come when he was not paid. Call it what you will, but isn't that the explicit definition of work? to do one's request in exchange of wages.

Another good example we ran into was once we secured a hazan, he would be offered more money to do the high holidays in another synagogue, and thus, he would ask us to match or beat the amount in order to be here or he goes elsewhere.

What is the position on these?

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    Greetings. As singing is not a "prohibited creative labor" per se, it is a well-honored practice (as you see in the sources below) to hire people for mitzvah work, especially if some non-Shabbat work is included. I understand you'd like to find a cantor for free, but from a strict halachic perspective, his asking to be paid is not at all uncommon.
    – Shalom
    Apr 25, 2023 at 12:55
  • "When we required a hazan to come do the service on Shabbat. He stated that he wanted money in order to come. Is that not work ?" (1) Is what not work? If being a hazan is prohibited work, then he shouldn't be doing it for free either. The only thing I'm aware of that getting paid distinguishes is between a professional and an amateur. (2) On a human level, why should anyone agree to go to be a hazan at your synagogue (especially if not compensated for it)? (3) Why not appoint one of your synagogue's congregants as hazan?
    – Tamir Evan
    Apr 25, 2023 at 16:29

1 Answer 1

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In Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 306:5) there is an opinion that it is permitted to hire a Chazan, being that it is for the sake of a Mitzvah, and it seems from what it says later on (Ibid 526:5) that we may follow this opinion (also in Shulchan Aruch Harav (Ibid 306:11), it says clearly that the custom is to be lenient in this case)

However, the Mishnah Berurah adds that whoever takes money for being a Chazzan on Shabbos will not see a blessing from that money

Also, if he serves as Chazzan during the rest of the week as well, and he gets paid by the week/month/year etc. it would be permitted according to all opinions

Alternatively, the same thing would apply if they don’t make up a price in advance

Additionally, there is a general concept in Halacha, that even in a case where one is forbidden to take money for the job itself, he is still permitted to get paid for the time and effort he put into practicing during the week

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  • "However, the Mishnah Berurah adds that whoever takes money for being a Chazzan on Shabbos will not see a blessing from that money." - It's unclear what the person could/should do with the money. But one thing should be clear, that investing that money in the stock market is NOT a good idea! Apr 9, 2023 at 21:53
  • @IsraelReader If investing is a bad idea, even worse would be buying food!
    – Barmar
    Apr 10, 2023 at 14:21
  • @Barmar What could go bad with buying some healthy types of food, and immediately consuming it? Apr 10, 2023 at 16:13
  • @IsraelReader I thought you were suggesting that anything you use the money for would not work out well. So you buy food and it turns out to be infected.
    – Barmar
    Apr 10, 2023 at 16:22
  • Love your answer Barman :-D
    – Eyal Simon
    Apr 11, 2023 at 2:35

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