I’m interested in buying a share in a racehorse as part of a syndicate and would like to understand the issues raised in terms of hilchos Shabbos. The basic details are:

1. All race winnings will be shared equally with a non-Jewish person
2. I would be a completely passive owner – all decisions made would be made by the non-Jewish person, I wouldn’t be asking him to perform any melacha on shabbos
3. I’ve told the person I would prefer that the horse didn’t run on shabbos, but there is a chance that at his complete discretion on an ad hoc basis, the horse might run (and therefore potentially earn income) on shabbos
4. So the non-Jewish partner would be working on his own initiative and for an equal share of income
5. My ownership would not be publicly “known” i.e to avoid Maras Ayin.

It raises interesting issues, but my questions are:

1. Given the decisions would be made without my input, am I entitled to stay in the partnership and retain my full 50% share of income, even if the income is earned on shabbos?; or
2. Can I stay in the partnership but only on the basis that 100% of any income earned on shabbos is directed to the non-Jewish partner? (if this is allowed, is it acceptable for me to adjust the ratio of income sharing during normal week days to balance out at 50/50?); or
3. Is it inappropriate to be involved in the partnership at all under circumstances where the horse may run on shabbos?

Answer:

There are two issues that need to be considered. 1) Receiving income from labor on Shabbos; 2) Allowing one’s animal to perform labor on Shabbos.

1) There would be no prohibition on account of receiving income from labor on Shabbos. The reason for this is that because the non-Jew is a partner, the action he takes on Shabbos is done for his own benefit, and not as an agent for the Jewish partner. It is only prohibited to receive income from work that involves the desecratoin of Shabbos when this work is done on behalf of the Jew, and not when the non-Jew does it for himself.

2) The matter of one’s animal performing labor on Shabbos is more thorny. As the Torah states, a person may not permit his animal to perform labor on Shabbos, and for this reason it is prohibited to rent out one’s animal (to a non-Jew) on Shabbos. If one’s horse is racing on Shabbos, this would therefore involve the prohibition of one’s animal performing labor. There are some authorities who write that if a non-Jew is a partner in the animal, the prohibition does not apply. Several authorities, however, write that the prohibition remains, and because the prohibition is a Torah offense, one must follow the stringent opinion.

The way in which this problem can be solved is by stating a clause at the time of purchasing that the horse should belong to the non-Jew on Shabbos, so that all Shabbos winnings would be his. It would be permitted to say that another day’s earnings should be the Jewish partner’s (to compensate for Shabbos), provided that one doesn’t make a precise equasion that would amount to splitting the Shabbos earnings between the partners.

Sources:

Concerning the first issue: Rema, Orach Chaim 245:1; Mishnah Berurah; see also Minchas Shlomo, vol. 2-3, no. 60 (ruling that this would be permitted even when the non-Jew’s share is less (or even significantly less) than 50%.

Concerning the second issue: Beis Yosef 246, citing from several authorities; Shulchan Aruch 246:4 (inconclusive concerning the issue of an animal’s labor); See Rivash 151, which Magen Avraham (246:13) understands to mean that there is no prohibition; Mishnah Berurah (246:23) and Shaar Hatzion (27); Maharam Schick (Orach Chaim 119), prohibiting, but stating that if one stipulates that the animal should belong to the non-Jew on Shabbos, it is permitted. See at length Yabia Omer, vol. 8, Orach Chaim no. 30.

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