Monday, 19 January 2009

From "The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov"

By Rabbi Michael Broyde & Rabbi Howard.

B. Building (Boneh)
The second possible basis for prohibiting the use of electricity can be found first in the works of Rabbi Abraham Isaiah Karelitz, commonly referred to by the name of his magnum opus, Chazon Ish.(23) He states that it is likely that completion of a live circuit constitutes a forbidden act of building (boneh) on Shabbat. He reasons that completing a circuit renders a previously useless wire into a functional wire, and this is analogous to competing a building or wall. In addition, completing a circuit is analogous to assembling an appliance composed of numerous parts - which halacha defines as building - and is thus prohibited on Shabbat.

The Chazon Ish's position has aroused great debate among halachic scholars. The most vigorous and thorough critique of this position is found in the eleventh chapter of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's work, the Minchat Shlomo. While Rabbi Auerbach advances numerous critiques of the Chazon Ish's position, the most crucial aspect of his criticism is that opening a circuit which is designed to be opened and closed routinely cannot be considered an act of building or destroying.(24) Closing a circuit is analogous to closing a door - an action which the halacha does not consider to be "building" since the door is intended to be opened and closed constantly.(25)

The overwhelming majority of halachic decisors appears to side with Rabbi Auerbach. As the Encyclopedia Talmudit (18:166) states:

From the writing of numerous achronim it appears that turning on an electrical circuit does not violate the prohibition of fixing an object [metaken mana and ma'keh bepatish] or building [boneh].(26)

Nevertheless, at the very least halachic authorities do take into consideration the opinion of the Chazon Ish on this issue when rendering decisions regarding electricity.(27)

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