The halachic ramifications of electricity and electric appliances will, perhaps, be a debate that continues until a completely different source of energy has been discovered. Until that time, however, there are several m’lachot (creative labors prohibited on Shabbat) that may be violated by the use of electric devices on Shabbat:
1) Nolad (lit. birthing): The rabbinic prohibition against creating something new on Shabbat.
2) Boneh (building): The m’la’cha of building would include the act of completing the circuit, of building an electrical bridge when one turns on an appliance or light.
3) Makeh B’patish (final hammer blow): Similar to boneh, this m’la’chais violated when a circuit is completed, thus finishing the "job."
One wishing to guard Shabbat by avoiding the 39 m'lach'ot would, therefore, need to refrain from turning on, turning off or altering (such as changing the volume) any electrical item.
There are many ways that technology has altered how electricity can be used on Shabbat. Many households use preset timers to control household lights. This is permitted because the action was set in motion before Shabbat began. In recent years, Shabbat observant engineers have worked with large appliance manufacturers to create "Shabbat friendly" ovens, refrigerators and even dishwashers.
This Treat was last posted on July 16, 2010.
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