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Non-Religious Jews Turning on Lights


I will be conducting the seder in the house of a non-religious Jew (both nights). The problem is that they will be turning on the lights during Shabbos, and certainly during Yom Tov. (For example, on Saturday afternoon/evening they will turn on the lights. They are not going to keep the lights on for two nights).

Without these lights, there would be some illumination from the street, but not enough to be able to read the Haggadah or to eat. What should I do (I cannot benefit from chillul Shabbos/ yom tov, and I must read the Haggadah)? Is there anything I can rely on to benefit from these lights, if I cannot convince the person to leave them on, or I cannot trust them to do so (they might say that they will leave the lights on, but in fact they will perhaps mess with them during Shabbos/ yom tov)?


Assuming these are people who were raised non religious, there is room to give them the status of Tinokos Shenishbu, meaning they are not considered to be purposefully breaking Shabbos. This melacha is being done for themselves and not for you. One may benefit from unintentional Shabbos violation done by another, in a case of need. The melacha done by such a person is questionable if we treat it as intentional or unintentional. In addition if it is a fluorescent light there are opinions that this involves only a Rabbinic prohibition which adds another element of leniency.

If you request of them and they say they will leave it on, being that this does not involve great financial loss, there is reason to believe they would respect your request. The first night presumably the light will have been on from the daytime. Since it is a case of need to run the seder for these people, it would seem based on the above that you could be lenient to run the seder in their home.



See Shulchan Aruch O:C 318:1 and Mishna Berura, Biur Halacha and commentaries there.

See Chu”t Shani Vol. 2 pg. 47 who remains in doubt as to the status of melacha done by the typical irreligious Jew.


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  1. Thank you for the prompt response.

    While I appreciate that the rav gave me a heter, I do not fully understand the rav’s response.

    They are turning on the light for me b/c they know that I am going to come at night and I will need the light.

    Rabbi Meir is of the opinion that when Shabbos is violated unintentionally, there is no prohibition placed on what was cooked or made. However, when Shabbos is violated on purpose, one may not benefit from that which was done until motzaei Shabbos.
    Rabbi Yehudah is of the opinion that one may never benefit from a Shabbos violation on Shabbos itself and one must wait until motzaei Shabbos even if it was done unintentionally. If it was done on purpose, however, the person who did it can never use it. It is forbidden forever.

    The Rambam, Rif, and Shulchan Aruch rule like Rabbi Yehudah. For the Shabbos violator the maaseh Shabbos is forbidden forever, and for everyone else it only becomes permitted on Saturday night. [Not helpful in my case.]
    Tosefos and the Vilna Gaon, however, rule more leniently. They rule like Rabbi Meir, who permits everything on Saturday night and do not forbid it at all if it was done b’shogeg.

    The M”B rules (318:7) that when it is l’tzorech—when necessary—one may rely upon the Vilna Gaon when the Shabbos was violated b’shogeg. What about when it was violated on purpose? The Mishnah Berurah does not state that one can rely on the Vilna Gaon’s opinion in such a case. The clear indication is that in cases of intentional Shabbos violation, the Mishnah Berurah rules stringently.

    The Magen Avraham (siman 318:2) writes that it would appear to him that if the Shabbos violation was done for others, then they too are considered just like the person who did the maaseh Shabbos himself (they can NEVER benefit). See Ksav Sofer (responsa O.C. #50) that if the person who broke Shabbos did melacha for someone else, and the one who broke Shabbos NEVER keeps Shabbos, the other guy can NEVER enjoy from this melacha.

    The Chazon Ish (Y.D. 2:16) states that in our times every Shabbos violator is considered a “tinok shenishba,” like a child that was kidnapped and is not to blame for his lack of knowledge. He is therefore considered to be shogeg.
    Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l (I.M. O.C. I #33), however, was not so lenient.

    Plus, one needs to consider the issue of chillul Hashem.

    1. the basis for the heter is that this may be considered a shogeg [chut shani] and hence permitted for you as it is a case of need, as you mention from the mishna brura
      and there is a doubt if the light you will find on was turned on at all on shabbos
      the first day it would seem safe to assume it was on from the day, and the second day is also a doubt
      based on these 2 reasons, plus the fact that there are often candles lit from which you could read the hagadda [on yom tov night, the second night which is more problematic, you can light additional candles at the table so as to only benefit from them]

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