Saturday, November 12, 2011

Class: Attending conferences on Shabbos

I'm working on a shiur on "Attending conferences on Shabbos" at the moment. It's primarily intended for medical professionals, but it will have applications for others.

Because I've never attended a non-rabbinic conference, I'm relying on friends for input on the challenges involved, aside from the basic challenge of whether one may spend Shabbos in a professional milieu. I'd be glad to hear from readers: What issues are involved?

Here are the issues I am currently addressing:

Overarching Issues

* Is one permitted to study professional subjects on Shabbos?
* Is one permitted to put himself in a professional milieu for Shabbos?
* Is there a maris ayin issue involved in attending such a conference, even without violating any laws?

Positive Mitzvos
* How should one handle Shabbos and Havdalah candles in a hotel?
* Missing minyan for medical knowledge, or for parnassah
* Missing Krias haTorah for medical knowledge, or for parnassah

* Attaching nametag stickers
* Wearing a nametag in walking to a convention center
* Carrying in a hallway between a hotel and a convention center
* Entering a room which is unlocked via electronic key
* Entering a session, when an attendant will check off your name
* Use of elevators
* Use of escalators
* Use of doors which open via sensors

What am I missing? (Oy - This session is supposed to be one hour...!)

Update: The shiur audio is now on-line here.


  1. automatic electronic toilet and sink sensors

  2. Electricity on Shabat. I can understand why someone would want to be strict like the Chazon Ish just from faith that he knew what he was talking about (faith in the wise) but personally I have never been able to make any sense out of that particular place where he says using electricity is binyan.
    (It fits with the gemara but it introduces an outside principle not implicit in the gemara-- plus it is against all the rishonim)

    I once thought he had some support from a machloket in Kelim between the Rambam and Raavd. But subsequent thought convinced me that neither the Rambam or Raavad gave him any support.
    And the problem is in fact greater than this. The problem is that in the Chazon Ish most of the time he is absolutely brilliant. But then sometimes out of the blue he writes stuff that just make no sense.
    And don't go quoting Reb Shelomo Zalman Aurbach to me until you have read his book.--because he spent most of the time disproving the Chazon Ish but then put in some statement at the end to make it politically correct--(not for halacha he wrote)
    The best I could ever come up with to say that electricity should be forbidden is in the Rambam about a piece of burning coal so that a light bulb would be forbidden.

    Carrying a name tag I admit is a problem because of the opinion of the rambam about reshut harabim

  3. R' Torczyner,
    1. I think I mentioned to you in the past that a prominent RY from YU said in a public QA session that you can use any bulb for both candles and havdalah.
    2. Is there a chiyuv to ensure before shabbat you are in a location that is more than 18 minute walk from a minyan? Not for work/medical knowledge, but even if you are on vacation, visiting family, or any other reason?
    What do you mean, don't quote R' Shlomo Zalman? Of course in Meorei Esh he attempts to completely disprove previous halachic understandings of electricity, including that of the Chazon Ish. However, what do you mean that his psak forbidding electricity was to be "politically correct"? He forbids on a Torah level an incandescent lightbulb as you mention, and forbids ALL other electrical devices because of minhag. I am pretty confident that just as he davened maariv every night, he did not use electricity on shabbat.

  4. OK then you read the book more thoroughly than me. I missed the part in which as your say he also noticed that particular Rambam about the burning coal. If that is what he is standing on then you are right-a light bulb is forbidden according to that Rambam.

  5. Anonymous 12:30 AM -
    Good, thanks.

    I'm not clear on what you are suggesting here; aside from your claim against the Chazon Ish [which I'd be interested in seeing presented in a more substantive way], why reject issurim d'rabbanan?

    1. Yes, I have that in there, although I think there is significant reason to distinguish between Shabbos candles and the Havdalah candle.
    2. Indeed, that's part of the 'minyan' discussion I intend to have, building on Orach Chaim 90.

  6. I am pretty sure this RY did not distinguish in this manner, which is why I remember the QA session.

  7. * Missing minyan for medical knowledge, or for parnassah
    * Missing Krias haTorah for medical knowledge, or for parnassah

    just remember to include or going on vacation at the end of each list
    Joel Rich

  8. Joel-
    Not nearly enough time for the topic itself, let alone that one...

    See my comment to Joel

  9. asking a question if they will make you use a microphone.

    Back in the early undergrad years, a friend went to a conference out of town and there was a delay in the transportation - I don't remember if he took a bus or plane, but he was able to check in to hotel & conference right before shabbos. What would be allowed if you weren't able to check into hotel (or conference) before Shabbos?

    Additionally, I think that conference was a Jewish, not frum, organization. Would that make a difference in being allowed to attend if people - most likely tinokos shenishbu - are doing melachos for your (and others') behalf?

  10. Ok let me spill the beans. Originally when I read the Chazon Ish on electricity I thought it was great. Again the only thing I could see wrong was the making of an outside concept that had to be forced into the Gemara. I went to a Rosh Yeshiva in the Mir. This man I knew from previous experience is very smart. (Now he is a rosh yeshiva but then he was hiding between the shtenders.) I spoke to him about this Chazon Ish. He said an "adam gadol" told him: " It just is not so."
    I begged him to reveal the name but he refused. since then i also noticed that all the rishonim understand binyan differently than the chazon ish.
    Time passed and ten i started noticing thing slike this in general. for example the approach of the chazon ish on the rebbi shimshon in the beginning of mesechet kelim on the subject of "Even Mesama". (i was doing bava metzia at the time. I guess this you could look up around bava metzia page 103 or thereabouts) I admit maybe I am wrong but it just seems to be coming out of the blue. he says that r. shimshon ben avraham is saying something (two different opinions ) when at least the way I saw it it semed to not be what r shimshon was saying at all. I started noticing things like this in the Chazon Ish all the time. But hey I admit I am no scholar. (If i was I would be a rosh yeshiva myself.) If there is really anything to my observations the people to talk to would be the Roshei Yeshiva at the Mir in Brooklyn and Naphtali Yeger in Far Rockaway. (Maybe Shelom Haliua at Chaim Berlin. He is an old buddy of mine and I know he has a very analytical mind. he gives the top class there). These Torah scholars are legitimate. As for the rest i can say but most of them are just not scholars at all.

  11. According to "The Rebbe", when the Lubavitcher Rebbe lived in Paris he mostly lived 20 minutes and sometimes as much as 40 minutes away from a minyan.

  12. Rabbi:

    I am beginning to deal with these issues as I become more senior in my career and am invited to meetings with international colleagues that are intended to produce "world-wide" opinions in my specialty.

    My basic question would be:
    If someone could avoid all of the Issurim and accomplish Tefillah b'zamana (albeit not b'tzibbur), where does that leave us in terms of the "Overarching Issues"

    Thanks for tackling this important topic.


  13. Hi Samson,

    Thanks for your email. That's what I addressed in the first 30 minutes of the shiur; please listen to the audio now linked at the end of the post, and I hope that will help.

  14. Thank you - I will listen

  15. One thing that I did not hear covered was the issue of viewing materials on screens? everything today is presented in this format...any insights?

  16. Hi Samson,

    The viewing would seem to have the same status as the rest of the presentation - if there are others present, so that the non-Jewish presenter does it for their sake, then a Jew may watch also.

    I am researching the matter of a Jewish presenter.