Commercial Advertisements in Parashah Sheets Distributed on the Shabbat

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chukat 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Is it permissible in a Parashah sheet distributed on the Shabbat for there to be commercial advertisements, calls for people to make donations to Tzedakah, with details about prizes and a standing-order form? Is one allowed to read all of these? Are not such topics “Muktza” [forbidden to dwell on during Shabbat]? Don’t such contents render the entire sheet forbidden to touch?
Answer: It is indeed forbidden to dwell on monetary affairs, commercial matters or business offers on Shabbat due to the prohibition against “pursuing your business or talking about it” (Yeshayahu 58:13. See Mishnah Berurah 307:7 and 323:20). For that reason, some authorities forbid reading the entire sheet, because of the law of “Muktza,” i.e., because of the commercial content there (Mishnah Berurah 307:3). Yet some have ruled that that commercial section of the leaflet does not make the entire leaflet forbidden, and they permitted reading it, except for the commercial section (ibid., quoting Shvut Ya’akov 3:23 and She’elat Ya’avetz 1:162 quoted in Sha’arei Teshuvah 306:3), and such is the prevalent custom. Therefore, the entire leaflet is not rendered Muktza. The same applies to standing order forms and ad details about requested donations. One is allowed to read them on the Shabbat. Yet suppose a page is entirely commercial, or devoted entirely to a standing order, might it be Muktza since reading it is forbidden? In this case, however, our Sages wrote that if there are other permissible uses for the page, it is not Muktza. They therefore ruled that an entirely commercial newspaper is not Muktza on condition that one not care about its worth and that he be willing to use it for all sorts of uses such as a stopper to keep dirt from getting into a bottle (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:22 #3, Brit Olam by Ha-Rav Binyamin Zilber, “Dinei Metzo Cheftzecha,” Section 10). Likewise, nobody cares about the worth of a standing-order form, and it can be used for anything. It is therefore not considered Muktza.
Question: Yet it remains forbidden to read those commercial notices, details about lotteries, etc. Are the printer and distributor thereby guilty of causing the reading public to sin?
Answer: No! Even if we decide that it is forbidden to read them, the printer is not forcing anyone to read them precisely on Shabbat. Rather, he is preparing the material for weekday reading. Besides that, it is not clear that the reading itself is forbidden. After all, some of our Sages took the lenient approach that only reading aloud is forbidden as part of “pursuing your business or talking about it,” but reading silently is permissible (Netziv in Iturei Sofrim, Shalmei Yehudah quoting Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Az Nidbaru 9:7 and see Mishnah Berurah 307 in Sha’arei Tziyun #60). All this relates to commercial publications, but as far as reading about charitable contributions and their standing orders, there is an allowance to read these because they are part of a mitzvah. After all, doing calculations for the sake of a mitzvah is permissible on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 306:6). It is even permissible to earmark charity funds on Shabbat (ibid., Mishnah Berurah ibid. # 27). For example, one is allowed to use a donor card on which sums of money are printed, with the donor or synagogue official marking off the sum with a paper clip, since it that is part of a mitzvah (Mishnah Berurah 323:20).
In summary: The leaflet is not Muktza, and even a page entirely devoted to standing orders, donations or commercial matters is not Muktza. As far as the actual reading, regarding commercial matters one should take the strict approach and not read it. As far as donations, one may read it, since it is part of performing a mitzvah. Obviously, none of this makes it permissible to read these leaflets during davening. Rather, they should be taken home. Even words of Torah should not be read during davening. Each mitzvah in its own time.

Machon Meir Stickers on the Sabbath
Question: Together with the parashah sheet "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" distributed by Machon Meir each Shabbat, there is sometimes a sticker added with the words of our Sages or other ethical sayings, such as “Repentance through Love.” Aren't these Muktza since they are earmarked for sticking on surfaces, a forbidden activity on the Sabbath? Likewise, sometimes an envelope with Machon Meir’s address is included, earmarked for sending a donation. Is that not Muktza, since that too is a forbidden act on the Sabbath?
Answer: A regular sticker is indeed Muktza, being “Muktza Machmat Gufo” [Muktza due to its own essence]. In other words, like rocks, it is not usable for anything else on Shabbat. After all, it is forbidden to attach an adhesive. In our case, however, the sticker is usable for something else, for written on it are ethical and Torah utterances that arouse good thoughts. It therefore possesses an intrinsic value apart from the act of sticking it.
As for the envelope, it is “Muktza Machmat Chisaron Kis” [Muktza due to potential monetary loss]. In other words, due to its value, a person will be careful not to use it for anything else. Yet our Sages wrote that even writing paper is not Muktza unless it is blank, for in that case people are careful not to use it for something else. If, however, that blank paper is simple paper, usable for all sorts of other things, it is not Muktza (Pri Megadim). The same applies to the envelope, where it depends on whether or not people are careful not to use it for something else. In our case, however, involving an envelope with the institution’s address, people generally throw such things away, and they certainly would not avoid using it for other things.
In summary: Neither the stickers nor the envelopes are Muktza.