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  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Electricity on Shabbat

Light Movement detector


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Adar II 18, 5782
Hello, We just moved to a new apartment building, and live on the 4th floor. The light is always on in the building, but on some floors when you go up the stairs the light becomes stronger as it detects your movement. So its not that the light was off and gets on, but it just get stronger as you walk by. My question, is that on Shabbat, we obviously dont take the elevator, and walk the stairs. What shall we do? Is this acceptable or do we have to find another appartment, considering its very complicated where we live? Thank you!
Thank you for your question The best scenario would be if you could ask your neighbors to change the lighting system (for instance, to spend a bit more money and have it light all Shabbat--you can even offer to pay for it). If you have a Shabbat elevator in the building that would also be o.k. However, if you can't find a better solution to this issue, you may go up the steps on Shabbat; there is no need to find another apartment. Explanation: There are a few reasons that permit this and you can rely on a lenient view. Each one of these reasons, taken alone is debatable, but with all the reasons taken together, it is permitted. Since there already is a light on in the building and you can go up the steps safely without the extra light, we can consider the act of turning on the light something that you don't consider necessary about and don't intend to do (which is halachically called פסיק רישא דלא איכפת 'ליה ). This is then permitted by some poskim, and forbidden miderabanan (rabbinical edict) by others (this explanation was told to me by Harav Dov Lior, Harav Yosef tzvi Rimon and Harav Tzvi Farbstien). On the other hand, one could argue that this is not the case as it is actually beneficial to you, and you are pleased with the light going on (and for that reason the light system was made in that way to make it easier for people to go up the stairs with more light), and would therefore be considered פסיק רישא דניחא ליה which is not permitted. Another reason to be lenient is that the light is probably a LED light which is considered by many poskim an issur derabanan (Harav Ovadia Yosef). According to others it is forbidden from the Torah (Chazon Ish and Harav Asher Wiess). Additionally, it is possible that the act of walking up the steps is not considered a direct action but an indirect one (גרמא). However, it seems that the the poskim held that it is considered a direct act and not גרמא (see Orchot Shabbat (26;26) Yalkut Yosef (3:55-56)). Another point to consider is that according to some poskim, when one is walking to a destination and has no intention to turn on a light, the light that goes on is not considered an issur at all (see Shevet Halevi--9:9, Minchat Asher Korona--simanin 57-59} . I must point out that these poskim were referring more to lights that go on when someone is walking in the streets or other public areas. However, when one has a light on in his apartment building it’s a different case and it’s harder to be lenient about it.. The bottom line is that if you don't have a better solution you can, in fact, go up the steps on Shabbat. Harav Dov Lior, Harav Yosef Tzvi Rimon and Harav Tzvi Farbstien all permit it. (Harav Dov Lior and Harav Yosef tzvi Rimon pointed out that for Sephardim the exemption (heter) is stronger because they are more lenient on פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה ) All the best
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