Megavolt - Your source for electrical information in Israel




When it is very hot, can you tell a Goy to turn on the air conditioner?

Taken from Daily Halacha by: Rabbi Eli Mansour

So the Minchat Yitzchak (Teshuvot of Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss) brings an interesting story from the Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi tells a story of the Roman Emperor Antoninus who was preparing for a trip. Antoninus asked Rebi (Rebi Yehudah HaNasi) to pray for him. So Rebi gave a blessing saying that G-d should save him from cold weather. So Antoninus asked Rebi why he chose that blessing. Why would he need to be protected from the cold, when all he would need to do is put on a jacket? Antoninus said that he did not need this blessing for being cold is something he can deal with. So Rebi gave another blessing saying that G-d should protect him from the heat. Antoninus replied to this and said this was a valued and virtuous prayer. The Pasuk says “Vi’En Nistar MeChamato”, that nobody is shielded from the heat of G-d. So Rabbi Weiss learns from here that since Halacha allows you to tell a Goy to turn on the heat when cold even though you can alleviate the discomfort by putting on more and more clothes, so all the more so by heat it would be permissible to turn on the air conditioner. You have no choice. What are you going to do? If a person takes off all his clothes he would still be hot. Antoninus asked for a prayer that he should be saved from the heat and not from the cold, because he was able to shelter himself from the cold. So therefore, the Minchat Yitzchak writes, that if a person on Shabbat is hot in his house and it is uncomfortable, he may tell a Goy to turn on the air conditioner. You can tell the Goy ‘BePherush’, (explicitly).

The Minchat Yitzchak further says the fact that turning on an air conditioner by its activation of electricity is really only forbidden MiDiRabannan (from the Rabbinate). Additionally, telling a Goy is also MiDiRabannan. So we have 2 MiDiRabannans in a case of Tza’ar, in a case of a person’s inconvenience, which is also permissible.

And therefore, the Halacha, we came out with 3 leniencies. Number one, in both the synagogue and in the house, it would be permissible to tell a Goy to shut off an air conditioner if it becomes too cold and uncomfortable. Number two, according to the Minchat Yitzchak, it would be permissible to tell a Goy to turn on the air conditioner in both the home and in the synagogue if it becomes very hot, and simply opening up the windows would not suffice to alleviate the discomfort. Number three, from the Shulchan Aruch, it is permissible everywhere to tell a Goy to turn on the heat when it is too cold.

 Rabbi Mansour was asked at the conclusion, whether or not it would be permissible to ask a Goy to turn off the heat in the event it becomes too warm in the winter. Rabbi Mansour replied that in such a case, it would not be permissible, for the simple solution would be to open some windows.