Thursday, November 05, 2015

A Note Regarding Rav Simcha Zelig Reguer’s Position on Opening a Refrigerator on Shabbat


A Note Regarding Rav Simcha Zelig Reguer’s Position on Opening a Refrigerator on Shabbat

By Yaacov Sasson

The purpose of this note is to correct an error that appeared in a widely-read journal nearly 25 years ago; the error is of sufficient consequence that it necessitates a correction, even after so many years.

In their article, "The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov", by Rabbis Michael Broyde and Howard Jachter (Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, No. XXI, Spring 1991), the authors cite Rav Simcha Zelig Reguer, the Dayan of Brisk, as having permitted opening a refrigerator on Shabbat when the light inside will go on, based on the principle of psik reisha d'lo nicha lei. It is also claimed that Rav Simcha Zelig "states that the light in the refrigerator provides no benefit to the one opening the door." (See footnote 59 there.[1])







































The authors then assert that classifying this action as psik reisha d'lo nicha lei "appears to be entirely incorrect", because the light serves as a convenience and is useful for finding items in the refrigerator. 

Lo hayu dvarim me-olam
. Rav Simcha Zelig did not permit opening a refrigerator when the light inside will go on. Rav Simcha Zelig wrote (Hapardes 1934, num. 3, page 6) that it is permitted to open the refrigerator since the intention is to remove an item, "v’aino mechavein lehadlik et ha-elektri."[2] The authors misinterpreted this statement to be a reference to an electric light in the refrigerator.









































However, it is clear from a simple reading of the articles to which Rav Simcha Zelig was responding that the topic under discussion at the time was triggering the motor by opening the door and allowing warm air to enter; lights and light bulbs are not mentioned at all. In the first of those articles (Hapardes 1931, num. 2, page 3), the language of "hadlaka" is used in reference to the refrigerator motor, and Rav Simcha Zelig’s language of "lehadlik et ha-elektri" appears to parallel the language used there.[3]



In the second of those articles (Hapardes 1931, num. 3 page 6), the act of triggering the motor is referred to as "havara" and "havara b'zerem ha-chashmali"[4], and Rav Simcha Zelig used a similar nomenclature, "lehadlik et ha-elektri" to refer to triggering the motor.




Rav Simcha Zelig's position was that it is permitted to open a refrigerator when the motor will then go on, as triggering the motor is classified as a psik reisha d'lo ichpat lei, which is equivalent to lo nicha lei.[5] Rav Simcha Zelig never addressed opening a refrigerator when the light will go on.
 
I would add two endnotes - when surveying Halachot with significant practical implications, such as in the realm of Hilchot Shabbat, it is an author's responsibility to ensure that all sources are cited accurately, lest a reader rely on an incorrect citation with the result of Chillul Shabbat. Secondly, when confronted with a Halachic position of a Gadol B'Yisrael that seems to be entirely erroneous, the possibility that the Gadol's position is being misunderstood must be explored.



[3] It is probable, but not absolutely certain, that Rav Simcha Zelig was in possession of Hapardes 1931 number 2 when he wrote this letter. He certainly had 1931 number 3, as obvious from his citation of R’ Moshe Levin on the permissibility of making ice on Shabbat, which appears in number 3. It is likely that Rav Moshe Soloveitchik sent him 1931 number 3 because it contains a presentation of a shiur that Rav Moshe delivered in the name of his son, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, and Rav Moshe no doubt wished to share his son’s chiddushim with Rav Simcha Zelig. 1931 number 2 also contains a presentation of a shiur that Rav Moshe delivered in the name of his son, so it is likely that 1931 number 2 was also one of the three editions of Hapardes that Rav Simcha Zelig received from Rav Moshe.   
[5] For a more detailed analysis of why triggering the motor would be considered a psik reisha d’lo nicha lei, see Minchat Shlomo (Kama) 10, as well as Minchat Yitzchak 2:16. Rav Eliezer Waldenberg seems to accept this classification of triggering the motor as a psik reisha d’lo nicha lei, in Tzitz Eliezer 8:12. 

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