[Note: The below is for information purposes only, as is everything on this site. The decision to act or not act upon any of it is the personal decision of the reader and any details regarding the observance of any halakhah – especially those which are intricate and/or are severe – should be discussed with a competent rav.]
The following video (actually, it is an audio shi’ur uploaded to YouTube) was sent to me by a close friend in Israel. The speaker, Rabbi Haim Ovadia, an Israeli-Sefaradi rabbi who received his semikhah from HaRav Mordekhay Eliyahu z”l after studying at the Shehebar Center in Jerusalem and is now a community rabbi in Rockville, Maryland. He is fully-orthodox and also possesses several degrees from various universities. Yet, he admits that his children grew up in a home where they made full use of electricity on yomiym toviym. He also relates that using electricity was the predominant Sefardic practice until more recent times when it was abandoned for political reasons.
There have been many halakhists who have either permitted the use of electricity on Yom Tov (and Shabbath) or have argued for its permissibility. Its use, of course, is limited by the boundaries of melakhah, but barring these concerns – according to Rabbi Ovadia and several of the poseqiym he cites – electricity can actually enhance the joy of the holiday. Imagine being able to microwave food on Yom Tov, or use the dishwasher, or turn lights on and off. It could make a real difference.
One of the arguments made by contemporary mahmiyriym who prohibit the use of electricity on either Shabbath or Yom Tov is that those who did permit it were simply ignorant about how electricity “actually” works. This, as stated by Rabbi Haim Ovadia in the shi’ur, is completely fallacious. The claims made by Haredi-Hasidic groups (usually Ashkenaziym) about electricity have been essentially as follows:  Electricity is fire,  electricity is (at least safeq) moliydh, makeh be-patiysh, boneh, or some other melakhah de-oraytha,  both of these claims were debunked by both science and halakhic reasoning (by both Sefaradiym AND Ashkenaziym) so they admit that it isn’t fire and is [probably] not a melakhah, but  those who permitted it in previous decades “didn’t really understand how it works.” So, they began by mistakenly prohibiting it by identifying it as fire, but even after having been conclusively disproven, they maintain that those halakhists who permitted it were just ignorant – which is a convenient claim since most of them have died and cannot defend themselves. This is ridiculous.
Further, it is just another version of the argument for latter-day “kabbalah” in the face of outright contradictions with Torah and halakhah. When confronted with texts written by Saadyah Gaon, Rambam, Rashi, Tosafoth, Ramban, and others who explicitly rejected teachings which were later espoused by the Zohar literature, Luria and his followers, and Hasidism they simply assert that these early authorities were ignorant and mistaken, claiming that they “did not have a mesoireh in the kabboloh” – a statement that is so incredibly stupid and fallacious that it would not be worthy of argument if so many people had not been taken in by it.
Now, just to be sure, while I am certainly an advocate a person’s right to choose whether they will use electricity on yomiym toviym, I am not for poking people in the eye, as it were, with the results of such a choice. What I mean is that there are those who are secure and socially adept who can choose how they will conduct themselves and the lives of their families within their own homes – these people are wise, and they are even more wise if there are ready with sources to calmly and cogently defend their religious practices to those onlookers who might express concern. There are others, however, who are socially inept and feel that it is their business to advertise everything about themselves that is either controversial or out of the mainstream, and then incite arguments with other members of their communities – these people are fools, and even if they knew all the sources to defend themselves, wisdom would still escape them.
As a movement, meqori’iym desperately need to overcome the tendency to want to the throw down at any given moment with fellow Jews or to figuratively wear their “Ani Ma’amiyn” on their sleeve (as Rav Ratson Arusi once personally taught me). We do not owe anyone a statement of faith just because they demand it, but we do owe others respect even if they do not. The rare times that call for harsh or direct exchanges with others should be done with care.
The following mishnayoth from Pirqey Avoth (1:12-17) encapsulate these principles:
הלל ושמאי קיבלו מהם. הלל אומר, הוי כתלמידיו של אהרון אוהב שלום ורודף שלום אוהב את הברייות ומקרבן לתורה הוא היה אומר נגד שמא אבד שמא דילא מוסיף יסוף ודילא יליף קטלא חייב ודישתמש בתגא חלף
הוא היה אומר אם אין אני לי מי לי וכשאני לעצמי מה אני ואם לא עכשיו אימתיי
שמאי אומר עשה תורתך קבע אמור מעט ועשה הרבה והוי מקביל את כל האדם בסבר פנים יפות
רבן גמליאל אומר עשה לך רב והסתלק מן הספק ואל תרבה לעשר אומדות
שמעון בנו אומר כל ימיי גדלתי בין החכמים ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה ולא המדרש הוא העיקר אלא המעשה וכל המרבה דברים מביא חטא
רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר על שלושה דברים העולם קיים על הדין ועל האמת ועל השלום
“Hillel and Shamma’iy received the [the Oral Torah] from [Shema’yah and Avtalyon]. Hillel says, ‘Be like the students of Aharon; love peace and pursue peace; love your fellow creatures and bring them near to the Torah.’ He used to say, ‘One who announces (i.e. to seek personal renown) his name destroys his name. One who does not increase [peace], diminishes. One who does not learn [these lessons] is deserving of death.’ And, ‘One who makes personal use of the Crown [i.e. the Torah] will perish.’
“He used to say, ‘If I am not for myself, then who is for me? If I am for myself [only], what am I? If not now, when?'”
“Shamma’iy says, ‘Make your Torah [study] a fixed practice. Say little and do much. Receive every person with a pleasant countenance.'”
“Rabban Gamli’el says, ‘Appoint for yourself a rav and [thereby] remove yourself from [halakhic] doubt.’ And, ‘Do not increase tithing by estimation [i.e. this is an example of where you should remove legal doubts from your observance of halakhah].'”
“Shim’on his son says, ‘All my days I have grown up among hakhamiym and I have found nothing better for the body other than silence. And the study [of a matter] is not the main thing, but doing. And anyone who increases their words brings about sin.'”
“Rabban Shim’on ben Gamli’el says, ‘The world is upheld by three things: by the law, by the truth, and by peace.'”
May HaShem allow these things to enter our hearts.
Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your upcoming Yom Tov.
Kol tuv uverakhah,