Since many poskim hold that not using electricty on Shabbat is just a Minhag (Rav SZ. Aurbech), would they hold that it is 100% ok to ask a non-Jew to do things with electricity for you?

  • What makes you think that the level of prohibition would affect permissibility of asking a non-Jew? – Double AA Apr 23 '14 at 23:23
  • Because technically there isn't a "prohibition". – Yishaq Apr 24 '14 at 3:42
  • That's semantics. I could also say technically there is a prohibition (for certain usages of prohibition) – Double AA Apr 24 '14 at 3:44
  • Why would you say a minhag is a prohibition? And to say Chazal enacted amirat legoy even in regards to minhagim? – Yishaq Apr 24 '14 at 3:55
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    Refraining is very different than being prohibited due to a law that was passed. – Yishaq Apr 24 '14 at 4:00

R' Auerbach OBM held that refraining using electricity per se is a minhag. However, almost all electric devices involve one or more melochos, which is why it is a minhag to refrain from electricity use, since unless you are an electrical engineer AND a rav, it is unlikely that you would be able to determine what exactly is permissible and not permissible about a given electric device. For example:

  • A computer almost certainly makes a record, falling under the melocho of kosaiv mederabanon, since it's not the "normal" way of writing.
  • Anything that beeps or makes noise (stereo?) falls under the prohibition of zilzul shabbos.
  • An incandescent lightbulb becomes hot and transgresses... well, there's a machloches.

But what about very simple devices, such as florescent electric lights? The Igros Moshe, for example, held that one would be permitted to turn a light off on Shabbos, but that one should refrain, because of minhag yisroel. Obviously in pressing circumstances, one might be able to do that, even without amira l'akum.

Because of the complexities involved, if you hold like R' Auerbach, you would have to consult a rav about each and every individual device and possibly each case if you want to use amira l'akum to operate electrical devices on shabbos, since other prohibitions are almost certainly involved.

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    Can you cite this Igros Moshe? – Double AA Apr 23 '14 at 23:23
  • Actually, I'm not sure about a computer being writing, as I've heard psak's that it's permissible to write HaShem's name on a computer and then "erase" it since it's not really writing. I would think that wouldn't be allowed even it was only k'tiva medrabanon. – Robert S. Barnes May 25 '14 at 11:42
  • @RobertS.Barnes The computer makes permanent records in the form of physical objects (magnetic charges) on the hard disk while you are using it. It's hard to imagine that that wouldn't constitute writing on some level. However, since it's not using the Hebrew alphabet, there's no problem of erasing a sacred name. – Tatpurusha Jun 29 '14 at 15:17
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    @RobertS.Barnes Magnetic charges are still physical. Also, if you write on paper on Shabbat, but you know for sure that that paper is going be destroyed after even one year, I'm pretty sure you're chayiv for machallel shabbos. – Tatpurusha Jun 30 '14 at 2:19
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    @RobertS.Barnes Which part? The part about magnetic charges existing in the physical world, or the part about being chayiv if you write on paper that will be destroyed after a year? – Tatpurusha Jun 30 '14 at 15:22

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