Light on in fridge-What is one to do if the light of his fridge was left active over Shabbos?

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May one open or close the door of a fridge if the light was left active?

It is forbidden to open or close the door of the fridge if the fridge light was left active, and will inevitably turn on or off upon being opened or closed. This applies even if all one’s Shabbos food is in the fridge. Thus, if one opened the fridge and then realized the light was left on, it is forbidden to close it.[1]

A gentile: It is permitted to ask a gentile to open the door of the fridge even if the fridge light was left active and will inevitably turn on upon being opened.[2] This applies even if one will benefit from the light turning on.[3] This applies even if one can make do without opening the fridge and the matter is not a great need.[4] Some Poskim[5] write that it is best not to tell the gentile about the light, and rather to simply ask him to open it. It is likewise permitted to ask the gentile to close the door.[6] In order to be able to open the fridge the remainder of Shabbos without needing to ask the gentile each time to open and close it, one can either: a) One may hint to the gentile to remove or deactivate the light bulb.[7] [Some Poskim[8] rule one may even ask him directly to remove the bulb, if one needs to continuously open and close the fridge for the sake of one’s Shabbos food.[9] According to Admur, however, it is forbidden to directly tell him to remove it and it may only be done through a hint.[10]] or b) One is to leave the fridge door slightly open through placing a towel and the like in-between, and thus leave the light constantly on.[11]

A child: It is forbidden to ask a child to open the fridge even if the child is beneath the age of Chinuch and even if he is a mere infant.[12] Some Poskim[13], however, permit telling the child to remove the plug from the outlet while the fridge is off. This, however, only applies to old fridges which do not have any electricity working when the motor is off. It is however permitted to place a child that is below the age of Chinuch [less than 3 years old] in front of the door of the fridge [without telling him to open it][14], and if the child opens it on his own accord one may leave the fridge slightly ajar throughout the remainder of Shabbos.


[1] Igros Moshe 2:68; Beir Moshe Electri 6:9

[2] Igros Moshe 2:68; Beir Moshe Electri 6:9-10; SSH”K 31:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 276:15

The reason: As it is permitted to ask a gentile to perform an action which causes a Melacha to occur as a Pesik Reishei. [Admur 253:10 and Kitzur Hilchos Shehiya Vihatmana regarding a gentile moving a pot that is insulated within coals; 259:7 regarding a gentile opening a coal oven; 276:9 regarding gentile carrying candle; 277:5 regarding having a gentile shake a candle off one’s table; 253:28 regarding having him turn on heater and consequently heat food; 331:12 regarding having gentile soak garment in water; So also rule: Michaber 259:7; M”A 253:18; 259:11; 276:10; Hagahos Maimanis 6:20; Maharil 60; Minchas Shabbos 80:109; Tehila Ledavid 336:4; Tiferes Yisrael Kalkeles Shabbos 5:6; Shoel Umeishiv Gimel 3:3; M”B 259:21; 277:15; 337:10; Shaar Hatziyon 255:1; However, see M”B 276:30 and how he is explained in Piskeiy Teshuvos 276:15; See also Bris Olam Amira Lenachri 16 who is stringent by Biblical prohibitions]

Other opinions: Some Poskim question the basis of the validity of this Heter as perhaps the gentile’s action of opening the fridge is in truth not considered a Pesik Reishei after all, but rather a direct act. This means as follows: A Pesik Reishei is when one does an action that unintentionally causes an unrelated second action to occur. If, however one does an action that has dual functions, one of Issur and one of Heter, then one cannot consider it simply a Pesik Reishei when one is doing the action for the purpose of the permitted function, if it will inevitably perform also its forbidden function. This is similar to the switch of a water machine that accomplishes two things when turned on: 1) Turns on the light and 2) Opens the faucet. If one turns on the switch with intent to open the faucet and thus causes the light to turn on, this is not considered a Pesik Reishei but a direct act, being the purpose of the switch is also to turn on the light. [Rav SZ”A in SSH”K ibid and Shulchan Shlomo]

[3] Tehila Ledavid 336:4 based on M”A 253:41 and Admur 253:28 who allows the gentile to place the food near the heater and then turn on the heater; SSH”K 31:1 footnote 1; Poskim in Piskeiy Teshuvos 276:15 footnote 114

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that is forbidden to ask a gentile to perform a Pesik Reishei action if one receives benefit from the Melacha that is performed [i.e. Nicha Lei]. [Biur Gra end of  253, brought in Shaar Hatziyon 253:4; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; See SSH”K ibid]

[4] Igros Moshe ibid

[5] Beir Moshe ibid; See Rav SZ”A ibid

[6] SSH”K ibid

[7] Beir Moshe ibid; SSH”K ibid; See Admur 307:7

[8] Igros Moshe ibid

[9] The reason: As it is permitted to ask a gentile to perform a Melacha in a time of great need. [Igros Moshe ibid; Opinion in Rama 276:2 and in Admur 276:8; 331:7; 340:2; 446:6]

[10] Final ruling of Admur 276:8; 331:7; 340:2; 446:6 in Hagah

[11] Beir Moshe ibid

[12] Admur 343:5; 265:10; Ketzos Hashulchan 147:3; Beir Moshe ibid

[13] Beir Moshe ibid

[14] Admur 340:10; Vetzaruch Iyun from Admur 266:10, and so rules Ketzos Hashulchan 147 footnote 11, that a child even below Chinuch may only be given an object if the adult has no intent for the child to perform the prohibition with that object, while here the entire intent of bringing the child is for him to turn off the light. Hence on what bases is it permitted? Perhaps however one can say that since here one is not placing the item into the hands of the child and is simply placing him near the item, therefore it is more lenient.

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1 Comment

  1. Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein

    1. Question: [Tuesday, 18th Iyar 5780]
    ” Hi I was reading the article regarding if someone leaves the light on in the fridge on Shabbos you mentioned there that you may ask a guy to open and close the fridge.

    Furthermore you may even ask the guy to remove the lightbulb. However this may only be done in an indirect manner as explained in chapter 307, 7.

    You mentioned that some hold that you may even ask directly if it is needed for the Shabbos meal, however this is not the opinion of the Alter Rebbe as recorded in 276,8.

    I would like to understand:

    1. Isn’t turning off the light מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה which is only a שבות and would be permitted to ask a goy לצורך מצוה?

    2. If the Alter Rebbe would not permit directly asking the goy to remove the lightbulb (since it’s not a שבות) why would it be permitted to ask him indirectly isn’t it generally forbidden to benefit from a מלאכה done by a goy on shabbos unless a certain condition is met that the goy is doing it לדעת עצמו להשלים פעולתו.. But otherwise even for the sake of a mitzvah You may not indirectly ask a goy to do a מלאכה ?”

    1. Whether Melacha Sheiyno Tzericha Legufa is a Shvus/Rabbinical is a dispute in Poskim, and there is no clear ruling that fully arbitrates like the lenient opinion. Practically, we do not consider Melacha Sheiyno Tzericha Legufa as Rabbinical regarding Amirah Lenachri, and hence one may not ask him to do so even Letzorech Mitzvah

    2. You are correct in the case that there is a tangible direct benefit from which one receives from the Melacha that one may not even hint to the gentile, and many people do not know this Issur and think that every hint to a gentile is allowed. However, here there is no direct benefit and thus there is not an obligation to protest his actions as Admur rules in Kuntrus Achron, and this is the type of example that hinting to the gentile is allowed in. Practically, the Poskim rule that one may hint to a gentile to turn off a light on Shabbos so you can benefit from the darkness, as opposed to hinting to him to turn it on so you can benefit from the light.

    Sources on 1: See Admur Kuntrus Acharon 275:2; 278:2; 316:17; 328:3; 334:25; 340:2; 610:7; M”A 307:7; Maharshag 2:54; M”B 302:36; Ketzos Hashulchan chapter 138 footnote 5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 307:10; Amirah Lenachri [Yosef] 2 p. 202-205

    Sources on 2: See Admur 305 Kuntrus Achron 1; 307:7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 276:2

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