non-Jew switched a light on for me, may I benefit from it?
The Halacha is, as brought down in the Shulchan
Aruch 1, that a Jew may not derive benefit from a light switched on by a
non-Jew for the sake of a Jew. This prohibition is expanded to include even people that it
was not lit for 2, and hence no Jew may benefit from it.
Accordingly, if one is sitting in a dark room, where
reading a book was impossible, and a non-Jew generously switches on the light, one may not
take out a book to read. If, however, reading was possible in a semi-dark room and a
non-Jew switched on an extra light, one may benefit from the extra light as well 3.
If the original light goes out, it is prohibited to use the light lit by the non-Jew.
What if he was prepaid before Shabbos
to do so?
The Rama 4 says that even if the non-Jew
was hired on a daily basis to switch on lights when necessary, or paid for individual
lighting, one is forbidden to use the light.
What if the non-Jew switched the light
on for his own benefit?
When a non-Jew turns on a light for his own benefit, for
example, we see him turn on a light and pull out a newspaper to read, a Jew may benefit
from that light for whatever he wants. 5
The same applies when a non-Jew turns on a light for an ill
person. 6 Since it is a permitted act, other Jews may benefit from the light as
well. If, however, a non-Jew cooked food for an ill person, even if there was no problem
of bishul akum 7, nevertheless a healthy Jew may not partake of the
food, because Chazal were afraid that the Jew would ask the non-Jew to cook some
more food for him. This differs from the light, because the one light caters for many, and
one will not come to ask the non-Jew to light another one, unlike food, which is consumed
by each individual.
What if he switched it on for both of
When the non-Jew turns on the light for both a Jew and for
another non-Jew, the Jew may not benefit from the light. 8
However, when the non-Jew who turned on the light is in the picture, i.e. he did it for
himself, if we know that he had the Jew in mind as well, it is a dispute between the Magen
Avraham and the Chayei Adam whether the Jew may benefit from the light. 9
In such a case a Rav should be consulted.
If I instruct a non-Jew to wash the
dishes and he turns on the lights, may I benefit from that light?
The Taz 10 says that in such a case it is
considered as if the non-Jew turned on the lights for his own sake, and not for mine, even
though he is washing my dishes; I may duly benefit from the light.
However, this halacha is tricky, because if I ask a
non-Jew 11 to accompany me in order to get something from my dark storeroom,
and he turns on the light, it is considered as if he turned it on for me, even though he
is coming with me, and I may not benefit from this light.
 Simon 276:1
 When lit for a Jew.
 Simon 276:4 and MB 32.
 Simon 276:1
 This refers to an ill person who as a result of his illness may have a non-Jew do even
a melacha doraisso for him.
 Food cooked by a non-Jew may not be eaten by a Jew unless certain conditions are met.
 Simon 276:2. MB 16 says that the reason is either because it was also
lit for a Jew, or because maybe he had the Jew in mind.
 MB Simon 276:17 and the Biur Halacha.
 Simon 276:5
 Simon 276:3
Food For Thought
Is one permitted to ask a non-Jew to
turn on the heating?
Is there a difference between a hearth
and central heating?
If a non-Jew turned on the heating when
it was prohibited to do so, what is one supposed to do?
Is it permitted to turn off the lights
to enable a sick person to sleep?
Vort On The Parsha
In the Commandment of Shabbos, it says that Hashem blessed
the Shabbos and He sanctified it. Rashi explains that it means that Hashem
blessed the Shabbos by doubling the portion of Man on Friday, and sanctified it by
not supplying Man on the Shabbos. Thereby hinting that whatever a person needs he
will get without desecrating the Shabbos, and by, heaven forbid, desecrating the Shabbos,
nothing will be gained.
That is maybe why the Man never received a proper
name. The Man was called thus because the people did not know what it was , and
they said to each other Man Hu, meaning what is it. But even after they
knew what it was, it remained nameless. Maybe to teach us that a person thinks that he can
name the source of his parnassah sustenance, when in fact it is all a decree
from heaven how much and from what, a person will receive his livelihood.