Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 7 November 2009 / 19 Heshvan 5770

Playing with ‘Fire’

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

From: Steven

Dear Rabbi,

My daughter recently received a “glow in the dark toy,” i.e. a fluorescent toy. I was wondering if it would be permitted to put the toy near a light on Shabbat to “charge” it, as you are actually moving around electrons, causing them to ‘fluoresce’ which is basically the same thing that is done with electricity?

Dear Steven,

The subject of using electricity on Shabbat is very complex. Nevertheless, I’ll try to shed light on your question despite the limitations of this column. The Halachic authorities prohibit turning on an electric light or completing an electrical circuit on Shabbat for various reasons: Hava’ara (burning) and/or Binyan (building) and/or Bishul (cooking). These are 3 of the “39 Melachot” — creative activities — that are prohibited on Shabbat.

Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, was asked about using a glow in the dark toy on Shabbat, and he answered that it is permitted, since there is no violation of any category of Melacha on Shabbat. In placing the toy near light, there is no halachic form of burning, building or cooking.

“Moving around electrons” is not prohibited unless it involves a transgression of Shabbat, as in the case of an electrical circuit. An act is prohibited on Shabbat only if it violates one of the 39 Melachot, their derivatives, or special Rabbinical prohibitions. If it doesn’t, as in your case, then it is certainly permitted.

Source:
  • Shabbat and Electricity - Halperin/Oratz, Feldheim Publishers, 1993

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