Q. In case of emergency, when electricity is cut off and the lights go off or when you are camping, can you use glow sticks on Shabbat or Yom Tov?
A. If the light is needed for protection or needed essential care in saving lives on life threatening situations, their use would be permitted as would any other melacha, including lighting candles.
A glow stick is a ‘self-contained, short-term light-source. It consists of a translucent plastic tube containing isolated chemical substances that, when combined, create light through chemiluminescence, and it does not require an external energy source.” (Wikipedia). Therefore the prohibition of activating and using them, does not involve the regular hava’ arah or lighting a fire melacha, but rather nolad.
On question 997 regarding the use of liquid soap and soap that changes from liquid to foam on Shabbos, we wrote: “Remoh (O.H. 326: 10) prohibits using solid soap that dissolves into the water used for washing since it involves creating a new presence and this constitutes “nolad,” (born.)
Nolad refers to things that come into existence on Shabbos, for example breaking ice in order to produce water prohibited by the Talmud (Shabbos 51b.) Sefer Hat’rumah and Remoh, (318: 16 – see M”B 320: 35) explain that the reason is creating a new being.
On question1328 in regard to using an electronic key-card on Shabbos, we wrote:
Beis Yitzchok (Y.D. 2: 31: index) and others maintain the proscription of closing and activating an electric circuit is molid (Making changes to an object or substance. Creating a new entity on Shabbos). He writes: Creating a current flow (molid zerem) is rabbinically forbidden because in doing so one has created something new – a functioning appliance. (See Minchas Shlomo pp. 71-74; Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:10, Tz’lach Hachadash, Kuntres Acharon 1).
Poskim also assert that activating any electrical equipment involves “makkeh bepatish,” literally, striking with a hammer; an act of completing an object and bringing it into its final useful form. These Poskim cite as precedent those who prohibited winding a watch for this reason. (Chazon Ish, O. H. 50: 9; Mishp’tei Uziel 1: 13; Tzitz Eliezer 6: 6; Edus Leyisarel (Rabbi Y. E. Henkin) p. 121. (Rabbi Henkin states that perhaps only a Rabbinic prohibition is involved. The prohibition of metaken mana, is a sub-prohibition of makkeh bepatish). Other Poskim disagree because makeh bapatish refers to a fundamentally permanent act that requires great effort, and turning on an electrical appliance is fundamentally temporary because it will be turned off, and requires a minimal amount of effort.
Glow sticks emit light when two chemicals are mixed. The sticks consist of a tiny, brittle container within a flexible outer container. Each container holds a different solution. When the outer container is bended, the inner container breaks, allowing the solutions to combine, causing the necessary chemical reaction. After breaking, the tube is shaken to thoroughly mix the components. The light cannot be turned off and can only be used once. (ibid.)
Since Poskim debate whether molid is a Biblical or a Rabbinical prohibition, It would be better in case of emergency to use a glow stick than to light a candle.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as revised by Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit’a