Monday, December 24, 2007

Kosher electricity

I wrote last week about the kosher internet, and decided that that it was part of a chareidi conspiracy.

The one obvious flaw in this kosher plan, is that according to many poskim, the electricity in Israel is not kosher and may not be used. So you will have to have a wind up clockwork computer in order to run your kosher internet.

Or at least UNTIL NOW! The Israeli Electric Company (IE) have decided to set up kosher electricity for residents of certain (religious) neighbourhoods.

Having been to see how they make electricity, and having heard the Jewish guy inside the control room show us (I went with a kollel that I was learning in) tell us exactly which button he pushes every Shabbat at the time the Shabbat clocks all switch on the air conditioning (to turn on an extra turbine), I have been bothered for years about using electricity. The lenient opinion says that since hospitals and sick people need electricity, everyone else can also use it (because of pikuach nefesh). This is equivalent to saying that you can drive in a car on Shabbat, provided someone in the car is ill and needs to go to the hospital (even if the car seats several thousand).

So I've relied on this heter, and used electricity (but tried to avoid time clocks). I also discussed it with one of the Rabbis with whom I am very close. He told me that in his neighbourhood they set up an illegal generator to make kosher shabbat electricity. He decided not to join up with it. He felt it would be bad for his spiritual health and his midot. He told me "I'll look out on a Friday night, and see all the lights on in all the other neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, and I'll feel that I'm better than they are".

But now, Israel Electric are planning on providing kosher electricity to anyone who is prepared to pay for it. Clearly their mistake was that they didn't first get R' Elyashiv to say that it is forbidden. That would have created a market and demand. I suspect that now people won't bother with it, since it costs money.

Instead, people will be either using electricity normally, or getting private generators which can be extremely dangerous.

But the truth is that halachically it is a very serious issue, and I hope that the idea works. Hopefully eventually they will offer such a service in Har Nof.

I really hope this one works. Shabbat is something worth getting excited about, and even worth paying money for (after all, Chareidim already pay more for milk that is shomer shabbat, why not electricity?)

This is what the Jerusalem Post has to say:

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski has directed municipality officials to move forward with plans to connect haredi neighborhoods to "kosher" electricity provided by Israel Electric.

Residents of the designated neighborhoods would pay the higher cost for the electricity produced via "kosher" means.

The move is designed to eradicate pirate generator operators who present potential health hazards and noise pollution. Examples of the hazards include unauthorized high-voltage cables close to houses and parks, and engines and fuel sources that are left exposed.

Some haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem refuse to use electricity produced by IE on Shabbat. Some Orthodox rabbis are concerned that IE unnecessarily desecrates Shabbat to produce electricity.

These rabbis argue that Jewish workers perform acts forbidden on Shabbat as part of the electricity production process.

In order to operate the power plants that produce electricity, workers, often Jews, are required to operate machinery and regulate the use of combustible substances such as fossil fuels. These actions are prohibited on Shabbat according to Halacha. Many rabbis rule that it is permitted to use electricity on Shabbat because stopping the production of electricity on Shabbat could endanger lives.

In contrast, some rabbis encourage the use of generators since they are operated before the beginning of Shabbat and work unattended throughout Shabbat. This skirts the necessity to perform actions that are prohibited during Shabbat.

In addition to Jerusalem, IE has begun negotiations to put generators in the predominantly haredi cities Betar Illit, Kiryat Sefer and El-Ad. The local residents have not yet agreed to pay for the costs.

IE intends to fund the costs by charging a fixed monthly fee to all residents who use the generator-produced electricity, but all residents will have to agree to foot the bill.

Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo (Shuafat) was chosen as the first pilot neighborhood to be hooked up to "kosher" electricity. Local Council member Uri Maklev (Degel Hatorah) has met with neighborhood's chief rabbi and in the coming week the residents will be surveyed to find out if they are willing to pay the additional costs.

I have also found another kind of computer that would be much safer for the Chareidim, as it avoids using both electricity, and the internet:

Good luck with that typing!

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