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Topic: Beit, Samech, Daled on Top of a Page

Leora from South Africa wrote:

Dear Rabbi

I have 2 questions: I have a non-observant guest who comes to me every Friday night and sleeps here. She will switch off the light if it's on when she goes to sleep, and if the light is off when she comes into the room, she will switch it on. Is it better for me to leave it on, knowing she will switch it off (one Shabbat violation), or is it better for me to leave it off knowing she will switch it on and off (thus doing two Shabbat violations)? I know that even if I try explain to her not to do anything with the light, she won't listen.

My second question is, what is the purpose of writing "beit, samech, daled" at the top of the page? And when is it necessary? Thank you.

Dear Leora,

If those were your only choices, then it would be better to leave the light on. That way she will only do one prohibited act instead of two.

But there are other options. (Don't worry, I won't suggest removing the light bulb. I assume you've thought of that and decided it wasn't an option!) Get a "Shabbat clock" (a timer) which turns the lights on and off automatically. Any hardware store has them. Till then, how about lighting a candle in a safe place before Shabbat? Candles are the original Shabbat clocks, shutting themselves off automatically! Get the proper length candle, timed to extinguish approximately when she usually goes to sleep.

Or, how about a small fluorescent desk lamp which she can cover with an upside down waste basket? (Caution must be taken against fire, even with a fluorescent bulb.)

Regarding your second question, "beit, samech, daled" stands for b'siyata d'Shmaya, Aramaic for "with G-d's help." It's a custom to write it on top of the page as a prayer for success in what we are about to write, but it's not an absolute requirement. I've never noticed anyone writing it when they write a check. Before an exam, I used to make sure to write it right on top of the form.

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