Sunday, October 04, 2009

Shabbat Elevators are Forbidden! (or, so they now say)

[Notice the almost explicit slap at Zomet.]
[ UPDATE: The fallout from this declaration has been swift and furious. Both of the insitutes that deal with the interface between Halakhah and Technology stood by their guns and defended the use of Shabbat elevators. I suspect that the observant public will vote with its feet (literally) and keep using the elevators. In the end, all that will be achieved is a further diminution in rabbinic dignity (and, I fear, the dignity of Jewish Law, as well).
There's another aspect of this issue that relates to my ongoing discussion of Modern Orthodoxy in Israel. I understand from a well placed source that a group of very serious Haredi rabbis consulted with an expert on elevators and their halakhic implications. After hours of careful discussion of the intricacies, and why the permitted versions are fine, they left this religious scientist with the clear impression that: זיי האב'ן גאר ניט פארשטאנ'ן (ie 'They didn't understand anything'). The prohibition against using elevators was published not long afterwards.
This is yet further proof that there is something profoundly deficient in a Torah world where the halakhic authorities lack basic literacy in the sciences (including social sciences). You might not need to have a degree (as proven by R. Moshe Feinstein זצ"ל and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach זצ"ל, who were able to engage scientists and other experts). A degree usually does help. After all, Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל did study Physics with Max Planck, the pioneer of Quantum Mechanics, and that enabled him to address issues far out of the usual purview of the contemporary halakhist.
However, it is such illiteracy that Haredi and Hardali rabbis advocate. They fight to keep the three R's out of the schools. One brags on the radio that he lacks a High school education. And so on and so forth. Judaism will only be the loser from this state of affairs. Yes, there is room for principled difference of opinion. First, however, you need to know what you're talking about.]


robert said...

Why is it muttar to benefit from electricity on shabbos-specifically in Israel where presumably jewish workers are involved in the production of the electricity, or even if there are non jewish workers-they are doing it for the jews!

Yonatan said...

I asked my brother about this and he said:

First I have seen. Also, these are not people who usually sign on these notices. Can't verify either way, but it looks suspect.

As I noted elsewhere, you cannot trust anything said in the name of Rav Elyashiv.

Gil Student said...

Robert: One of the suggested explanations is that the electricity work is necessary for pikuach nefesh, such as hospitals, police stations and army bases. Not everyone agrees with this approach. The yeshiva I attended in Israel had lanterns hanging from the beis medrash ceiling so that the electric lights only added to the existing light rather than lighting up dark rooms (it makes a big difference halakhically).

Jonathan said...

I have a question. Meaning no disrespect, I always hear Rabbi Elyashiv referred to as the preeminent gadol hador of the Haredi world. This is almost always in conjunction with the publication, in his name, of a a prohibition which is both counter to current Orthodox practice, and seems, like this one, to be based on fallacious, or at least highly suspect, information.

It seems that either his reputation (and the respect given to him by the Haredi, or at least the non-haredi orthodox community) is misplaced, or he is not the same person he was when he established himself (I have read in other forums that very few people see him nowadays, other than his few assistants/"handlers", who perhaps have undue influence over what comes out in his name).

For one who is not familiar with his body of work, are there classic tshuvot of his (perhaps from his earlier days) that show him to be a gadol, akin to, for example, the voluminous output of Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l's tshuvot, that could explain to this relative newcomer the basis for his communal standing?

I note that two Feinstein tshuvot that that stick in my mind as showing his brilliance (not that I have studied a large number of his tshuvot) both conclude with a heter (the tshuvot regarding shellac on fruit, and on the usage of a single dishwasher for meat and milk dishes). I am reminded of the dictum (whose source I do not know, perhaps you do) to the effect of "Any rabbi can forbid, but it takes a talmid chachom to find a way to permit".


Benjamin Svetitsky said...

Is there documentation to show that the Rav studied physics with Max Planck? According to Wikipedia, The Rav arrived in Berlin in 1926; Planck retired from the university on January 20 of that year.