Removing an Obstruction

 It is written in the Shulchan Aruch: "If a lamp is behind a door, it is forbidden to open the door [in the normal way] out of fear that the wind will extinguish it. [But closing the door across from the lamp is permitted]... It is forbidden to open a door opposite a bonfire which is nearby even if there is no wind, but if the door was open it is permitted to close it, and this does not entail the prohibition of extinguishing a flame."

Closing the door blocks the wind and helps a flame inside a room burn better, but in spite of this it is permitted on Shabbat. This is because the flame burns under its own power, and the wind is an external force that interferes with it. Closing the door removes the external interference and returns the situation to what it was before, such that the improved burning is not attributed to human intervention.

It has been suggested that it is permitted in general and in fact is preferable for essential needs on Shabbat to use this technique of "preventing interference." For this purpose, dual systems have been developed: One part of the system continuously attempts to close an electric circuit (by charging a condenser), while the other one prevents the circuit from being close (by shining pulses of light on the condenser, not allowing it to charge). When a button is pressed to activate the system, the light is blocked by a physical barrier so that the condenser is charged, completing the electric circuit.

We at The Zomet Institute reject this approach completely. In our opinion, any continuous sequence of events is prohibited on Shabbat and cannot be considered gramma (indirect action), and in fact the action described above is attributed to the person (even if it is activated by his or her body and not using the hands). We do not differentiate between various sensing devices and different electrical actions. (Note that most people would not be able to discern such subtle differences, and "the Torah was not meant for angels...") The gramma devices developed by The Zomet Institute are not based on the above principle. The Zomet Institute guarantees that when the button is pressed in any of its gramma devices no change is immediately identified by the system. We make sure that there is a delay between any action taken by a person (opening or closing a switch) and the moment that the electrical circuit identifies that a change has taken place (by electronically scanning the device in regular cycles, with the time clearly perceivable by a human being!).

It is true that we are permitted to close the door of a room where a candle is burning, but that is because the action merely allows the candle to burn in its normal way. However, this principle cannot be used to initiate any additional action (such as "lighting" electrical equipment).


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