Halacha for Wednesday 17 Shevat 5780 February 12 2020

Baby Monitors on Shabbat

Question: May one place a baby monitor (intercom) in a baby’s room on Shabbat in order to be able to hear if the baby cries and to be able to adequately care for his/her needs?

Answer: At first glance, it would seem that the baby monitor is similar in the way it works to a microphone which has already been prohibited by the greatest luminaries of the past several generation for several reasons, including the fact that it is a vessel designated for making noise whose usage on Shabbat is subject to a rabbinic prohibition. Indeed, Maran zt”l writes lengthily in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 1, Chapter 19) to prohibit the usage of a microphone on Shabbat for several reasons.

Nevertheless, there seems to be more room for leniency regarding a monitor placed in a baby’s room, for an infant is considered to be “an individual ill with a non-life-threatening illness” even when he is healthy (since a baby’s condition is very sensitive and he is constantly in need of his parents’ care); thus, there is room for leniency regarding a rabbinic prohibition not being performed by the parents and which is only a result of the raising of the baby’s voice. Although the parents’ voices are heard on the intercom as well when they enter the baby’s room in order to care for him and speak there, nevertheless, this is still permissible since they have no intention for their voices to be heard and they gain no benefit from this in addition to the fact that there is no physical action. Thus, regarding a rabbinic prohibition, there is room for leniency.

On the other hand, some claim that the usage of a microphone or baby monitor on Shabbat is not only a rabbinic prohibition but is actually a Torah prohibition, for the sound waves create an electrical function whereby sparks of fire are emitted via electrical conduction. Several great luminaries from the previous generation rule likewise. Nevertheless, Maran zt”l disagrees with this opinion, for after having spoken this matter over with his great friend, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (who was known to be an expert in the Halachot regarding electricity), the latter informed him that it is clear that the opinion of the aforementioned luminaries is completely incorrect and one’s speech does not create any kind of sparks and only causes an increase in the sound waves which has no connection to the forbidden works of igniting or extinguishing a flame. All experts in the field of electricity point to an increase in the sound waves but no fire (electricity) is increased or decreased as a result. The reason why some Poskim wrote this way in previous generations is because the mechanics of electricity were not yet clearly understood by all.

Thus, it is clear that using a microphone on Shabbat is only a rabbinic prohibition and regarding our situation which is a necessity for an infant and where no physical action being performed, one who is lenient and uses a baby monitor on Shabbat surely has on whom to rely.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Similar Types of Fruit

In the previous Halacha, we have established that one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges, which are not so readily available throughout the year. When one merits eating from these fruits the first time during the year and the fruits......

Read Halacha

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Grafted Fruits

Question: May one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing the first time during the year one eats citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges? Answer: We must first preface this discussion with the law that when one eats a new fruit that one has not yet partaken of that year, after recit......

Read Halacha

The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on a New Garment

Question: When is the appropriate time to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a new garment, at the time of purchase or the first time one wears it? Similarly, must one recite this blessing for every new piece of clothing one purchases? Answer: The Mishnah (Berachot 54a) teaches us ......

Read Halacha

Reciting The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Fragrant Objects

Question: Should one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a fragrant object which renews itself yearly? Answer: The root of this question is based on what we rule that regarding any fruit which renews itself yearly, such as berries and pomegranates, before partaking of that fruit for......

Read Halacha


Measuring for the Purpose of a Mitzvah

In the previous Halacha we have mentioned that our Sages have prohibited any kind of measuring on Shabbat or Yom Tov. For instance, one may not weigh various foods items or beverages on Shabbat. Although the scale is mechanical and not electronic, this is likewise a rabbinic prohibition. Measurin......

Read Halacha

Walking on Grass and Climbing a Tree on Shabbat

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one of the works forbidden on Shabbat is reaping. Included in this prohibition is detaching anything that grows from the ground, whether with regards to wheat and barley or anything else which grows from the earth. The Prohibition to Climb a Tree on ......

Read Halacha

Measuring on Shabbat and Yom Tov

Question: On Yom Tov when cooking is permissible, may one use a mechanical scale (not an electronic one) to weigh the ingredients one needs for cooking? Answer: Our Sages prohibited measuring on Shabbat or Yom Tov, for this is considered a “mundane act”, i.e. an action performed speci......

Read Halacha

Question: May one set an alarm clock to go off on Shabbat?

Answer: It would seem to be prohibited to set an alarm clock to go off on Shabbat based on the Baraita (Shabbat 18a) which states, “One may not place wheat into a water-operated mill (before Shabbat) in order for the wheat to be ground on Shabbat.” Although no forbidden work is being per......

Read Halacha