7 January 2010 - 21 Tevet 5770 - כ"א טבת ה' אלפים תש"ע
M'chabeh - Extinguishing a fire Print E-mail

Last month we looked at the prohibition of lighting a fire on Shabbat; this month we consider the opposite act: extinguishing a fire.

One of the acts performed during the construction of the Mishkan was extinguishing fires in order to produce charcoal. Here, extinguishing the fire yields a positive benefit.

If there is no positive benefit (extinguishing only to conserve fuel or prevent damage to property), technically, one may extinguish a fire, but this is forbidden under Rabbinical law. The difference between the two acts is intention. Since the result is exactly the same, the Rabbinic prohibition against extinguishing is more severe than other Rabbinic prohibitions.

If there is even a remote possibility that a fire may threaten life, one may extinguish it himself, or one may ring the Fire Department.

This brings us to the most important application we are likely to be faced with: the Shabbat candles have fallen onto the tablecloth, igniting it. What to do?

There are three options. One may pour liquid around the fire (so that it will go out on its own when it reaches the liquid), one may place a container of liquid next to the flames (the fire will ignite the container, it will burst, and the liquid will pour out on the flames), or one may carry the burning tablecloth to a place where it will burn itself out without damage being done, ie the bathtub.


Adapted from The Shabbas Home by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen


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