My hotel room door is opened with a card, what may I do on Shabbos?
This is a
complicated matter and when relevant one should seek guidance from
one’s rav. We will attempt to depict the problems and possible
The problem with
opening a door with a card is that it activates an electric circuit,
which in turn enables the lock to open. (In some cases this even
activates a printed report in the Hotel’s security office).
One might leave the
hotel room before Shabbos but upon returning after shul or after the
Shabbos meal it is prohibited to open the door.
The argument one
might use is that sleep involves oneg Shabbos and should
permit opening the door; however, it is prohibited to violate an
issur for oneg Shabbos or even for a mitzvah.
What if people would not go to shul if they
knew they could not re-enter their room?
Although we find
that certain people who venture out for pikuach nefesh may
return home, even though issurim are violated,
we do not find the leniency for personal mitzvos and thus it
is not a valid argument.
What about asking a gentile to open the
This might present
a solution but it is by no means simple. Halachic technicalities
aside, if one would be permitted to tell a gentile to open a door
with a card, by the same logic one would be permitted to instruct a
gentile to carry keys and open the door to one’s house (even without
an eiruv). It is possible that on a one time basis one may
tell a gentile to violate an issur d’rabanan (a rabbinical
violation) and open a house door but it seems wrong to have it done
on a regular basis, when other totally permitted solutions are
It is likely that
if there is no other hotel available and one will be secluded in
one's room the entire Shabbos without oneg Shabbos, it is
permitted with a gentile. However, each case must be treated
individually and one should consult one's rav.
There is a video camera for security in a
hotel lobby; may I walk in front of it?
shuls are fitted with this security device and the question is the
There are two types
of video cameras: cameras that constantly film and cameras that
operate when a figure passes by. The former is far simpler because
one does not initiate anything by passing in front of the camera -
one’s image merely appears on the monitor.
But what if the video is recorded?
Indeed it is more
problematic. However, even in the latter case, where one triggers
the camera and it starts filming and recording, it should be
The reason is
because the Torah prohibited a person from doing a melacha on
Shabbos through an action but a melacha performed without any
initiative or action should not be forbidden.
Are you not defying the laws of p’sik
Not exactly. A
p’sik reisha is a result of an action that one performs, knowing
that another action that involves an issur will be performed
as a result. For example, washing hands over one’s lawn. Washing the
hands is the foremost action and a by-product is the watering of the
grass. The p’sik reisha, i.e. the by product is ossur because
it is produced from one’s action.
There is room to
say that a by-product action that is produced without altering one’s
normal pattern of behavior is not even a p’sik reisha. In the above
case one is walking in the same normal manner and the device is
activated without intention or planning.
Would that mean that it is permitted to
walk through a door opened with an infra red beam?
No, it is not the
same. In the former case one does not derive any benefit from the
camera and its filming and thus its activation is not associated to
the person. In the latter case one purposely activates the
electronic eye to open the door and this is considered a direct
Likewise, if one
installs a light above the main entrance to illuminate on approach,
it must be deactivated before Shabbos, as it is engineered to
operate in that fashion and benefit is obtained from the action.
An anecdote: the
Jerusalem police installed security cameras in the old city and
around the Western Wall and the question arose as to whether one may
walk to the kossel on Shabbos. The leading rabbonim
instructed the police to install cameras that operate constantly –
not the type that are activated on sensing movement. The heter
was based on the reasoning that ‘being filmed’ without choosing to
do so and without actively doing anything to activate the filming is
What’s with motion detectors on Shabbos?
Some homes are
equipped with motion detectors installed in rooms, which are
activated when a person enters the room. Seemingly the same logic
would apply as above, namely that one has no interest that they
operate when one is at home and nothing personal is being done to
activate them. Nevertheless, since it is in one’s control one should
deactivate them or cover them before Shabbos.
However, if one
arrived at a home and they are not deactivated or covered, one may
enter the room.
These cases might
be compared to satellite photography, where anyone venturing outside
is photographed. Nevertheless one may venture outside on Shabbos,
because we do not operate the satellites nor are we interested in
I must emphasize
that all the above is not intended as a p'sak halacha in any
way, but as it is a frequently asked question, we chose to present