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  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Electricity on Shabbat

Shabbat and a movement sensor alarm


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

19 Shevat 5763
BS"D As my mother is getting on in age, I have recently fulfilled her wish and came on an extended visit (from Israel) to live with her in Florida. Other than keeping kosher at home and lighting Shabbat candles and performing daily acts of chessed, there is no other religious observance in the home. My mother lives in a very upper class neighborhood wherein all of the homes are protected by complicated alarm systems. While I am able to remain in the house on Shabbat without opening any doors/windows (which would cause the alarm to beep), this past Shabbat I noticed that as I walked across the living room the movement sensor lit up. In short, by simply walking I caused the light to go on. I asked my mother if there were a way to disconnect the alarm or bypass its movement sensor which is mounted very high on the wall. She said that she could not do this for several reasons including her agreement with the community management as well as with the alarm system company. Does this mean that I must spend the entire Shabbat in my bedroom wherein the alarm will not detect my movement? Thank you for your time. Tizku lamitzvot.
I consulted with other rabbis regarding your question and the generally accepted opinion was that as of now there is no practical solution that would allow you- "Lechatchila" (=as a first choice)- to spend Shabbat in your mother's apartment. Would covering the sensors before Shabbat stop the lights from going on and off? Even so, being unable to leave the apartment so as not to set off a beeper, seems inhuman and impractical in the long run. Is there a medical reason that requires your presence there? If so- it might be permissible to remain there depending on the severity of the problem, the type of light that was going on and off, and the availability of alternate solutions.
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