ASKAbout ASKProgramsOnline LearningPhoto / VideoMediaAtlantaSupport ASK
Vessels placed under Shabbos lamps (abridged)
MBY 265:1-4 [Based heavily upon Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 75:11 – The Laws of Candlelighting, “Metsudah” edition, translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis]

In this short siman, two rather complex issues are introduced, regarding the use of oil lamps on Shabbos. In short, the issues are: 1) Causation to extinguish a flame burning in a lamp, and 2) Improper use of a non-muktzah vessel. (Note: In this discussion, we are not addressing a situation in which there is danger to life or property.)

Let us now discuss these issues in detail:
Issue #1: Causation to extinguish. I think we would all agree that one is forbidden to do something on Shabbos that would cause a flame to be extinguished sooner, right? For example, one may not place water on Shabbos in a lamp (not even directly on the flame), so that the flame will go out earlier than it was going to, when it hits the water. Now, let’s add the following: The halacha further restricts me from putting that water in the lamp even before Shabbos begins! Why? It’s a “fence” (a precautionary restriction.) Said the Sages: Do not put the water in the lamp before Shabbos, because if you get into the habit of doing that, you might one day put water in on Shabbos! [Note: Since the concern is merely of what you might do another time – but not now - this particular fence may be overridden in cases of necessity.] Another example of a “fence” to protect against causation to extinguish is this: One may not place a vessel filled with water under a lamp or candelabra – even before Shabbos begins. [Note: This “fence” is actually stricter than the first, because the concern is what may happen now, not simply another time: i.e. if one were to actually pick up the water-filled vessel on Shabbos in order to bring it closer to the lamp, he would be causing the extinguishing to occur sooner! Therefore, no leniency is granted, even in cases of necessity. Do you see the difference between the two fences?]

Issue #2: Improper use of a non-muktzah vessel. Generally, one may use a non-muktzah vessel on Shabbos, right? Here the halacha teaches us that there are ways we may not use it! For example, one may not place an empty vessel under a lamp on Shabbos to catch dripping oil or fat. This prohibition is called ‘mevatel kli mei’heichano’ (lit. “nullifying a vessel from its preparedness”.) The idea is that when the vessel – hertorfore clean and usable - catches the muktzah oil, the vessel becomes unusable from now on, until the end of Shabbos. Essentially, then, we have ruined the state of preparedness that the vessel had. Authorites give different “analogies” to describe what is happening to this vessel, in a virtual sense: Some analogize it to “demolishing” the vessel; others say just the opposite - it is like “cementing” the vessel to the table, which resembles “building”. (Note: There are two leniencies here: 1) Placing an empty vessel under the lamp to catch the oil, before Shabbos begins, is no problem whatsoever (unlike a vessel filled with water, that we discussed in issue #1). 2) If there is no oil to catch, and the only purpose of the vessel is to catch “sparks” the vessel may be set up even on Shabbos. This is because sparks are considered to be non-substantive.)

Atlanta Scholars Kollel 2017 © All Rights Reserved.   |   Website Designed & Developed by Duvys Media