Shabbat and Power to the People

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Q: Dear Rabbi Simon,

You recently responded to a question regarding a power cut resulting in the total cooling off of the food. As your ruling of lenience was based on the fact that there had been no deliberate human input whatsoever (actually on Shabbos itself?), does this imply that the use of a time switch to achieve the same effect would therefore not be permitted?

Good Shabbos,



A: Dear Moshe

Thank you for your question. My delay in replying is partly due to the need to research the matter anew. Of course the classic (pre-20th century) sources do not deal with electricity, and the case of benefiting from the actions of a gentile on Shabbos – which is discussed in the Talmud and the Codes – is not necessarily the same as setting a time switch (so-called “Shabbos clock”).

At any rate, the answer is that it is indeed problematic to arrange ab initio (le-chatchilah) for your urn, for example, to turn off at night, and then to turn on again before lunch, boiling the water anew at that time. The reason for this is that you would effectively be removing the hot water from the source of heat, and then restoring it hours later. The same would apply to cholent (although I would add that such a strategy may be unwise from a bacteriological point of view.) Nevertheless, ex post facto (be-di’eved) you would still be allowed to consume your hot drink. However, if you do not need your electric hot plate overnight, but only (to re-heat in a permissible manner solid food which has already been cooked) during the day, you would be able to “save the planet” and your energy bill by setting a time switch to turn it off after dinner and on again before lunch.

I hope this is helpful. As they used to say in America, “power to the people”.

Kind regards


Questions & Answers
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Questions and Answers

Ask the Rabbi: Easy as א-ב-ג?
Dear Rabbi Simon,
I hope you fasted well yesterday.
Thank you for the insights into the Kinnot, making them easier to understand.
In the afternoon, I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on Torahanytime.  As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st perek of Eichah is the source for the order of the alef bet as we know it.  Other chapters also follow the alef bet chronology but with ayin en peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim predates Megillat Eichah by centuries.  Several psalms are written in the alef bet order (e.g.
psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes.
PhilippeHi Philippe
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of samekh and 'ayin is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are family.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 vv per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the v. starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra'). I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that 'ayin belongs before peh. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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