Halacha for Thursday 22 Iyar 5771 May 26 2011

Electricity on Yom Tov

Question: In the home of certain relatives of mine they have the custom to turn on electric lights on Yom Tov, claiming that great Torah scholars and leaders of the generation ruled leniently about this matter. Is this correct?
Answer: It is correct that there were certain great Poskim who ruled leniently regarding turning on electric lights on Yom Tov. Some Poskim, though, ruled leniently on this matter because they did not quite understand the reality of how electricity actually works, for some of them mistakenly thought that turning on the light does not create a new fire, rather it only a “transfer” of fire. They got this idea from some people who presented themselves as “experts” in the field of electricity who claimed that the fire created by the electricity is already present in the electrical wires in the bulb, and by pressing the “On/Off” button (or flicking the switch), only a “transfer of fire” occurs, and there are instances when one can be lenient regarding such things, as we have discussed in previous Halachot. This explanation is surely mistaken, for the electricity stored in the wires is not fire, and this rationale cannot be used to rule leniently.
Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, also ruled leniently regarding the usage of electricity on Yom Tov, his reasoning being that the only time we find a prohibition to produce a new fire on Yom Tov is only when one does this with his own hands, however, if one does so in an indirect way, igniting a fire on Yom Tov will be permissible. He discussed this matter at length and goes on to explain how pushing the “On/Off” button is not considered an actual igniting with one’s hands, and thus, he rules leniently on the matter regarding using electricity on Yom Tov, although clearly if one would do this on Shabbat, he would be transgressing the Torah prohibition of desecrating the Shabbat.
Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a deals with this matter at length in his Sefer Ma’or Yisrael on Masechet Beitzah (page 33a), and he concludes that there is absolutely no room for leniency regarding usage of electricity on Yom Tov, unless one tells a non-Jew to turn on the electrical devices, in which case there is room to be lenient. He writes similarly in his Sefer Chazon Ovadia-Yom Tov (page 53).
Similarly, Hagaon Harav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher zt”l  and other great luminaries from the previous generation have discussed the matter of using electricity on Yom Tov, upon which they ruled that there is no difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov in this matter; just as it is completely forbidden to use electricity on Shabbat, the same applies to Yom Tov, and one may not be lenient regarding electric lights or any other electrical appliance for that matter.
There are those, however, especially in some communities outside of Israel that are customarily lenient regarding usage of electricity on Yom Tov. Maran Harav Shlit”a writes that one need not protest vehemently and tell them that they are transgressing a serious prohibition, as there are several opinions among the Poskim upon which they may rely. Nevertheless, if one comes to inquire whether or not usage of electricity is permitted on Yom Tov, we must respond that there is no place for leniency. This is indeed the prevalent custom among our communities, as we ban the use of electricity and telephones on Yom Tov, just as we would on Shabbat; this is based on the consensus of the great Poskim.
Thus, one may not bake in an electric oven on Yom Tov unless he has set the timer to turn on the oven for a certain period of time during Yom Tov, in which case the use of such an oven will be permissible. The same applies with regards to an electric mixer, as we have explained above.

Ask the Rabbi

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Customary Order of the Night of Shavuot

The Source for the Order of the Night of Shavuot The widespread custom among the entire Jewish nation is to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot and immerse one’s self in Torah study until dawn. Indeed, the holy Zohar states: “The earlier righteous individuals would not sleep on this ......

Read Halacha

Blessings of Enjoyment and Keri’at Shema on the Night of Shavuot

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the order of learning for the night of Shavuot during which it is customary to remain awake all night and study Torah. Reading the Order of the “Keri’eh Mo’ed” Let us first discuss that which we have mentioned that it is proper t......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Praying Repeatedly-A Spark of Ruach Ha’Kodesh

Question: Is it correct for one to plead and beseech Hashem for the same thing every single day or is it more proper to pray for a certain matter only several times and if one sees that one has not been answered, one should cease praying for that specific matter? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 32b)......

Read Halacha

Donating Tzedakah (Charity) in Order for One’s Son to Recover From an Illness

Question: Is it permissible to donate a sum of money to charity in the merit of which someone should become healed or for any other personal request or is it improper to do this since the Mitzvah is not being performed for the sake of Heaven, rather, for one’s personal purposes? Answer: The......

Read Halacha

Walking a Dog on Shabbat

Question: If one has a pet dog at home, either for leisure or as a seeing-eye dog for a blind individual, may one move it on Shabbat? Similarly, may one walk the dog in the street on Shabbat? Answer: We have explained in the previous Halacha that all animals are considered Muktzeh on Shabbat as M......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Chazzan’s Repetition of the Amida

-------------------------------- Along with the rest of the Jewish nation, we are heartbroken and mourn the loss of those who passed in the horrific Meron tragedy on Lag Ba’Omer. May their souls be bound in the binding of eternal life and may Hashem send consolation to their families and ma......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Bedtime Keri’at Shema Regarding Women and Following Halachic Midnight

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one should recite the “Hamapil” blessing before reciting the bedtime Keri’at Shema. This blessing should be recited along with Hashem’s name like all other blessings. We have also explained that although one should preferably ta......

Read Halacha