The Torah commands us protect our lives, and those of others. Based on the verse, "Guard yourself and guard your soul very much" (Deut. 4:9). According to Jewish law, it is a duty to take all due precautions and avoid anything that may endanger life. "Anyone who violates such prohibitions, saying 'I'm only putting myself at risk - what business is that of anybody else?' or 'I'm not particular about such things' deserves a lashing, while those who are careful about such things will be blessed" (Choshen Mishpat 427, 8-10)."
While we don't give out lashings, the severity of the issue is clear. Every family that cares for keeping the sanctity of the Sabbath also must care for the sanctity of life and take extra precautions to ensure the safety of our homes.
Below are some guidelines in accordance with Jewish law:
- All families must install dual-sensor smoke and fire alarms and additional carbon monoxide alarms around their homes, test them regularly, and gently vacuum them monthly. They should be installed in bedrooms, hallways, attics, basements, and you can check the National Fire Protection Association website for details.
- Never use cracked, worn or sheared electric chords - whether on a hot plate, Sukkah lights, lamps etc.
- Do not overload sockets or improperly use extension chords.
- Keep candles under adult supervision, use self-extinguishing Shabbat and Hanukkah candles - and extinguish menorahs before going to bed.
- Never leave flammable material (curtains, hand towels etc.) in proximity to heat sources such as hot plates, Shabbat, Hanukkah or Yom Tov candles.
- While we are not permitted to extinguish a fire without reason on Shabbat, it is a mitzvah to extinguish a unintentional fire in a home on Shabbbat as it is a direct threat to people in adjacent homes. Even in an isolated home, with no apparent neighbors, the fire must be put out because it could spread to the field or forest and harm someone else.
Food Safety Guidelines for Shabbat Observance in accordance with Halacha:
- To enjoy warm food on Shabbat, electric hot plates should be used with an appliance timer, which turns off at bed time and back on in the morning. On Shabbat, solid foods should remain on the cold hotplate overnight. On Yom Tov, when it is permitted to cook, any food can be placed back on the hot plate in the morning.
- Chulent or Hamim can be cooked safely in an electric slow-cooker overnight. Reminder to remove the pot insert from the slow cooker before serving the chulent in order to avoid stirring a cooked food in a cooking vessel. Also the slow cooker can be put on a timer to turn off after your meal time.
- Leaving on a gas-range on a low flame is common practice whether on Shabbat or on Yom Tov among Orthodox families - please be very cautious. Try to find alternatives. On Shabbos use a metal "blech" to cover a low flame. On Yom Tov, any time the flame is not being used for cooking, covered with a pot of water. If a flame goes out - turn off the gas immediately.
- Ovens that have built-in Sabbath modes - which overrides the auto-shut-off function for the duration of a three-day holiday - have been tested for this use and are designed to safely operate for 72 hours.