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February 4, 2013 / conservadox

A depressing start to my Manhattan life

I had just moved in to my Manhattan apartment when I tried to walk down the stairs.  I quickly noticed lights turning on all over the stair, on almost every floor.

It turns out that my building’s stairs have motion sensors which turn on the lights.  I immediately thought to myself “uh-oh- isn’t this a problem on Shabbat since its perhaps analogous to turning on the lights?” *

The good news: this is actually somewhat of a gray area.  Even within Orthodoxy, some rabbis say that walking by sensors is OK, at least where going to shul or a Shabbat meal is involved.  (For a broader discussion see here for a lenient view, here for a stricter view).

Nevertheless, I am most displeased.  Even though given my general view of the world and level of observance, I’m willing to follow a lenient Orthodox opinion or a strict Conservative one.  Nevertheless, I would like to be able to invite people frummer than I to Shabbos meals- and the sensor issue very much gets in the way.


*I note that most Conservative Jews think even this is OK – but since I took on this particular halacha long before I knew there were even arguments on both sides of the issue, I am perfectly happy to turn on whatever lights I am going to turn on before Shabbat begins.


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