Previously, we have explained that lighting a fire on Shabbat is one of the 39 forbidden works or melakhot (see here). In order to understand the source of the contemporary prohibition of using electricity during Shabbat, we have to examine the ways modern Rabbis have analyzed the similarities between fire and electricity.
The first Halakhic principle to bear in mind is that each one of the 39 melakhot includes 'toledot', which means, activities that are also forbidden on Shabbat as an extension of the 39 Biblical prohibitions, either because they are similar to the melakhot in their nature or in what they produce.
1. The melakha of 'writing' extends to the act of 'printing' (ketiba 'al yede chotemet) or drawing letters.
2. Trimming the dry branches of a vineyard is forbidden as an extension of zorea', planting (sic!), since the objective of this trimming is to facilitate the tree's growth.
The question now is if we should classify the activation of an incandescent light (=light produced by heat) as an extension (tolada) of the Biblical prohibition of lighting a fire .
Modern Rabbis have expressed different views on this matter.
Most Rabbis have classified the turning-on of an incandescent light as the extension of the prohibition of lighting a fire. They based their opinion in the fact that two thousand years ago the Rabbis already ruled against using on Shabbat a "heated metal-pot removed from the fire" to heat water (See Shabbat 41a) .
Based on that Mishna and other Talmudic sources Maimonides asserted: "One who heats a metal-bar to temper in it water has violated the Biblical prohibition of lighting a flame" .
This is the closest Halakhic precedent we have in which a 'heated element', other that direct-fire is considered as fire itself, i.e., a tolada of lighting a fire.
(to be continued...)
Candle lighting in NYC: 8:12 PM
Shabbat Ends in NYC: 9:20 PM
READ: "Your airplanes shall rest on Shabbat" Recalling the day when Menachem Begin stopped Israel's national airline, El Al, from flying on Shabbat by Yehuda Avner from Aish