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    Shabbat electricity – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why isn’t electricity allowed on Shabbat?

    electricity chords power plugsA. You may benefit from electric appliances but not personally operate them. The problem is whether one may light a fire on Shabbat, which the Torah bans (Ex. 35:3).

    The arrival of electricity led to rabbinic discussion as to what is meant by “fire”. Some rabbis argued that turning on electricity did not constitute fire, but this view was not generally accepted. Increasing the electric current was also rejected unless it was done indirectly (Shulchan Aruch, OC 252).

    Appliances set before Shabbat may be utilised. The accepted usage is to turn on the electric lights before Shabbat and govern them by clocks and timers. This does not transgress Shabbat since it is human beings, not machines, who are obligated to keep the Sabbath. Appliances which work on batteries, including pacemakers, may be utilised on Shabbat.

    Some literalist Karaites prohibited using lights that were lit before Shabbat; they sat in the cold and dark on Shabbat, even in the Russian winter.

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