#FBF: Rabbi’s Home Gets Smart Lighting for Shabbat

Flashback Friday: Westco Smart Homes in Los Angeles installs and programs Vantage smart lighting controls to automate Orthodox Jewish Shabbat observance that does not permit homeowners to turn on or off lights.


It's time for #FlashbackFriday! This weekend is Passover, so let's look back at a smart lighting project specifically designed for a Rabbi's home. Remember, Orthodox Jewish Shabbat observance does not permit homeowners to turn on or off lights during Shabbat.

Some homeowners jokingly say they are religious about turning their lights on and off. But for Rabbi Yitzie Magalnic of Chabad of Palos Verdes in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., it truly is part of his religion.

As a Jewish Orthodox Chabad Rabbi, Magalnic follows the rules of the Sabbath (Shabbat) precisely. That means during Shabbat, which lasts from Friday just before sunset until Saturday just after sunset, he and his family cannot turn on or off any lights in the home. In some cases, Orthodox Jewish families will just leave the necessary lights on for the duration of Shabbat, or some will have mechanical timers and relays, or small in-wall timers for individual lights, that can turn on one or two lights in the kitchen and bath.

“This means that they are either wasting electricity by having their lights run through the nights, or that they are having to move around their house with little to no lights based on the time of day,” says Jack Goldberg, president of Westco Smart Homes in Los Angeles.

Using a Vantage system in Magalnic’s home, Goldberg was able to create a Shabbat lighting scenario that turns on and off the lights throughout the house during the Sabbath.

Based on the Rabbi and his family’s routine from Friday night to Saturday night, Westco set up timers and lighting scenes in each room, so that lights are on when a room is in use, and no lights are left on unnecessarily.

Based on many conversations with the Rabbi and his wife, Goldberg set up the following routines:

  • On Friday night around 20 minutes before Shabbat (Shabbat begins 18 minutes before sunset), the kitchen lights will flash on and off three times to signify that Shabbat will begin soon.
  • Ten minutes before Shabbat begins, the dining room lights, living room lights and powder room lights all go to a set “scene,” even if the lights are on already. These lights will remain on until 11:30 p.m. and then turn off.
  • At 10 p.m. the vanity lights in both the kids bath and master bath and guest bath turn on to 40 percent, and at midnight turn down to 5 percent until sunrise, then off.
  • At 8:30 a.m. the kids bath, master bath and guest bath lights turn on to 80 percent for the Rabbi and others to get ready to go to Temple. The Rabbi’s closet turns on to 60 percent from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., first for the Rabbi to get dressed and then for his wife, who follows him to Temple a little later after she gets the children ready.
  • By 10:15 a.m. or so, everyone has left, so all lights are turned off.
  • When the Rabbi and family and guests return home around 3 p.m., the library, living room, kitchen and dining room lights are already on to their set values.If these lights are not turned on via a keypad button within one hour after sunset, the house lights are automatically turned off (in case they family is not at home).
  • As there are several instances in which a Jewish holiday will last more than two days, Westco has provided a three-day holiday button on a touchscreen in the kitchen that triggers the various lighting scenes for three days in a row. It will automatically turn off after the third day.

“One important note is that, if by accident a guest or one of the children turns on a light during Shabbat, it cannot be turned off until after Shabbat or the three-day holiday period ends. To prevent this from happening, we disable all keypad and touchscreen buttons for the entire period,” adds Goldberg.

The system and illumination percentages were tweaked based on the family’s experience so “they feel the system is a no-brainer,” notes Goldberg. “We have found that home automation lends itself very well to the Orthodox community and allows them to use their lights on Shabbat as they would any other day without breaking any of the Sabbath rules.”

Step Lighting, Smartphone Apps Earn Praise

For the Magalnic family, the system has been a godsend (pun intended).

“The features included in the system have far exceeded our expectations,” says Rabbi Magalnic, noting that “the Vantage system has helped to make our lives so much easier and more convenient.”

He notes, “The system works flawlessly and this is so important for us, our Shabbat would not be the same without the Vantage system.”

The system hasn’t just made Shabbat easier, but also bedtime.

“Before Vantage, every evening I would go from room to room to make sure the lights were closed before I went to bed,” says Magalnic. “Now with the Vantage system I have a pad next to my bed that has a button that can control the lights, air conditioning and heater throughout the house. Jack has set up the system that with the press of one button lights in the whole house shut off.”

Other features the family enjoys are step lighting that Westco installed on the stair risers and in the hallway, and the Vantage App for Magalnic’s Android and his wife’s iPhone.

“I can be in any part of the world. If I have access to the internet I can remotely manage the vantage system. I can turn on lights, turn them off,” he notes. 

Magalnic also likes the convenience of the remote access used by Westco to make system tweaks without having to send out a service vehicle.

“I’m glad Vantage can save him the time to drive over to my house. I know we are only using a fraction of the capabilities. As I learn more about the system,we are adding more features,” he concludes.

About the Author

Jason Knott
Jason Knott:

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald's Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.