The subject is:
Lighting a fire for heating purposes
Here are the relevant ‘MBY Archives’ quotes – following a brief line of introduction:
1) We have learned the general principle of ‘meleches ochel nefesh’ (melacha for food preparation):
“…namely that certain melachos that are central to food preparation are the permissible exceptions to the general prohibition against melacha on Yom Tov.” (MBY 495:1-4)
2) We have learned the expansion of ‘ochel nefesh’ with the ‘mitoch’ (lit. since) principle:
“…the principle of ‘mitoch’ teaches that once (since)) the Torah permitted a certain melacha on Yom Tov for the purposes of food preparation, the Torah also permitted it for other purposes of the day as well.” (MBY 502)
3) We have learned that ‘mitoch’ applies to lighting fires:
“…this principle (i.e.’mitoch) does not apply to all melachos. One of the melachos to which it does apply is the melacha of ‘hav’ara’/kindling.” (Ibid.)
4) We have learned that the ‘mitoch’ principle is limited by the condition of ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’ (lit. “equal to all people”):
“Accordingly, it is permitted to kindle a fire on Yom Tov for purposes unrelated to food preparation as long as it serves some other Yom Tov need (that is common to most people – Ed.); for example, to give light or heat. Kindling a fire not for a (common) Yom Tov need is prohibited (e.g. smoking).” (Ibid.)
5) We have learned that we may not light a new fire – only transfer from an existing source:
“Although it is permitted to kindle a flame on Yom Tov, the Sages forbade creating a NEW fire on Yom Tov, i.e. to make a fire where none previously existed. Thus, it is forbidden to strike a match or heat a piece of metal until it becomes red hot. For this reason (as well as others), it is forbidden to turn on an electric light or appliance on Yom Tov. One may only light something from an existing fire.” (Ibid.)
NOW for our “bit more”:
Question: So, after that wonderful “review” of the five principles cited above, may we light a fire on Yom Tov (from an existing source) for heating purposes?
Answer: YES! Certainly if it’s cold outside and everyone agrees that we need heat!
Question: What if it’s not that cold, and only some people would like the heat on? Does this situation no longer constitute ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’? (Good question, isn’t it?)
Answer: Although some authorities prohibit heating in that case (on the grounds that it is not ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’ in that specific application), the custom is to permit it, because categorically, heating IS ‘shaveh l’chol nefesh’.
In our next lesson, we will discuss turning on the heat (i.e. using the hot tap which activates the hot water heater) for bathing. Stay tuned, it’s a “hot topic”!