August 17th, 2004


Halacha in the Mainstream Press

Lately, several halachic issues that have roiled the Orthodox world have made their way into the New York Times and other news outlets, such as copepods in the NYC water supply, and Indian-hair wigs. Both of these are currently unresolved.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article in the Marketplace section on Web-commerce and Shabbat. Apparently, R' Moshe Heinemann of Baltimore's Star-K kashrut certification agency had ruled that Websites should close their e-commerce sections on Shabbat, following a Minchas Yitzchak on Jewish-owned vending machines. This was published in the Winter 2004 Kashrus Kurrents. There ensued a flurry of letters from Web-based businesses requesting clarification, along with corrections of R' Heinemann's understanding of the mechanics of credit charges on weekends. R' Heinemann subsequently partially retracted his ruling, holding in the end that:

a) Shabbat e-commerce is OK, because banks won't process credit transactions over the weekend, they will hold until Monday;

b) Yom Tov that falls on a weekday, the website owner should queue the transactions for later processing. The credit-card processing companies say this is easily done - authorizing the card, but not processing the charge until a "back-end" person triggers it.

All's well that ends well, and we aren't made out to be nutty legalists or paranoid zealots, which is nice.