Halacha Date: 28 Av 5774 August 24 2014
Question (By popular demand): May one leave a radio (or television) turned on before the onset of Shabbat in order for it to continue to operate on Shabbat? Similarly, may people in certain areas outside of Israel listen to Israeli radio after Shabbat has concluded when it is still Shabbat in Israel?
Answer: Let us first discuss the law regarding whether or not one may listen to a Jewish radio station if Shabbat has not yet ended in Israel.
Clearly, all those working in the radio station on Shabbat desecrate the holy Shabbat through their work. Merely working the electronic devices and broadcasting the programs on Shabbat constitutes many forms of Shabbat desecration.
Maran rules in his Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 318) as follows: “If one cooks a dish on Shabbat intentionally, the dish is forbidden to be consumed by this individual or by anyone else.” This means that if one has desecrated the Shabbat by cooking, this dish may not be eaten as a result (at least until nightfall of Motza’ei Shabbat).
Similarly, if one desecrates Shabbat by operating a radio station, broadcasting programs, and the like, no other Jew may benefit from these actions of Shabbat desecration.
Thus, even if one is presently in a country where Shabbat has not yet begun or where Shabbat has already ended, if it is still Shabbat in Israel, it is absolutely forbidden to listen to radio programs which are the product of Shabbat desecration in Israel.
Based on the above, it is certainly forbidden for one residing in Israel to listen to such programs broadcasted on Shabbat by Jews, for this constitutes benefitting from Shabbat desecration.
The next issue we must discuss is if the technicians at the radio station are non-Jewish, such as in stations outside of Israel, and a Jew leaves his radio on before the onset of Shabbat, such that there is no concern of Shabbat desecration whatsoever. Will it be permissible to leave one’s radio on before Shabbat begins in order to be able to hear the various radio programs on Shabbat?
Indeed, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this question in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 1, Chapter 20, Section 12) and rules that even if one turns on the radio before Shabbat, this will still be forbidden, for this constitutes a “disrespect for the sanctity of Shabbat.” He proceeds to support his view with sources proving that this is absolutely forbidden even when there is no concern for Shabbat desecration.
Similarly, it is likewise forbidden to turn on a CD before Shabbat in order for it to continue to play on Shabbat, for several reasons including disrespect for Shabbat and producing noise on Shabbat. The great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel zt”l has already written a response on this issue where he likewise rules that this is forbidden.
It is therefore absolutely forbidden to listen to the radio, to a CD, or any other form of live or recorded media on Shabbat, even when the device is turned on before the onset of Shabbat. It is likewise forbidden to listen to an Israeli radio program broadcasted on Shabbat, even if the individual listening is in a place where Shabbat has not yet begun or has already concluded.
All of the above certainly applies to watching television which actually involves many other prohibitions besides for Shabbat desecration.