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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Benefit from Shabbat desecration

Web site on Shabbat

Question
I have a web site that is run by a service organization. I have no involvement with the running of the site. People from all over the world access this site daily. The visitors to the web site can register for my services without any human intervention. The service I supply runs automatically too. Do I have any problem regarding shabbat observance in the above arrangement?
Answer
It is forbidden on Shabbat to complete a business transaction even when none of the Melachot (= labors) banned on Shabbat are involved and even when the transaction’s completion is automatic (Shut R’Akiva Eiger 159; Shut Avnei Nezer Orach Chayim 51). Unlike the operation of electrical appliances that continue to run automatically on Shabbat without connection to the person who plugged them in, a transaction is completed only because the sides to the transaction- the buyer and seller- are alive and interested in the transaction at the time of its completion. Although there are poskim who do not require someone who owns automatic cold-drink dispensers to shut them down on shabbat (Shut Chelkat Yoav Orach Chayim 67; Shut Minchat Yitzchak III 34; Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata 29,28), the reasons for allowing these machines to run involve considerations that do not apply to services sold over the internet. If you wish to keep the website open on Shabbat, you must stipulate on the website that orders to purchase services that are entered over Shabbat will bind the sides contractually only after Shabbat and the orders will be completed only after Shabbat (see HaRav Uri Dassberg, T’chumin 19 on the operation of a bankomat on Shabbat).
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