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Escalators: Are they allowed to be used on Shabbos or not?

(and the reasons behind it)

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Rav Henkin discusses this somewhere have to find it, I believe he allowed its use not sure though. –  sam Jun 29 at 4:08

4 Answers 4

We already know of the use of Shabbat elevators is considered by many to be halachically okay. Thus, using an escalator would fall under the same territory. So long as the rider doesn't have control to change the direction or speed of the mechanical device or otherwise force a change in the power used, no problem.

On a less halachic note, the ideal of Shabbat is of "rest", a deep subject I won't broach here. The use of an escalator occurs generally in malls (at least in the U.S.), where you can attend on Shabbat but for what purpose? To say it goes against the "spirit" of Shabbat is too strong, especially because of the argument 'what if we build an apartment building with only escalators to be Shabbat friendly?'

TL;DR if a Shabbat elevator is kosher, so is an escalator.

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Sources would help, especially to back up a big statement like "the use of Shabbat elevators is considered by many to be halachically okay". –  Lee Jun 22 at 4:28
    
How do you jump from Shabbat-elevators to escalators-in-a-mall? –  Danny Schoemann Jun 22 at 6:35
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@DannySchoemann Jamezrp just joined Mi Yodeya today. I think he's saying that most escalators in the US are found in malls, but that hanging out in malls goes against the spirit of Shabbos, so you should be careful not to hang out in malls during Shabbos. Are things less unclear now? :) –  unforgettableid Jun 22 at 11:52

Well it is no fun if there is no Machlokes. Rabbi Baruch Horovitz, rosh yeshiva of a baal teshuva yeshiva named Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim, writes:

One may not use a lift or escalator.

Source.

No rationale is stated there.

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Would be nice if there was a halachic rationale given for it, though. –  Alex Nov 17 '10 at 0:02
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Interesting, though you could argue that an escalator is fundamentally different in that it stays in one place - unlike an elevator, where the car itself goes up and down. –  Alex Nov 17 '10 at 3:20
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By the way, is R' Horovitz a posek, such that an essay like the one linked constitutes considered pesak? I'm not suggesting that anyone should jump on escalators based on R' Neuwirth's and R' Jachter's say-sos without consulting their own rabbi, but I'm not sure that an unsubstantiated position taken in an essay like this is enough to establish that there's a machlokes haposekim. (Of course, in all likelihood, R' Horovitz' position is based on other posekim who are stricter than R' Neuwirth on this and didn't happen to be quoted by R' Jachter.) –  Isaac Moses Nov 17 '10 at 9:17
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Actually I have no idea who Rabbi Horovitz is. I only put it in to show that there are those that may disagree with Rabbi Neuwirth. –  Gershon Gold Nov 17 '10 at 12:35
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Gershon: your link is broken. Mind fixing it? –  yydl May 18 '11 at 19:08

Regular Escalators that don't have sensors which start working when one gets near them are okay Meikar Hadin but should be avoided unless one is Zaken or Holeh according to Hacham Yishak (Yalkut Yosef).

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R' Yehoshua Neuwirth, in Shemirath Shabbath in 23:52 permits the use of escalators. R' Chaim Jachter indicates (1) that this is because escalators don't have the problems with elevators expressed by R' Levi Yitzchak Halperin, the main authority behind prohibiting them.

For a detailed discussion of the issues with elevators, read R' Jachter's four-part series on the topic. The topic is complicated, involving a great deal of engineering and Halachic understanding, but it seems from R' Jachter's summary that the main problem with elevators is that the weight of passengers on a descending elevator assists the motors in making it descend. I'm not completely sure why this issue doesn't apply to "down escalators," but I suspect that passengers on them impede the escalator by increasing frictional force opposite the direction of travel at least as much as they speed it up by adding gravitational force partially in the direction of travel.

(1) Probably based on a footnote in the original Hebrew version of the book, which I don't happen to have handy. Anyone who does and wants to fill in details would be welcome.

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A more recent development in the exciting world of escalator technology are sensor switches (3rd to final bullet) - if a specified amount of time has elapsed without a rider on the escalator it will either reduce it's speed or stop. When a new rider steps on the escalator, a sensor is triggered which then returns the escalator to normal operating speeds. This is both a safety and energy saving feature. However, from a use-on-shabbat point of view, I'd imagine this presents issues with the opinion cited above. –  Ariel Allon May 18 '11 at 18:49

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