PART I: A LETTER FROM THE IGGUD CHACHMEI HAMAARAV
Until about a week ago, along with almost every rabbi and Jewish leader in America, I had never heard of an Israeli rabbinic organization calling itself Iggud Chachmei HaMaarav (“Association of Sages of the West”). But with just one published letter, this rather obscure group has got its 15 minutes of fame, soaring to dizzying heights of notoriety that it was probably neither expecting nor prepared for.
Established in 2018, mainly but not exclusively by Orthodox rabbis of Moroccan origin, Iggud Chachmei HaMaarav claims to have set itself up to battle extremist trends within religious Judaism: “Throughout the ages, the sages of Israel have been able to express their views respectfully and freely in all areas of the Torah, recognizing and understanding that they will not always agree, while still remaining faithful and true to our many traditions, in mutual respect despite differences of opinion, as long as they do not deviate from the principles of the Sages – and things must return to be that way again!”
In the view of those who established the Iggud: “Huge transformations are taking place before our eyes, and as a result [of these changes], abandoned ideological differences… block any fresh ideas via threats or boycotts initiated by groups trying to ensure that their opinion will dominate. We see this phenomenon as a terrible distortion of the Torah as well as a violation of the dignity of the Torah; it darkens people’s eyes and causes wisdom to be lost.”
The Iggud’s founding mission statement boldly declares the need to “find a cure for this disease”, and adds: “we are convinced that the approach of Sephardic scholars – an approach that is not yet reflected in the public arena – offers a remedy that will bring us much closer to formulating such a cure.”
I have nothing meaningful to say regarding the efficacy of their proposed cure, but I do know that the storm created by the Iggud last week was not only condemned by “groups trying to ensure that their opinion will dominate” through the use of “threats or boycotts”. On the contrary, the well-meant but frankly bizarre attempt by the Iggud to get ahead of the curve, by offering a solution for a real problem facing those isolated by stay-at-home orders during this coronavirus crisis, was dismissed by a range of respected rabbinic scholars best known for their eagerness to adopt lenient positions on a range of vexing halachic issues. As if this wasn’t enough, a number of the signatories to the Iggud’s missive either withdrew their signatures or claimed never to have signed the letter in the first place.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Before we begin to delve into the political train wreck that accompanied the release of the Iggud’s letter, evident in the reactions to it across the board, first let me introduce you to the actual letter itself, seen here for the first time in full English translation (slightly edited and modified, to take into account differences in idiom and word organization that exist between Hebrew and English):
We have been asked by a learned Jew whether it is permissible to utilize the ZOOM app for Seder night, to connect elderly people to their family members, as they are unable to be with them due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, so that they can all do the Seder together via the app.
One screen would be in the home of the elderly person and another screen in the home of their family, and [using ZOOM] they would be able to see each other, speak to each other, and hear one another. The [ZOOM] program and the computer would already be on before the festival begins, and nobody will have to do anything at all on yomtov itself. The [halachic] question is this: can one use this app for the purposes of making the Seder [in the way that we have described] as a [one-off] leniency to be used only in this time of great emergency?
There are three central issues relevant to this question:
1. Operating the device on yomtov
2. Weekday-type behavior (‘uvdin dechol’)
3. The concern that people will use this leniency in the future when it is not called for
1. Concerning the permissibility of turning on electricity on yomtov, it is well known that the Sephardic rabbinic scholars and North African rabbinic scholars were divided on the matter, but almost all of them permitted it, including the “Rishon Letzion” Rabbi Benzion [Meir Hai] Uziel, Rabbi Raphael [Aharon] ben Shimon, the Rabbis Yosef and Shalom Messas, Rabbi Moshe Malka, Rabbi David Chelouche (may the memory of the righteous be a blessing), among others. Many Ashkenazic rabbinic scholars prohibited it (‘de’rabannan’, i.e. only as a rabbinic level prohibition).
However, in our situation there is no need to operate the device, as it will be on already before the holiday starts. Although there is a slight concern that perhaps [the screen] will go dark and someone will have to turn it on again. Regarding this concern it would appear that we can rely on those who have permitted [turning on an electric device on yomtov] ‘lechatchila’.
2. As to the question of whether this is [the kind of] weekday-type behavior that will lead the holiday to be treated like a weekday, it would appear that it is possible to be lenient to do a mitzvah, as the Talmudic sages permitted “shvut deshvut” (‘two degrees’ of rabbinic prohibition) when a mitzvah is involved, such as measuring the volume of a mikvah on yomtov in order to permit that mitzvah to be upheld.
3. As to whether the concern that people will end up using this app on other holidays when there is no urgent need, it is clear to everyone that this entire leniency is only here due to the current emergency. Furthermore, the holiday of Pesach is unique, especially Seder night, which everyone sees as a special event marking the covenant between God and Israel. Additionally, for many young Jews, if not for the connection between them and their grandfather and grandmother, it is possible they would not even attend the Seder, and it is this connection with the grandparents in particular that prompts them to join in the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus and of eating matza. And for this generation, it is a matter of extreme urgency to turn the hearts and minds of the youth towards their forebears.
Additionally, there is another relevant issue: the need to lift the sadness from adults and elders, to motivate them to continue and go on with their lives, and to remove from them depression and weariness, which could result in a feeling of total desperation.
Therefore, we think it is appropriate to permit this, emphasizing that [our lenient ruling in this regard] is only due to the extreme circumstances, and is only for the purpose of Seder night this year (5780) for those who are need of such a solution. And in the same way as we permit healing the sick on Shabbat even if they are not fatally ill, so that we heal them from their illness, this too is a similar situation.
The above letter was signed by no less than fifteen rabbis, the most prominent of whom was undoubtedly Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, an eminent scholar and the head of the main Sephardic bet din in Jerusalem. Cosignatories included, among others, Rabbi Yehuda Chelouche, son of one of the rabbis quoted in the letter, Rabbi Shlomo Benhamu, Sephardic chief rabbi of Kiryat Gat, and Rabbi David Lankry, a young dynamic rabbi who spearheads efforts to push North African Sephardic customs in Israel and beyond. Curiously, one of the countersignatures was Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, identified in the letter as director of the Sephardic Educational Center, but who is better known to us in Los Angeles as the rabbi of Westwood Village Synagogue, having replaced the retired Rabbi Abner Weiss in 2018.
In any event, as it turns out, the Iggud’s letter was far from the last word on this matter. Many senior halachic authorities far better known beyond their immediate orbits weighed in on the topic, with devastating effect, in the days after the letter’s publication. Moreover, a number of the signatories later qualified their association with the letter’s contents quite considerably. But before we delve into all of the reactions alongside the stormy reception to the letter’s publication, let us first take a look at the background to the ruling itself, by exploring a broad survey of the halachic literature that relates to the use of electricity on yomtov.
PART II: EXPLORING THE USE OF ELECTRICITY ON YOMTOV
Legacy Judaica Auctions is a fairly new purveyor of Jewish collectibles based in New Jersey, and last Thursday it held its seventh auction. The sale was conducted entirely online, with bidders from across the world competing for 247 lots.
I am an avid collector of antiquarian rabbinic books and ephemera, and in ordinary circumstances I would have closely followed the auction; however, although it hardly needs to be said, just at the moment we are not in the midst of ordinary circumstances. Nevertheless, there was one item that caught my attention – an item particularly pertinent to this hot halachic topic that had so clogged up my inbox and WhatsApp over the past week.
The item in question was Lot #85, titled “Controversial responsa by the Oruch HaShulchan regarding electricity on Yom Tov, New York, 1903”. The catalog description referred potential buyers to a concise halachic ruling written by the towering rabbinic scholar, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein of Novardok, published in the pages of a short-lived early twentieth-century American rabbinic journal, Beit Vaad Lachachomim – “the first rabbinic journal in America to address the waning of religious observance and the lack of unity among [Jewish] religious authorities in America” – two issues of which were on sale at the auction, one of which contained Rabbi Epstein’s ruling.
Astonishingly, in his ruling Rabbi Epstein permits turning on electric lights on Jewish festival days, such as Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Rosh Hashana. These are ‘yomtov’ days, when Shabbat restrictions are mandated, with the exception of anything that falls under the rubric of ochel nefesh – the need to eat. So, for example, transferring objects from domain to domain as well as transporting them in a public area are allowed, as is any prohibition that relates to cooking, such as the use of fire. Even so, one is not allowed to initiate a fire on yomtov – rather, one may only use fire lit before yomtov began, or transfer fire from an existing flame to a new point of use, and one may certainly not extinguish fire on yomtov under any circumstances.
In which case, how could Rabbi Epstein have allowed someone to turn on an electric light on yomtov? Surely that is initiating a ‘fire’ which is prohibited?
The basic principle behind the relaxation of Shabbat laws on festival days is that if it is better to do the food preparation on yomtov, then doing it on yomtov is fine. However, if it could easily have been done before yomtov, had you properly planned things out in advance, and if doing it before yomtov would not affect the quality or freshness of the food, then one is prohibited from doing it on yomtov.
In addition to this there is another restriction – one cannot make use of something on yomtov that did not exist before the holiday, famously represented in the Talmud by the case of ‘an egg that was laid on yomtov’. This prohibition, known as ‘molid’, is the reason one cannot light up a new flame by striking a match, for example, although one can use an existing flame to light up a new fire elsewhere, as this new fire is seen as an extension of the existing one.
What all of this means is that there are two central questions regarding electricity on yomtov. Firstly, does using electricity fall under the rubric of ochel nefesh? If it does, one can use electricity for anything else as well, as once something is permitted no differentiation is made. In any event, the rabbinic consensus regarding this question is ‘yes’, electricity falls under the ochel nefesh rubric, which means one can cook food on yomtov using an electric stove or oven.
The second question is whether or not activating electricity is considered molid. And it is here that rabbinic opinion is deeply divided, with some considering the act of turning on an electric light or appliance as creating something new, while others disagree. Rabbi Epstein, in his published ruling of 1903, clearly falls into the latter group, and he was “minded to permit turning on electricity on yomtov”, as in his opinion the source of electricity preexisted the holiday, which means that flicking the electric switch is akin to using an existing flame to light up a new one by extending the existing electric current to a lightbulb or appliance.
But Rabbi Epstein added a revealing rider at the end of his ruling, which somewhat blunted its value: “This is what I think, in my humble opinion, based on my understanding of the way electricity works, although in most of the towns in my area there is no [electricity], and I am not able to look into this matter in any kind of practical detail.”
Strangely enough, no such reticence clouded the opinion of the controversial interwar rabbinic leader of Montreal, Rabbi Yehuda Yudel Rosenberg. In 1924 he published a pamphlet specifically addressing this matter, titled Me’or Hachashmal. And although he was more notorious for his fanciful publications recounting the exploits of the Maharal of Prague and his Golem – all of them later exposed as literary forgeries – Rabbi Rosenberg was also a serious scholar whose book on tractate Nedarim, Yadot Nedarim, had by that time already become a standard study aid for those studying this particular Talmudic tractate.
In Rabbi Rosenberg’s view there was no doubt whatsoever that turning on a light during yomtov should not be considered molid, and he therefore permitted it ab initio. Jarringly, he even permitted turning the lights off, for a variety of reasons that he enumerates and explains.
During my early years living in Los Angeles, one of the rabbis I worked with once told me that he was descended from Rabbi Rosenberg through his father, and in his fully observant home as he was growing up, they would turn lights on and off during yomtov. I have heard that Rabbi Rosenberg has other descendants who continue this practice, but truthfully his halachic opinion is so marginal, that for all intents and purposes it has remained irrelevant – at least in the Ashkenazi Jewish world. But remarkably, turning electricity on (and even off) during yomtov was considered completely acceptable in the Sephardic world, where it was widely practiced in the early twentieth century, and this leniency has actually persisted to this day.
Among the first Sephardic rabbis to give this topic a broad and comprehensive treatment was Rabbi Raphael Aharon ben Shimon, chief rabbi of Cairo between 1891 and 1921, who is cited in the Iggud letter. In his book of responsa titled Umitzur Devash, published in Jerusalem in 1912, he writes that “many [in the community] now light their homes with electric lights, and the installation and supply of power to their homes is expensive and provides the only lighting. I would not be taken seriously if I was stringent, and they would obviously not listen if we were to tell them that they have to sit in the dark for the duration of yomtov. And as for candlelight, they cannot be expected to use it, as candle illumination pales into insignificance when compared to the bright, bold lights that they are used to.”
Clearly looking to permit turning lights on during yomtov, he posited that “electric current for the lamp flows through copper wires that run throughout the walls of the home, and the source of the light is entirely within the wires and is not attributable to the homeowner ‘lighting’ the lamp, for after all he cannot stick out his finger and cause 10 candles to burst into flame! What kind of magic would that be?”
Rabbi ben Shimon was very eager to emphasize the passivity of switching a light on. The classic paradigm for the prohibited case of lighting a new fire on yomtov requires a person’s effort which leads to that new fire. But in the case of electrical lighting, said Rabbi ben Shimon, all the work is actually done by an electrical power plant. All anyone at home does when they turn a light on is to remove an obstacle holding back the power’s flow.
“A person turning on an electric light at his home on yomtov has not been molid anything. The light, the fire, and the power already existed in the wires, and the simple touch of a finger to release the illumination is exactly the same as pulling aside window shades which prevent sunlight from shining in.”
Rabbi ben Shimon added that although turning off an electric light during yomtov could be permitted, he had decided to forbid it so as to prevent people thinking that extinguishing a real flame is also allowed.
Rabbi Yosef Messas, who is also quoted in the Iggud letter, served as a rabbi in Tlemcen, Algeria, and then Meknes, Morocco, and at the end of his life he was the Sephardic chief rabbi of Haifa. Rabbi Messas wrote extensively on this topic in the 1930s, and agreed with Rabbi ben Shimon, although he ruled outright that one is allowed to switch off an electric light on yomtov. Another Sephardic rabbi who concurred was the Algerian rabbinic leader Rabbi Masoud HaKohen, author of Pirchei Kehuna, who wrote along similar lines in the 1940s.
Another rabbi cited in the Iggud letter, Rabbi Shalom Messas, an eminent Sephardic rabbinic leader who died in 2003 at the age of 94 after having served as both chief rabbi of Morocco (1945-1978) and Jerusalem (1978-2003). He extensively addressed this vexed topic, and wrote that in Morocco the practice was to turn electric lights on over yomtov, although everyone was careful not to switch them off.
However, after moving to Israel and seeing that the predominant view of his rabbinic colleagues was not to allow lights to be turned on over yomtov, he modified his former approach and advised for people to take advantage of this leniency only in times of great need. He also let it be known that he did not personally operate electric lights on yomtov at all.
Rabbi Messas’ rabbinic colleague from Morocco, Rabbi Yitzhak Hazan, who had made the move to Israel a decade before Rabbi Messas, and was appointed a senior dayyan in Haifa, concurred with this view, both in terms of the fundamental permissibility, and the advisable stringency.
The most senior Sephardic halachic authority of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries was undoubtedly the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a colossal rabbinic scholar who fiercely defended Sephardic halachic practice against any encroachment by the Ashkenazi world. In his discussion on the subject of turning on and off electric appliances over yomtov, he cites those who rule leniently along with the many who don’t, including Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, author of Tzitz Eliezer.
According to Rabbi Waldenberg, Rabbi ben Shimon’s assessment of how electricity works was flawed, as it is inaccurate to suggest that electrical wires contain “fire”. Rather, what a live electrical wire contains is energy – energy that could just as easily be utilized to drive a motor as to light a bulb. What turns this electrical energy into “fire” is passing it through the thin filament in the bulb, so that the filament heats up and glows, something that can only happen by flipping the switch to connect the wires and turning that energy into incandescent “fire.”
Moreover, if one would never connect the wires in the switchbox, the electric power would remain entirely dormant; only by connecting them does the electrical power come to life. All of this means that connecting wires in a switchbox to let the current flow is actually starting a fire, while disconnecting the wires extinguishes the fire. In which case, flipping a switch is no different to striking a match, which is forbidden on yomtov.
Rabbi Yosef wholeheartedly agrees with Rabbi Waldenberg’s rather more sophisticated explanation of the mechanics of electricity, and consequently – despite his frequent bias towards Sephardic halachic opinion – rules to prohibit turning lights on or off on the grounds of molid, and urges those who have previously had the custom to turn lights on or off on yomtov to cease doing so – in his words: “when a custom violates halacha, even if it is only a rabbinically mandated prohibition, we nullify that custom.”
Until the Iggud’s letter suddenly appeared out of the blue last week, Rabbi Yosef’s published view on the matter was seemingly the last word, and even those who had previously been lenient agreed that it was best to forbid using electrical switches on yomtov going forward.
PART III: RESPONDING TO THE IGGUD’S LETTER
The proverbial ink was hardly dry on the Iggud’s lenient ruling regarding using ZOOM for Seder, and the negative reactions were coming in thick and fast. Most damagingly, some of the purported signatories either retracted their endorsements, or denied ever having signed onto the letter in the first place.
Rabbi Moshe Suissa, celebrated author of a series of books describing Moroccan Jewish customs, asserted that his assent had been entirely misrepresented by the Iggud Chachmei HaMaarav. His support for the halachic leniency had only been granted for extreme situations “bordering on pikuach nefesh (danger to life) for isolated people who are accustomed to celebrate every year with their families.” He added that his opinion had also only been sought regarding a “halachic question asked to a congregational rabbi by one of his parishioners, and [the lenient ruling] was never meant to be publicized as a halachic ruling for everyone”. Horrified that his name was associated with the Iggud’s published ruling, he publicly and unequivocally dissociated himself from the letter.
In a published statement, another signatory, Rabbi Yonatan Sarour of Yeshivat Heichal Eliyahu, apologized unreservedly for any misunderstanding caused by the Iggud’s letter, and by the appearance of his name in association with the ZOOM ruling. His rejection of the letter’s contents was unambiguous: “I do not permit the operation of a computer, tablet, or smartphone on yomtov under any circumstances. Not directly, not by asking a gentile, and not by any other indirect means.” Claiming that “a video has circulated on Facebook in which I discuss this matter”, he claimed not to have made any kind of firm statement allowing the use of electronics on yomtov, but instead emphasized that such a serious halachic decision requires the input of the “greatest halachic scholars of our time” – a group he clearly does not count himself as being a part of.
An edited letter was eventually reissued by the Iggud Chachmei HaMaarav with eight of the original fifteen signatures removed. But by that time the roadshow had well-and-truly moved on, with countless rabbis weighing in on what had become the hottest halachic topic of the moment. Heading the charge was Rabbi Menachem Perl, chairman of the Zomet Institute, a high-tech non-profit that specializes in IT equipment and electronic appliances designed to meet the halachic requirements of Shabbat and yomtov. He is someone one would have pegged as a natural ally of those looking for leniencies in the use of electronics on yomtov. But his response was firm – he referred to the Iggud’s letter as “dangerous” and expressed concern that this ruling might have unexpected consequences – for example, less observant Jews would fail to differentiate between yomtov and Shabbat, or between using electronics and driving a car.
With reference to the technical issues, Rabbi Perl was concerned about internet connectivity problems and breaks in the ZOOM broadcast, which participants in the Seder “conference” would inevitably try to resolve. He also raised a practical concern: “What happens when the elderly person wants to go to sleep? Does he or she have the option to stop the broadcast, in order to get quiet? There was no answer to that in the Iggud’s letter.”
In the US, some of those one might have expected to welcome this shift in favor of using electronics on yomtov also rejected the idea as less than feasible. Rabbi Ysoscher Katz of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, often labeled as the engine of ‘Open Orthodoxy’, ruled firmly that any leniency would only apply to situations of pikuach nefesh, and even so would be the subject of various conditions. He also added the caveat that in order to use this ruling one would need to assume “a deep sense of integrity on the users’ part [that] the parameters of the heter [are] honored and … applied only if there indeed is the possibility of [a danger to life],” concluding that “if staying off ZOOM will merely cause inconvenience, then it is not allowed.”
Meanwhile, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel and current Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem, rejected the ruling. So did Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of the late Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, and himself the Sephardic chief rabbi of Safed. Both the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi David Lau, while conceding that “loneliness is painful, and we must respond to it,” went on the record to say that using ZOOM for Seder was not possible according to the halacha.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) at Yeshiva University, and one of the most senior halachic authorities in the United States, echoed the Israeli chief rabbis in his detailed published ruling, stating that unless someone was suffering from a mental condition that could result in potentially lethal self-harm, if “they must be confined and alone because of the circumstances related to the Coronavirus then they may not use any electronic devices in order to connect to family members on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Although it is painful and sad to be alone, and people want to be with family and friends, this is not a life-threatening situation, and there is no place at all to allow the violation of Shabbos and Yom Tov.”
Perhaps the most detailed response was issued by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, a highly respected halachic authority and a rabbi in Alon Shvut, whose humane and open-minded halachic guidance for religious IDF soldiers is admired both in Israel and around the Jewish world.
“Aside from the Halachic problems [of using ZOOM] at the
Seder,” wrote Rabbi Rimon, “this idea would also create serious practical
problems, [and] it is far more likely that this would cause great distress,
rather than peace of mind.”
Those who observe yomtov properly would be seriously distraught if there was a glitch in the broadcast, he noted, having come into yomtov with elevated expectations of being able to conduct the Seder with their distant relative or relatives, only to have their hopes dashed in the reality of the situation. “Therefore,” wrote Rabbi Rimon, “beyond the Halachic questions that this suggestion raises, it is simply not a smart solution.”
But in recognition of the difficult vacuum that the current quarantine and distance between family members will create, Rabbi Rimon has offered an alternative suggestion using ZOOM, a suggestion that displays both his deep compassion and refreshing ingenuity.
“The following is a practical suggestion for Jews everywhere; those who have elderly grandparents, as well as younger relatives, but cannot be together for the Seder, should pray Mincha early in the afternoon. Then, an hour or two before sunset, get everyone dressed for the festival and let the entire family meet together via ZOOM – grandparents, children, grandchildren, wherever they live.”
“This time [on Erev Pesach] is not considered an ordinary weekday – it is already Pesach. It was at exactly this time that the Korban Pesach was sacrificed, and the Levites sang Hallel. So you should sing songs from the Haggadah at this family “gathering” – children will sing “Ma Nishtana“; every family member can prepare something short to say; and then everyone can sing their favorite songs… and when we have the actual Seder later on, we will sing the songs again. This pre-Seder family gathering should finish a few minutes before sunset, then light candles, daven Maariv… and then the actual Seder Night can begin.”
“Of course, this pre-Seder won’t be an ordinary Seder with our grandparents, but it will still be a deeply moving encounter and a most meaningful start to the Seder night. Instead of perhaps ten family members at the Seder, it is possible to include many more at this special event. At the same time that sacrifices were brought, and the Levites sang Hallel in the Temple, we, too, will sing and tell the story of the Exodus, and be inspired together with the entire family – near and far. This suggestion is most appropriate Halachically – it is not controversial, and it is suitable for everyone as a first resort.”
“We are currently living in a very complex reality. A sense of sadness and depression can, God forbid, overwhelm some people. However, we should look at the beauty and the goodness that we can reach, especially at this time. We may lose some things, but at the same time we can gain new things that will give us special strength, a special connection, great love and an exalted feeling.”
In conclusion, it would seem that despite the well-intentioned ruling of the Iggud Chachmei HaMaarav, their suggested solution turns out to be unworkable and has also failed to gain the support of any of the numerous rabbinic authorities across a spectrum of communities around the world. Meanwhile, Rabbi Rimon’s suggestion is sure to engender a feeling of connectedness for anyone who uses it, as we all struggle to deal with the current challenges of separation and loneliness.
And by the time next Pesach comes around, we will all be back together again, around one Seder table, without any need for electronics, celebrating our Exodus from Egypt as our nation has done for more than three thousand years.
 הראשל”צ, הרב עזיאל, משפטי עזיאל, חלק א’, ד:יט: נלע”ד להלכה… להתיר הבערה וכבוי החשמל… ביום טוב (R. Uziel: “In my humble opinion, the halacha is that turning electricity on or off on yomtov is permitted.”); הרב רפאל אהרן בן שמעון, ומצור דבש, אורח חיים, י: ומותר להדליק נר הליקטריק ביום טוב (R. Raphael Aharon ben Shimon: “It is permissible to light electric light on yomtov.”); הרב יוסף משאש, מים חיים א:צד: המנהג הפשוט …להדליק ולכבות בידיים ביו”ט בלי שום חשש כלל (R. Yosef Messas: “The minhag, simply, is to turn lights on and off, by hand, on yomtov, without any concern.”); הרב שלום משאש, שמ”ש ומגן, חלק ב, סי’ סה: …ההדלקה היינו מדליקין לא עלה על הדעת שיש בזה משום נולד (R. Shalom Messas: “We [Sephardim] would turn on [electric lights], not thinking at all that it could be a worry of molid.”); הרב דוד שלוש, חמדה גנוזה חלק א – סוף דבר נראה להתיר הדלקת חשמל ביום טוב (R. David Chelouche, “Bottom line, it seems correct to permit turning on electricity on yomtov.”)
 The Mishna (Shabbat 24:5) permits a mikvah to be measured for the sake of mitzvah not only on yomtov, but on Shabbat as well.