By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
May my website remain open on Shabbos?
As internet usage and e-commerce proliferate, a frequently posed question to contemporary rabbanim is: may my site remain open on Shabbos? There is concern that Jews may visit the site, and in the case of a vendor site, people may make purchases on Shabbos.
Several distinctions must be made:
Does the site target Jews specifically or a general clientele?Obviously, a website that primarily attracts Jews is more problematic halachically, though there is still some room for leniency for the site to remain open. The consensus among halachic authorities is that it’s always appropriate to disable a website over Shabbos. It is worthy to note that there are apps available for Shomrei Shabbos (Shabbos observant) site owners to affect Shabbos site-shutdown based on a visitor’s specific location.
Is it a business site where orders are processed on Shabbos? It’s forbidden to engage in commerce on Shabbos, but an e-commerce site may remain open since fulfilling orders is generally postponed until credit card and stock availability are verified. Even in the minority cases of automatic processing, there are many poskim who are lenient.
If Jewish vendors utilize a fulfillment center, they should make it clear to the center that they do not need their orders processed on Shabbos and Yom Tov. The vendors should disable same or next business day shipping—and expedited shipping—when they coincide with Shabbos or Yom Tov. It is recommended to add a disclaimer on the site regarding these perks.
On the other hand, many poskim give reason for leniency for FBA (orders Fulfilled By Amazon), even though they do not sanction the above protocol, since Amazon dictates the ordering process and receive a percentage of the sale for their services.