The "Shabbes Goy": A Study in Halakhic Flexibility

By Jacob Katz; Yoel Lerner | Go to book overview

11
Nineteenth-Century Russian and Hungarian Jewry

The advantage of the bill of sale over the other solutions to the problem of the Sabbath Gentile was its mobility, the ease with which it could be transferred from one place to another and from one matter to another. Instead of examining a case from different perspectives in order to arrive at a halakhic ruling based on the sources, a process that only genuine halakhic authorities were in general willing and able to do, here was a tool that could be wielded by any rabbi. He could now issue his ruling without taking personal responsibility but could instead rely on the formulator of the document (such as R. Hayyim Zanz, whose formula was circulated in his responsa, which were published in 1875)1. or on accepted custom. Accordingly, the use of the bill of sale spread rapidly. R. Moses Teomim of Horodenka said about the time of the publication of R. Hayyim's book: "Go out and see what the people are doing--they write a bill of sale for every Sabbath enterprise carried out by Gentiles

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1
See chap. 10, nn. 45ff. R. Hayyim Baruch, Birkat Hayyim ( Lublin, 1896), 4; see "a bill of sale said to have been written by the rabbi of Ciechanow," i.e., R. Abraham ben Raphael Landau, who died in 1875. This case came up in his lifetime

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