Is one permitted to respond to synagogue appeals on Shabbat and Yom Tov?
In the Mishna on yesterday’s daf we learned that performing a mitzva like putting aside tithes or consecrating an object to the Temple would be forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov. On today’s daf, the Gemara explains that the reason the Sages did not permit people to donate to the Temple on Shabbat and Yom Tov is because such contributions appear very similar to business transactions. One of the practical questions that this raises is how can synagogues make appeals – even for good causes – and accept pledges on Shabbat or on Yom Tov?
Rav Nissim Gaon distinguishes between the case of donations to the Temple and the case of pledging money to charity or other causes. When donating to the Temple, the Talmud has a unique rule that a simple statement of a pledge to the Temple is already an act of transfer of ownership, as opposed to virtually all other cases, where a statement is merely an indication of intent that must be followed up with a formal act of transfer. Thus, someone who responds to an appeal with a pledge is not transferring the money on Yom Tov (which would be forbidden), but simply making a statement that he intends to give money to charity after the holiday (which is permitted).
This approach helps solve a problem that many of the commentaries raise regarding our Mishna. The general principle followed by the Sages is ein gozrin gezera le-gezera – that we do not create a Rabbinic ordinance to protect against the desecration of another Rabbinic ordinance. Since business transactions are prohibited because we are afraid that it may encourage people to write – an act forbidden on Shabbat or Yom Tov – how can we prevent people from donating to the Temple because of the similarity to business transactions?
Following the logic of Rav Nissim Gaon, the Ra”ah explains that the case of donating to the Temple is not merely forbidden because of a Rabbinic decree that it appears to be similar to a business transaction. Rather, simply announcing that something is consecrated to the Temple is, itself, a business transaction, since transfer of ownership takes place immediately.