A Shabbat elevator is a specially modified elevator used by Orthodox Jews on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, in order to circumvent interpretations of traditional Jewish law that forbid the operation of electrical switches (such as elevator buttons) on that day.
Most Shabbat elevators run constantly and automatically, stopping on every floor. Thus no button-pushing is required for their operation. However, other variants exist, such as Shabbat elevators that stop on every other floor, or elevators that rise all the way to the top of the building and then stop at each floor on the way down.
Shabbat elevators are found in Israel and other parts of the world where there are high numbers of Orthodox Jews.
Shabbat elevators arise from a prohibition on "building" during the day of rest. Traditional Orthodox interpretation has held that closing an electrical circuit is is a generative act that constitutes "building" something.
Shabbat elevators have been criticized by Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews as an ungodly circumvention of Jewish law. Under this interpretation, the user of the elevator is escaping on a technicality while still benefiting from the closing of electrical circuits.
Others have sought a compromise whereby going up on a Shabbat elevator is okay, because one's body mass is actually hindering the "work" of the elevator, but going down is not okay, because in that case one's mass is "helping" the elevator go down.
Finally, people who are not Orthodox Jews have criticized constantly running and constantly stopping Shabbat elevators as a gross waste of energy.