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The Talmud says:

"הַמְכַבֶּה אֶת הַנֵּר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מִתְיָרֵא מִפְּנֵי גּוֹיִם וּמִפְּנֵי לִיסְטִים, מִפְּנֵי רוּחַ רָעָה, מִפְּנֵי הַחוֹלֶה שֶׁיִּישַׁן — פָּטוּר."
"One who extinguishes a lamp on Shabbat because he is afraid... of an evil spirit, [Sefaria: i.e., he is depressed and prefers sitting in the dark] is not liable". [Shabbat 29b]

Is this leniency fleshed out a bit anywhere?

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    I think you're misunderstanding. this isn't a leniency for depression. Any reason for extinguisging the lamp that isn't constructive to the lamp is not a biblical prohibition.
    – Double AA
    Aug 19 '21 at 17:59
  • Please explain "constructive to the lamp". Aug 19 '21 at 18:29
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    Like in a case where he extinguishes the flame in order to spare the lamp, spare the oil, or spare the wick. I'm not going to say that my Enlglish phraseology is definitive, but the principles of prohibited labor on shabbat having to be constructive, done in a normal fashion, for the intended purpose etc. are well documented elsewhere
    – Double AA
    Aug 19 '21 at 18:57
  • You could extinguish the flame because you prefer it dark (e.g., to go to sleep) AND "to spare the lamp, spare the oil, or spare the wick". Allowed? Aug 19 '21 at 19:15
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    Acc. to Rambam - Patur only means exempt from punishment, not that the action is allowed. Because we talk about indirect intentions, they will all be exempt. The Mishnah provides examples of such unintentional transgressing.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 19 '21 at 21:44
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In the specific context of this Mishna, the Gemara explains that all the permitted cases listed are cases where there is danger to one's life. In these cases, putting out the lamp is completely permitted. (The term "not liable" is used only as a contrast to the end of the mishna's case where one is liable to the consequences of trangressing.) Therefore the case of ruach ra'ah would be a case where there is a danger of the melancholia causing a fatal outcome of some sort. (Suicide, or some other irrational behavior that would cause danger.) Cases of depression that are Clearly not likely to cause fatal harm would not fall under this permit.

Shalom U'Vrachah JS

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  • Do you have a source for this estimation of the effects of mental illness?
    – pcoz
    Aug 19 '21 at 23:04
  • @pcoz I'm not sure what you are seeking. Different illnesses have different effects.
    – Double AA
    Aug 19 '21 at 23:07
  • But if there is a danger to life, is it even necessary to say it is permitted? Also, you never know (back then or now) when mental illness may turn fatal -- so is this a blank check to violate Shabbat as you deem necessary? Aug 19 '21 at 23:54
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    @DoubleAA As opposed to a medical condition, mental illness is a long term disorder with an unclear prognosis. Therefore it is not valid to say that if on this Shabbos there is no clear need to be mechalel Shabbos that it would be prohibited to do so for the sake of someone who suffers from depression etc. I would imagine that just as regarding women eating on Yom Kippur after childbirth etc. we ask the opinion of a medical professional if there is danger to life, so too in the case of a psychological complaint it would be appropriate to consult with a professional.
    – pcoz
    Aug 20 '21 at 0:27
  • @pcoz I don't understand, who said you don't consult a professional and evaluate every case on its own merits?
    – Double AA
    Aug 20 '21 at 0:29

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