By COLlive reporter
Controversy continues to surround a new technological invention that will allow Shabbos observant Jews to control the electricity function on Shabbos and Jewish holidays.
The patented Kosher Switch was created by technology veteran Menashe Kalati and claims to be within halachic parameters of not desecrating the holy day while turning the lights on and off.
The switch has a single knob to turn it on or off leading to a piece of plastic to block a streaming electronic light pulse that when received turns on the light. Turning the switch on moves the piece of plastic, which is not connected to anything electrical, so that it no longer obstructs the pulse, according to JTA.
On the inventor’s website, it cites an “Approbation” given by Rabbi Manis Friedman, the Torah scholar who is the dean of the Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies, who wrote in a 2010 letter that “KosherSwitch will IY”H be a huge success – bigger than the crockpot.”
Speaking to COLlive this week, Rabbi Friedman said he encourages the exploration of adapting technology to Halacha in general, but only with full guidance and endorsement of appropriate expert poskim.
He added that he encouraged Kalati to continue his exploration, because a breakthrough in this area might help people who may not be meticulous about Shabbos–as no effort should be spared to help with shmiras Shabbos.
As far as the actual use and application of a product, such as the Kosher Switch, Rabbi Friedman said he was very clear with Kalati about the necessity for guidance and endorsement from prominent poskim, as that is beyond Rabbi Friedman’s expertise.
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, head of the Zomet Institute, the leading designer of electronic devices for use on the Jewish Sabbath, says the Kosher Switch is unfit for Sabbath use, JTA reported.
“This item was recycled from 2010 and already then denials and renunciation by great rabbinic authorities were published regarding everyday use for this product,” Rosen wrote April 14 on Zomet’s website. “No Orthodox rabbi, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, has permitted this Gramma method for pure convenience.”
But Kalati explains in a video that that switch does not rely on the loophole of a gramma (indirect action). He said that because the light pulse is subject to a “random degree of uncertainty” and won’t instantaneously kindle the light when in Shabbos mode, it is kosher for use on Shabbos.
COLlive.com reached out to several Chabad Rabbis in the United States and is awaiting their response. One leading posek said that so far he has only heard opposition from colleagues.
Until their ruling is heard, two Chabad Shluchim recently offered their differing opinions on the usage of the device – from a practical perspective.
Rabbi Mordechai Hecht, Director of Anshe Sholom Chabad Jewish Community Center in Kew Gardens, NY, called it “monumental” and that he was “mesmerized to be blessed to see such an invention in my lifetime.”
Noting he is not an halachic authority, Hecht told JTA: “A conversation needs to be had, and maybe this is a good place to have it. If there’s really a halachic issue, let’s talk about it. This is an amazing invention. The question is, can it enhance the Shabbos?”
While Rabbi Shmuel Kopel, Director of Chabad of Dunedin in New Zealand, points out that “flipping the switch is clearly intended to cause the light to turn on and the switch absolutely guarantees that the light will turn on – if not, what is the purpose of it to begin with?”
Rabbi Berel Levine, Director of the Agudas Chassidei Chabad Library in Brooklyn, NY, and an expert on the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, stated that he was “frightened” when he heard that some permitted its use.
The full letter in Hebrew written on Thursday can be read below.