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Glow Sticks on Shabbat

Here’s an interesting question from the realm of the laws of Shabbat. Can one initiate the “lighting” of a glow stick on Shabbat? The light comes from a chemical process, no spark, flame, etc. Here is a description of how a glow stick works. Atoms are excited, does that mean that it should be forbidden? The only discussion that I could find about it is here, if you are aware of more, please leave a reference in the comments.

What prohibited act might apply to it? Burning? Dyeing? Should we say that it produces the same end result as fire and therefore it should be forbidden? How far can we go in applying ancient sources to newer technologies?

I am off to a Boy Scout camping weekend, so I’ll think a bit more about it while I’m under the stars.

Update: Thanks to Manuscriptboy’s reference, I was able to find a discussion about glowsticks, or “sticklights,” in Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch’s Melumdei Milḥamah ( pp. 159-163 in the first edition and in Teḥumin, vol. 13, p. 142-5). Rabbi Rabinovitch finds no reason to forbid their use on shabbat, although one should remember that he was speaking about their use in a military context. Now that I know what they are called in Hebrew, “sticklight,” I was able to find a few other discussions of their use. See here and here

Update II: Rabbi Dov Lior discusses glow sticks on Shabbat in his Devar Hevron, Orah Hayyim, addresses glowsticks in responsum 386 on pp. 200-201. Rabbi Lior seems to be of the opinion that glow sticks are probably prohibited because of Molid.

4 Responses to “Glow Sticks on Shabbat”

  1. 1
    tk:

    Shut Toras Chaim on hilchos Shabbos by R’ Daniel Travis has a similar Teshuva on hand warmer packs that heat thru chemical interactions. Do not have it in front of me will check how he comes out later.

  2. 2
    zach:

    Should we say that it produces the same end result as fire

    It doesn’t. It only produces light, not heat. (And that, BTW, is the biggest reason regarding why most uses of electricity on Shabbat SHOULD be permissible. See http://www.daat.ac.il/DAAT/english/Journal/broyde_1.htm.)

    My chemistry nerd son is always asking me about these issues. So I often find myself giving him meta-halachic reasons why something is not permissible on Shabbat.

  3. 3
    Manuscriptboy:

    R Nachum Rabinowitz discusses glowsticks in his Shut Melumde Milhamah. From what I remember, he permits their use.

  4. 4
    harry Perkal:

    Gee- I turn on lights on Shabbat, and I do not think I am violating Shabbat, at least the spirit of Shabbat.

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