Volume 59 Number 74 
      Produced: Mon, 08 Nov 2010 01:29:23 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Electricity on Shabbat (2)
    [Carl Singer  Ari Trachtenberg]
Maimonides and Rav Soloveitchik "blundered"?! 
    [Seth (Avi) Kadish]
Orchat shabbat and electricity 
    [Eli Turkel]
Telephones on Shabbos and pikuach nefesh 
    [Chana Luntz]
What is life threatening 
    [David Ziants]
What is life threatening (was use of the Telephone on Shabbos)  
    [Ben Katz]


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Electricity on Shabbat

Eli Turkel (MJ59#73) quotes from the Orchat Shabbat "a more stringent
version of Shmirat Shabbat".

I find it troubling that based on the excerpts cited, this text seems to
focus on redacting what heretofore were considered accurate statements /
opinions by (deceased) Gedolim of previous generations and / or questioning
the generally accepted understanding of how these Gedolim paskened.   Note:
this is a reflection on the source, not the posting.

In the scientific world one can refute previous findings with new findings
-- but this is significantly different than saying the previous findings
were misquoted or misinterpreted.

Does one learn Torah / halacha by bolstering ones conclusions, redacting
(there's that word again) or perhaps distorting views of others who may have

Although I don't have an example at hand -- I would say the same for "a more
lenient version ...."


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Electricity on Shabbat

Eli Turkel wrote (MJ 59#73):
> Orchat Shabbat (a more stringent version of Shmirat Shabbat) claims that all
> poskim agree that electricity is prohibited from the Torah on shabbat (or more
> exactly "choshishim le-melacha de-oraita).

I am not familiar with the text, but your quote "choshishim le-melacha
de-orata" [are concerned about Torah-prohibited work (being done)]
is not the same as accepting electricity is prohibited from the Torah.

I think that it is clear that R. Auerbach was worried about how easily
Torah prohibited work can be done with electricity.  It is, for example,
much easier to start a fire with electricity than with water (e.g. using
a water wheel), so there is some legitimate concern that permitting
the use of electricity on Shabbat will lead to violations of Torah law.

On the other hand, it seems pretty clear from R. Auerbach's treatise,
that the electric current itself is not a manifestation of forbidden work.




From: Seth (Avi) Kadish <skadish1@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Maimonides and Rav Soloveitchik "blundered"?!

Hi. I think a bit of intellectual modesty is called for here. First of all,
I am completely and totally open to the possibility that Rav Soloveitchik's
approach may be a far more powerful and positive path for many more people
than I allowed for in my book. If someone thinks I overstated the case I
have no quarrel with them. I don't think "right" or "wrong" has anything to
do with it.

Secondly, regarding practical halakhah, even though some of what I wrote may
be unfamiliar to the average "davvener" there is nothing surprising there to
people who have studied the rishonim and posekim on the issue. Emphasizing a
mainstream view amongst the posekim is not saying that other views are
"wrong". Even halakhic views that are rejected in practice are not usually
called "wrong".

Regarding history, was the Rambam "wrong" about how the Mishnah was
composed? True, there is good evidence that seems to back the alternatives.
It is also true that Maimonides himself would not have wanted anyone to
accept his historical pronouncements just because he made them.
Nevertheless, since we are thousands of years removed from the issue at hand
and the evidence can bear more than one interpretation (otherwise
Maimonides' formulation would have been impossible), it would be wiser to
honestly and respectfully weigh and compare the relative strengths and
weaknesses of the various positions, as well as their respective
motivations, and to consider how they have been evaluated historically,
without reducing the discussion to simple right or wrong.

I appreciated the discussion, and apologize if I overreacted to the


Seth (Avi) Kadish 


From: Eli Turkel <eliturkel@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Orchat shabbat and electricity

There seems to be some confusion over my last remarks (MJ 59#73) and so I shall
try and clarify them.

Orchat Shabbat is a 3 volume set on hilchot shabbat by R. Gelbar and R. Rubin
(sorry I dont know anything about them). From my own personal random samplings
they are more stringent than Shmirat Shabbat but I certainly have not done any
intensive studt of that.

The third volume was published about 2 years ago and deals a lot with
electricity. To reiterate we are discussing only electricity and not other
problems like heating elements etc.

They state the following:

1. Chazon Ish and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach had an exchange of letters about
the possible prohibition of electricity because of boneh. These letters were
published in Minchat Shlomo. It says that R. Auerbach only argued in theory but
in practice would accept the Chazon Ish. Furthermore, even though the words of
the Chazon Ish indicate that one can close a circuit if other parts are open and
so nothing happens, nevertheless people claim in the name of the Chazon Ish that
even this is prohibited.

R. Broyde has pointed out that in volume 2 of Minchat Shlomo, R. Auerbach seems
to pasken according to his own understanding that there is no Torah or probably
even rabbinic prohibition. To be absolutely clear R. Auerbach would not allow
the use of electricity without some over-riding necessity. Cetainly R. Auerbach
would be hesitant to allow anything that might lead to a Torah prohibition or be
confused with a Torah prohibition.

2. R. Moshe Feinstein (OC4:84) says one should be "chosheh lemelacha de-oraisa".

3. Similarly R. Elyashiv (no source given) and R. Wosner (Shevet Halevi 8:47 and

4. R. Weisz in Michat Yitzchak sometimes treats it as a rabbinic prohibition and
sometimes seems to be "choshesh" for the Chazon Ish.

Let me point out that the difference between a Torah and rabbinic prohibition is
major. Besides the usual difference in cases of doubt there is a halachah in
shabbat that one can ask a non-Jew to do a rabbinic prohibition for a mitzvah or
for a substantial monetary loss.

A common case is whether one can ask a goy in a hotel to open a door with a
magnetic key when only LED lights or other devices that are just electric
problems without incandescent bulbs. Similarly one can frequently do something
involving 2 rabbinic prohibitions eg electricity in an unusual manner for oneg
shabbat or a large monetary loss.

Orchat Shabbat brings R. Elyashiv (again without a source) that all these cases
are prohibited. However, if R. Auerbach meant his position (as seems likely)
they would seem to be IMHO allowed in cases of great need or a mitzvah
Eli Turkel


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Telephones on Shabbos and pikuach nefesh

Leah S.R. Gordon wrote (MJ 59#72):

> There are these middling cases that come up, and so I do think it is
> relevant to discuss, as we have on M.J, the details of the rules. 

I agree wholeheartedly with Leah.  One of the very important reasons to
understand the parameters of halacha, particularly in relation to hilchos
shabbas is so that you can know when there may be issues and how to deal
with and define middling cases (and the problem with shabbas is that there
may not be a competent halachic authority accessible just when you need

But this is not just true of hilchos shabbas as it relates to telephones,
but of hilchos shabbas as it relates to childbirth and pikuach nefesh and
because of that I am not at all convinced that the cases you bring are
indeed truly middling cases.

> Two instances have come up in my own life:
> (1) When I thought, but wasn't sure, that I went into labor with my
> second son, it was about 3pm on shabbat afternoon (in March). I did end
> up calling the midwife, but I wish I had known about how prohibited or not
> it was to do so if I wasn't necessarily in mortal danger.

I think it is very important to know that the overwhelming view in halacha
is that a woman in childbirth is by definition in mortal danger.  You may
not think you (or the baby) is in mortal danger, but the halacha does.  And
in fact the very first statement in Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim Siman 330
(which is headed the laws of a birthing woman [yoledes] on shabbas) is that
a yoledes is defined as a choleh she yesh bo sakana [a sick person in mortal
danger] and we violate on her behalf Shabbat for all that she needs, and
then the first example they give is calling for her a midwife (although in
those days, absent a telephone, that referred to bringing from place to

Now it is true that the Shulchan Aruch later in si'if 3 (based on the
gemora) gives a definition of childbirth as being either (or the earliest
occurring of) 
a) when she sits on the birthing stool, or 
b) the blood starts to flow or 
c) she cannot walk unaided (so her friends need to hold her), 
but as the Taz (si'if katan 2) and the Mishna Brura (si'if katan 9) make clear,
this is only for things that can then be done immediately, ie without delay,
but they both bring the case specifically about calling a midwife, where if
they wait until these tests are satisfied it may be too late, that you must
not wait for the satisfaction of any of these tests, and, in the language of
the Taz as reiterated in the Mishna Brura, - at the time she feels a little
[margishat ktzat] or even b'safek [in doubt as to labour] it is permitted to
call her.

And the Taz and the Mishna Brura specify that they are talking about calling
a midwife even from beyond the techum [Shabbat limit] and do not distinguish
between issurei d'rabbanan [rabbinic prohibitions] and issurei d'orisa
[Torah prohibitions].  

The point being, if you (or anybody else) is in a position where there is
any hava mina [possibility - MOD] that you (or they) might be in labour it is
imperative to treat yourself (or them) as potentially in a pikuach nefesh
situation and do whatever is necessary just in case, regardless of the status of
the telephone or anything else as an issur dorisa, d'rabbanan or minhag.  And
yes, I have heard many horror stories because people just don't treat
childbirth seriously.  Not just in terms of hilchos shabbas, but in terms of
other things (case in point, neighbours of ours, she started bleeding, it
wasn't Shabbat, but they waited around for a bit to see if it would stop and
only after a bit he decided to drive her to a hospital where he wasn't
familiar with the way and they got lost and she was trying to navigate while
he drove etc etc. Whereas if they had treated childbirth with the respect it
deserved, and the respect Chazal gave it, they would have called an
ambulance right away).

> (2) A few weeks ago, actually the second day of Sukkot, my youngest son
> (3yo) had trouble breathing and needed a nebulizer treatment.  Of
> course this was something we would do on chag/shabbat for pikuach nefesh,
> no question. 

Again, it is important to understand that hilchos pikuach nefesh includes
not just when there is definitely a pikuach nefesh situation, and not just
if there is a doubtful [safek] pikuach nefesh situation, but even on a sfek
sfeka [double doubt] one must be mechallel shabbas (see Tosphos Yoma 85a d"h
"piska",  a point made in many places but inter alia in Iggeros Moshe
Choshen Mishpat chelek 2 siman 69 si'if 2) (the language of the Shulchan
Aruch in Orech Chaim siman 329 si'if 3 is that one violates shabbas even if
there are many sfakos).  Given that trouble breathing is under anybody's
definition a pikuach nefesh situation, and given that you were not sure that
the borrowed nebulizer would work, I can't even see a double doubt here,
only a single doubt (maybe the borrowed nebulizer would work), and hence
again it seems to me (and I am not a rav and not in a position to posken,
just trying to outline the principles) it might well be argued that you were
obligated to secure that back up nebulizer by whatever means necessary.  I
can see that if there is clearly enough time, one might want to use the
telephone (about which there may be halachic discussion) rather than driving
(which everybody agrees is an issur d'orisa [torah prohibition]) and you
might want to use a shinui [different way of doing things, if possible, such
as dialing differently, perhaps] but, at least it seems to me, the first and
most important thing to focus on is whether there is any risk (not just
certainty) of pikuach nefesh and if so, to act.  And certainly at first
blush I can't see how having the option of ER would change that analysis (it
is just an alternative way of getting that necessary nebulizer, and possibly
something stronger).

Hoping this is not the kind of analysis that anybody on this list is going
ever going to need in practice.



From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: What is life threatening

Although every situation is different, I think the best way to learn and 
improve one's "religious gut (or should I say, Talmudic thumb)", as Carl 
puts it (MJ 59#73), is to present and discuss case stories. Thus I present the 
following story:-

My daughter, a number of years ago (was 4 or 5 years old at time) fell 
from chair, cut the tip of her thumb on the metal part of chair and 
blood was squirting from the wound and of course everyone was in panic. 
This happened on Shabbat, during the day.

B'h I understood right away that this is piku'ach nephesh [life 
threatening situation]. Later on in the week, I reminded myself what is 
written in sh'mirat shabbat k'hilchata (2nd edition) and this type of 
scenario is listed in 32:11 point 7, as piku'ach nephesh. He bases 
himself on a combination of a bi'ur halacha on Shulchan Aruch - Orech 
Chayim 328:7 together with medical opinion he received.

The following courses of action were taken, and I will mark those issues 
where performance possibly could have been improved.

1) My wife fetched neighbour whilst I dialled 102 for ambulance - 
totally OK (even if telephone call involved d'oraita). The neighbour 
helped wrap something around the wound and have my daughter keep her 
hand high in the air to reduce blood pressure.

2) The shomer shabbat and Torah knowledgeable medic (who lives 400m down 
the road) received beeper message from 102 and came running from his 
home up to us to administer first aid. He was with us in less than 5 
minutes, but felt that maybe retroactively being the unknowns involved, 
he should have come with his motor-cycle or car.

3) Whilst the medic properly washed and dressed the wound, he instructed 
me to make a small bag (including kupa card [magnetic card needed so 
hospital know how to exact payment and possibly extract medical 
records], water to drink, a few toys and a few other things) wait on the 
street for the ambulance. My daughter, now everything being under 
control, came down to wait for the ambulance. Waiting on the street was 
nothing to do with shabbat issues, but is just good advise when dealing 
with Magen David Adom [Israeli medical emergency services]. If the 
ambulance picks an emergency off the street, it generally costs the 
patient substantially less money in ER. There was no medical reason why 
she could not come down to the street.

4) The medic said it was essential she is taken to hospital as quickly 
as possible. Travelling in a possibly Jewish driven ambulance, from 
Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem which are not within the same t'chum shabbat 
[distance outside city that one is allowed to go on shabbat], was an 
essential part of piku'ach nephesh. (Maybe t'chum is Rabbinic here - but 
then I do not know why I have never heard if there is a public eruv t'chumim 
[laying food after certain distance to override Rabbinic stricture on 
t'chum]. Also t'chum issue might not be so serious as are travelling on 
a vehicle.) The time issues though, were not as critical then as from 
when the accident happened till when the medic arrived.

5) On the ambulance, part of the procedure is the (different medic in 
cabin of the ambulance (who is most probably Jewish) writing down 
medical and personal details. I always find this a sore point from the 
point of view of Shabbat observance, because to have the patients name 
and id number, it is enough that she holds the patient's kupa card. If 
there are no medical details to report, apart from the essentials of the 
accident, why does this need to be written down at this stage? I think 
that I gave this medic the kupa card, told her the essentials of the 
accident and just let her do what she wanted. I did not sign anything. 
What do people on MJ think? . I think sh'mirat shabbat k'hilchata 
mentions this type of thing, but I cannot, now, find the source.

6) Arrived at Haddassa Ain Kerem hospital. Admittance was dealt with by 
ambulance staff as they had the kupa card. She was taken to X-Ray (part 
of piku'ach nephesh procedure), with normal shabbat waiting times - i.e. 
was not treated as an emergency that had to be dealt with immediately - 
but was dealt with, in turn, within the constraints of the shabbat 
shifts at the hospital.

7) After X-Ray, we then had to sit and wait for the results. This is an 
issue which I probably should have dealt with better. In Israel, it is 
standard practice to have to push to receive a service due. Pushing 
here, would involve prompting the reception staff every so often to ring 
up the relevant department to see what was happening. I did not relate 
to this manner of going about things, as I should, as it was shabbat (if 
a weekday I would have pushed as no one likes waiting around but shabbat 
takes priority to waiting around so did not push), and I felt that if 
there was something, as a result of viewing the x-ray, that really 
needed immediate attention they would deal with us right away. So whilst 
waiting, the receptionist gave us permission so that I could go to shul 
for mincha, provided we were back within half hour, and then permission 
to leave the waiting area till motzai shabbat. Afterwards, a local Rav, 
said I should have pressed the reception staff to contact the relevant 
departments until I knew myself that a professional had viewed the x-ray 
properly. Chillul shabbat should still not have been a concern at that 
stage, until I knew there was a full diagnosis.

8) Motzai Shabbat, my daughter was given stitches, and new dressing etc. 
and b"h in the end her thumb healed.

All comments welcome...

David Ziants

Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 8,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: What is life threatening (was use of the Telephone on Shabbos) 

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#73):

> I've witnessed change in many shuls -- usually towards the more machmir
> [stringent]: "enhancing" the mechitzah, adjusting davening times (for
> example, when Shabbos starts / ends.), etc.   I am not talking about shifting
> populations, but shifting within a stable community.
> It seems that communities have less problems with going machmir.  Can any of
> the MJ readers give examples of machmir to maikel [less stringent] that
> weren't considered "slippage" or falling off the derech?  Or for that matter
> can anyone provide substantial examples of any shifting towards maikel.
> ARE YOU SEATED -- here comes a controversial statement -- I'd appreciate
> enlightening comments on same (no heat necessary):

> It seems that even though we are yet another generation further away from
> Sinai, we believe that the previous generation was neither as frum nor as
> knowledgeable as ours (I can in part accept the "knowledgeable" because
> knowledge expands despite redacting of some texts).

I have often been amazed at this, but I can think of 2 examples where practice
has gone to the easier position since my childhood:

1. Swimming on the 9 days. When I was a kid, even Conservative Day Camps that I
attended would not allow it.  Now instructionbal swims seem to be permitted.

2. Not saying selichot at midnight.  When I was a kid, even Conservative shuls
would say selichot the first Sat. night at midnight.  Now, I know of only 1
Orthodox shul in my area that does so.




End of Volume 59 Issue 74