Employing Gentiles on the Sabbath
1. It is forbidden to allow (or instruct) a Gentile (1) to perform an
activity for a Jew on the Sabbath [which the Jew would be prohibited from
performing himself] (2). This is alluded to by the verse, "All 'Melacha'
(39 types of creative activity defined by the Oral Law) will not be
performed" (Exodus 12:16). This implies that Melacha is forbidden even when
it is carried out by a Gentile.
If the instructions for the task were given to the Gentile before the
Sabbath, and certain other criteria are fulfilled, then it is permissible
for him to perform the task on the Sabbath (we will cover one or two of the
criteria per day over the next few days).
(1) Gentiles are not obligated to refrain from Melacha (the 39 categories
of creative activity) on Shabbos.
(2) There are three different reasons given by the Rishonim (early Talmudic
authorities) as to why the Sages created this prohibition:
a) So that Jews will not take the prohibitions of Shabbos lightly, and end
up violating the Shabbos themselves (Rambam, Laws of Shabbos, 6:1)
b) There is a Rabbinic restriction, based on a verse in Isaiah (58:13),
which forbids the discussion, on Shabbos itself, of one's business affairs,
weekday concerns, or any of the 39 categories of prohibited activity.
Instructing a Gentile on Shabbos itself to perform a Melacha would be a
violation of that Rabbinical prohibition.
c) In Jewish law, one's agent is the equivalent of oneself (except when the
agent is committing a crime). The Sages extended this concept to include a
case of a Jew enlisting a Gentile to perform Melacha for him on Shabbos,
making it tantamount to the Jew doing the Melacha himself.
All three reasons have been accepted by Halachic authorities and must be
applied to each case. Therefore, one may not ask a Gentile on Shabbos, or
even during the week to perform a Melacha for him on Shabbos. Applying
reason (b), one may not even ask a Gentile on Shabbos to perform a Melacha
for him after Shabbos.