By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The event you are about to read below is true. The conversation that appears below actually transpired as well. Names, however, have been left out to protect the innocent.
It happens in numerous shuls. A caterer will fix up the shul social hall and make it into a ballroom, replete with fancy mirrors, curtains, moldings and chandeliers. In exchange, the caterer gets an exclusive right to cater events.
The shul had decided to place nice orange papers indicating the sponsors of the forthcoming Kiddushim. Wanting to maximize the exposure of these nice orange sheets, they had them taped onto the mirrors in the ballroom. This was an opportunity to get more sponsors for future kiddushes and what better way to do than to tape these circulars onto the ballroom mirrors right before a major gala Kiddush where the entire membership was invited?
The caterer’s men were not happy. They take pride in the appearance of their ballroom. Who had the audacity to place these scotch-taped signs on the mirrors? “We serve up scotch, but not scotch tape!,” was the sentiment, and down went the orange colored signs.
Now, on Shabbos morning, the shul wasn’t happy. The relationship between the shul and the caterer is always somewhat unclear and “sticky,” so a member of the Shul administration approached the caterer just before the Kiddush. Below is a transcript of the conversation.
Shul Admin: “We are having the Shul’s Shabbos goy tape the signs back up.”
Caterer: “You are going to matir Amirah l’Akum, for this?”
Shul Admin: “It’s for a Mitzvah of Tzorchei Rabbim!”
Observer: “Actually, for a Mitzvah of is only a basis to permit a Rabbinic issue. This is a Torah prohibition.
[RYH – The observer is correct. The Shulchan Aruch states this in Orech Chaim 307:5. The heter for a deoraisah is only when the masses will violate an issur or will be otherwise unable to perform an obligatory Mitzvah]
Shul Admin: “Torah prohibition? What’s the Torah prohibition?”
Observer: “The Shabbos goy is cutting the tape to size, that’s a deOraisah of mechataich.”
[RYH – The observer is correct. The Mishna Brurah states this clearly in Orech Chaim 340:41]
Caterer: “And besides, why is it tzorchei Rabim? Why can’t you just leave these sheets on the tables?”
Shul Admin: “People don’t read it on the tables. We need maximum exposure.”
Observer: “What you can do is stick it onto the mirrors with chewing gum. Then it would not be a deoraisah. Assuming that it is, in fact, tzorchei rabbim, he can post the signs up with gum.”
Shul Admin: “I see.”
Observer: “And even if the Shabbos Goy decides not to use the gum, but to cut up the scotch tape, then he is doing it for himself and that is considered adaitay d’nafshay ka’avid – so it would be all right.”
[RYH – here too the observer is correct. The possibility of the gum, however, must be a viable option and not just a theoretical one.]
What ultimately happened? The Kiddush with the signs placed nicely next to the mirrors.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.