OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

This column is dedicated in memory of:
Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Reb Dov HaLevi Belsky, zt'l
Senior OU Kosher Halachic Consultant from 1987-2016


Q. There is a power outage on Erev Shabbos, and I am drawing electricity from a generator. The generator only produces enough electricity for either the lights or the air conditioner. I know that it is a mitzvah to light Shabbos candles to promote sholom bayis. Since I will light Shabbos candles, do I fulfill the mitzvah without electric lights, which would allow me to use the electricity to operate my air conditioner?


A. The essential question is whether the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles is enhanced by having additional light in the house from electric bulbs. Rav Zylberstein (Chashukei Chemed, Shabbos 251) writes that it is a mitzvah to have additional light in the house. He demonstrates this from the fact that many women can light Shabbos candles in one location and recite a bracha. We see that providing additional light is an enhancement of the mitzvah. Operating the electric lights from the generator will fulfill this mitzvah enhancement and therefore lights would take precedence over an air conditioner. However, if it is very warm and one will be in discomfort, the air conditioner can be run instead of the electric lights, since the obligatory mitzvah is fulfilled with Shabbos candles and other candles lit throughout the house. Poskim allow one to ask a non-Jew to turn on an air conditioner when it is very hot (see Minchas Yitzchak 3:23). From this we see that halacha recognizes discomfort as a significant factor.

​Q. If the electricity went off on Shabbos and was subsequently restored a few hours later by non-Jewish workers, what is the status of the reheated food, such as cholent?


A. Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso (32:{174}) and Teshuvos B’tzeil Hachochma (4:137) write that if there is a power outage on Shabbos, it is permissible to enjoy the hot food even if the food cooled down and was then reheated when the power was restored. There is no problem of benefiting from the action of a non-Jew on Shabbos because, as was explained in an earlier Halacha Yomis, the non-Jewish workers restore the power for their own benefit, and therefore a Jew may benefit from the electricity as well. There is also no violation of the restriction of chazara (the prohibition of reheating food on Shabbos), since in this case, the Jew is passive, and it is treated as if everything happened on its own. On the other hand, the Chazon Ish disagrees and holds that chazara is violated even without any action. As soon as one notices that the power has returned, according to Chazon Ish, one is required to remove the crockpot.

Rav Schachter, Shlita felt it best to be stringent and follow the position of the Chazon Ish. However, if the cholent is the main course of the meal, and one will not have enough to eat without it, Rav Schachter ruled that one may rely on the lenient opinion, and leave the cholent in the crockpot and eat it during the meal.
Type your paragraph here.

​Q. Our electricity went off on Shabbos, and I have a freezer full of meat. The eiruv is still intact. My neighbor still has electricity. May I transport, on Shabbos, the contents of my freezer to my neighbor?


A. Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:31) writes that raw meat is not muktzah, because there are people who will eat raw meat. However, the Aruch Hashulchan (308:58) writes that today raw meat is muktzah, since it is not common to find such people. Although not everyone agrees with this stringency of the Aruch Hashulchan, the Shevet HaLevi 3:29 writes that if the raw meat is frozen then all would agree that it is muktzah, since in its current state, it is not usable in any way and cannot even be fed to an animal.

The halacha is that one may not move muktzah on Shabbos even if it will get ruined. However, one may bring trays of ice from their neighbor to put in their freezer so that it will remain cold. If this is not possible, and the meat will get ruined over Shabbos, thereby causing a financial loss, there is a basis in halacha to allow asking a non-Jew to transport the meat to a working freezer. The Mishnah Berurah (307:22) cites the opinion of the Magen Avrohom that in cases of great loss, one may ask a non-Jew to violate the laws of muktzah. However, it is best to avoid asking a non-Jew directly if there is a way that this can be accomplished through hinting, since the Mishnah Berurah notes that not all poskim agree with this ruling.​

​Q. Our electricity was restored on Shabbos. The lights in the house went back on. Are we permitted to benefit from these lights even though they were restored on Shabbos?


A. One is not permitted to benefit on Shabbos from a melacha that was done by a non-Jew for the sake of a Jew. This is true even if the Jew did not request the favor. The Mishna Berura 276:2 explains that this is forbidden because we are concerned that in a future situation, one might ask the non-Jew directly. However, if the majority of those who will benefit from the melacha are non-Jews, then a Jew may benefit as well. In most situations, the majority of people who will benefit from the restoration of power are non-Jews. However, even if a neighborhood is mostly Jewish, it is still permitted to benefit from the lights. The electric company restores power for their own benefit (they are legally required to do so), regardless of whether anyone asks. Since the workers are doing so for their own needs a Jew may benefit from the electricity as well. (See Mishna Berura 276:17.)
Type your paragraph here.



​Many communities were recently, severely impacted by the catastrophic hurricanes of Harvey and Irma. Halacha Yomis presents some of the many halachic issues which need to be considered under such dire circumstances.

Q. There is a major storm expected to arrive on Shabbos. What are some possible halachic ramifications?


A. The first issue we will discuss is carrying on Shabbos:

Many Jews live in communities that have an eiruv. The eiruv is typically checked every week, and once the eiruv has been checked and found to be in order; there is a chazaka (presumption) that the status will not change on Shabbos. It is on this basis that we are permitted to carry on Shabbos. However, when there was a storm and large branches were knocked down, and especially if we know that there have been power outages, this creates a reiyusa (weakness) with the chazaka. Once there is a reiyusa, one should no longer rely on the chazaka until the eiruv has once again been checked and found to be intact. If a city eiruv is broken, the Mishnah Berurah (276:25) writes that one is permitted to ask a non-Jew to fix it, since many Jews might not realize that the eiruv is down and may carry outside on Shabbos.
Type your paragraph here.

​Q. There is a major storm expected to arrive on Shabbos. What special preparations should I make regarding Hadlokas Neiros, lighting candles?


A. Concerning lighting candles, there is a mitzvah to have light in every room that one will use on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 263:2 and Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso Vol. 2:43:15). We usually fulfill this obligation by leaving on electric lights all over the house. Most people do not light candles in their bedrooms; instead they leave on an electric light in the hallway. This way they will not stumble when entering their bedrooms. However, if one is anticipating a major storm and is concerned that the electricity might be knocked out, it is proper to set up candles or flashlights in strategic areas of the house so that one will not stumble when they enter the kitchen, bedrooms or other living areas.
Type your paragraph here.

​Q. The electricity went off briefly on Shabbos and I now have an alarm that is beeping loudly. It is very disruptive. Can I ask a non-Jew to turn off the alarm?


A. Ordinarily, one is not permitted to ask a non-Jew to do any melacha on Shabbos that one is not permitted to perform himself. Therefore, if one can close the door of the room or block out the noise with blankets, then this is the preferred method. However, if this is not effective and the alarm is causing one distress, they may ask a non-Jew to unplug it. This is because turning off an alarm is at most a rabbinic prohibition. One is permitted to ask a non-Jew to violate a rabbinic prohibition (shvus d’shvus) in cases of great personal discomfort (See Magen Avrohom 276:15).