Halakhic controversy on social networks fuels discussion

Debate on social networks regarding shutting gas stove on holidays by indirect causation; Some rabbis permit, others forbid.

Mordechai Sones ,

Gas flame
Gas flame

A robust discussion on social networks clarified using indirect causation, called in Torah terminology grama, to shut a gas stove on a holiday by using a spoon to separate between the safety sensor and the flame, thereby extinguishing the flame. Some rabbis permit the described practice and others forbid it.

While on Shabbat cooking is strictly forbidden, one is allowed to cook on Yom Tovim, such as Rosh Hashana, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot, but a burner can only be lit from an already burning flame or be lit before the holiday begins. It is forbidden to light or extinguish flames on the holiday. Using gas fuel makes this prohibition problematic safety-wise, as people prefer not to leave gas fires burning all night and many use electric hotplates instead.

The discussion began after a video made rounds on a WhatsApp group demonstrating a method of extinguishing a flame using grama. The deliberations precipitated queries to rabbis seeking to ascertain the practice's permissibility.

Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora from the Yeshiva website explained the subject's halakhic ramifications, concluding "whoever is lenient has halakhic authorities on whom he can rely, but it is preferable to extinguish a gas flame by allowing water to boil over on to the flame and then making use of that water."

A number of rabbis wished to warn the public not to use a spoon to extinguish the fire in this manner as they hold grama not to be the case there, the time elapsing between insertion of the spoon and the fire's extinguishing being too short.

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of the city of Ramat Gan and a leading Torah scholar, wrote "Grama is permitted only for the purpose of a sick person, great suffering, or great monetary loss. None of these are present in this case." The rabbi notes that the spoon method is also unsafe, and that safety carries even more gravity than halakhic prohibition.

According to Rabbi Ariel, there is an inexpensive technological solution from Machon Tzomet, an institute that deals with technology and halakha, that allows gas to be extinguished through a recognized grama on YomTov and those wishing to extinguish a gas flame during the holiday should use it.

All questions of halakhic practice should be directed to a competent and faithful Orthodox rabbi.