Sep 10, 2007

lenient or stringent?

Last week on shabbos there was a fault at the electric company and the electricity in sections of Bnei Brak went down for some time.

The question was asked to Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, the Rav of the Ramat Elchonon neighborhood that was affected by the outage, what to do when the electricity came back on; could the residents continue using their items such as food on the hot plate that will heat up, air conditioning, lights, etc. or do they have to refrain from benefiting from the work done on shabbos to fix the fault.

Rav Zilberstein paskened that, for the most part, the electricity could be used as usual. His rationale is that there are sick people using equipment on that electricity line, along with a hospital on the same line. Therefore the work done was really being done for sick people and was necessary. Any benefit received by non-sick people is really secondary and therefore not prohibited. Regarding food on a hot plate he chose to be machmir and said that any food that had already cooled down by the time the electricity went back up should be removed from the hot plate and not be allowed to heat up.

What irks me is the terminology used. He said, "The Residents of Ramat Elchonon who rely on the lenient opinions to allow use of electricty on shabbos...."

Using electricity on shabbos is the standard opinion in halacha. To disallow it is really the chumroh, mostly based on the opinion of the Chazon Ish.

I know when the generator was put in my neighborhood, (most of) the Rabonim who supported it and tried to encourage the residents to join up with the generator, pushed it only as a chumroh. They did not say it is necessary, rather it is a worthwhile chumroh.

When we lose sight of what is a chumroh (stringency), what is a kula (leniency) and what is halacha, that is what causes the rifts on society.

The only thing I can think of to explain what Rav Zilberstein said is that maybe in Bnei Brak they overwhelmingly accepted the opinion of the Chazon Ish and therefore they consider it base halacha and anybody not using only the generator is being lenient.


  1. There are additional inconsistencies with Rav Z's pesak.

    To name but one:

    Why should the hot plate now be prohibited if the food was already fully cooked? Indeed, depending on which chumros were used to cover the hot plate (basic covering, shabbos fake kadeira blech style etc..) the food may not even reach yad soledet!

    Note: The chatam sofer used to set a timer to have COMPLETE BISHUL *commence* long after shabbos began. This is discussed in Har Tzvi among other places.

    The lesson: Rabbanim have no single consistent way of paskening. On each issue rabbis do their own thing. And even when the road 'forks' a bit ISH HAYASHAR BEINAV TAASEH.


    Note: I am generally a HUGE fan of Rav Z. His seforim are amazing and it is clear that he is [CENSOR:]op*n mind*d. And maybe even [super censor] pr*-Isr*el.

  2. that is a very true and important statement. Another example is that while you say the chatam sofer used a timer to regulate the timing of the cooking food, it is well known that Rav Moshe was against the use of time clocks and only allowed it for the lighting and not for anything else (including AC)

  3. I wonder what they actually did? Wasn't this question asked after Shabbat?

  4. I was wondering that too. I would guess people went to their Rabbis (including Rabbi Z)and asked the questions of what to do....

  5. "When we lose sight of what is a chumroh (stringency), what is a kula (leniency) and what is halacha, that is what causes the rifts on society."

    In such a situation, we also end up (G-d forbid) being over on an issur torah since we're not allowed to add to it. BIG HUGE PROBLEMO.


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