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If someone switches on a light for a Jew in a dark room on shabbat, the Jew would be obligated to leave the room to avoid benefiting from the light (I won't bring up the exceptions and details here).

I have never seen an answer to this question i.e. what if that light was already on, and then they switched it off and then back on again?

My instinct is to say that the Jew would have to leave as it's still an identical halachic situation, but I am hoping to be proven wrong.

For example, if a toddler plays with the light switch and turns off the lights and then back on again, does everyone have to leave?

Or if a non-Jew walks into the room, thinking nobody is there and turns off the lights, and then sees a Jew and apologises and immediately puts them back on.

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  • it is a great question! May 7, 2023 at 11:03
  • If someone just turns off the lights, and you’d be benefitting by being able to sleep since before you accidentally left the lights on, do you have to leave the room? May 7, 2023 at 11:06
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    @CuriousYid generally speaking, no. That would be called a "negative benefit" or "indirect benefit" (removing an obstacle causing annoyance) vs. a positive one, and one is allowed to benefit from this. See 39 Melachos vol 1 p.66
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 7, 2023 at 11:10
  • Maybe this case is similar to someone who covered a pit in public property and then uncovered it, for which he is not liable, being that it was uncovered before (Bava Kama 29b
    – שלום
    May 7, 2023 at 11:32
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    Be advised that the case for a toddler is probably different from the case for a non-Jewish adult. Halacha might presume that a toddler is turning it back on to avoid disapproval (or punishment) for himself, rather than for the benefit of the adult(s) in the room, in which case there would be no need to leave.
    – Jeffiekins
    May 8, 2023 at 19:16

1 Answer 1

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The Biur Halacha in 276:1 (l’tzorcho) brings from the Elya Rabba that this would be permissible since he was the one who closed it, we consider his reopening it as being done for himself;

כתב הא"ר א"י שרצה לתקן נר של ישראל [דהיינו למחוט הפתילה] ונכבה בידו וחזר והדליקו נ"ל דמותר דזה הוי כמו לצרכו כיון שנכבה בידו ע"ש

In 276:4 (v’chen) he brings it again

שוב נ"ל דזה דוקא אם עשהו בצווי ישראל אבל שלא בצווי ישראל אף דעשהו לצורך ישראל יש לדון בו להקל לפי מה שכתב הא"ר [והבאתיו לעיל בס"א] דא"י שרצה למחוט ונכבה בידו וחזר והדליקו דמותר להשתמש לאורו משום דהוי כמו לצרכו כיון שנכבה בידו א"כ ה"ה בעניננו שכבה אותו בידים ועליו להדליקו שנית. ולפ"ז יהיה מותר בעניננו להשתמש עד כדי שיכלה השמן לגמרי דהרי ההדלקה היתה בהיתר אם לא שעשהו בצווי ישראל דאז אסור לגמרי להשתמש לאורו:

Interestingly, the Elya Rabba gives two reasons. One is that since he was the one who closed it, it’s upon him to open it and it’s considered as if he’s doing it for himself. Second, since the whole reason to prohibit asking a non Jew to do melacha is because we are afraid that people will come to rely on it in the future, in this case, where the light was on, and the non Jew caused the issue, we are not worried. The difference between these reasons are mentioned by Rav Wosner in a case of a shabbos clock that has the light off and the non Jew turns it on, if the Jew can benefit from it. In this case he didn’t turn it off, but the Jew had set up a different way to turn it on and therefore we shouldn’t worry about him relying on it in the future.

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