Picture the scene. It was during our holiday in Miami, and we were invited out for one meal on Shabbos, but my wife had bought things for the other meal, and many of these had to be in the fridge.
Just before Shabbos, my wife reminded me to “remove the light bulb” from the fridge, or tape up the switch. These are those small bar fridges in Motels. I opened up the fridge and noticed that it was nothing I had seen before. There were 4 tiny LED lights which had all manner of wiring to them which seemed inaccessible to me (without breaking anything) and I didn’t have time to try and see how the mechanism worked etc.
What do you do. It was one of those cases where I had to “pasken” on the spot.
Firstly I reasoned that the prohibition was not a Torah prohibition because LED lights cannot be considered a flame, so they must be a DeRabbonon (I knew that in Minchas Asher Chelek 1, he felt that LED lights were forbidden because of Makeh B’Patish. This was a big Chiddush which he acknowledged, and I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it. At the time I had just received the Minchas Asher and skimmed the Tshuva. Now I can look it up and study it in some depth. Something tells me that others won’t agree with that reasoning because מכה בפטיש is essentially the act of completing a vessel of sorts and I can’t see how the vessel (LED) is not complete. To me, it is complete, it is just not activated.)
Then I ran downstairs and got some pieces of cardboard (promotional cards for tours etc) and stuck them together with tape and completely covered the LED light. In my mind, I was thereby indicating that this was a Psik Reishe D’Lo Ichpas Lei, a direct action that I didn’t care about. That is generally worse than a Psik Reishe D’Lo Nicha Lei in the sense that it is generally forbidden, but there are opinions that for a Miderabbonon it is okay. See for example קג, א; עה, א, ‘הצד חלזון’ מאירי מסכת שבת. Clearly, by covering this LED light up, I was indicating it was something I didn’t need or want to derive benefit from (we had another light on all shabbos so we could easily see what was in the fridge).
Finally, it was for a צורך גדול a great need, given that it was our food source.
Putting these three together, that’s what we did, and opened and shut the fridge door.
Yes, one could close it with an elbow, or have two people closing it, but I’m not sure the two people further Hetter would work here because it’s something that can be done easily by one person.
I haven’t asked Rav Schachter if I did the right thing or whether my reasoning was sound B’Dieved. I will bank it up with other questions as they arise, and then ask them as a group because I don’t like to bother such a busy man.
Interestingly, a frum fellow, a Chabadnik, turned up the Shabbos after, and asked my wife what we were doing about the fridge. My wife told him what I had done the week before and he said he could not see how that helped. I sought him out on the first floor (we were on the second floor) and explained my reasoning, and he insisted I was wrong because the LED light was forbidden by Torah Law as a Tolda of fire. I explained there was no heat or filament, but he was insistent that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and told me that he was a Talmid Muvhak of the famous Rav Hirshprung. I persisted that I thought he was not up to date with his knowledge of electricity on Shabbos, and that this was really like turning on a fan on Shabbos (a Rabbinic prohibition unless one follows the view of the Chazon Ish).
On Shabbos, I ended up in the same Shule as him “the shule” in Miami led by Rabbi Lipskier, and he approached me and said “you were right. I spoke to him” (and he pointed to a youngish person who apparently came from a family of Talmidei Chachomim) and he affirmed that it was D’Rabbonon as you claimed. I responded that maybe both of us should review Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchoso and electricity when we got home.
I’m still not sure if what I did was permitted in the particular circumstance. Happy to hear your views.