Jan 24, 2011

Machlokes Between Rav Chaim And Rebbetzin Kanievsky

An incident in Bnei Braq led to an unusual machlokes between Rav Chaim Kanievsky and his rebbetzin Rabbanit Kanievsky in how to resolve a shailoh.

The iryah of Bnei Braq hosted the director of the Social Welfares offices for a tour of the city and their social welfare organizations that operate in Bnei Braq. During the tour the mayor, Yaakov Asher, described how the organizations are famous for the level of assistance they offer, and described the tens of organizations and what they do.

They made a stop at the home of the Kanievsky family. During the visit, Rabbanit Kanievsky thanked the mayor. She said that every day she sits outside on her porch at 4am saying tehillim by the light from the street lights. Because the mayor was kind enough to connect the street lights to the generator, she is now able to also say her tehillim on Shabbos morning (at 4am), which she could not do before, as they hold using electricity from the electric company is completely assur as peer the psak of the Chazon Ish.

Rebbetzin Kanievsky also mentioned, by the way, that there is no prohibition of reading by the street lights because the gezeirah of shema yateh does not apply, as the street lights are so high up and inaccessible, there is no way she could try to adjust the light. Therefore she is allowed to read by the light provided by the street light.

Rav Chaim heard her halachic argument and could not remain silent. he argued saying that when chazal decreed against reading by the candlelight because of the concern that one might adjust the light, they did not differentiate by where the light is, and did not allow it just because it is high up and not easily accessible.

In an attempt to resolve the machlokes, the mayor stepped in and offered another possible leniency to consider. He said because the light in this case is at the top of an electricity pole it is dangerous to climb and adjust. Perhaps chazal did not make their gezeirah in a situation of danger, as there would be no need because nobody would put themselves in danger, in addition to the difficulty because of the height, to adjust the light. (source: Kikar)

I wonder who we pasken like in a machlokes like this, between Rav and Rebbetzin Kanievsky. It is definitely unusual.

Regardless, I am sure this machlokes is one that is l'shem shamayim and will not lead to any damage in their relationship...


  1. Uh.... does this mean that Rav Kanievsky forbids learning from the glow electric lights when it would otherwise be dark on Shabbos?

  2. he holds using electricity form the electric company, rather than from a generator, is assur.

    it does sound form the story that he seems to hold you can not read from the light of an electric bulb. doesnt make sense to me, but thats what the story sounds like.
    maybe he just was not dealing with that and was only commenting on her comment regarding shema yateh.

    I forgot to add the link to the original.. will add it now

  3. IIRC there is a mention in the Aruch HaShulchan and the Mishnah Berurah that height is not an issue in the gezeirah and even a highly set lamp that cannot be reached is part of the gezeirah.

  4. I doubt that Rav Chaim holds that shema yateh applies to non-adjustable electric lights.

    He was only saying that in cases where shema yateh would apply, the Rebbetzin's hetter would not help.

  5. As far as I know, the Chazon Ish held that 'shema yate' applies to electric lights too.


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