Car Lights Mistakenly Left On

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What may be done if one realizes on Shabbos or Yom Tov that one’s car lights — either the headlights or the interior lights — were mistakenly left on?

Discussion: In order of halachic preference, the following may be done:

  • If a non-Jew who sees the lights on offers to shut them off, it is permitted to accept his offer. Although generally it is forbidden to directly benefit from an action of a non-Jew on Shabbos, even if he offers to perform a forbidden melachah on his own, shutting off lights is considered an indirect benefit — a preventive action, which is permitted.121
  • If there is no non-Jew who offers to shut off the lights, it is permitted to hint to a non-Jew that the lights should be turned off, e.g., “It is a pity that the battery is going to die.”
  • If the hint will not be understood, and if the battery will in all probability die and cause a substantial loss to the owner of the vehicle, it is permitted to ask the non-Jew directly to extinguish the lights. This is permitted because most poskim maintain that extinguishing a light on Shabbos is merely a rabbinic prohibition,122 and the basic halachah123 is that it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform a rabbinic prohibition on one’s behalf in order to prevent a substantial loss.124

121. Based on O.C. 307:2 and Mishnah Berurah 11 and O.C. 334:25 and Mishnah Berurah 61. For an in-depth explanation, see Contemporay Halachah Discussion to Chapter 276.

122. See Mishnah Berurah 278:3.

123. See Mishnah Berurah 307:22 and Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 334:57.

124. Melachim Omnayich 4:8 and 6, note 4. See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 30, note 14.