(NEW YORK TIMES) — “Don’t get in that one!” a woman cried, standing in front of an open elevator door, a quiet toddler in her arms.
But why? Was this elevator dangerous? Well, no. But in a city where perhaps the dirtiest word of all is “wait,” it was close enough.
“It’ll stop on like every floor,” said the woman, Shira Stember, standing in the lobby of a Seward Park co-op building on the Lower East Side. While she is happy the elevator is there for her neighbors, Ms. Stember said, she prefers to take the next car, because this open door leads into a Shabbos elevator.
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From sundown on Friday until the sun sets on Saturday, many observant Jews refrain from certain activities, including pushing elevator buttons, following a restriction that comes from a prohibition against creating sparks and fires. So in some buildings, elevators are programmed to stop automatically on every floor during the Sabbath. That way, observant Jews can hop right in and, eventually, get where they are going.