Q & A - WITH RABBI RISKIN
Our refrigerator wasn't working properly, and upon calling in our local technician to fix it, we were told that there is a problem using the refrigerator on Shabbat because every time the refrigerator or freezer is opened, the fan used for circulating the air goes off and then goes on again as soon as the refrigerator is closed.
If the fan is electrically operated, and if it always and immediately goes on every time one opens the refrigerator door, then in it forbidden to open the refrigerator on Shabbat. The Sages of the Talmud took any immediate and automatic accompanying result of an action on Shabbat out of the category of an uninteded action or davar sheano mitkaven. In effect we believe that any automatic and immediate result has got to be included in one's initial intention because an individual is not only responsible for what he does but also for the automatic result of what he does. In such a case obviously the fan must be separated from the refrigerator.
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