There are many problems with using electricity on Shabbat, and many ways to understand those problems. The issue of using a fridge is especially problematic (as explained in depth by Rav Nissan Kaplan in this shiur), but the issue I find most confusing is that of opening the door.

According to this excellent answer, there are several reasons as to why opening the fridge might be problematic, and as this question implies, the easiest solution is to remove the light fitting in advance.

My question pertains to the fact that removal of the light fitting only appears to enable one to open the door if we pasken like Rav Auerbach, who held that the problem is either one of minhag or of heating the filament. What happens if one were to pasken like the Chazon Ish, who held that the problem is one of boneh?

I don't understand how the fridge mechanism works, but I would think that the prohibition of boneh would still apply even if the light doesn't come on. If the bulb is broken or is not in its fitting, flicking a switch (in this case, opening a door) still causes the circuit to close.

If one were paskening according to the Chazon Ish, would he need remove the circuitry from his fridge every Friday?

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    The whole circuit doesn't close if there is no lightbulb. If it did there would be current flow. The two ends that the lightbulb connect to are still open.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 5:24

2 Answers 2


To make a circuit it must be a complete circuit, i.e. a full unbroken circle.

If there is no bulb then you did not make a complete circuit, since the bulb is part of that circle.

This seems to be a science question, not a halachik one.

Personally I tape down the switch because modern fridges do other functions besides turn on a light. Fancier fridges will turn off the fan when you open the door, to prevent cold air blowing out. Other fridges will count how many times the door gets opened, and after a certain number of times they will trigger the auto-defrost.

It's better to buy a simpler fridge because fancy ones don't do well when these mechanisms are overridden. The simpler ones have frost sensors, or just really long timers to trigger the auto-defrost.


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PS. I assume you know the argument that it's not boneh because it's a routine action. Just like putting a storm window in the window on shabbos is not boneh, because that is a routine action done every night.

  • Thank you. Rav Kaplan speaks about some of those issues in the shiur that I linked to in my question, but this is something that I didn't know and that he doesn't explain. You're right: it's a science question moreso than a halakhic one. Thanks for your answer.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 5:35
  • @Ariel you answered great according to Rav Auerbach who holds that electricity is like a current or water in pipes and is only problematic when it causes light or heat. However according to the Chazon Ish's understanding this does not work. He definitely holds that any throwing of a switch is boneh, and that it causes fire to spread. I'll try and hunt up the sources over shabbat. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:08
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    Unless there's a transformer between the light and the switch... that would be problematic but is unlikely. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:19
  • @mekubal but ssuming the circuit looks like Ariel suggests, the electricity does not travel any further at all. Electrons don't flow from the negative unless there's a positive for them to flow to. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:26
  • @CharlesKoppelman Yes and Rav Auerbach would agree with you. However the Chazon Ish does not. He rejects electron theory, and says if you place your finger in the socket you will get shocked, and so the electricity has traveled. AishDas dealt with the general disregard of science in halakhic rulings in favor of the observable universe, see their for an in depth understanding. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:42

To answer the latter part of your question, let us first leave aside whether or not throwing a switch in and of itself is a matter of Boneh. The Chazon Ish clearly held that it was, however that position is contested both from a halakhic as well as scientific standpoint. However you asked what do people do who pasken like the Chazon Ish.

For the Chazon Ish the issue is not the door itself being opened, it is that throwing a switch is a matter of Boneh. Therefore if one could conseivably arrange it so that the door could be opened without the switch being thrown, than the issue would be resolved. The simplest solution for this, that does not require an understanding maintenance man, is to simply tape the switch down. In a Refigerator the automatic light operates on a pressure release switch. Meaning when the door is opened, it releases pressure from the switch, and an interior spring inside the switch cause it the switch to be thrown. Therefore, by taping the switch down, one ensures that the pressure will remain whether the door is opened or closed.

  • Technically speaking, the "switch" on the refrigerator door is different from the actual switch which causes the problem of boneh. In electrical terms, a switch is the part of the circuit that becomes closed when the door is opened. It is controlled by the "switch" on the door, but it is a separate thing. It's all the same, though, because your method of taping the door switch down will indeed prevent the actual switch from being closed. Removing the light bulb would also prevent the circuit from being completed because an empty bulb socket is like an open switch.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:42
  • Now that I think about it, I'm actually surprised that the act of opening the refrigerator door, causing a mechanical piece to move, which then causes the switch to close is not considered a sufficient grama to simply allow opening the refrigerator lechatchila without worrying about the light.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:44
  • @Daniel removing the lightbulb would not satisfy the Chazon Ish. He is not concerned with a complete circuit. He is concerned with whether or not electricity has "arrived" at the end of the line. If you can put your finger there and get a shock, he will say it has, regardless of the fact that it only did because you completed the circuit. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:45
  • if you take the light bulb out of the socket, you would not get a shock from touching the wire. No electricity flows. If you touched both ends of the wire, then you would get a shock, but only because you complete the circuit with your fingers.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 6:48
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    @Daniel No, if you were to put your finger int he socket with the switch down(as the interior switch is not thrown) you will not get shocked. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 7:01

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