Volume 20 Number 34
                       Produced: Tue Jul  4 11:08:50 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Electricity in Israel on Shabbat
         [Shmuel Himelstein (n)]
Incandescent and Fluorescent Lights
         [Mike Gerver]
Torah and Science
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Shmuel Himelstein (n) <himelstein@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 1995 12:16:13 GMT
Subject: Electricity in Israel on Shabbat

Following up on my recent posting, Yochanan Meisler wonders about the
reason why religious Jews use electricity in Israel. Just to clarify
matters, I would like to note the following two sources:

a) Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zatzal (Orach Chaim Part IV, Siman 64, p. 114)
notes that the majority of (religious) Jews, "including Talmidei
Chachamim and Yir'ei Hashem Yitbarach," use the electricity produced in
Israel on Shabbat, "including Batei Knesset and Yeshivot." He himself
implies that he would be against such a ruling ("I do not know the
reason for doing so ..."), but nevertheless goes on to give what he
believes may be the Heter employed. Basically, he says, as long as the
electricity is working and nothing must be done there is no problem. The
problem would arise if actions must be performed - e.g., repairing a
problem. Here, he says, those who permit it are evidently relying on a
S'fek S'feikah - a double doubt - that the system may not need to be
repaired, and even if it is, the person doing the repairing may be
non-Jewish (and as non-Jews, too, benefit from such repairs, there is no
problem of a non-Jew performing the work solely for Jews). Rav Moshe
then goes on to the issue at hand in his She'elah - where a husband
wants to be Machmir over this issue and his wife does not want to, and
he concludes, "You are not to protest her actions," especially as this
may bring to family disharmony. In fact, says Rav Moshe, if the man
himself finds it hard to be Machmir, he may be lenient, "as the majority
of Talmidei Chachamim in Eretz Israel are lenient in this regard."

b) Rav Neuwirth's _Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchato_ (Second Edition), Siman
32, Note 174 (pp. 451-452) deals with the question implied above by Rav
Moshe.  Let us say that there is a power outage and it is repaired on
Shabbat (and this is obviously referring to Israel, where Rav Neuwirth
lives, as can be seen from the context) - is one then permitted to have
benefit from the electricity after it goes on again? He writes as
follows: "It would appear that if there is a power outage because of
some breakdown, etc., at the power station, and Jewish technicians
repair the breakdown, one is permitted to benefit from the light, as at
the time that they repair it, they also repair it for the ill people who
are in danger (of dying) in the city, and it is impossible to repair the
machine only for them (i.e., for the sick people alone) ..." Rav
Neuwirth goes on to say that in such a case one may even eat food which
had been left on a hot plate (he discusses what to do if the pot has
cooled down completely, but that is not the issue at hand). However, Rav
Neuwirth goes on, if there is an outage in one specific small area where
there are definitely no people whose lives are in danger, if Jewish
technicians repair such an outage one is forbidden to derive any benefit
from the renewed electric current.

Finally, Mr. Meisler wonders whether - I assume using the argument of
_reduction ad absurdum_ and I don't mean this negatively - if a car is
already driving somewhere for Pikuach Nefesh reasons, whether, according
to the above logic anyone else can tag along in the car. Obviously there
are various other considerations here, not least Mar'it Ayin.

I would merely like to add an anecdotal account about this. I have in my
possession a clipping from the Jerusalem Post of probably 25 years ago,
and the clipping is of a document which probably goes back a few decades
before that date. The document in question is a bus ticket, issued in
Bombay, India, specifically for Jews to be used in using the local
busses on Shabbat! (i.e., without having to tender money). I have no
idea who gave the Heter and what the circumstances were. I can only
assume the city had an Eruv, because otherwise the ticket could not be
carried. The ticket itself reads as follows: "Bombay Municipality
 ... One Anna Coupon. For Jews Only. Available on tram services (For use
only on Saturdays and Jewish holidays). To be handed over to the Tram
Conductor who will issue a ticket in lieu thereof. J.R. Taleyarkhan." At
the bottom we find "6-49", which may indicate June 1949. I assume if all
the Jews in Bombay were aware of the arrangement, the question of Mar'it
Ayin was by definition irrelevant.

If anyone knows anything more about this ticket, I believe all MJ readers 
would be interested.

       Shmuel Himelstein
Phone: 972-2-864712   Fax 972-2-862041
<himelstein@...> (that's JerONE not Jer-L)
             Jerusalem, Israel


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 4:12:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Incandescent and Fluorescent Lights

     I was glad to see the responses, in v20n09, to my question on why
incandescent lights can be used for havdalah, according to some opinions,
but fluorescent lights cannot.

     Before commenting on the particulars of these responses, I'd like
clear up one minor point. Several people stated that I had asked about
the use of flourescent lights for havdalah. This is not true. What I asked
about was fluorescent lights. I assume that flourescent lights would only
be a problem on Pesach. Sorry, I couldn't resist that. (This confusion
wouldn't occur if they still required people to take Latin in school.)

     David Charlap says that I was "ignoring the simple answer in favor
of a complicated one that only a scientist would understand." This is
true, but to some extent I did this intentionally because I suspected
that the simple answer could not always be applied unambiguously, and
I wanted to explore whether a more "scientific" criterion might resolve
the ambiguities.

     The simple answer, suggested by everyone, is that the phosphor coating
which generates light in a fluorescent bulb is cold, while the filament
of an incandescent light is hot, and is glowing because it is hot. But
this criterion is not always easy to apply. Consider these cases:

1. A neon bulb. This is filled with cold neon gas, partially ionized, i.e. 
in a small fraction of the neon atoms one or more of the electrons is
separated from the rest of the atom. These electrons gain energy (become
hot) in the electric field generated by the electrodes, and collide with
the cold neon atoms, raising the energy of the electrons that are still
bound to the atoms. When those electrons lose their energy, they emit
light. The fact that the electrons in the atoms have raised energy
presumably does not qualify the atoms as "hot" halachically, since the 
same process occurs in the phosphor of a fluorescent bulb. The neon atoms
themselves are not hot, and would not feel hot if you were to put your
hand inside the bulb. So I assume a neon bulb would not be considered
"eish". The free electrons that are accelerating in the electric field 
are hot, but they are not directly emitting the light. And they wouldn't 
feel hot either, since they would not easily transfer heat to your hand, 
just as they do not easily heat up the neon gas. So maybe halachically 
even the free electrons would not be considered hot.

2. A mercury vapor or sodium vapor light. These work similarly to a neon
light, but with vaporized mercury or sodium instead of neon. The mercury
or sodium vapor is hot, unlike the neon in a neon bulb, since at room 
temperature mercury would be a liquid and sodium would be a solid. But
they are only a few hundred degrees, too cold for something to glow
visibly due to its temperature (i.e. blackbody radiation), and are not
really glowing _because_ they are hot. Of course, they couldn't be glowing
if they were not hot, since they have to be vaporized. Then again, even at
a few hundred degrees, I'm not sure they would feel hot if you were to
put your hand inside the bulb, since the vapor is so rarefied. So is a 
mercury or sodium vapor lamp considered "eish" [fire] or not?

3. A plasma in a controlled fusion experiment glows with a purple light,
reflecting the fact that it is at a temperature of hundreds of millions of
degrees. The mechanism of light emission, Bremsstrahlung, is the same
mechanism responsible for the glowing of a candle flame or filament. But 
it would not feel hot to the touch, because its density is so low. Is it
considered "eish"?

4. An ordinary candle flame with some sodium added to it would glow yellow,
primarily from the light emitted by excited sodium atoms, as in a sodium
vapor lamp, but in this case the atoms are excited by the heat of the
flame, rather than by electrons accelerated in an electric field. So I
suppose this would be considered "eish" even though the mechanism for
light emission is different from an ordinary flame, and the color of
the light is different.

5. Sunlight and starlight come from hot material, emitting light because
it is hot, just as in a candle flame or incandescent filament. But you
cannot directly verify that the surface is hot by touching it, since the
sun and stars are too far away to touch. So maybe it is not considered
"hot" halachically? You can indirectly measure the temperature of the 
surface, using spectroscopic methods, if you have the right equipment. 
And in the case of the sun, you can send a space probe there and measure
it directly. Is this pertinent to whether it is considered "eish"?

     A note on David Charlap's posting: The filament of an incandescent
light bulb is not "burning" in the chemical sense of generating energy
by combining with oxygen, but it is "burning" in the colloquial sense
of being very hot, is that what you meant? The fact that the filament
breaks eventually ("burns out") is not relevant to the way it generates
light. In principal, light bulbs could be designed so they do not burn
out, and in practice they could be manufactured to have many times longer
lifetimes than they do, but it would not be economically advantageous
to light bulb manufacturers to do that. The mercury vapor inside a
fluorescent bulb is also "burning" in the colloquial sense of being very
hot (a few hundred degrees), although that is only to keep it vaporized.
It emits invisible ultraviolet radiation (which in turn causes the phosphor
to emit visible light) due to excitation of electrons accelerated in the 
electric field, not due to its own temperature.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 12:09:30 -0700
Subject: Torah and Science

Please forgive this rather haphazard response; we are in the midst of 
packing a 24-foot Budget rent-a-truck for our move to Sharon, Mass. from 
the San Francisco area.  This will not be the most organized or complete 

Turkel Eli, Joe Goldstein, and Aaron Greenberg and others have been 
discussing the relationship of science to Torah.  

Based on my independent research of kabbalistic and scientific
relationships, and on the model of continuous creation and of the
alphabet that we (Meru Foundation) have found in B'reshit, I would like
to suggest the following.  Torah and Talmud and Kabbalah are one whole,
and they are inseparable.

The idea that there is a secret meaning by which kabbalistic or Torah 
statements could be scientifically true even though they don't appear to 
be reasonable in light of current knowledge is based, I believe, on a 
misunderstanding.  What may appear to be secret to us may well have been 
the commonly understood meaning in the past.  In my opinion, the issue 
of whether or not our sages knew kabbalah is similarly based on a 
misunderstanding.  I believe that many of the subjects we are 
discussing, such as "Is the earth flat?" "Did our sages know it was 
round?" were understood in the context of Torah, and that these subjects 
were not identified as kabbalistic or relegated to the kabbalah.  

In my opinion, neither Torah nor Talmud nor kabbalah discusses what we 
would call science, per se.  This is because sacred teachings are not 
based on physical things, on appearances, or on derived and secondary 
effects.  If consciousness is primary, then the only proper subjects, at 
the deepest level, for kabbalistic discussion, and the only things being 
modeled at the beginning of B'reshit, must (in my opinion) be invariant 
relationships.  These invariant relationships must be so fundamental to 
our consciousness, so topologically elegant, at such a low order and of 
such clarity, that they are inexorable and intrinsic to this creation.  
The physical sciences, noble as they may be, deal with things, 
embodiments, forms -- all of which are capable of being expressed in a 
nearly infinite variety of different ways.  Our science is wedded to our 
culture, and our culture keeps changing.  But Torah and Kabbalah do not 
change.  They do not need to change, because the science in Torah and 
kabbalah is invariant throughout all time in this creation.

This means that our rabbis knew that the earth was BOTH a globe, and 
flat.  They knew it was physically a globe.  So did the Greeks.  But 
they also knew that the model of continuous creation specified by the 
letter sequences in B'reshit, modeling a spiritual/meditational "unity", 
has a feature that has traditionally been identified with, and labeled, 
"earth", or "garden", etc., etc., that is round and flat.  It is in fact 
(in my opinion), the equatorial plane of an idealized fruit form 
(generally identified as a t'puach, but also sometimes, because of other 
features, as a pomegranate or as a stalk of wheat, etc., etc.).  This 
was not secret.  It was so generally known and understood that it can be 
found nearly everywhere, including in Torah, Talmud, and kabbalah.  
There was no mystery and there was no secret (amongst our sages).  I 
believe that we under-rate the knowledge of our sages if we assume that 
only those who specialized in kabbalah were aware that the earth is a 
globe in space that circled the sun, and that it is a flat round 
equatorial plane in B'reshit's model of creation.  

Likewise, when the "rabbis indicate that the sky is a solid dome above 
the earth, and seem to imply that the world is flat (like a porch).", 
they are discussing the model in B'reshit in which the sky IS like a 
solid dome above an earth plane, spread out like a porch around its 
central pillar.  This again is an allusion to a model that was generally 
known (in my opinion).

I have to go back to packing, and again I apologize if the above is not 
as well-thought out as it might be.  So let me finish by saying I agree 
with Aaron Greenberg that "fanatical belief in ideas that are so clearly 
wrong will only cause people to lose respect for Torah Judaism."  We 
must not impose modern scientific "things" such as the big bang and 
Darwinian evolution, etc. etc. on Torah.  Wedding Torah to modern 
quantum mechanics guarantees, in my opinion, that people will lose 
respect for Torah Judaism because of this in the future.  There is no 
need to reduce Torah to things.  The seeming "things" of Torah are a 
means of communicating deeper, invariant and inexorable relationships.  
The narratives and things of Torah are of course true.  They are drawn 
from examples of human behavior in real history.  But at the deepest 
level, as the kabbalists teach, and as all of our sages knew/know, Torah 
represents spiritual reality, devoid of idolatry and its associated 
imagery.  We are intended to grow and reach towards Hashem via halacha 
b'Torah.  This is not a thing; it is, literally, "a tree of life for 
those who grasp it."



End of Volume 20 Issue 34