Does Alexa Observe Shabbat?

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Dear Rabbi Simon
I am teaching a Year 7 class about the festival of Shabbat. A question was asked relating to the use of Alexa. Can Alexa be used during this period to play music?
Thank you

Dear Colin
Thank you for your interesting and practical question.
The consensus view is that use of voice-activated electronic devices like Alexa should be avoided on Shabbat. This means one has to be conscientious about turning her off before Shabbat, to avoid inadvertent instructions which can impinge on the serenity of the day!
The use (or more correctly the manipulation) of electricity is prohibited on Shabbat. This restriction is extended to modern electrical appliances as well, just as hand-held devices.
It is noteworthy, however, that some authorities allow the inadvertent activation of a motion-sensitive security light. Similarly, images captured continuously on a security camera (for example), without the intentional or deliberate participation of those in the camera’s purview.
This is a complex and fascinating subject, of which the above only scratches the surface. For further reading I can recommend two short books (modern classics), The Sabbath, by Isidore Grunfeld and Sabbath: Day of Eternity, by Aryeh Kaplan.
Best wishes
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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