Halacha for Wednesday 28 Nissan 5780 April 22 2020

A Refrigerator on Shabbat

Clarification: In yesterday's Halacha, we discussed the opinion of the Poskim who write that listening to music is forbidden during the Omer period (until Lag Ba'Omer). We should nevertheless point out that this year, given the circumstances, the great Rishon Le'Zion, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yitzchak Yosef Shlit"a, has ruled that those who are quarantined, those who have young children who are stuck at home and bored, and those who suffer from anxiety or depression may act leniently and listen to even instrumental (kosher) music during this period.

---------------------

Question: If one forgot to turn one’s refrigerator to “Shabbat mode” (or deactivate the light inside) and when the refrigerator door is opened, the light will turn on, if one mistakenly opened the door on Shabbat, may one close it?

Answer: If one turns on an incandescent light bulb on Shabbat, one transgresses the Torah prohibition of igniting a flame on Shabbat. (If the light bulb is of the LED variety, turning it on constitutes a rabbinic prohibition). If one turns off a light bulb, this constitutes a prohibition of extinguishing. (Nevertheless, turning off any kind of light bulb only constitutes the prohibition of extinguishing on a rabbinic level.)

Thus, if one has a refrigerator at home with a light inside that turns on and off when the door is opened and closed, clearly, one may not use such a refrigerator on Shabbat unless there is a “Shabbat mode” feature (or at the very least, one must deactivate the refrigerator light) which prevents the light from turning on and off when the door is opened or closed.

We should point out that nowadays, many refrigerators come standard with features that cause electronic and/or digital functions every time the refrigerator door is opened or closed, such as activating or deactivating fans or displays, and regarding such refrigerators, even if one were to deactivate the refrigerator light before Shabbat, one may not open and close such a refrigerator on Shabbat. One should take care that when purchasing a new refrigerator, it should have a “Shabbat mode” feature or at the very least, that opening and closing the door do not cause electronic functions such as fans and displays to activate and deactivate.

Since the purpose of the forbidden work of opening the refrigerator door is not meant to turn on the refrigerator light, rather, one merely wishes to remove food from the refrigerator, this is not considered a direct prohibition of turning on the light and is only considered an opening of the refrigerator door with the light turning on as a direct result. It is therefore permissible to ask a non-Jew to open and close the refrigerator door when one has forgotten to turn the “Shabbat mode” feature on or deactivate the refrigerator light.

Indeed, a great rule Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l codified for us (in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 3, page 430) is that it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to perform any permissible act on Shabbat even if doing so will directly result in a forbidden work. We will explain this further.

If one opened the refrigerator door on Shabbat, one should place a towel on the inside of the door and close it in this way so that it does not close completely and turn off the light. Alternatively, one may ask a non-Jew to close the refrigerator door, as we have explained. If neither of these options are viable, there are several reasons to allow closing the door, including the fact that turning off the light is only a rabbinic enactment in addition to the fact that this prohibited action is not being carried out directly; rather, it is being done indirectly through the closing of the refrigerator door. Therefore, in such a situation, one may close the refrigerator door in an unusual manner, such as with one’s elbow, or by asking a young child to close it. However, once closed, the refrigerator door may no longer be opened unless this is being done by a non-Jew.

Summary: It is forbidden to open or close a refrigerator on Shabbat when opening and closing the door activates or deactivates lights, fans, displays, and the like. If such a refrigerator was mistakenly opened on Shabbat and cannot be left open, it may be closed with one’s elbow or by asking a young child to do so. Opening it again may only be done by a non-Jew (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 6, page 115).

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Holiday of Shavuot- Teachings of Kindness

The Torah introduces the momentous event of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish nation with the verse (Shemot 19), “On the third month from when the children of Israel left Egypt, on this day they arrived at the Sinai desert.” Our Sages in the Pesikta ask: Why is it that the Torah w......

Read Halacha

“Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” (The Twelfth Blessing of the Amida)

Question: In the Blessing regarding the heretics in the daily Amida prayer, how should one end the twelfth blessing: “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” (He who smashes enemies and humbles the wicked) or “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Minim” (He who smashes enemies and humb......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by strik......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Cooking on Yom Tov

In the previous Halachot we have explained that although Shabbat and Yom Tov are equal in their prohibition to perform work on them and it is therefore a Torah prohibition to drive a car on Yom Tov, nevertheless, certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking and frying, are permitt......

Read Halacha


How One Should Conduct Himself in the Morning

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 5) states: “Yehuda ben Tema says: Be bold like a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and mighty as a lion to perform the will of your father in Heaven.” Let us now explain this Mishnah. The Tanna writes that one must be as “bold as a ......

Read Halacha

The Holiday of Shavuot- Coronavirus

The holiday of Shavuot will be celebrated, G-d willing, at the conclusion of the period of the counting of the Omer this coming Friday (beginning from Thursday night), the 6th of Sivan (and outside of Israel on Shabbat, the 7th of Sivan as well). Let us, therefore, begin to discuss some of the perti......

Read Halacha

Deceit and Trickery

One may not deceive or trick others when it comes to monetary transactions. Monetary Deceit If one knows that one’s merchandise is flawed or faulty, one must reveal this to the buyer. For instance, if one wishes to sell his home and he knows that the ceiling is full of mold because of a bu......

Read Halacha

Reciting Kaddish

Question: What is the significance of reciting Kaddish for a deceased individual? Answer: When an individual departs from this world, his surviving children must make a concerted effort to pray with a Minyan three times a day in order to be able to recite Kaddish for their father or mother. Simil......

Read Halacha