Cell phones

How do I explain to someone who asks me why cell phones are not allowed on Shabbat ? What are the specific reasons ?

How did you explain to them why cooking on shabbat is not allowed?

How about why starting a fire on shabbat is not allowed? Or why it’s assur to read the newspaper on shabbat?

A little snarky–cell phones use only electricity–no fire. And newspapers? Some forbid and some permit–certainly not in the same category as either fire or electricity. He or she is asking what reasons puire electricity with no m’lakha is forbidden–it’s a great question. One rav told me that because khaza"l would have forbidden it the same way they forbade amira l’akum… It’s not an easy question. Those who say bone and those who say fire aren’t very persuasive (open and close gates on shabat and electricity just isn’t fire).

No one permits reading the newspaper on shabbat. Let’s get that out of the way. The halacha is very clear about newspapers. The fact that many don’t listen doesn’t change the halacha.

Now about electric and lights (including phone, computers, appliances…) the halacha is extremely complex and there are many opinions dating as far back as a century ago. Many opinions forbid lights and electric. Some are of the opinion that is it a biblical prohibition while others hold it is a rabbinical prohibition.

It is a great question.

Rav Yitzchak Abadi does not permit electric or lights on shabbat.

If one wants to understand the intricacies of the laws pertaining to electric and halacha there are literally dozens of seforim dedicated to this topic.

Cell phones are assur on shabbat. To understand why, please learn the topic thoroughly because it is a great question and it is a complex topic in halacha.

First, I love that we can have this discussion–thank you.

Second, i would say the main question is why R’ Abadi specifically held that electricity was a m’lakha or akin to one (including did he personally hold it was d’oraita or d’rabanan?). R’ Shlomo Zalman basically held it was a strict minhag, not really a d’rabanan (and how could it be given that it wasn’t usable then?). Filament lights of course are different as they are bishul. But a cellphone doesn’t have these. And these are important differences when there are times we have to do things on shabat we don’t usually do (e.g. for kholim including pregnant)–electricity is the most kal.

As to newspapers, preliminarily, even if you hold it falls under v’daber davar (as I gather R’ Abadi does), it is still not comparable to starting a fire which is explicit in the tora. As to it being permitted, I think the onus should be on the side that wants to forbid it–the classical sources discuss business related readings, and then into modern times, concerns of business/market news and commeercial advertising. But with those caveats, R. Ya’akov Emden (She’eilas Ya’avetz 1:162) permits those who enjoy it to read newspapers on Shabbos. More contemporary is R. Eliezer Melamed (Harchavos Peninei Halakhah , Shabbos 22:12:11) who feels even the ads are different now as they are brand awareness rather the 50% off fur coats most of the time.

Regarding the question of electricity etc.
You are correct that cellphones would have a different status vis a vis lights etc. Nevertheless its a moot point in day to day life. When there is a medical need all phones are permitted, conversely on a normal shabbos any type of usage is prohibited. (by usage, I’m sure you know what I mean) The scholarly difference is exactly that and wont pertain to the rule, just to the exception.

Regarding newspapers and all non Torah related reading material I refer you to the Shulchan Aruch, siman 307, seifim 12-17, for the “classical sources” to this halacha. Forgive me for being contrary to your point but I believe the onus is on those that want to disregard these Halachos, not the other way around.
Finally as has been pointed out previously, this website is wholly based on the rulings of Rav Abadi who in this case feels very strongly that on this issue of “shtari hedyotis” klal yisroel has veered tremendously without any regard for the halacha and wholesale laxity of this mitzvah is evident in the fact that its considered such a “chiddush” to follow the Mechaber and Ramah in this case.

Thanks so much. Of course the website should reflect the opinions of R’ Abadi and it’s why we all come here. What all of you do is such an ezra to k’lal yisrael. Thank you again for explicating such.

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The main reason cell phones aren’t allowed on Shabbat is for reading work related material or newspapers ? Is there an issue with the battery? Light? Texting? Because you said it’s different from electricity.

I would never use my phone on Shabbat . But people who do have asked me to explain and I just want to have the correct answers.

I’m afraid you misunderstood. I was addressing 2 different topics. The problem with a cell phone is not because of work related papers. (Although it would also be prohibited for that reason).

The differences between all the different issues of light, batteries, electricity etc are purely academic. There is absolutely no leniency for regular use of a cell phone on shabbos, and how it’s classified to be prohibited has no practical application except for an emergent nature in which case it would be permitted anyways.