Rav Doniel Neustadt
Adjusting Timers on Shabbos
Adjusting Timers on Shabbos
Question: Is it permitted to adjust a Shabbos clock (timer) to turn on or off a light or an appliance1 sooner or later than originally planned?
Discussion: There are a number of halachic concerns involved in adjusting timers. There is a possible issue of violating the melachah of Kindling (maveir), since this action directly or indirectly causes the light to go on (when the clock is adjusted to turn on a light sooner than originally planned). There is a concern of makeh b’patish, since some poskim hold that adjusting a timer is a form of tikkun mana. There is also a debate on whether or not the timer itself or its parts, e.g., the dial or trippers, are muktzeh. Contemporary poskim have different views about all of these issues. The practical halachah breaks down like this: Many poskim rule stringently on all (or most) of the halachic concerns stated earlier and thus forbid – either min haTorah or miderbanan – adjusting a time clock under all circumstances.2 In their view, once a timer is set it may not be adjusted and is completely off limits. Other poskim are more lenient and permit to adjust the timer to delay turning the light off or on from the time originally planned.3 All poskim agree that even in situations where there may be an halachic leniency, one should not avail himself of this leniency unless there is
1 Using a Shabbos clock to run an appliance (other than lights) on Shabbos is a matter of some controversy. While many poskim are lenient and the widespread practice is to use a Shabbos timer for many appliances (except for dishwashers), Igros b Moshe, O.C. 4:60, strongly criticizes the practice as undermining the sanctity of Shabbos, and is something that the Sages would have certainly forbidden had this technology been available in their days.
2 Chazon Ish, quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 1, 170; Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:47:4; O.C. 4:91-5; Minchas Yitzchak 3:37; Rav Y.S. Elyashiv, quoted in Ashrei ha-Ish, Shabbos 19:31.
3 Minchas Shelomo 1:13; Yabia Omer 3:18; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 13:28. Under extenuating circumstances, e.g., to relieve the distress of someone who is ill, these poskim permit adjusting the timer to turn on and off the light sooner than originally planned as well. a pressing need.
4 It is, however, permitted to ask a nonJew to adjust a timer if it is needed for the sake of performing a mitzvah or to avoid a major loss.
Moving an Electrical Lamp on Shabbos
Question: On Shabbos, may an electric lamp that was inadvertently left on be moved to another location so that the light will not disturb one’s sleep? Discussion: This should be avoided, since many poskim classify an electric lamp as “severe muktzeh,” which may not be moved for any reason.6 While some poskim hold that an electric lamp is “light muktzeh,” which is permitted to be moved under certain conditions,7 the custom is to be stringent and not move an electric lamp for any reason.8 It follows, therefore, that the recently introduced “Kosher Lamp” may not be moved from one place to another on Shabbos, since the lamp itself is considered muktzeh. It is permitted, however, to turn the top of the cylinder which covers and uncovers the light that shines through, since the cylinder is a completely separate and detached piece and is not considered muktzeh. When necessary, it is permitted to move a lamp via one’s “body,” which means moving the object by employing any part of the body except the hand.9 Thus, one may move the lamp using his elbow or foot,10 provided, of course, that he is careful not to pull the plug out of the socket.
4 Orchos Shabbos 29, note 26 and 29, quoting Rav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling). 5 Ashrei ha-Ish, Shabbos 19:31; Minchas Shelomo 1:10-6. 6 Chazon Ish, O.C. 41:16; 43:17; Chelkas Yaakov 1:40; Minchas Yitzchak 3:43; Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (Shalmei Yehudah 2, note 5); Az Nidberu 4:40; Rav N. Karelitz (Chut Shani, Shabbos vol. 3, pg. 60). 7 Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:91-5; 5:23. 8 Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Meorei Eish, pg. 78). Rav M. Feinstein himself, in yet another responsum, is also stringent; see Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:22-36. 9 See Mishnah Berurah 308:13, 309:14, 311:30; Beiur Halachah 266:13; Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:22-6; Minchas Shelomo 1:14-2. 10 Or back of the hand; Mishnah Berurah 276:31.