Electricity on Shabbat in Jewish law


Electricity on Shabbat in Jewish law

Jews who observe the Shabbat (Sabbath) have the practice of refraining from turning electricity on or off during Shabbat. In most cases they also abstain from making adjustments to the intensity of an electrical appliance as well.

Authorities of Jewish law have disagreed about the basis of this prohibition since the early 20th century. Turning on an incandescent light bulb violates the Biblical prohibition against igniting a fire (Hebrew: הבערה, "hav’arah") according to a nearly unanimous consensus of authorities. However, the reasons for prohibiting the operation of an electrical appliance that does not produce light or heat, such as a fan, are not agreed upon. At least six substantive reasons have been suggested, and a minority believe that turning on an electrical fan is prohibited only because of common Jewish practice and tradition ("minhag") but not for any substantive technical reason.

Although directly operating electrical appliances is prohibited, several indirect methods are permitted according to some or all authorities. For example, Jews may program a Shabbat clock on a timer before Shabbat to operate a light or appliance on Shabbat, and in some cases they may adjust the timer on Shabbat. Unintentional activation of an electrical appliance may be permitted if the activation is not certain to occur or if the person does not benefit from the automatic operation of the appliance. For example, most authorities permit Jews to open a refrigerator door even though it will eventually cause the motor to turn on; however, they prohibit opening the door if a light inside will automatically turn on. They also permit one to walk past a house with a motion-sensitive light bulb if the street is already well-lit, but not if it is dark.

Some uses of electricity are especially controversial in the state of Israel because of its large Jewish population. The use of automated machines to milk cows on Shabbat, an activity that is prohibited if done by hand, is disputed because the farmer derives economic benefit from the milk. The use of electricity from power plants operated by Jews in violation of Shabbat is also controversial because it is normally forbidden to benefit from an action another Jew did in violation of Shabbat. However, because of communal need and other halakhic factors, most authorities in Israel permit these uses of electricity in practice.

Though Orthodox Jews consider the laws pertaining to electricity on Shabbat to be applicable to all Jews, they are mostly followed by Orthodox Jews. Others forms of Judaism, such as Conservative Judaism, take a more lenient view.

ource of the prohibition

Electrical appliances that generate heat, such as an incandescent light bulb or an oven, are prohibited Biblically ("de’orayta") for reasons to be explained. However, appliances that generate light "without" heat (such as a fluorescent light bulb or LED) and appliances that generate neither light nor heat (such as a fan) do not clearly fall within any Biblical categories of prohibited activity. Some authorities believe there is a Biblical prohibition, others hold there is a Rabbinic ("derabbanan") prohibition, and still others believe that operating these appliances is prohibited only by common practice ("minhag").

The Chazon Ish and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach disagreed about the source and extent of the prohibition.

Igniting a fire

The overwhelming majority of halakhic decisors maintain that turning on an incandescent light on Shabbat violates a Biblical prohibition. [Broyde and Jachter, part 1, section A.] An incandescent light bulb generates light by causing electrical current to flow through a metal filament. The resistance to current flow generates light and heat. [Broyde and Jachter, note 3.] Sources in the Torah and Talmud forbid similar cases.

The Torah says: "You shall not burn fire in all your dwellings on the day of Shabbat." [Exodus 35:3.] The Mishnah of Tractate Shabbat, in the context of laws prohibiting cooking, states: "One who heats a metal pot may not pour cold water into it to heat [the water] , but he may pour water into the pot or a cup in order to temper [the vessel] ." [Shabbat 41a.] In the Gemara, Rav says it is permitted to add water to cool it, but forbidden to add water to mold the metal. Shmuel says it is also permitted to add enough water to mold the metal as long as that is not his intent, but if he intends to mold the metal it is forbidden. [Shabbat 41b.] In a different context, Rav Sheshet says that "cooking" a metal filament is forbidden by analogy to cooking spices. [Yevamot 6b.]

Thus, heating a metal filament might violate either cooking or igniting a fire or both. Rambam classifies it as igniting a fire [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Shabbat 12:1.] or as cooking. Raavad disagrees with the first category but does classify it as cooking or as completing a product (Hebrew: מכה בפטיש, "makkeh bapatish": literally, "striking the final hammer blow"). The majority of later decisors accept that heating a metal filament is forbidden as igniting a fire, and also agree that turning on an incandescent light bulb falls within the definition of this prohibition. [Broyde and Jachter, part 1, section A.]

"Molid"

Even for appliances that do not produce light, turning on electrical current may violate other prohibitions. For example, the Talmud prohibits the creation of a fragrant scent in one's clothing on Shabbat because, according to Rashi "creating anything new" is prohibited under a Rabbinic category called "molid". Rabbi Yitzchak Schmelkes suggested applying "molid" to the generating of electrical current. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many others disagree with this application. Among other reasons, they state that "molid" is a limited category that cannot be expanded past the definitions the Talmudic Sages imposed. [Broyde and Jachter, part II, section A.]

Building

The Chazon Ish wrote that closing an electrical circuit to create current was Biblically probited as building, and opening a closed circuit was the corresponding prohibited act of destroying. - Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach disagreed vigorously with the Chazon Ish. Among other reasons, he claimed that building and destroying must be fundamentally permanent in nature, whereas most electrical devices are routinely turned on and off at will, and the person who turns it on usually intends that it will be turned off at some later point, and vice versa. Building an item that is fundamentally temporary in nature is at most a Rabbinic prohibition, and Rabbi Auerbach claimed that opening and closing a circuit is like opening and closing a door, which is not prohibited at all. [Broyde and Jachter, part II, section B.]

"Makeh Bapatish"

Closing a circuit to render a device operation might also violate the Biblical prohibition of "makeh bapatish" (striking the final hammer blow, i.e. completing a product). The argument would be that an electrical device is not complete because it does not function unless the electricity is turned on.

Rabbi Auerbach and Rabbi Yaakov Breisch strongly disagree because "makeh bapatish" refers to a fundamentally permanent act that requires great effort, and turning on an electrical appliance is fundamentally temporary because it will be turned off, and requires a minimal amount of effort. [Broyde and Jachter, part II, section C.]

parks

Intentionally creating sparks is prohibited as igniting a fire. Turning on some electrical appliances may generate sparks, but contemporary authorities do not consider this a reason to prohibit. The lighting of sparks is unintentional and might not occur, and the sparks are very small so they might not be considered final. With solid-state technology the probability of generating sparks is greatly reduced. [Broyde and achter, part II, section D.]

Additional fuel consumption

Turning on an appliance may indirectly cause the power plant to consume more fuel. For various reasons most authorities permit this indirect causation if the power-plant is operated by non-Jews. [Broyde and achter, part II, section E.] (If the power plant is operated by Jews, the issue is more complicated. See the section below regarding Israeli power plants.)

Heating a wire or filament

Injecting current into a wire might heat that wire according to the Chazon Ish. The prevalence of solid-state technology has made the reality underlying this concern obsolete in many cases. [Broyde and achter, part II, section F.]

"Minhag"

Rabbi Auerbach rejects all the fundamental reasons for prohibiting electricity as cited above, except for turning on an incandescent light which is considered lighting a fire. Nonetheless, he prohibits using any electrical appliances absent great need because Shabbat-observant Jews have traditionally acted on the assumption that using electricity on Shabbat is prohibited. Thus, according to this opinion, the prohibition of electricity on Shabbat is a "minhag" (common practice or tradition) without a substantive reason in the laws of Shabbat. [Broyde and achter, part II, section G.]

Practical applications

In general, it is permissible to benefit from most electrical objects during Shabbat, provided they are preset before the start of Shabbat, and the status of the appliance is not manually modified during Shabbat. These include lights, heating, and air conditioning.

Cooking appliances

Food may be kept hot when it is cooked before the start of Shabbat. There are various laws governing how this food is kept hot and served. Often, a blech or crock pot is used for this purpose.

Refrigerators

Though most Shabbat observant Jews permit opening and closing a refrigerator during Shabbat, some authorities require that the door only be opened when the refrigerator motor is already running. Otherwise, the motor will be caused to go on sooner by the increase in temperature indirectly caused by the flow of heat from the outside. Most refrigerators and freezers automatically set the motor to turn on and blow cold air whenever the thermometer registers a temperature that is too high to keep the food cold. However, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and most authorities permit opening the door because this result is indirect, and because there are additional grounds to be lenient [Minchas Shlomo, Chapter 10; Broyde and Jachter, part IV, section A.]

Additionally, any incandescent light which is triggered upon opening the door must be disconnected before Shabbat. It is not permitted to open the door if the light will turn on because, unlike with the motor running, the light turning on is a Biblical prohibition whereas the motor running may be a Rabbinic prohibition, and also, the light is turned on immediately as an effect of opening the refrigerator whereas the motor turning on is an indirect effect. [Broyde and Jachter, footnote 59.]

Lighting

A lamp or appliance containing a light bulb may not be turned on or off during Shabbat. However, a timer can be set to turn a light on and off at fixed times. (See below regarding the "Shabbat clock.")

The Shabbat lamp is a special lamp in which the electricity remains on, but the light can be blocked out, thereby allowing the room that it is in to be dark or light at will. The lamp is constructed in such a manner that turning it "on" or "off" while powered on does not violate the laws of Shabbat. Specifically, the lamp operates by allowing the rotation of an outer shade that alternates between covering and uncovering a lamp that was pre-lit (before the onset of Shabbat) under the shade. Such concepts have existed in Talmudic literature, but have recently been commercialized by companies such as Kosher Lamp.

Television and radio

Most rabbinical authorities have prohibited watching television during Shabbat, even if the TV is turned on before the start of Shabbat, and its settings are not changed. However, most rabbis have permitted preprogramming a video cassette recorder or other similar appliances to record television programming during Shabbat for viewing thereafter.

Most authorities also prohibit turning on or listening to a radio. The reason is, although electrical current is not turned on, the radio makes a loud noise, falling under the Rabbinic prohibition of making a noise with an instrument designed to make noise. However, it may be permitted to turn up the volume of a radio that is already on because many authorities permit adding to an electrical current. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg prohibits changing the station on a radio using a dial, but Rabbi Auerbach permits this. [Jachter and Broyde, part IV, section C.]

Clocks and watches

A clock may be used to view the time during Shabbat, since it is not touched or affected in any way by viewing it, and a watch may be worn during Shabbat. But an alarm clock should not be set before Shabbat, because one may forget upon awakening that it is Shabbat, and may turn it off.

Telephones

Like other electrical appliances, telephones are bound by similar restrictions on Shabbat. Operating a telephone may involve separate prohibitions at each stage of the operation. Thus, removing a telephone from the receiver to produce a dial tone closes a circuit and makes a noise. Dialing closes more circuits and creates more noises. Speaking on the phone increases an existing current, but Rabbi Auerbach and many other authorities permit this. Hanging up the phone closes a circuit, which is a Biblical prohibition of "destroying" according to the Chazon Ish but a Rabbinic prohibition according to others. [Broyde and Jachter, part IV, section B.]

It should be noted that dialing on many phones, including cell phones, also causes the numbers to be written on a display screen, thus violating the prohibition of writing (even though the writing is not permanent). If a phone call must be made on Shabbat, other factors being equal, it is preferable to use a phone without a display screen.

It is questionable if it is permissible to use an answering machine or voicemail to receive messages left during Shabbat, since one is benefitting from a violation of Shabbat, particularly if the caller is a Jew. [J. David Bleich. "Contemporary Halachic Problems", volume 5, pages 157-170.]

In some cases, the telephone may be a lifeline in the event of an emergency, in which case, the laws of Shabbat are suspended, and a life-saving phone call may be made.

In Israel, a special phone has been invented for soldiers that allows phone calls to be made with minimal desecration to Shabbat for borderline situations in which it is not known whether a life-threatening emergency is taking place.

Microphones

There are varying views on the use of a microphone during Shabbat. While most Orthodox rabbinic authorities prohibit the use of microphones, there has been some argument for allowing the use of a microphone in a synagogue that is turned on before the start of Shabbat on the basis that a microphone does not create a human voice, but rather "amplifies" it. Those in the majority, who forbid the microphone, have various concerns, including the conduction of electricity that is affected by the human voice, and the attention that is drawn from the sound coming from the speakers [http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4SPB17NkzAC&pg=PA231&lpg=PA231&dq=microphone+shabbat&source=web&ots=GHDxT7_txB&sig=W3thhf0SM0VYHgcgyajzlz5EO6Q&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA230,M1] .

In practice, microphones are rarely found in Orthodox synagogues, but are commonplace in Conservative and Reform temples. They are occasionally found in some modern Orthodox congregations.Fact|date=August 2008

In recent years, a Shabbat microphone has been developed that broadcasts a constant sound signal, so the voice spoken into the device does not change the status of the electric current. But this innovation has not been approved by all Orthodox rabbinic authorities.

Laundry

Washing clothes is not permitted on Shabbat, whether by hand or machine. Most rabbinical authorities have prohibited allowing a washing machine or dryer to run on Shabbat, even if it is set before the start of Shabbat. If the machine is still runnning after Shabbat starts when this was not planned, no benefit may be derived from clothes or other objects in the appliance during that Shabbat.

Automobiles

While driving on Shabbat is prohibited directly because of sparks that are created by the ignition of fuel, modern automobiles also have numerous electrical components whose operation is prohibited during Shabbat. These include headlamps and other external and internal lights, turn signals, and gauges. Additionally, the operation of the vehicle involves many uses of electricity and electrical circuits.

Elevators

Operating an elevator is generally prohibited for multiple reasons. However, Shabbat elevators have been designed automatically to travel from one floor to the next regardless of whether a human is riding the elevator or not, so many authorities permit the use of such elevators under certain circumstances.

urveillance systems

The use of automated surveillance systems has been reviewed. Examples include closed-circuit television, video cameras, and motion detectors. [J. David Bleich, "Contemporary Halakhic Problems", volume 5, pages 129-156.] A passerby who walks within view of a surveillance camera may allow himself to be photographed for the benefit of the property owner, even though the photograph is not a benefit to the passerby, if he must pass by a surveillance camera to enter the building. This is called a "pesik reisha delo nicha leih" (Aramaic: פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה, loose translation: "an inevitable resultant action that does not benefit the one who indirectly caused that action"). [Bleich, ibid.] However, it is prohibited to walk past a motion-sensitive light on Shabbat if the street is dark and because the turning on of the light substantively benefits the person, and it is a "pesik reisha denicha leih" (Aramaic: פסיק רישא דניחא ליה, loose translation: "an inevitable resultant action that does benefit the one who indirectly caused that action"). One is advised to avoid walking past the motion sensor or to close one's eyes when doing so if he or she knows that the motion sensor will activate a light switch. [Ribiat, loc. cit.]

tatic electricity

Most authorities permit separating clothes or performing other actions that might generate sparks due to static electricity. [Broyde and Jachter, part IV, section D.]

habbat clocks

Most authorities permit a Jew to program a Shabbat clock (a timer) before Shabbat to perform automatically a prohibited action on Shabbat. For example, it is permitted to attach a timer to a light switch on Friday afternoon so that the light will turn off late on Friday night when people wish to sleep, and will turn on again the next day when people are awake. The underlying rule is based on a Talmudic principle, [Shabbat 17b-18a. Cited in Broyde and Jachter, section V, part A.] codified by Maimonides, [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Shabbat 3:1. Cited in Broyde and Jachter, section V, part B.] that permits a Jew to begin an action on Friday even though the action will be completed automatically on Shabbat.

However, Rava in the Talmud prohibits a Jew from adding wheat on Friday to a water mill that will run automatically on Shabbat because the addition of wheat to the mill will cause a loud noise which disturbs the peaceful environment of Shabbat. Rav Yosef disagrees with Rava and permits this. Rishonim disagree as to which opinion is normative. Rabbi Joseph Caro in the Shulchan Aruch permits this action, but Rabbi Moses Isserles (the "Ramo") prohibits it absent great need. Accordingly, Rabbi Moses Feinstein and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach prohibit programming a radio to turn on during Shabbat, or allowing it to run on Shabbat, not because of the violation of electricity as such, but rather because the noise of the radio violates a separate prohibition.

Some authorities have raised other reasons to prohibit Shabbat clocks in general, but the consensus of many rabbis permits their use. [Broyde and Jachter, section V, part A.]

Adjusting a Shabbat clock

There are four scenarios of adjusting a Shabbat clock "on Shabbat" so that the automated action will occur earlier or later than originally intended. It should be noted that reprogramming a Shabbat clock, which is a mechanical device, is not itself a violation of using electricity. The question is whether the resulting action is considered to have been caused by a human hand in violation of Shabbat. Some authorities hold that wherever there is a significant time delay between an action and its result, the action is considered to have been done indirectly and may be permitted. Thus, if one changes a Shabbat clock to turn on a light one hour earlier than it was previously set to do, it is permitted because there is still a significant time delay between setting the timer and its execution of turning on the light.

Other authorities do not accept the argument from time delay and distinguish among various cases for other reasons. Thus:turning on a light earlier than planned may be prohibited because it causes the prohibited action to occur earlier than it would have occurred otherwise. Similarly, turning off a light earlier than planned would be prohibited, but it may be permitted in extenuating circumstances because terminating a current flow to turn off a light is at most a Rabbinic prohibition. Turning on a light later than planned, or turning off a light that is already on later than planned, would be permitted because one is merely maintaining the status quo. Some prohibit only the latter case by analogy to adding oil to a burning lamp, but others reject that analogy. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach notes that in certain timers, which are designed with a peg that must be removed in one notch and reinserted in a second notch, it is prohibited to reset when a light will turn on, even if the action will occur later than planned, because reinserting the peg in the second notch constitutes programming a light to turn on when, until that instant, the light would not have turned on at all because the peg had been removed. [Broyde and Jachter, part V, section B.]

Automated milking of cows

Some review articles have been published on the permissibility of milking cows on Shabbat using automated machines. [Howard Jachter and Ezra Frazer, "Gray Matter", volume 1, pages 201-214.] ["Techumin" 15:394-410, cited in Jachter and Frazer 1:213.] Milking cows on Shabbat is fundamentally prohibited as "mefareik" (Hebrew: מפרק), a subcategory of "dash" (Hebrew: דש threshing). [Shabbat 95a, cited in Jachter and Frazer 1:200.] However, it is absolutely necessary for Jewish dairy farmers to milk their cows every day, including on Shabbat, because the cows suffer greatly if they are not milked two or three times in a 24-hour period, and in some cases the milk is needed to ensure the economic viability of the farmer.

This issue was widely discussed before the advent of automated milking machines. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, permitted dairy farmers to ask a non-Jew to milk the cow, in accordance with a medieval ruling by Maharam of Rothenburg. Although milking a cow is a Biblical prohibition, asking a non-Jew to perform a prohibited act on Shabbat is only a Rabbinic prohibition, so to alleviate the animal's pain it is permitted. [Jachter and Frazer 1:202.] On religious kibbutzim in Israel where only Jews live, it may not be practical to ask non-Jews to milk the cows. Rav Kook, acknowledging this reality in his time, and the Chazon Ish permitted milking a cow and allowing the milk to be wasted because this too is only a Rabbinic prohibition and can be permitted because of the mitigating factor to prevent the cow from feeling pain. [Jachter and Frazer 1:204.]

These authorities also permitted milking to waste using automated machines, but the Chazon Ish wrote that it was not allowed to milk the first few drops to waste using automated machines, followed by switching to containers and collecting the remaining milk in the containers. However, in practice, the Chazon Ish permitted farmers to adopt this practice to prevent economic loss because the action of milking for collection was indirect. Using a device invented by the Zomet Institute in the 1980s, which allowed the switch from milking to waste to milking into containers to occur indirectly without human intervention, the act of milking cows became more indirect and thus more likely to be permitted. [Jachter and Frazer 1:206-9.] Yet another solution, whereby the cows are hooked up to the machine with electricity off, and the electricity is soon turned on automatically to milk the cows, was permitted in theory by the Chazon Ish and became practical in the late 20th century. It is currently practiced by the religious kibbutz at Sde Eliyahu. [Jachter and Frazer 1:210-214.]

Although the primary halakhic concern in milking cows on Shabbat is unrelated to electricity as such, it serves as a practical example where an automated device programmed on a Shabbat clock performs a critical function that would otherwise need to be done by hand. As with Shabbat clocks in other uses, the activity performed by the machine would be prohibited if done directly by a human hand.

Use of electricity generated in Israeli power plants

Several review articles have been written about the permissibility of using electricity generated in Israeli power plants. [Howard Jachter and Ezra Frazer, "Gray Matter", volume 2, pages 54-66.] [Levi Yitzchak Halperin, "Teshuvot Ma'aseh Chosheiv" 1:31, and Yisrael Rozen, "Techumin" 16:36–50. Cited in Jachter and Frazer 2:55.] On principle it should be prohibited because one may not benefit from an action performed in violation of Shabbat. Thus, for example, if a Jew turns on a light in violation of Shabbat, neither he nor anyone else is permitted to read a book using that light. Similarly, if a Jew generates electricity in a power plant in violation of Shabbat, other Jews may not benefit from that electricity. However, there are several considerations to permit Jews to generate electricity in Israeli power plants and to use electricity generated in this manner.

"Pikuach nefesh"

The primary motive to permit "generating" electricity is pikuach nefesh (saving lives). The generation of electricity on Shabbat serves in many instances for "pikuach nefesh" (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש, "saving lives") because the flow of electrical current is needed for the day-to-day operations of hospitals, first aid centers, outpatients who require medical care in their homes, or climate control for people who need it. Sometimes the use of a refrigerator is also considered "pikuach nefesh" when a baby or elderly person lives in the house and must eat specific foods that must be refrigerated. Sometimes street lights also operate for "pikuach nefesh" because obstacles may cause passersby to fall and injure themselves if lights do not make the paths visible. Based on these facts, some decisors permit Jews to benefit from electricity generated on Shabbat because it is permitted for workers of the electric company to violate Shabbat for "pikuach nefesh", and the electricity generated in this manner serves multiple purposes, some of them "pikuach nefesh". Because it is impossible to distinguish technically between the electric current going to "pikuach nefesh" or to ordinary nonessential purposes, the entire generation of electricity falls within the boundaries of "pikuach nefesh", so there is no prohibition of "ma'aseh Shabbat". This leniency has many associated doubts, so many Jews do not rely on it and seek alternative modes using electricity as described above. [This section was translated from the Hebrew Wikipedia article on "ma'aseh Shabbat" (Hebrew: מעשה שבת) on June 3, 2008.]

The argument from "pikuach nefesh" would not only allow the consumer to use electricity, but would also allow a Jew to work at the power plant on Shabbat to generate electricity. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ["Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo" 2:15 and "Tinyana" 24. Cited in Jachter and Frazer 2:56.] and Rabbi Shlomo Goren ["Meishiv Milchamah" 1:366-385. Cited in Jachter and Frazer 2:56.] do permit this, but Rabbi Auerbach and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ["Teshuvot Igrot Moshe" ("Orach Chaim" 4:127). Cited in Jachter and Frazer 2:56.] question why non-Jews are not employed to do this work instead.

However, the questions of generating and consuming electricity for "pikuach nefesh" are not necessarily intertwined. Rabbi Shlomo Goren permits the generation of electricity because of "pikuach nefesh", but prohibits using it in ordinary circumstances because of a precedent in the Talmud: if someone cooks meat for a patient who needs it for "pikuach nefesh", nobody else may eat that meat, lest their eating leftovers would encourage the cooker to cook more meat than necessary, thus violating Shabbat without justification. However, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach permits the generation of electricity on Shabbat with some hesitation (see citation below), but also permits consumers to use electricity based on a different Talmudic precedent: if a sick patient requires meat for survival, and no dead meat is available, a live animal may be slaughtered (in violation of Shabbat) and its excess meat may be consumed by others on Shabbat. Since there is no way to cook any meat without slaughtering a whole animal, the rationale that the violator might do more than necessary does not hold. [Cited in Jachter and Frazer 2:56-57.]

Unintentional violation of Shabbat

Some authorities say Jews may use electricity generated in violation of Shabbat because the violation itself was not willful. Most of the Jewish workers at the power plants are not aware of the laws of Shabbat or of the fact that their actions violate Shabbat. Their violation of Shabbat is considered unintentional (Hebrew: שוגג, "shogeg"), not willful (Hebrew: מזיד, "meizid"). Some decisors prohibit benefiting from products of unintentional violation of Shabbat, not only for the violator but also for the beneficiary, who is in this instance the consumer of electricity. However, since some decisors permit the beneficiary of a violation of Shabbat to benefit from it, it is proper to rely on them.

Forbidden actions in power plants

Power plants in Israel increase their production of electricity during the day by heating water to generate steam which will rotate the turbines to generate energy. The operators of the power plants increase their production during the day by turning up the heat in the boilers, and they decrease production at night by turning down the heat, in order to match the demand from consumers. The violation of Shabbat involved in the operation of these power plants includes the forbidden activities of igniting a fire (הבערה), cooking (בישול), extinguishing a fire (כיבוי), building (בונה) and others. The operators of the five major power plants in Israel claim that the generation of electricity happens automatically without human intervention. However, a closer examination revealed that the operation is really semi-automated by computers, but human operators must operate the computers, so a human hand does drive the generation of electricity. [This is according to the Hebrew book "Shevut Yitzchak" (שבות יצחק).] Other actions performed by workers for the electric company are fixing various faults which occur occasionally on Shabbat. These actions include the forbidden categories of building, destroying, igniting a fire, completing a product, carrying and others. When these actions are performed by Jews, the electrity is generated as a product of violation of Shabbat (Hebrew: מעשה שבת). Because of this, it is forbidden to benefit from electricity created on Shabbat.

Alternatives to publicly generated electricity

Indeed, some authorities prohibit the use of electricity generated by Jews on Shabbat, and some neighborhoods with thousands of residents, especially Haredi communities, operate the electricity in their homes from a special Shabbat generator, without performing any forbidden action on Shabbat. Some people even refuse to use a generator because the end-product of electricity is indistinguishable from what is provided to ordinary consumers, so using electricity in any manner constitutes the "appearance" of violating halakhah. Some of these people use a lux or kerosene lamp that provides them with a minimal amount of light, and some use only Shabbat candles for Friday night dinner. Some people who do not use electricity also do not use faucets or other mechanisms that provide water from public supplies because the water pumps are operated electrically. These people prepare containers of water on Friday sufficient to provide for their needs on Shabbat.

Conservative Judaism

Some authorities in Conservative Judaism reject altogether the arguments for prohibiting the use of electricity. [Neulander, Arthur. "The Use of Electricity on the Sabbath." "Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly" 14 (1950) 165-171] [Adler, Morris; Agus, Jacob; and Friedman, Theodore. "Responsum on the Sabbath." "Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly" 14 (1950), 112-137] [Klein, Isaac. "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice." The Jewish Theological Seminary of America: New York, 1979.]

Notes

References

* Michael Broyde and Howard Jachter (Pesach 1991). [http://www.daat.ac.il/DAAT/english/journal/broyde_1.htm The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov] . "Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society", No. XXI. Retrieved on 2008-05-16.
* "Encyclopedia Talmudit, "Electricity" 18:155-190.
* Dovid Ribiat. "The 39 Melochos: An Elucidation of the 39 Melochos from Concept to Practical Application". Nanuet, N.Y. : Feldheim Publishers, 1999. Volume 4, pages 1201ff.
*Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin "To Be a Jew, A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life", Basic Books, 1972, 1991, ISBN 0-465-0863-2, pages 89-93

ee also

*Activities prohibited on Shabbat


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  • Shabbat lamp — A Shabbat lamp is a special lamp that has movable parts to expose or block out its light so it can be turned on or off while its power physically remains on. This enables the lamp to be used by Shabbat observant Jews to make a room dark or light… …   Wikipedia

  • Activities prohibited on Shabbat — Main article: Shabbat See also: Shomer Shabbat and Rabbinically prohibited activities of Shabbat The commandment to keep Shabbat as a day of rest is repeated many times in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. (See for example Exodus 31:12 17 quoted …   Wikipedia

  • Shomer Shabbat — A shomer Shabbat or shomer Shabbos (plural shomrei Shabbat or shomrei Shabbos ; he. שומר שבת) is a person who observes the mitzvot (commandments) associated with Judaism s Shabbat ( Sabbath , Friday evening until Saturday night.) In particular,… …   Wikipedia

  • Przedecz (Jewish community) — The Jewish community of Przedecz, a town in western Poland, once made up a large proportion of the population. The community was wiped out in the Holocaust. In Yiddish the city was known as Pshaytsh . The town, which dates from the 14th century,… …   Wikipedia

  • Shlomo Miller — Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu Miller is a Rosh Kollel (dean) of the Kollel Avreichim Institute for Advanced Talmud Study, [ [http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com content task=view id=13753 Itemid=86] , paragraph #15.] the leading haredi post yeshiva …   Wikipedia