Jerusalem – Electric Company Rapidly Automating; Machmirim Will Be Able to Use Electricity Within a Year


    Jerusalem – After years of seeking a solution to the problem of electricity generated by Jewish work on Shabbos, a solution is on the horizon. A rabbinical committee founded several months ago to seek a solution to the problem sent a delegation last Tuesday to visit the power station in Ashkelon to study the immense advances made towards full automation to produce electricity free of chillul Shabbos.

    The rabbinical committee touring the facility included Rav Asher Weiss, av beis din of Badatz Darchei Hora’ah and rosh yeshivas Darchei Torah; Rav Simcha Kook, rav of Rechovot; Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, moreh tzedek in Rav Shmuel Wozner’s beis din; Rav Mattisyahu Deutsch, rav of Ramat Shlomo; Rav Mordechai Gross, av beis din of Chanichei Yeshivos; Rav Chaim David Shuvaks, member of the Belz Machzikei Hadas Badatz; Rav Mendel Shafran, dayan in Rav Landau’s beis din; Rav Aryeh Devir, and Rav Levi Yitzchak Halpern, chairman of the Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem. They were accompanied by the Electric Co. directorship chairman Motti Friedman, Executive Director Amos Laskar, Vice Executive Director Moshe Behar, Production Dept. Director Arik Kushnir and Deputy Finance Minister R’ Yitzchak Cohen.

    Arik Kushnir said, “We sought cooperation with the members of the rabbinical committee. Many chareidi clients, especially from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, avoid using electricity on Shabbos, and instead had installed generators which often malfunctioned and were even dangerous. After several serious accidents and cases of electrocution which miraculously didn’t end with loss of life, our administration turned to the Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem, headed by Rav Levi Yitzchak Halprin, and asked his assistance to produce electricity free of chillul Shabbos.”

    “The technological systems in the power stations were not built according to halachic criteria, so we had to invest considerable financial and technological resources to find solutions to the halachic problems on the way to full automatization. Non-essential administrative actions which didn’t have to be performed on Shabbos were shifted to the weekdays despite possible risks. We did surveys and inspections to see what other changes could be made.

    “The solution had to be systemic and comprehensive throughout power stations around the country. It had to be a 100% halachic solution. Today, we have reached a state where all heating systems, command systems and other supportive systems are fully automated. The systems can correct themselves for light to medium malfunctionings. Control room workers only have to supervise that everything is going according to plan, but no human intervention is necessary. We updated many of the old systems and all of the new systems we plan to build will be fully compliant with halacha.”

    Kushnir says that he believes the complete turnover of the systems will still take a few years, since problems still remain for which solutions have not yet been found. “We’re doing everything to reach the target we set for ourselves: preventing chillul Shabbos and danger to life,” he says.

    The Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem confirms the progress made so far.

    “We’re reached the penultimate stage, and I hope that within a year, every Jewish home, including the most machmir, will be able to use electricity on Shabbos,” says a senior executive of the Institute. “I estimate that we’ve solved about 80% of over 2000 problems. We still have a way to go to find complete engineering solutions for a range of complicated problems.” He said he would prefer not talking about the project until it was complete, to ensure that blessing rests on their efforts.

    The executive praised the Electric Company’s cooperation and said it was “excellent.” “It began during the days of Executive Director Rafi Peled and has continued until today. The directorship, the chief administration, down to the workers have cooperated extraordinarily, and committed themselves to go with us the entire way. They’ve invested tremendously in the project. Since power stations are a vital strategic facility, we couldn’t base a solution on non-Jewish workers and had to find another solution.”

    Rav Simcha Kook, the rav of Rechovot, is a member of the Rabbinical Committee who recently toured the Ashkelon power station. “The administration has gone far beyond its ability to come towards us,” he says. The electric system is the largest and most vital of the state’s utilities. Producing electricity without chillul Shabbos is not only great news for the chareidi community, but all Jews in Israel, and of course will give much nachas ruach in heaven. The erudite rabbis in the committee combined with Rav Halpern’s amazing technological knowledge will ensure that the matter is arranged in the best way possible, including those problems that were not yet solved.

    “I told the employees that because they are seeking a solution to the chillul Shabbos, every second of the day they are fulfilling the verse “Keep the Shabbos day holy” which refers to remembering Shabbos during the weekdays. Despite the huge financial investment, Shabbos is the source of all blessing and no one will lose from this. To the contrary. Progress has been rapid in the past few months, and large parts of the command room is already fully automated. I hope that by next Pesach, everyone will be able to use electricity without the slightest hesitation.”

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    14 years ago

    I find it interesting that when letters come out to ban things or ban people then all the rav says gam ani mitztaref but here by the electric company you have 30 rabbanim strolling into a power plant

    14 years ago

    R Halpern is perhaps the world’s greatest expert in solving these things, and when he’ll feel ready to say that it’s OK without any shaylos then I’m sure everyone will accept it. When he (or someone from his Machon) says that there were 2000 shaylos, and so far 400 remain unsolved, that means it’s not yet time.