Last week on Tuesday night (March 20, 2012), the Herzliya city council voted 12-5 in favor of public bus transportation on Shabbat. Last month Tel Aviv was the first city to decide to request buses. The city does not expect that the ministry of Transportation will agree to its request, but it plans to push the issue to the Israeli supreme court if it has to.
Both in Tel Aviv and Herzliya the mayor is supportive of the demand for Shabbat transporation. This is not true in all cities. Petach Tikva and Hadera community members are also advocating for their own city councils to join other cities in making formal requests to the Ministry of Transportation for Shabbat bus transportation. The Petach Tikva mayor says that such a proposal violates the consensus of the city coalition. The Hareda mayor says that this is not a city issue, but rather a matter for the Ministry of Transportation. Continue reading
Tel Aviv is taking the first steps in a battle to provide public transportation in Tel Aviv on Jewish holidays and Shabbat. For the last two Shabbatot Israel Hofshit has been staging protests at bus stops around town. Protesters stand waiting for buses that never come, bearing signs demanding that Tel Aviv provide its citizen with the option of public transportation. When Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai saw the first of the protests, he began sharing them on his Facebook page making supportive comments. Last week, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai came out publicly to the media in support of the idea. Then on Monday night the Council voted 13-7 in favor of a proposal to set up a Shabbat bus service. Continue reading
The latest in extremist Halachic innovations: turning on the tap in high rise buildings violates Shabbat. Many high rise buildings use an electricity driven pump to bring water up from ground level to the upstairs apartments. Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landa from Bnei Brack decided that the electric pumps posed a problem because their motor does not run continuously on Shabbat. His solution: force the pump to run continuously.
This isn’t the first time someone has tried to prohibit something out of concern for a motor being turned on. Some people have claimed that refrigerator doors shouldn’t be opened because it might cause the refrigerator compressor to turn on. One rabbi last year declared Shabbat elevators in violation of Shabbat because the extra weight would make the engine work harder. There are even people who put all the water they want to use for Shabbat in jugs for fear that drawing tap water will make municipal water pumps work harder.
It would be easy to ridicule these chumrot as yet one more example of extremism, but we learn much more as Jews by looking at why they seem crazy. As Jews it isn’t enough to simply feel something is wrong. We need to name why so we can understand our deepest convictions and use them to build a better Judaism. Close examination of the arguments for and against such prohibitions teach us a lot about the core values at the heart of Judaism.
Obviously there were no electric motors in the time of Moses nor in the period of the Mishnah and Talmud. So where do these prohibitions come from? Why is there any ban on electricity at all? Is this a better Judaism or a Judaism that focuses on a few halachic principals and ignores other equally important principles? Continue reading