- Question: [Thursday, 9th Marcheshvan, 5783]
My two year old child loves playing with the fan on Shabbos, turning it off and back on. There is no stopping her and she simply won’t listen to our protests. Is there any issue with us benefiting from the fan if she turned it off and then back on, or if it was originally off and then she turns it on, on Shabbos? Likewise, would the law be any different if she turned it off and we screamed at her and then she turned it back on?
You may receive benefit on Shabbos from the fan that your child turned on. However, you may never explicitly tell your child to turn it on.
Explanation: In general, it is forbidden for one to benefit from forbidden actions that are done by a Jew on Shabbos. Likewise, it is forbidden to benefit from the forbidden actions done by a Gentile on Shabbos when done on behalf of a Jew. Now, regarding whether one may benefit from the action of a child who transgressed Shabbos, the Poskim explain that if a child on his own does a prohibition on behalf of an adult, then it follows the same laws as Amirah Lenachri to a Gentile, and hence, it is forbidden for all Jews to benefit from it on Shabbos and one must wait after Shabbos Kdei Sheyasu. If, however, the child did so on his own behalf, then it is permitted to benefit from it on Shabbos, just like is the law regarding a Gentile who did an action on his own behalf. If, however, one instructed or encouraged the child to do the forbidden action on Shabbos, then it is considered as if the adult himself has done the forbidden action, and if he knew that it was forbidden, then it is forbidden for him to benefit from it forever. This, however, only applies to a child who has reached the age of Chinuch for negative commands. If, however, the child has not reached the age of understanding at all, and hence does not listen when told to do something or not to do something due to lack of understanding, then one may benefit from his actions done on Shabbos. Based on all the above it is clear that in the event that the child turned off the fan and turned it back on, that one may still continue to benefit from it, as the child does so on his own behalf. Furthermore, another concept in Maaseh Shabbos is that one cannot prohibit a benefit that one would have anyways had if not for his actions, and hence since the fan was originally on, the child does not have ability to prohibit its use upon the adults due to him turning it off and then back on. This would apply even regarding a Gentile. Furthermore, in our case above one would be able to be lenient to benefit from the fan even if the fan was not on before Shabbos, and was initially turned on by him on Shabbos as the child in the above case is not of an age of understanding, and even if he was, he is doing so for his own behalf. If, however, the child has reached the age of understanding and turned on the fan due to a direct instruction or encouragement of the adult, then it is forbidden to benefit from it.
Sources: See regarding the status of Maaseh Shabbos of a Katan: Biur Halacha 325:10 “Eino Yehudi Shemila”; P”M 325 A”A 22; Maor Hashabbos 18 footnote 14; Piskeiy Teshuvos 318:11; See regarding benefiting from an unnecessary Maaseh Shabbos-such as if person on his won turned light off and then back on: See Chulin 40b; Zayis Ranan 2:5; Imreiy Yosher 1:129; Mahrshag 2:130; M”B 253:96; Migdanos Eliyahu 2:150; 3:16; Michzeh Eliyahu 1:53; Piskeiy Teshuvos 318:5; See regarding the Biblical prohibition to tell or encourage any child of any age to do a prohibition: Admur 343:5; 265:10; Michaber 343:1; M”B 343:4; Ketzos Hashulchan 147:3; Kaf Hachaim 343:54; Piskeiy Teshuvos 343:4 footnote 53; See regarding the definition of the age of Chinuch for a child regarding negative commands: Admur 343:3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 343:4 and 7