Glow in the Dark Toys and Shabbos
Steven Edell from Jerusalem wrote:
My daughters recently received a "glow in the dark toy," i.e.: a fluorescent toy. I was wondering why it would be permitted to put the toy near a light on Shabbat to "charge" it, as you are actually moving around electrons, causing them to 'fluoresce' -- basically the same thing that is done with electricity?
The subject of using 'electricity' on Shabbat is very complex. I'll try to answer your question despite the space limitations of this column. The Halachic authorities prohibit turning-on an electric light or completing an electrical circuit on Shabbat for various reasons: Havara (burning) and/or Binyan (building) and/or Bishul (cooking). These are 3 of the "39 Melachot", 'work' activities, that are prohibited on Shabbat.
Another interesting reason is mentioned: Molid - lit. 'giving birth' to a 'new product' on Shabbat. Obviously, this doesn't forbid a mother to give birth on Shabbat! Molid is quite a novel idea [as its name implies ;-) ].
I asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg about using a glow in the dark toy on Shabbat, and he answered that it is permitted, since there is no violation of any category of Melacha on Shabbat.
"Moving around electrons" is not prohibited unless it involves a transgression of Shabbat, as in the case of an electrical circuit. An act is prohibited on Shabbat only if it violates one of the 39 Melachot, their derivatives, or special Rabbinical prohibitions. If it doesn't, as in your case, then it is certainly permitted.
- Shabbat and Electricity - Halperin/Oratz, Feldheim Publishers, 1993.