Rabbi SZA held (in I believe Meorei Eish) that electricity is only forbidden on Shabbos because of Minhag Avoiseinu.

Double AA also says that he heard orally that Rabbi SZA held that certain utensils are only forbidden because of a similar Minhag.

However, why is this not a Minhag Shtus (foolish tradition)?

Clarification: If it only began because people believed/held its forbidden (in regard to electricity) according to Rav SZA. Is he saying this (electricity Minhag) is LIKE a Minhag Avoiseinu that we should still do it but don't really have to? Or is it actually binding, and if so why?

Clarification #2- I'm talking about just the electrical current. There are other issues like Eish with incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs. Or if it makes lots of noise it's Assur Drabbunun. But I'm talking about just the current itself, not specific appliances.

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    Put yourself in the shoes of someone who happens upon this page (who isn't you). Read the question as if you were he. Do you there's anything that can be changed to make it clearer? I recommend you make such edits, so more people will see, will take the time to read, and will understand your question, and you'll more likely get more good answers. Note also that there's no need to indicate in the post what's a later edit — people can check judaism.stackexchange.com/posts/94017/revisions for that — it's better to make the post cohesive and readable.
    – msh210
    Jul 18, 2018 at 5:51
  • did he say minhag avoseinu or kvar nohagu issur?
    – user15253
    Jul 18, 2018 at 12:07
  • Is DoubleAA on-topic?
    – DonielF
    Jul 18, 2018 at 13:08
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    A minhag shetus is one that contradicts sense or contradicts existing halakhah. Not one that has insufficient rationale. Jul 18, 2018 at 14:12
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    My own theory is that RSZA generalized from Maariv to the idea that once all of observant Israel accept something as being halakhah (not as minhag), it's as binding as if the Sanhedrin legislated it. And actually, the reverse -- the power to legislate is in the hands of the Jewish People, and the Sanhedrin serves as our representatives. Notice that a derabbanan only becomes law if we accept the new legislation into practice. Much the way the gemara describes Sanhedrin's roles of sanctifying the new month or buying communal offerings is as our representatives. But that's just my own theory. Jul 18, 2018 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


You wrote:

Rabbi SZA held (in I believe Meorei Eish) that electricity is only assur (on Shabbos) because of minhag aveiseinu.

I have trouble believing this, as a general statement. I plan on looking this up.

Why? because electric lamps (in the time of RZSA) were Aish - fire, according to everybody.

I did hear from The Shmirath Shabbat K'Hilchato - Rav Neuwirth זצ"ל - in a Shiur in the 1980's that he said that RSZA said that if it were not for the stature of the Chazon Ish, he would argue that electricity is not forbidden because of Boneh-building.

So if you get rid of the Bone and the Aish and no other Issur is involved, then that use of electricity could possibly be permitted.

Nothing about Minhag Avosainu. Maybe. See further:

Double AA also says that he heard orally that Rabbi SZA held that certain keilim are only assur because of a similar minhag.

For the record, DoubleAA wrote the following:

Eh. I respect your sourcing this, but I completely disagree with the metziut then. I heard orally in the name of R ShZ Aurbach that indeed there is no real reason to kasher certain keilim which are obviously clean, but we do it anyway because of a minhag avoseinu of equivalent level to minhag avoseinu of electricity on shabbat. I have also heard from different people that R H Schachter has joked a number of times about how all the rabbis should just get together and permit stainless steel as kosher. Even if there are blios in the pot, it seems they are so small to be halachikly negligible. – Double AA♦ Feb 14 '13 at 18:53

Again, this is not what I heard from his very close disciple.

More to the point:

You asked:

However, why is this not a minhag shtus/foolish minhag

Because if great Rabbis didn't think so, then it isn't.

A Minhag Shtus has no basis in Halacha. Forbidding electricity has a basis; Boneh according to the Chazon Ish. And maybe "let's not confuse people between Aish electricity and cold electricity and forbid it all" or whatever reasoning the Rabbis of yore had.

EDIT if it only began because people believed/held its assur (in regard to electricity) according to Rav SZA.

No. They asked there Rabbis, probably over 100 years ago, and those Rabbis decided it wasn't Shabbosdik.

Oh, and how right they were. What would Shabbos Kodesh look like if we could use our phone, cellulars, boom-boxes and what not.

Is he saying this (electricity minhag) is LIKE a minhag aveiseinu that we should still do it but don't really have to?

Why do you think that a Minhag Aveiseinu is something we do but don't really have to?

Yom Tov Sheini is the classic Minhag Aveiseinu and Chazal have some very harsh words for people who think we don't really have to keep it.

Or is it actually binding, and if so why?

Firstly, as I quoted, RSZA apparently said that he didn't have the authority/guts/foolishness to argue with the Chazon Ish. You can't simply discount the Chazon Ish, especially since a lot of electric appliances nowadays rely on opening and closing of circuits. (Again: Amazing how much foresight the Rabbis of yesteryear had.)

Secondly, as we learn in Shas, the Rabbis had a habit of not informing the public of the real reasons behind their decrees, for at least a year. So it's possible that this isn't a Minhag, but a decree whose reason we don't know.

Lastly, we know that Minhag Yisroel Torah. We also have cases where Minhag trumps Halacha. So, we don't know why, but we still have to do it.

Bottom line:

RSZA wrote a lot about electricity. I suggest we all learn those pieces and find what he really said, instead of relying on rumours and memories from decades ago.

  • "especially since a lot of electric appliances nowadays rely on opening and closing of circuits" - my understanding is the difficulty with the Chazon Ish is why it's not derech tashmisho, not that anyone thinks there's no boneh-like activity involved. Of course I agree that "you can't simply discount the Chazon Ish".
    – Heshy
    Jul 18, 2018 at 10:05
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    I have learned this Sefer before. He doesn’t say that electricity is not because of lighting a fire - he says it can’t be the sole issue, since many types of electricity don’t involve fire at all but are still considered to be assur. Just to clarify.
    – DonielF
    Jul 18, 2018 at 13:10
  • I think the Chazon Ish was dealing with plug-in devices in particular. Attaching things to the ground can be boneh. Jul 18, 2018 at 14:17
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    @Danny Schoemann Here webyeshiva.org/course/halachot-of-electricity-on-shabbat is a discussion of the various opinions of electricity. Additionally here daat.ac.il/daat/english/journal/broyde_1.htm is a discussion of electricity on shabbos as well which also says that rav auerbach argued in the chazon ish and said electricity is allowed in cases of "great need". Additionally here hebrewbooks.org/8861 is Rabbi SZA work on electricity Meorei Aish. It's strange Rabbi Neuwirth would say he didn't argue.
    – Orion
    Jul 18, 2018 at 17:03
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    @Danny Schoemann additionally if one rabbi says somethings assur, then people listen to him and then another rabbi would say it's Mutter according to the second rabbi its a minhag Shtus or at least Taus(baseless minhag but not stupid). Additionally "The rabbis had a habit of not informing the public of the real reason for their gezeiras for at least a year" firstly source? Secondly what did this have to with nowadays? Since when do Rabbis nowadays or even since the Talmud create gezeiras and not even lost their reasons/give fake reasons?
    – Orion
    Jul 18, 2018 at 17:22

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