Cooking Up a Storm in Kosher
The Second Ave Deli in Manhattan, which is owned by a Jew, has just opened a branch in a new location which operates on Shabbos; see this article. A Jew may not operate or even own a business that operates via non-Jews, during Shabbos.
However, Rabbi Israel Mayer HaLevi Steinberg, the Rav HaMachshir of this store which operates during Shabbos, a Musmach of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, a former student of Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey, and a former rebbe in Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, maintains that a Kosher restaurant can function during the Sabbath by employing a legal provision known as Shtar Mechira. This is a contract that arranges for the Jewish-owned business to be sold to a non-Jew for the day and then sold back, much like orthodox Jews sell their bread, whisky and leavened foods to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover.
Though aware that his position doesn’t pass muster with everyone, Steinberg argued that leniency can have its benefits.
“There are many people who, if they don’t have easy access to Kosher, will eat non Kosher.” he said. “Our arrangements, which are perfectly legitimate and well within our ancient orthodox traditions, ensure that those who will be purchasing food on Shabbos (which they should not be doing) are still eating Kosher food. If they didn’t have Kosher, they’d go to a non Kosher restaurant.”
Critics have expressed their dismay,
“A place can’t be certified Kosher if it is open on the Sabbath, plain and simple.”
“This is a perfect example of a pervasive dynamic in the Jewish community that is largely unknown outside the community. Briefly, there is no universally recognized authority on religious matters in Judaism,” averred a second.