Translation of Rav Shlomo Miller’s Responsa on the Kosher Switch

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rabbimiller2Translated by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for Five Towns Jewish Times

Translator’s note:  In the past week or so, many people have erroneously suggested that the Gedolim and Rabbonim who forbade the Kosher Switch did so out of “political reasons” – but not halachic reasons.  This is not the case, however.  Below is a translation of a responsa written on the subject by HaGaon haRav Shlomo Miller Shlita.  It clearly demonstrates that there are serious halachic animadversions to this device.  Some re-paragraphing was done and headings and explanatory notes were added to facilitate greater readability.  Permission was not obtained and any errors in understanding are my own.

RAV MILLER BEGINS..

In my opinion, one absolutely cannot permit the light switch called “The Kosher Switch.”  I do not have the opportunity to elaborate, however there is a great need to make two points in which, I believe, many people make an error.

TIKKUN MANEH

It is my opinion that any ultimate resulting action done willfully on Shabbos involves the malacha of Tikkun Maneh – because he allows for its operation.  In regard to setting up of a watch /clock [YH – 16th century watch/clocks had to be wound every 12 hours and would announce the hour] , the Mishna Brurah writes (338:15) that while it is permitted to set it up from before Shabbos, on Shabbos itself it is forbidden.  This is true not only if the watch had stopped  that it is forbidden to cause it to function even just by moving the iron spring -and there is a Torah prohibition in this according to many Poskim because it is included in Tikkun Maneh, but even when the watch is still working it is forbidden to wind up the weights or the spring that moves the gears to keep it going.

[See the Shaarei Teshuvah subparagraph 18 whether this is biblically forbidden or Rabbinic.  It is obvious that even when it is not operative that there is a Torah prohibition according to many Poskim – this is even if it will begin to function after some time – where there is some blockage and he is merely removing the blockage afterward, nonetheless a tikkun maneh occurs now – when he is setting the watch.]

EXTENSION TO ALL AUTOMATED DEVICES

The same is true with any act that he transfers to an automated device on Shabbos, and through that action the automated device will put it into action afterward –  this would now be considered tikkun maneh.

PROHIBITION OF NEGATING A VESSEL FROM SHABBOS USE

The Mishna Brurah writes extensively on the heter of Grama and the like:

See what he wrote in Siman 265 in the Mishna Brurah (SK 6) regarding the prohibition of “negating a vessel from Shabbos use” (YH – the sages forbade causing the vessel to become unusable on Shabbos because it appears or is similar to breaking the vessel). He cites the Maharil’s suggestion to place a vessel under the table [on Friday].  The Mogen Avrohom agreed to this, while it is still daylight on Friday to place a vessel under the table, and on Shabbos after the meal to remove the table and the vessel will remain by itself under the oil lamp.  And even though he is causing on Shabbos to negate a vessel from its Shabbos use through removing the table, nonetheless it is permitted – because he is not negating it directly with his hands on Shabbos.  And further, we are not careful in placing a vessel on Shabbos on a table under an oil lamp, even though oil falls in it because his intention is not for that.  Therefore, here too, they do not intend for that when he removes the table, but rather to save the table so that the oil lamp does not spill onto it.”

FORBIDDEN EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NO GRAMA

Now it is brought down in the Mishna Brurah that it is forbidden to place the vessel under the table on Shabbos [itself] and to afterward remove the table and the vessel will remain under the oil lamp.  Even though each individual action in and of itself is permitted, because it is certainly permitted to place a vessel under a table on Shabbos.  There is not even a hint of something forbidden in it.  And when the vessel is already under the table, it would certainly be permitted to remove the table.

But to perform both actions together on Shabbos –

1.            placing the vessel under the table and

2.            removing the table afterward

this  would be forbidden.  Even though there is not even a Grama here, it is nonetheless forbidden.  And this is true even though his intention is just to save the table when taking it away.  And if his intention is that the oil fall into the vessel according to the Mishna Brurah’s second reason it would be forbidden even if he placed the vessel under the table on Friday.

And certainly to place a vessel under the table, and he knows that afterward someone will come and remove the table there is a prohibition of “negating a vessel from Shabbos use – Mevatel Kli m’haichano” when he places the vessel under the table.

Even though the negation from Shabbos use will not come until after the table has been removed and after the oil has fallen into the vessel, nonetheless, it is subsumed within the prohibition of the sages of negating a vessel from Shabbos use.  And even though one would have thought to permit it through the concept of Grama and through the concept of “merely removing an obstacle” it is nonetheless forbidden.

SAGES FORBADE IT DUE TO PERMANENCE

And the reason that the sages forbade this is that the sages of blessed memory knew that if he would do this, it would be something that happens always.  They understood that over the course of time the prohibition of “negating a vessel from Shabbos use” could become undone.  They permitted Grama only in chance instances such as a fire where the matter is not permanent each Shabbos, and he will not, through this, come to violate extinguishing.  Whereas this is not the case regarding a permanent thing.  For it is forbidden to place a vessel under the table on Shabbos and afterward remove the table (or if the table would be removed through an automatic device afterward) even though each individual action by itself is permitted.  If so, in every situation of Grama where it is set up permanently, it would not be permitted – just as we do not permit a Grama of causing a vessel to be pulled out of Shabbos use [Bitul Kli m’haichanu].

[According to the second reason cited by the Mishna Brurah, that he does not intend that the oil fall into the vessel it is possible that it would also be permitted to place the vessel under the table on Shabbos and subsequently remove the table with the intent to save only the table – and that which the Mishna Brurah only permited it on Friday could be because he only permits it when there is a combination of both of the reasons.]

CERTAINLY TRUE FOR A KOSHER SWITCH

Whatever the case may be, if it is forbidden to place a vessel under the table and afterward remove the table, it is certainly true that the Kosher Switch would be forbidden.

DEBATE ON CERTAIN GRAMAS

In general, the issue of Grama is a very complex subject.  For even though it is permitted to place pottery containers filled with water in front of a fire as explained in Siman 334:22, doing so with a “wall of snow” in front of the fire is a debate among the Rishonim.  See Tosfos (Shabbos 47b) that it is the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam and Rabbeinu Chananel that only doing so with  pottery containers filled with water is considered a Grama and would be permitted.  But this would not be the case with a “wall of snow” for there would be no hefsek (block) between the water and the flames.

The Baalei Tosfos there suggest that perhaps according to our version of the Talmud it might be permitted with a “wall of snow.”  See the Ritvah who explains that the Tosfos question Rabbeinu Chananel’s and Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion from the case of a garment that caught fire.  In that case it is permitted to place water on the other side [of the garment].   The Ritvah explains that wherever there is a space between the water and the fire it is considered a blockage – since it is possible for the fire to go out before it arrives there.

GRAMA IS WHEN YOU DON’T NECCESARILY WANT IT TO HAPPEN

And even though there is to further examine the exact meaning of his [the Ritvah’s] answer, nonetheless, it is clear in his words that according to Rabbeinu Chananel the leniency of Grama is only because it is possible that the fire can extinguish beforehand.  See the words of the Rashba (Shabbos 120a) that only a wall of containers is permitted, because it is possible that they will not crack.  However, a wall of water would not be permitted.  This is also the opinion of the Raavad and the Ramban in explanation of the Rif’s opinion.  See the responsa of the (Avnei Naizer Siman 230) what he writes regarding the leniency of containers filled with water – that it is considered like Ko’ach kocho [the derivative power of his power] see there.  That even though when a person has intent one does incur a violation – here his desire is that the fire not pass at all and it is his desire that the containers not crack and that the waters come out and extinguish the fire – On the contrary, he would like that the containers not crack at all and that the fire go out even before it reaches the containers – see what he writes there in his pilpul.

GRAMA WHEN ONE INTENDS FOR IT TO HAPPEN

The truth is that in all situations of Grama when a person has the intent to make it happen – the Meforshim have already explained that it is possible that there is no exemption of Grama.  Indeed, the opposite is true, since it is explained in Bava Kamma 60a that even though if one throws it to the wind and the wind assists him in regard to the laws of torts (damages) it is considered a Grama, nonetheless in regard to Shabbos one incurs a violation, as the Torah forbade knowing actions.  See the Yeshuos Yaakov at the end of 334 what his grandson Moreinu HaRav tzvi Hirsch that there are many Poskim who forbid Grama if he intended for it (see Divrei haMaschil “V’Adayin.”)

NO GRAMA WHEN ITEM ITSELF IS BEING TOUCHED

The opinion of the Rosh is also known that one who removes oil from an eggshell [with a small hole at its bottom] that lays above a [lamp] vessel – it is considered true “extinguishing” and one incurs a Shabbos violation – even though the extinguishing only happens after some time has elapsed.  See what the Avnei Naizer Siman 232 has written regarding the Rosh’s opinion.

Whatever the matter is, the Rosh’s opinion is that the leniency of Grama is only when the person does not touch the item that is actually lit, but rather did something completely extraneous that will cause it to extinguish when it reaches there.  But here, both the oil and the wick are actual [internal] causes of the fire and one who diminishes either one of them in order to hasten the extinguishing – incurs a Shabbos violation.  That is – even on an act of extinguishing that comes after time has elapsed this is not considered a [mere] Grama [but rather a direct action] since the person did an act to the item that will light [albeit] after some time – even though at this point no malacha was done to it.

CONCLUSION

It comes out from our words that Heaven forbid that one should permit the switch called the Kosher Switch.  Boruch Hashem many choshuva Rabbis have written to forbid it.  It is [further] obvious that there is Zilzul Shabbos here in that they wish to make Shabbos like a weekday.  Shabbos to us is a blessing not a “problem” that needs to be resolved in order to be like a weekday and that there be opportunity to do on Shabbos what can be done during the week, Heaven forbid.  And with Hashem’s help we should merit to understand that the observance of Shabbos is a blessing to us.

The translator can be reached at [email protected]

 

Original Hebrew can be found at http://5tjt.com/translation-of-rav-shlomo-millers-responsa-on-kosher-switch/


19 COMMENTS

  1. “Shabbos to us is a blessing not a “problem” that needs to be resolved in order to be like a weekday and that there be opportunity to do on Shabbos what can be done during the week, Heaven forbid.”

    this lo oleinu is common though amongst the modern orthodox who blur the lines bein kodesh le’chol and try to modernize the torah

  2. Thank you. Making this more broadly available to the English speaking public is helpful. Clearly the designer of the switch is a talented individual whom with guidance from gedolai Yisroel can apply these gifts to issues that may be truly beneficial and broadly accepted.

  3. It’s All political
    Re: the kosher switch- “indeed It’s all political” as Yair Hoffman brings out in his articles and translation of Reb Shlomo Miller teshuva re: above.

    It’s been established that these issurim are being done every shabbos and yom-tov with the shabbos mode appliances.

    The Star-K allows one to change the temperature of the oven on yom-tov as long as there isn’t a readout. (one can use a computer without the screen turned on) Mind you this is not just a gramah, it’s a straight issur. plus many other electrical switching, connections being operated in the refrigerators and stoves in the shabbos modes. It’s irrelevant that the actual end result happens at a later time, the person triggered the electronic mechanisim now, albeit with a time delay built in for an ultimate result.

    So it is all political- If it has a Star-K it’s not attacked by all the heavy weights, even not by Yair Hoffman (Reb Shlomo miller wrote a parve teshuva that it’s ossur).

    The Star-K says “is digital readout” called aish? etc.

  4. The difference is that by the Oil, the oil is constantly dripping so when he pulls away the table it is Geromoh. However, by the Shabbos switch, B’shaas he pulls away the plastic which could block the electr currents, there are NO electric currents yet. Everybody knows that your allowed to pull away the table B’shaas the Candle didn’t even start dripping.
    Tikun Monoh is stam not Shayich because the swich is operating properly regardless if its off or on. If you want you could say Tikkun Mono when your opening up your glasses.

  5. “If it has a Star-K it’s not attacked by all the heavy weights”

    This is not true. There was much to do over “sabbath mode” ovens several years ago.

    “Reb Shlomo miller wrote a parve teshuva that it’s ossur”

    What should have written to make it less pareve, if you use this you will burn in hell for the chillul shabbos?

    Lastly, what does the star-K say about the use of “the kosher switch”.

  6. “this lo oleinu is common though amongst the modern orthodox who blur the lines bein kodesh le’chol and try to modernize the torah”

    At best, this is lashon hara written against a large number of jews and should be erased by the moderator/editor. It is probably motsi shem ra.

  7. Description: Wearing or Winding a Wristwatch on Shabbat

    Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Halichot Olam (vol. 4, p. 265), discusses the Halachot concerning watches on Shabbat. He writes that if a person has a watch that runs without batteries, it is permissible to adjust the time of the watch on Shabbat, and also to wind the watch so that it will continue running and not stop. However, if the watch had stopped, then it is forbidden on Shabbat to wind it to restart its operation. Winding a watch that had stopped would constitute “Metaken Mana” (fixing a broken utensil), which is forbidden on Shabbat. As mentioned, however, if the watch is still ticking, then one may wind the dial to prolong its runtime.

    By the same token, it is permissible on Shabbat to wear a watch that is operated by the movement of one’s hands. Since the watch is already running, one may wear and walk around with the watch even though every movement he makes with his hand has the effect of extending the watch’s runtime.

    It is forbidden, however, to adjust a battery operated watch on Shabbat, since this entails discontinuing and then restarting the watch’s mechanism, which runs on electricity. Battery-operated watches may be worn on Shabbat, and we do not consider the watch a “Bassis” (“base”) to the battery such that it should be considered Mukse. Even if the watch has buttons that perform certain electric functions, such as a button to illuminate the screen, it is permissible to wear the watch on Shabbat. Hacham Ovadia writes that we cannot legislate a new prohibition against wearing such watches out of concern that one may press the buttons. Thus, it is permissible to wear a battery-operated watch, though it is forbidden to press the buttons or to adjust the time.

    Summary: It is permissible to adjust the time on a watch that does not run on batteries. One may wind such a watch to prolong its runtime, but not if it had stopped running. A battery-operated watch may be worn on Shabbat, but it is forbidden to press any of the buttons or to adjust the time.

  8. #8 i guess the moderators disagree with you.

    probabaly because it is a well known fact and thus not loshon harah. furthermore it is does not speak to any specific modern orthodox jew rather it speaks to many in the modern orthodox circles and no person in specific

  9. “#8 i guess the moderators disagree with you.”

    As long as they have a Rav who agrees with them.

    “probabaly because it is a well known fact and thus not loshon harah.”

    Fact? Oft repeated does not equal “fact”.

  10. To #3:
    “Clearly the designer of the switch is a talented individual whom with guidance from gedolai Yisroel can apply these gifts to issues that may be truly beneficial and broadly accepted” The designer of the switch is either an ignoramus in Halacha or an ignoramus in physics; But he is clearly not an ignoramus in marketing. The concept behind a switch is very simple, but he complicated it in order to trick people into believing it is mutar on Shabbos. While it is true that eating bacon with chopsticks is technically grama, it is certainly still forbidden.

    To #6
    While there are many problems with this contraption, I will mention the simplest one. There is a halacha in Shulchan Aruch that one is forbidden on Shabbos to place an open container of water beneath a candle with the intention of extinguishing the sparks that might fall. There is a certain degree of uncertainty in both the “Kosher Switch” and this halacha; the difference is that the candle will MAYBE give off sparks, the “Kosher Switch” is GUARANTEED to give off sparks. While I am not an expert in halacha, as someone who knows basic physics and is vaguely familiar with Shulchan Aruch, this seems to be a no-brainer.

  11. By sparks I mean electrical currents. It is probably manufactured in a way that avoids burning ones house down (so it obviously does not give oof sparks). It is also manufactured to do its job, so while when the electrical current will happen is questionable, it is guaranteed that it will happen.

  12. Yudel

    I have spoken to the Star-K, and they hold that the Kosher Switch is ossur.
    Their number is 410-484-4110. Maybe you should call them and ask their opinion before citing what you think is their opinion.

  13. Rav Miller forbids adjusting “Sabbath Mode” ovens on Yom Tov for reasons somewhat similar to what he says here.

    Rav Heinneman rejected his arguments and still maintains that adjusting the controls on Yom Tov is permitted, as long as it’s for the purpose of cooking.

    He does not allow adjusting it on Shabbos, though, given that cooking is prohibited on Shabbos.

    Given that the Kosher Switch does not involve “cooking,” especially when controlling LED lights, it would be interesting to know why Rav Heinneman would think that the Kosher Switch is not just as non-problematic as Sabbath Mode ovens are for him.

    Is it because, even though there is no “cooking” or “igniting,” the end result is evident, because the LED lights can be seen going on or off?

  14. Yira,

    When arguing with a gaon like R Miller it behooves you to do the following:
    1) provide a source for your statement of fact ” everybody knows” is meaningless.
    2) Provide proof that your sevara is truly a differentiator. I can argue the other way as that the current will definitely happen whereas the oil may stop dripping.

    There is a reason R Miller is a world renowned Poisek and you are a website commentator.

  15. To #12
    In your case the spark is it-self part of the fire which is already burning, that he is doing Kibbui on.
    In our case, the electrical current, which will soon be born, will soon travel to a place where it will ignite a fire, and I’m placing a blockage on the expected route, before that current was even born.

  16. #1 and #10 (lbj): What you are saying lacks basis in both halacha and reality. If you are trying to spread this “fact” further and make it more known, it is still assur. Similarly, negative speech about a group of jews (you are saying that modern orthodox jews, as a general statement, try to “modernize the torah”) is absolutely assur.

    These halachos are irrelevant, however, because it would only be lashon hara if it was true. It is all motzi shem ra, needless to say. Your lamentations about those who “blur the lines bein kodesh le’chol” are unfounded and untrue. Have you proof that Modern Orthodox people are behind this Kosher Switch? Have you proof that the modern orthodox “try to modernize the torah”? Have you read books about modern orthodox hashkafos or spoken to modern orthodox rabbanim and community leaders knowledgeable about what it means to be “modern orthodox”? Most importantly, what is the purpose of your comment? You are not the first against modern orthodox people, and your comment is (both untrue and) not enlightening in the slightest of how exactly those wretched modern orthodox came to deserve a “lo oleinu”. It is merely sinas chinam and pointless, hating drivel.

  17. To SamEiger
    Our case is similar to a scenario where a Robot would be manufactured on Shabos, and we know that it is programed to take a path to an area where it will ignite a camp fire, but there is a chair blocking its expected path; and I go, before this robot was created, and pull away this chair.