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 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.
Rabbi Rashi Simon