The Shabbat Elevator

A. Background of the Problem

1. Description of the Elevator

2. Ascending

3. Descending

4. The Ruling of Rav Y. Neuwirth

5. Points To Be Clarified

B. Is a Man's Weight Considered an Action

1. "Five on a Bench" - Rashi's Opinion

2. The Opinion of the Tur, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch

3. The Application to the Case of the Elevator

C. A Man Propelled by an External Force

1. If a Man is Thrown on an Infant

2. The Opinion of the Ran

3. The Opinion of the Rambam

4. Weight Propelled by an Outside Force

D. "An Accessory is not Held Accountable"

1. The Definition of "Able"

2. Partnership between a Person and a Natural Force

E. An Accessory in Hilchot Shabbat

F. Conclusions

Appendix: Technical Specifications of the Zomet Shabbat Elevator

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A. Background of the Problem

 1. Description of the Elevator

 The Shabbat elevator is an elevator which operates automatically on

Shabbat according to a pre-set program, unrelated to the presence of passengers.

The elevator stops at every floor.The control buttons are totally disconnected. Similarly, the circuits which control the doors, such as photoelectric eyes, or touch-sensitive switches in the doors themselves, are not in operation.


Modern elevators have a weighing device under the car, which measures

underload or overload during operation. This information is passed to the control center in order to determine the necessary initial current, as well as to skip a floor (full load), or to warn that there is an overload. This also must be disconnected on Shabbat, as the entrance of people into the car has a direct effect on the weighing device. This does not present technical difficulty, nor does it involve a safety hazard.


2 . Ascending

 Ascending in an automatic elevator on Shabbat appears to be clearly permissible. It is true that the motor needs a stronger current to operate under a heavier load, and therefore every additional individual who enters the car causes an increase in current, but it has been generally accepted that this does not present a halachic problem.

Increasing the amount of current in a circuit does not involve any new act of "igniting" (hav'ara), there is no new electric element that enters the circuit, and there is no increase in the "fire" because of the increase of current.1

The prohibitions of "building" (boneh) or "completing" (makeh bepatish) do not apply where the circuit is already completed, and only the amount of current in the circuit is being increased. Many authorities prohibit the use of electricity on Shabbat under the category of "creating" (molid), mentioned in the Talmud in respect to scenting a garment.2 The Gemara states explicitly that this prohibition applies only to the creation of a totally new scent and not to an increase in an existing one (Beitza 23a).3

The creation of sparks, which takes place in certain types of motors, is also not a problem. It is now accepted that "sparks are not significant", i.e. a spark, because of its insubstantiality and transience, is not considered to be a fire whose creation on Shabbat is prohibited. The Chazon Ish (OH 50, 9), it is true, states that there is a rabbinic prohibition involved in the production of sparks.

However, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach concludes that since it is inadvertent,indirect, and undesirable, it is permissible (Rav S.Z. Auerbach, Kovetz

Ma'amarim B'inyanei Chashmal, p.25ff).4

Some authorities have argued that by causing an increase in the current necessary to lift the elevator, one is also indirectly causing an increase in the burning of fuel in the power station. However, the change in the generator necessary to lift a single elevator is infinitesimal and practically speaking may be considered non-existent. A person entering his house has a greater influence on the temperature of the refrigerator, due to his body heat, than a single elevator has on a power station.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata,

2nd ed., ch. 24, n. 137) dismisses the possibility that entering the elevator causes an increase in the operation of the power plant because it is indirect (grama). "Furthermore, one may rely on the fact that generally the entrance of one person does not require an increase in the fuel consumption, and it is also possible that somewhere else someone is leaving an elevator at the moment that he is entering, or a light bulb is being extinguished, so that there is no influence at all to his entering."


3. Descending

In a book published in 1984,5 Rav L.Y. Halperin, head of the Halacha department of the Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem, questions the permissibility of descending in a Shabbat elevator. He argues that the weight of the passengers of the elevator is utilized in order to lower the elevator, thereby causing a decrease in the current in the motor. While the elevator moves at the same speed, the passenger's weight has replaced the motor for part of the power necessary to lower the car. He compares this to a cart drawn by four horses, where a man harnesses himself and joins them, thereby partially relieving them of their workload.

The problem derives from the fact that at every floor, the elevator performs several electrical operations, such as deceleration, stopping, illumination of the number of the floor, etc. These operations are carried out by switches which are opened and closed by the movement of the elevator. If we accept the contention that the passenger is partially responsible for the downward movement of the elevator, then he is also directly responsible for the throwing of these switches and the consequent electrical operation.

Furthermore, in especially large elevators operating at full capacity, the weight of the car could cause the elevator to crash. In this situation, the electric current is used only to provide the initial push, after which the motor acts as a brake. The free descent of the elevator under these conditions turns the motor, thereby converting it into a generator, returning electricity produced in it to the electrical grid. In other words, the weight of the passengers is utilized to generate electricity. As a result, it is possible that a bulb burning in the neighborhood of the elevator is utilizing the electricity produced physically by the passengers of the elevator. (It should be added that this phenomenon is apparently non-existent in small house elevators, which always depend on the motor to provide the energy for descent).

The question, then, is whether one is halachically responsible for results caused by one's weight, rather than by the performance of an action.


4. The Ruling of Rav Y. Neuwirth

 Rav Yieshayahu Neuwirth (Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata, 2nd ed. 23,49) writes; "There are those who permit the use of an automatic elevator only for ascent and not for descent, (but) some of the great authorities permit the use of these elevators for descent as well."

The source of the lenient ruling is Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

"Since only acts which are "melechet machshevet"6 are forbidden on Shabbat, and in the case of the descent of the elevator nothing new is created and no change in the rate of the elevator's descent is effected, but everything takes place exactly as it would have without the presence of the passengers, it is considered to be an ineffectual action. It is as though nothing at all was done by the passengers. A similar point may be seen in the ruling of the Ritva, quoted by Rav Akiva Eiger (OH 318), prohibiting turning over the coals (under a pot) because it may hasten the cooking. He does not mention that as a result of the turning of the coals the cooking is done on the new fire of the man and not on the old fire.... Some other examples of this principle are: a. The Minchat Pittim and the Tehilia LeDc1vid (336) rule that it is permitted to drag a perforated flowerpot from one place to another. Apparently they do not consider the fact that the plant is now being nourished (through the hole) from a new place as a result of human action...; b. The Ramban and the Ritva (Git. 19a) rule that one letter written on top of another is considered to be a new writing, but nonetheless it is not prohibited by the Torah on Shabbat because'on Shabbat melechet machshevet is needed and (here) his actions were ineffective since it was already written'; c. The Har Tzvi (OH 135) rules that adding water to a tree standing in a puddle is not considered to be watering on Shabbat, even though the new liquid is evenly distributed in the puddle and the tree immediately absorbs some of the new water, since in any event the tree had enough water; d. The Rosh (Beitza, ch.2) explains that it is prohibited to add oil to a lamp only because it extends the burning time, even though here too the fire immediately utilizes some of the new oil together with the old;... It is true that in our case, if we consider (the results of) a man's weight to be his action, the action is done completely by the man himself. Nonetheless, since the passenger is passive and not doing anything, and he has merely entered an elevator which was descending in any event, and everything that subsequently takes place would have taken place in exactly the same manner had he not entered the elevator, it is logical to conclude that the entrance of a person is no different than if he would place a heavy weight in the elevator. (Therefore) there is no Torah prohibition. Even according to the Tosafot who contend that it is considered murder if one is thrown on top of an infant and crushes him to death, if an elevator were descending in any event on top of the infant, and a Jew were compelled to enter the elevator, he would not be obligated to die instead since his entrance in no way hastens the death of the infant. Similarly, it is the elevator that is lighting the bulbs during its descent and not the passengers, since it would have taken place in exactly the same manner regardless. Furthermore, since it is written 'You shall do no work', that which is done while he is asleep or dead is not considered to be an action at all. If he had placed a weight in the car, it would only be considered 'causing' an act (grama), since the descent begins only afterwards. The same is therefore true if he entered himself. Since in this case, he has caused no change, it is completely permissible even if it is not a case of considerable monetary loss? ...7Therefore, one need not protest against those who use the elevator to descend..." (ibid. n.140)


5. Points to Be Clarified

 In my opinion, three main points require clarification:

a) Is a result caused by a man's weight (and not by a physical action) considered to be the same as his actions? Is there a difference in this respect between the laws of Shabbat and other areas of Halacha, such as torts?

b) If one's weight is considered to be an action, is this true even where the weight is being used by someone else'? Perhaps in such a case, the action is related to the controlling agent and not to the man himself?

c) Even if the passenger during descent is considered to be an agent of the forbidden activities that take place, we must consider the applicability of the principle that "an accessory is not held accountable?


B. Is a Man's Weight Considered an Action?

 Is an event caused by the weight of a man considered to be his action, for the purpose of liability on Shabbat? For example, if one is standing on a heavy beam before Shabbat, and by remaining there on Shabbat he presses grapes; does he transgress the category of threshing by simply being a weight in that particular spot?


1. "Five on a Bench" – Rashi's Opinion

 A case of weight used to accomplish an action is found in Baba Kama (10b).

"If five people were sitting on a bench and it did not break, and then another came and sat on it and broke it, the last one is liable ....

(Q.) lf the bench would not have broken without him, this is obvious. If it would have broken without him, what did he do?... (A.) Without him it would have broken in two hours-and now it broke in one hour. The others can say to him, 'Were it not for you, we would have sat a little longer and gotten up'. (Q.) Why can he not say to them, 'Were it not for you, I could not have broken it"? (A.) It broke as soon as he leaned on them.... The conclusion is that his strength is equivalent to his body."


There are a number of explanations of this passage. The Gra (loc. cit. and

CM 381) claims, on the basis of the commentary of Rashi, that the argument "were it not for you, I could not have broken it" applies even to the case where the bench would not have broken at all with only five people. Since they could have risen, thereby preventing the breaking of the bench, they are equally responsible for the damage.

This implies that weight is considered an action. When the five sat down, there was no action, as the bench would not break under those circumstances.

Their liability in this case derives from their remaining in the same position after the sixth man joined them. They are not doing a new action, but only staying in place. The case is identical to the hypothetical winepress of the opening paragraph. The conclusion is that the weight of the man on the beam would make him liable on Shabbat.

This conclusion is untenable. The Gra asks why Rashi applies the argument "were it not for you, I could not have broken it" to the case where the original five could not have broken it alone. The order of the text would seem to support the conclusion that it should apply only to the latter case where it would have broken without the additional weight in two hours. Why does

Rashi explain the question as applying to the first case mentioned?

The Gra explains that the final answer of the Gemara, "it broke as soon as he leaned on them", means that he leaned on them, but did not sit down himself. Why is it necessary to say that he added his weight by leaning on them, thereby hastening the breaking of the bench? Is it not sufficient that he prevented them from rising, whereby the bench breaks after two hours? It must be that the question applied to a case where the bench would not have broken at all under the weight of the original five, and therefore it is necessary to answer that he is adding his weight to theirs.

The Gra apparently believes that if he prevents them from rising, so that the bench breaks under their weight in two hours, he is liable. But surely this is indirect causation, as he does not break the bench, but only prevents others from saving it from destruction.


It must be that the passage in Baba Kama is based on the opinion that assesses damages even in cases of indirect causation (dina degarmi). Therefore,

it is possible to obligate one who prevents the others from rising because he is a cause of damage, even though he did not actually d0 the act of damage.

If so, the proof that weight is action cannot be derived from this passage. In the case where the five could have risen but did not do so, they are not liable because their weight is an action, but because they are at least indirect causes of the breaking, exactly as an outside force which prevents them from rising would be liable for that reason.

A careful reading of the text of Rashi's commentary supports this explanation. He does not say that the five are liable because they broke the bench with their weight, but because they "should have risen", i.e. they were negligent. This liability applies only to torts. On Shabbat, indirect causation is not included in the Torah prohibitions, The argument that "they should have risen" is taken from the case (BK 29a) of one who trips and does not rise, and someone else falls over him. In that case, neither his action nor his weight actually effects the damage; rather it is the second pedestrian who supplies the force which is responsible for the damage. It is clear that in matters of torts it is possible for one to be liable without the action relating to him. Hence, no proof can be brought from cases of torts to liability on Shabbat.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Mearei Aish, ch.3) raises a similar question concerning other cases. If one were lying in the street on Shabbat, and someone else tripped over him and was injured, would the first one be considered to have transgressed the prohibition of wounding on Shabbat'? If one is holding a fire, and someone else cooked over it, would the first one be considered to have transgressed the prohibition of cooking, since he should have gone away? The author's conclusion is that we cannot compare Shabbat to torts in these cases. Only in torts are cases such as these liable, since a man has an obligation to prevent damage caused by his property or body.


2. The Opinion of the Tur, Rambam, and Shulachan Aruch

 The Gra (op. cit.) states that the above is solely Rashi's opinion. The Tur's opinion is that the question of the Gemara, "Why can he not say to them, 'Were

it not for you, l could not have broken it'?", applies only to the last case mentioned previous to it. In the initial case, where the five would not have broken the bench at all, this argument is invalid. In other words, if when they sat down they did not pose any danger to the bench they are not obligated to rise after the sixth person joins them.

The question is, why not'? In the final analysis, their weight, together with the sixth man's, broke the bench. It is apparent that the Tur contends that weight is not an action. It is possible to obligate them to pay only if the original act of sitting down was an act of damage, but not for their continued sitting in place.

The Gra claims that the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch have a different reading in the text, whereby they contend that even if the bench would have broken in two hours from the weight of the original five alone only the sixth man is liable if his sitting down caused the bench to break in one hour even though the five could have risen. Again, it must be that their wheight is not an action that can obligate them. The act of breaking which took place after one hour was not a direct result of their original act of sitting. Therefore, they are not liable.



3. The Application to the Case of the Elevator

 The passenger entering the elevator is comparable to one of the people sitting on the bench. Without the motor, nothing would have happened. The operation of the motor is therefore comparable to the additional person who sits on the bench. According to the above analysis, the original occupants of the bench are not liable. Those who rule that all six occupants are liable (Rashi) limit this liability to cases of torts, where it is not necessary to consider them to be direct agents of the action. Regarding Shabbat, it is clear that the fact that "they should have risen" is not a sufficient reason to consider it to be a Torah transgression, as the cases raised by Rav Auerbach demonstrate. Furthermore, once the elevator is in motion, it is not possible to leave. Entering the elevator cannot be considered a transgression, as it merely creates a "prior condition" which will lead to a reduction in the workload of the elevator. Since the weight in descent is not considered to be an action, there is no transgression in entering the elevator either.

In my opinion, this should not even be considered to be an indirect cause

(grama) of a Shabbat transgression. Since in this case the actions would have taken place anyway, the passenger cannot be considered a "cause" of the actions. Therefore, he has neither "done" the action, nor "caused" the action.


C. A Man Propelled by an External Force

 1. If a Man Is Thrown on an Infant

 The question whether one's weight is considered an action can also be approached on the basis of a dispute in the laws of homicide.

The Talmud (San. 72b) states that aside from the three cardinal sins, one must also be willing to die rather than transgress any prohibition publicly. The Gemara then asks why Esther married Achashverosh, as this was performed publicly. The Tosafot (ibid., s.v. " Veha Ester") explains why the Gemara was not perturbed by the fact that this was a case of a forbidden sexual union.

"It was clear to (the Gemara) that the fact that (Esther) was passive (karka olam) is sufficient to relieve her of the obligation to die in order to avoid a sexual offence. (The obligation to die in such a case) is derived from the case of murder. But in the case of murder itself, one is only obligated to give up one's life (in order to avoid) directly committing an act of murder. Where he is not doing an action, e.g. if they throw him on top of an infant who is crushed, it is logical to conclude that he is not obligated to give up his life. On the contrary, since he is not performing an action, he may say, 'Who says that my fellow's blood is redder, perhaps my blood is redder'."8


The Tosafot explicitly state that if one kills with his weight, "he is not doing an action". It is not compatible with the language of the Tosafot to claim that he is speaking only of a case where the force of the "throwing" is what crushes the infant and not the weight of the individual thrown. In fact, without weight a projectile cannot do any damage, so that in any event the weight of the individual is a necessary factor in the murder. At best, if weight were considered an action, this case should be seen as a murder committed by two agents together. From the Tosafot, who state that the individual has done no action and therefore is not obligated to give up his life, it is apparent that the effect of his weight is not considered to be his action at all.


2. The Opinion of the Ran

The Ran (loc. cit.) quotes the explanation of the Tosafot as follows.

"The obligation to die rather than transgress in cases of sexual offences is derived from the case of murder. In the case of murder, the source is the logical argument (rather than a derivation from a verse), "Who says that your blood is redder, perhaps your fellow's blood is redder", i.e. it is not just that one save oneself at the expense of another's life. For the same reason, it is not reasonable that he should give up his life in order to save another from death, e.g., if the non-Jew says that he will kill him if he does not allow him to kill someone else, or if he says, 'allow us to push you on the infant so that he will die or I will kill you'. It is obvious that (in these cases) he should not give up his life. If the non-Jew pushes him and the infant dies as a result, the non-Jew is the murderer and not the Jew."

The Ran offers two examples of passivity in murder: one where the Jew will be killed if he does not allow the non-Jew to kill someone, and the second where he is thrown on an infant. The two cases are apparently equivalent. In the first case, it is clear that the Jew is not doing anything. Hence, the second case is also to be understood as one where the Jew is not considered to be active at all. In this vein, the Ran concludes that "the non-Jew is the murderer and not the Jew". He does not write that the Jew did in fact commit murder, but it is permissible since it is done passively. For the same reason, the Ran wrote that he is not obligated to die in order "to save another", i.e. it is a case of not-saving and not a case of killing.


3. The Opinion of the Rambam

 The Minchat Chinuch (296) quotes the Tosafot Yam HaKippurim, who claims that the Rambam disagrees with the distinction of the Tosafot, since he never alludes to it. The Minchat Chinuch quotes the case of the two travelers in the desert who have only sufficient water for one of them, where R. Akiva rules that the one who has the water should keep it and not share it, as "your life takes precedence". This implies that it is permissible to save one's life at the expense of another.

The Minchat Chinuch is comparing the case of the ma-n thrown on the infant to a case where one does not save another by giving him water. If the weight of the man is considered to be his action, there is no basis for comparison. In the case of the two men in the desert, the one who keeps the water is not doing any action to harm his fellow. He is simply not acting to save him. There can be no proof from here that "your life takes precedence" in a case where one performs a positive action which endangers another. It is clear that the Minchat Chinuch considers the case of the man thrown on the infant to be a case of non-performance of life-saving, and not an action of homicide.

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah ch.5), referring to the

Rambam, writes that the man thrown on the infant "is not a murderer at all,and he has not transgressed (the prohibition of) killing. He is no more than a stone or piece of wood in the hands of the murderer who throws him, for he who throws him is the murderer". Rav Chaim claims that the Rambam contends that there is an obligation to die rather than transgress even in cases where the transgression is done passively; however, this is only if it genuinely belongs to the "category of murder". The case of the man thrown on the infant does not belong to the category of murder at all, as far as the man thrown is concerned. This is true not because he is being coerced, since coercion is not an acceptable defense in cases of murder, but because he is not doing any act of murder. It seems to me that this should be understood as the point raised above; the results of a man's weight are not considered his actions.


4. Weight Propelled by an Outside Force

 Even if one's weight is considered to be an action, there are additional reasons to permit entering the elevator.

Even if one's weight is considered an action, this is only if the sole actor is the weight, and therefore the result is attributed to the source of the force which performed the action. However, if another actor uses someone's weight to effect a given result, such as one who throws a man on an infant, only the thrower should be considered responsible of this action. The man thrown is an object, "a stone or piece of wood", in the hands of the thrower.

For instance, if a man was falling and the wind changed his course and blew him onto a target, the wind is the actor and not the man. Even though his weight contributes to the damage, it is no more than a tool in the hands of another actor, in this case the wind.

This principle is derived from a passage in Sanhedrin (77b).

"Rav Pappa said: If one threw a rock upward and it fell to the side and killed, he is liable .... What is the reason'? Because it is his power. If it is his power, it should have gone only upward, and if it is not his power, it should have fallen straight downward'? Rather, (say) it is weak (partial) power."


The passage implies that if the rock were to fall straight downward, the man who placed it in the position from where gravity was able to cast in downward with lethal effect is not liable (for punishment in court). Why is he then liable if it falls to the side'? The damage is basically done by the weight,with only the direction of the fall affected by the manner in which the person threw the rock. From here we see that if there is no effect to what he did, the weight of the falling object is an independent actor, but if his action participates even partially in the determination of the manner of the fall, the weight of the rock and the laws of gravity become tools in his hand and he is completely liable.

In the case of the elevator, when he enters the car, it is not moving. The motor starts automatically and acts upon the car with all that is in it. In my opinion, in such a case, the motor is the actor, and the weight of the passengers is only a tool in the hands of the motor. By entering the car, the passenger has changed only the "prior conditions" of the motor's activity.

If this is so, then all the electrical functions which take place during the descent are attributed to the motor of the elevator alone, and not to the man riding inside.


D. "An Accessory is not Held Accountable"

 Another point of attack is the principle that "an accessory is not held accountable" (mesaye'a ein bo mamash). Even if we accept the position that a result of a man's weight is his action, and therefore the passenger is considered as though he were pushing the elevator down manually, nonetheless this activity is only an accessory, and should therefore not be considered.

This point needs to be examined.

 1. The Definition of "Able"

 The Gemara (Shab. 93a) states that if an action is done by two people, one who is able to do it alone and one who is not, the second is only an accessory and "an accessory is not held accountable? In our case, it is clear that the passenger is "not able" to lower the elevator by himself, due to the counterweight and the friction in the cables, whereas the motor is "able" to do so, as occurs whenever there is no one in the car.

It is true that when the man is in the elevator, and therefore the current in the motor is reduced, it is possible that the actual current present is insufficient to lower the elevator. However, if the passenger should suddenly disappear during the descent, the motor would immediately respond and automatically increase the power. This is analogous to a man making a greater effort. It can be proven that one is considered to be "able" even if it is necessary to make a greater effort.

The Tosafot (loc. cit., s.v. "Amar") state; "... he is considered'not able' even if he possesses great strength but is carrying the beam in such a way that without the other he could not carry it. e.g. with his finger, or if he is holding it in a manner such that he cannot carry it alone. What do we care about his strength if he cannot presently carry it?"

From this statement it is clear that one is considered "not able" only if the action is being done in a manner that does not allow one to do it. lf however one is holding the beam in a physical manner that allows one to carry it alone, e.g. on the shoulder, it is a case of "able" even if one is not presently exerting oneself to the extent necessary to carry it alone. In any case where two people share a load, each one will exert less force than if he were unaided. Were we to consider only the force actually present, there could not be any case of "able" at all. The criterion is whether one of them could continue carrying the beam without changing his grip or position in case the other would cease to do his share. If he could, he is considered to be "able".

A similar definition is offered by the Ramban (ad. loc,). "It is not sufficient that he be able to correct (the situation) and hold it as he wishes and carry it. He must have the ability to carry it with the grip that he presently has."

The examples mentioned in the Gemara support this conclusion. In one case the Gemara concludes that each leg of a horse is considered to be "not able" relative to the other three. If the horse were to stand on three legs, this would necessitate a different distribution of the horse's weight. Another case deals with a person lying across five benches. Here too, his weight is evenly distributed among the benches. If there were only four benches, the weight distribution would be different.

The conclusion is that the motor is considered to be "able" and the passenger "not able"; therefore even if the passenger is performing an action, the descent is attributed solely to the motor.


2. Partnership between a Person and a Natural Force

 One might claim that "an accessory is not held accountable" applies only to two human actors, but if a man is aided by a natural, impersonal force, the action is attributed to him, with the natural force considered to be a tool in his hands.

On the contrary, it can be proven that even in a partnership between a man and a natural force, if the man is "not able", the action is not attributed to him.

"If he fanned (a coal, which subsequently causes a fire with damage to others), and the wind fanned, then if his fanning was sufficient to cause it to ignite, he is liable. (BK 60a)" The Gemara asks, "lֲ·low is this different from winnowing (on Shabbat), where the wind assists him?" Rav Ashi answers that winnowing is liable "on Shabbat, where the Torah prohibited a purposeful activity (melechet machshevet), but here (in torts), it is a case of grama (indirect causation), and in torts grama is not liable". The Tosafot (ad. loc.) explain that the case must be one where the wind alone would not have ignited the coal. Therefore, the person is liable, "for he did it all, and it is a case of one who is able and one who is unable, where the one who is unable is considered an accessory who is not held accountable. The Tosafot here explicitly include a partnership with a natural force in the category of "one who is able and one who is not".

The Rashba (ad. loc.) mentions an even closer parallel to our case. "If his fanning was not sufficient to ignite (the coal), and the wind was sufficient to ignite it, the person would not be liable, as he did not do anything, since 'an accessory is not held accountable'."

(On a related topic, see Rav Y. Glickman, Noam, v.2, p.l10ff; Rav Be'eri, Noam, v.3, p.2ll; Rav M. Stein, ibid. pp.204-205. The discussion there concerns opening a refrigerator on Shabbat. All the discussants agree that it is possible to apply the principle of "an accessory is not held accountable" to a partnership between the person and the motor of the refrigerator. cf. Eglei Tal, Melechet Choresh. sec. 1, who considers a man ploughing with an animal to be a case of one who is able and the other is unable. He states that there is even less reason to attribute the action to the man in a case where the partner is not human than in a case of two people.)

It is apparent that the category of accessory applies to a partnership between a man and a natural force; therefore, the motor of the elevator is the sole agent of the action, and the man's contribution is not significant.


E. An Accessory in Hilchot Shabbat

 The Tosafot (Shab. 93a, s.v. "Amar") conclude that an accessory does not transgress even a rabbinic prohibition. Similarly, the Rambam (Hilchot Be'at

Mikdash, 5, 18) writes; "... for we pay no attention to an accessory", i.e., his contribution is halachically irrelevant. In Hilchot Shabbat (1, 16) he writes;

"The first, who is able, is liable, and the second is an accessory, and an accessory is not liable at all". Previously (ibid. 4), the Rambam defined "not liable at all" to imply that there is not even rabbinic disapproval of the action.

The Rama (OH 328, 17), regarding the question of being treated by a non-

Jewish doctor on Shabbat, writes; "When it is done for him by a non-Jew, it is permitted for the Jew to assist a little, as an accessory is not held accountable."

The Magen Avraham (17) comments; "From (Shab. 93a) it appears that an accessory is not held accountable even in regard to Torah prohibitions?

The Taz (ad. loc., as well as in YD 195,21) raises the case of "rounding the corners of the head" (Lev. 19.27). The Gemara (Mak. 20b) explains that one whose hair is cut in a forbidden manner is liable because he "assists" (is an accessory) by making his hair available to the haircutter. The Taz concludes that "we must distinguish between (the cases). In the case of(medical treatment of the eye on Shabbat), he does not do any action, since his eye is already open, but only assists (the doctor) while he does the action. Since he is not needed, he is not held accountable. In the case of the haircut, on the other hand, where the person has to prepare his hair before the commencement of the action, it is as though he began the action, and is held accountable. The Tur also writes that he tilts his head (for the barber). Therefore, if he has to open his mouth (for a dentist), it is forbidden, since a man's mouth is generally closed.... "

The Shach (Nekudat HaKesef ad. loc.) disagrees with the Taz. His opinion is supported by many authorities (cf. Mishna Berura 325, 11). The Noda B'Yehuda (OH, v. 1, 13) rules that in a Torah prohibition, one should accept the more stringent opinion of the Taz, but not in rabbinic prohibitions. From the

Taz it appears that he too was speaking only in cases of Torah prohibitions.

Therefore, in our case, if the lights which operate at the different floors are disconnected, there will only remain rabbinic prohibitions (see sec. A). Even if the weight is an action, and we accept the opinion of the Taz concerning an accessory, in rabbinic prohibitions it will yet be permitted. It is furthermore possible that the Taz will agree that this is a case of permissible accessory, similar in nature to the eye patient of Shabbat. The assistance rendered by the passenger is not in the entering into the car - the motor derives no benefit from the act of entering. The benefit is in the added weight that is in the car during the descent. This assistance is offered passively and the Taz will agree that it is permissible, even in cases of Torah prohibitions.


F. Conclusions

 In my opinion, it is permissible to descend in an automatic elevator on

Shabbat, for the following reasons:

1. Results of a man's weight are not considered his actions, in respect to

Hilchot Shabbat.

2. Even if weight is an action, this is only if it acts alone. If another force is using one's weight, the weight is only a tool in the hands of the other and not an agent. The motor is the sole agent, and not the man, who is being used by the motor.

3. Even if the weight is an action and the man an agent, the category of "an accessory is not held accountable" applies, even though it is a case of a partnership between a man and a natural force.

4. The last point is sufficient to permit the use of the elevator where there are only rabbinic prohibitions involved. The first two points are sufficient to permit even Torah prohibitions.

5. Therefore, if the bulbs which indicate the different floors are disconnected, there is no reason to prohibit the descent. It should be noted that fluorescent or electronic (LED) lights do not constitute a Torah prohibition, according to most authorities.


 Appendix: Technical Specifications for the Zomet Shabbat Elevator.

 1. Shabbat Control and Button Deactivation

1.1 Shabbat operation is activated by a key.

1.2 A weekly clock with a 24 hour mechanical backup should be installed, in order to operate the control in accord with preset times.

1.3When in Shabbat operation, all call buttons, both in the car and on the floors, are cancelled. They remain cancelled even when the elevator is not moving.

1.4 When in Shabbat operation, "close" and "open" buttons, as well as light and fan switches, are cancelled.

1.5 When in Shabbat operation, the fan and the lighting will operate continuously during the hours determined by the clock.

 1.6 Signs

1.6.1An illuminated sign on every floor will indicate that the elevator is in the Shabbat mode, and that the call buttons are not in operation.

1.6.2 While the elevator is operating, the sign will blink (including when the car is standing at a floor). At other hours on Shabbat, the sign will shine steadily.

1.6.3A sign on every floor and in the car will state that when the buzz is heard,one may not touch the doors.

2.Moving and Standing on Shabbat

2.1 The Shabbat clock will be able to accommodate numerous settings and will allow several variations for hours of operation.

2.2For reasons of economy, it is desirable that one elevator stop only in descent and one only in ascent.

2.3 Alternately, the residents should have the option of having the elevator stop at every other floor.

2.4 The elevator will stop at every floor for 10-15 seconds (may be adjusted).

On the main floor, the elevator will stand for a longer period of 2-4 minutes (may be adjusted).

2.5 Repeat cycle- see below 4.3

3. Permanent Electric Circuits

3.1 Weighing devices for full load and overload should be cancelled.

3.2 Floor indicators should be cancelled. lf it is necessary, LED lights should be substituted for incandescent bulbs.

3.3 In place of the floor indicators, there should be signs on every floor which can be clearly read from inside the elevator when the doors open.

3.4 Direction indicators may operate on Shabbat, but will change at the beginning of the movement and not at the end of the line.

4. Electric Circuits in the Doors

4.1 During waiting periods on the floors, all electrical circuits to the doors and the safety circuits are disconnected.

4.2Three seconds before the doors are to close a warning buzz will be sounded. The buzz will continue until the doors are completely closed.

4.3 lf any door remains open at the end of the waiting period, a repeat cycle for the waiting period is started, for a shorter period (5-7 seconds). At theend of each waiting period, there is a short (l second) checking pulse. If the door is still open, the short waiting period is repeated, indefinitely.

4.4During the repeat cycles as well, all circuits to the doors, the safety circuits, and the photoelectric cell are cancelled.

4.5The buzz operates during all waiting cycles. See above 1.6.3.

4.6 It is desirable to completely cancel the photoelectric cell and only utilizethe safety ruler. If it is necessary to use it, it should be in operation onlywhile the door is closing.


 ¤ ¤ ¤

  l. cf. Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata, 2nd ed. 34,28, concerning adjusting a hearing aid, and the sources quoted there, n. 106.

2. This possibility was first suggested in the Response Beit Yitzchak, p 2, index, no. 31).

3. The use of electricity is generally prohibited under the category of building or completing (the Chazon Ish), or by extension of the category of "creating scents" (the Beit Yitzchak). In electric motors, there is also the possibility of violating the category of igniting, if certain elements become sufficiently heated or emit light. - trans.

4. According to many authorities, an action involving a rabbinic prohibition, which is done without intent, as well as indirectly (kil'acher yad), and is harmful (mekalkel), is permitted. – trans.

5. Rav Levi Yitzchak Halperin, Ma'aliyot BeShabbat, Jerusalem, 1984.

6. Prohibited activities on Shabbat must meet the criterion of melechet machshevet, which means that it is a purposeful action. Rav Auerbach is arguing that if the action is ineffectual, it cannot be considered to be purposeful, in the halachic sense. -trans.

7. Cases of gramma, indirect causation, are permitted on Shabbat in case of major monetary loss. - trans.

8. The Talmud explains that one may not save one's life by taking another's because we say "Who says your blood is redder, perhaps your fellow's blood is redder". The Tosafot is reversing the argument in a case where the killing is not performed actively. – trans.


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