Giving Gifts on Shabbat

I am invited Shabbat lunch to a local family. Is there any issue with bringing them a gift such as a bottle of wine?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are right that giving presents on Shabbat could be problematic. Just as we may not engage in commerce – buying and selling items, we may not cause any transfer of ownership on Shabbat. This would appear to extend to bringing a Shabbat gift, in which the item changes hands from the guest to the host. If, however, the gift is something useful for the host on Shabbat itself, such as a bottle of wine, then it may be given.

If you want to bring a gift which is not useful for Shabbat, the best practice would be to transfer ownership to the host before Shabbat begins. This can be done simply by finding another person – who is not a dependent of yours such as a family member – and giving it to him on behalf of your host. (He must pick it up in order to acquire it for the host.)

This is effective even if your host knows nothing about this. The reason is because of a general assumption in Jewish law that people are happy to receive gifts – and further, we may make an acquisition for a person even if he does not know it is happening. Thus, we may “give” someone a present via an agent – and it becomes his even without his knowledge.

If you did not do this before Shabbat, you may still bring the gift to your host, but he may not take ownership of it on Shabbat. It should just remain in his house until Shabbat is over, at which time he may pick it up to acquire it. (Note that if you bring a gift you think is useful for Shabbat, such as a bottle of wine, but your host knows he has no immediate need for, he should likewise graciously receive it but have in mind not to take ownership until later.)

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 306:6, Mishna Berurah 27, 33, Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchatah I 29:29, The Shabbos Home Vol. I pp. 20-22.)

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