Volume 12 Number 45
                       Produced: Mon Apr 11 17:51:24 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Control of Electricity on Yom Tov
         [Art Kamlet]
         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]
Electricity and Heat (2)
         [Jeremy Nussbaum, Robert A. Book]
Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov
         [Fred E. Dweck]
Electricity on Yom Tov
         [Jay Denkberg]


From: <ask@...> (Art Kamlet)
Date: 5 Apr 1994  22:33 EDT
Subject: Control of Electricity on Yom Tov

>a firm concensus of several generations of poskim has evolved, banning
>all creation of electric circuits on Shabbos.
>called molid, as noted in Beit yitzchak 2:31.  The Encyclopedia Talmudit
>states rather clearly: "For the writing of numerious achronim it appears
>that turning on an electrical circuit does not violate the prohibition
>of fixing an object or building" v18 p.166.  This is very important to

Could someone explain why electrical circuits are prohibited but
fluid circuits. e.g., flushing a toilet or turning on the faucet,
are OK?

Art Kamlet   AT&T Bell Laboratories, Columbus   <ask@...>


From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 94 05:57:32 -0800
Subject: Electricity

My thanks to Rabbis Broyde and Rosenfeld for pointing out that the
prohibition of "molid" is a much better candidate for a ban on
electricity (where no usable heat and light are produced) on
Shabbos than "boneh."  My intention in my first posting was really
only to state that the approach of the Aruch HaShulchan to
electricity on Yom Tov is roundly dismissed by contemporary poskim,
and that there were other issues in the use of electricity than the
one considered by the Aruch HaShulchan.  There is no substitute for
accuracy, however, so I accept their correction.  Molid (which is
a rabbinic prohibition) is indeed closer to the thinking of most
poskim in print than "boneh,"  which is d'orayso.  This means that
if one must choose between two different uses of electricity on
Shabbos (say, in the care of a sick person), it is certainly
preferable to choose the one that does NOT produce any light (and
the consequent Torah prohibition of "havara"), and will only
involve an issue of molid.

Really, everything is somewhat relative.  Rav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach, who rejects the boneh of the Chazon Ish also rejects the
molid of the Bais Yitzchok  (see Minchas Shlomo, #9).

However, I STILL STAND BY WHAT I FIRST SAID!  While many (including
Rav Moshe zt"l, and, yibadel lechaim, R Shlomo Zalman) find fault
with the boneh of the Chazon Ish, it is still something that is
taken into account by poskim.  Colleagues who have access to major
poskim in Israel report that, because of the gravitas associated
with the name Chazon Ish, his view is accepted AT LEAST
LECHATCHILA.  There is an important point here.  Halachic decision
is both an art and a science, for lack of a better phrase.  Even
after you finish the "science" phase, i.e. by studying all the
literature, you still do not have a complete grasp on all the
issues.  Poskim often vary with what they commit to paper.  Often,
they might be a tad more conservative with what they publish than
with what they will really allow.    Sometimes, though, they might
refute a particular argument even in print - in the context of a
particular question - but still accept the identical argument where
concerns are not as pressing.  In the absence of strong
contravening need, colleagues report to me that they have heard
contemporary poskim cite "boneh" as a problem area to be dealt with
- at least lechatchila.  (In fact, so does Rav Shlomo Zalman
himself.  See Minchas Shlomo 10:6.  In Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasa
28:29 Rav Shlomo Zalman is reported as prohibiting the turning off
of a ringing electric alarm clock, because of the cessation of
current flow.  This is clearly not a problem of molid - the
creation of something new.  It would seem to be comprehensible only
as "soser" [tearing down], the inverse action of the Chazon Ish's
boneh.)  (Late report: a phone call to Rav Dovid Cohen, shlit"a,
determined that he did NOT have any recollection of the poskim
using boneh, although he also thought it plausible that the kavod
of the Chazon Ish might indeed cause people not to dismiss it, at
least lechatchila.)  

There is one part of Rabbi Broyde's messages that I can endorse
fully.  The best reading in English on the subject is Rabbi
Broyde's excellent article in the Journal of Halacha and
Contemporary Society. 

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Yeshiva of LA


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 1994 19:03:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Electricity and Heat

> From: <leah@...> (Leah S. Reingold)
> It is a thermodynamic impossibility that electricity could be used
> without heat production in any household machine.  This is because to
> get useful work from electricity, energy must be converted from one form
> (e.g. electric impulses) into another (e.g. mechanical motion).  Any
> energy conversion necessarily produces heat in the form of losses, such
> as those from friction.

While in a strict sense heat is produced, in a halakhic sense it is
not relevant until the temeperature is sufficiently hot.  In general,
there is no prohibition against causing the raising the temperature of
an object in an otherwise permitted matter until some threshold.
Otherwise anything that causes friction (and that include all actions)
would be prohibited.

For certain classes of objects, the threshold is the cooking threshold.
I don't know what other thresholds there are.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)

From: <rbook@...> (Robert A. Book)
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 1994 19:03:35 -0400
Subject: Re: Electricity and Heat

Of course this is true, thermodynamically speaking.  However, suppose
the amount of heat generated is too small for a person to detect -- it
is a microscopic amount of heat.  Would not then the principle that a
microscopic amount, undetectable without special equipment, does not
have halachic significance?

If this is not the case, then it would be prohibited to walk on
Shabbat, since the friction of one's shoes on the ground generate
microscopic amounts of heat.  One would also not be permitted to walk
on a carpet, because a static shock that might be produced generates a
small spark, with microscopic amounts of heat and light...  .

--Robert Book    <rbook@...>
  Rice University


From: Fred E. Dweck <71214.3575@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 1994 13:51:35 -0400
Subject: Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov

I seem to be on Rabbi Adlerstein's case tonight. Nothing personal, Dear

Rabbi Adlerstein writes:

<<<To the best of my knowledge, the phrase "many poskim" may not be
justified.  I am aware only of the Aruch HaShulchan, who sent an
opinion to a newspaper in New York in the first decade of this

My son Joey has brought to my attention that "Yhave Daat" of Hrav
Ovadiah Yosef Shlit"a (vol 1 Question 32) brought many others who permit
the lighting of lights on Yom Tov. Among them are: Shu"t "Even Yekarah",
Harav Aharon Ben Shimon the chief justice of Egypt in Shu"t "Mizur
Devash", the former Rishon Le Zion Harav Uziel in "Mishpete Uziel",
Shu"t "Perahe Kehunah" as well as Harav Zvi Pesah Frank Z'l, former
cheif Rabbi of Jerusalem.

He writes:

<<<Rav Chaim Ozer claimed that the Aruch HaShulchan failed to comprehend the
nature of electricity.  To demonstrate this, he made a point of making havdalah
with a light bulb to publicize that he (Rav Chaim Ozer) held that an
incandescent bulb should be seen as aish [fire] on the d'orayso [Torah]

How come he saw fit to do this against Rov Poskim, who hold that one is
not "yosei" in using an electric light bulb for havdalah. Besides, can
anyone explain why electricity should not be considered "Aish me aish"
(fire from fire) since the one wire is always "hot" and moving the
switch only connects another wire to the hot one, which then allows the
power to be transfered. Just like holding an unlit candle to a lit
candle! Both actions are identical in actuality and in spirit. And
according to physics (which I believe is Jewish too!) light (fire) is a
part of the electro-magnetic spectrum, and therefore, both electricity
and light (the way Hashem created it) should come under the same
halachic principles. I completely agree that a light bulb is considered
aish [fire] on the d'orayta [Torah] level. However, aish me aish *is*
permitted on yom tov.

<<<The latter saw an issur [prohibition] of boneh [construction]
involved in the actualization of any circuit. >>>

If I'm not mistaken, the issur of Boneh only applies when it is "temidi"
(Built to be permanent)(in fact that applies to all melachot) and
electrical switches are made specifically for situations where one
DOESN'T want a permanent circuit.  If one wanted a permanent circuit,
then they would solder the wires together, rather than use a switch.
Besides, we may have a safek sefekah here, which is permitted
"lechatehilah". Safek boneh (since many poskim disagree) and safek isur
biur (prohibition of lighting a fire) (on yom tov) since it might be
considered aish me aish. This would hold true even more in regards to
something electrical which has no lights; even on Shabbat, such as a
hearing aid.

<<<Even those who question this line of reasoning theoretically (e.g.,
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, shlit"a, in several works) are loathe to
disagree with the Chazon Ish in practice, noting that by now, a firm
concensus of several generations of poskim has evolved, banning all
creation of electric circuits on Shabbos.>>>

This only highlights the sad state of the Rabbinate, where politics and
fear dictate what "Klal Yisrael" are allowed (or not allowed) to do.
Furthermore, this firm concensus of several generations of poskim which
has evolved, banning all creation of electric circuits on Shabbat, were
mostly generations of poskim who didn't have a clue about what
electricity was, or how it worked. I would like to make it very clear
that I, in no way sanction the lighting of a light bulb on Shabbat!
There is NO heter for that. However, lights on yom tov, and electricity
on Shabbat (depending on how and for what it is used) is another
question. I think that putting them all together, is the first big
mistake in dealing with this issue.

<<<To most of us, all of the above should be largely irrelevant.>>>

Not at all. The question is still alive. We adhere to it, in the
meanwhile, because most poskim agree, so far. However, that, (as so many
other things have), may change with a rabbinate more well informed and
better versed in science, as well as in the understanding of the meaning
of "Ain mahmirim al ha sibur" (One should not put chumrot on the
community) and "yafe koach hamatir" (beautifil is the strength of the
one who finds the heter); concepts, sadly, missing from the philosophies
of recent day rabbinates. Thank G-d that some, like Rav Ovadiah Yosef
SHLIT"A is only *half* afraid. <G> Therefore, he was posek, after
umpteen years of isur, that products made with gelatin *are* in fact
kosher. Since gelatin is first made into a dry powder which takes it out
of the realm of food, and therefore, kosher laws do not apply at all.
Now, that takes some guts!!  On the other hand, if he weren't afraid at
all , we could all happily ride bikes on Shabbat in a city with an eruv.
(See his book "Liviat Chen" (# 107 regarding his pesak on a bike on
Shabbat) He proceeds to halachically dismiss all objections to riding a
bike on Shabbat, and then concludes that one still should not do it.
Solid rumor has it that when asked about it, he replied that if he was
posek to allow it, "they would lynch me"!  (loose translation).

Unfortunately, many would applaud this, on the emotional argument that
"it's not 'Shabisdick'". However, As I'm sure most halachic scholars
would agree, halacha is NOT emotional. It either is or is not permitted
by halacha. Emotions have NO place in halacha; and "shabisdick"
(whatever that means) has no basis in halacha! What is not shabisdick to
one person or community may be very shabisdick to another. It is also a
major principle of halacha that "Ein gozrim gezerot hadashot" (from the
close of the Talmud one may not issue new decrees); but very few rabbis
seem to know THAT halacha! A very self serving omission I would think.

<<<It is widely accepted by poskim that the use of electricity even
without the production of heat and light is prohibited on Shabbos (and
therefore Yom Tov as well)>>>

Why, may I ask, is the conclusion "and therefore Yom Tov as well" a
proper and legitimate conclusion???" Every little kid knows that there
are differences between yom tov and Shabbat, especially as concerns
light. Why pretend otherwise? And every halachic scholar knows (or
should know) the rule which states: "Mitoch she hutara lesorech, hutara
shelo lesorech!" (by virtue of it being permitted for a need, it is then
permitted for no need!) So the argument that it isn't needed for "ochel
nefesh" doesn't hold water, even if you agree with the interpretation
that "ochel nefesh" only applies to food. Again the lumping of light and
electricity, and Shabbat and yom tov together, only serves to cloud the
issue, and negates the possibility of ever reaching a *correct* halachic
ruling. Unfortunately, incorrect halachic rulings, based on ignorance of
the subject, or on emotion are all too common today.  We need to get
back to Torah, and stop following *ANYONE* with our eyes closed!!

"Hashem yair eneynu be'torato" (May Hashem illuminate our eyes in His

Fred E. Dweck 


From: <JDENKBERG@...> (Jay Denkberg)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 1994 22:14:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Electricity on Yom Tov

In response to Warren Burstein's request (RE: Electricity on Yom Tov) I
spoke with Rabbi Lookstein. In summary he explained that 30/40 years ago
light/electricity was considered fire and that the fire was transmitted
from the wires in the wall to the bulb. As such one is permitted to
transfer fire on YT (but not shut it off). Along with many other
Orthodox rabbis this was the psak of his (great?) grandfather (the RAMAZ
- for whom the school in NY is named).

Since then, however it has come to light (no pun intended) that bulbs
fall more into the category of moled and not fire (and therefore are not
permitted to be turned on on YT.  Rabbi Lookstein even related that upon
learning this he did stop using lights on YT although his father had a
difficult accepting at first, though he eventually accepted the psak and
eventually stopped using lights as well.

	Jay Denkberg


End of Volume 12 Issue 45