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

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha


Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Frying Fish in a Meat Pot, Baking Fish and Meat in the Same Oven, and Maran zt”l’s Custom

There is a well-known prohibition of eating fish and meat together, as discussed by the Gemara and Poskim. Cooking Fish in a Meat Pot Although it is prohibited to cook a dairy dish in a meat pot as we have discussed in a previous Halacha, nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writ......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha