The Kosher Switch Part II Follow Up

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2[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

This is a story that has not yet been told.

Many years ago, Rav Yechiel Michel Stern Shlita one of the leading Poskim and Rabbonim in Yerushalayim, was approached by a woman who was severely handicapped regarding a very delicate question. Rav Stern realized that it was necessary to design and build a mikvah that contained a hydraulic lift – the first of its kind.

Immediately, Rav Stern went to work on a halachically acceptable design. A meeting was called of the four greatest Poskim in the world – Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, Rav Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Vosner zt”l. At the meeting these three giants of psak called Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l in the United States and they discussed the very serious halachic obstacles to the initial design. The obstacle was the requirement of hevyasam al yedei taharah discussed in a Rosh in Hilchos Mikvaos (Siman 12) based on a Gemorah in Zvachim (25b).

Three of the Poskim were willing to accept a somewhat tenuous leniency in regard to the matter, by virtue of the great need at stake. One of the Poskim, however, had very serious reservations. The other three Poskim agreed – the matter was so serious that unless they had unanimous agreement – they could not proceed further.

The project was derailed for a short time, until a new design was created that was able to circumvent the issue. When the second design was presented all four Poskim accepted the matter readily. This is the history behind the hydraulic Mikvaos that are now available across the world.

The point of the matter is that when there is an issue that affects all of Klal Yisroel, it must be handled delicately and by the leading Torah scholars.

This issue is particularly relevant regarding something we had discussed called Kosherswitch – a technological device that has been advertized as something that will “enhance” the Shabbos of the general public.

The problem is that leading Poskim have taken the exact opposite position – it’s use is at best restricted to a hospital or nursing home setting. It should never be used in a home setting by individuals who are not suffering from serious illness. Indeed, many of the leading Rabbis who were touted as advocates of the technology have released statements that their advocacy of the item was limited to certain situations and that their views have been misrepresented.

Other Poskim have taken a much stronger stance. Rav Yisroel Belsky actually called the device “a Rube Goldberg” contraption .. and stated, “This concept has no place in halacha.” He felt that “following this fallacious reasoning all thirty-nine malachos and their subcategories could easily be performed on Shabbos.

1HOW IT ALLEGEDLY WORKS

The way the KosherSwitch works is by moving a plastic item, unattached to anything electrical, that prevents an internally emitted light pulse from hitting the other side. When the light pulse hits the other side – the switch turns the light on. The emission of the pulse and the reception of the pulse are allegedly subjected to random degrees of uncertainty.

BAD MESSAGES

In our original posting on the Kosherswitch the discussion of innapropriateness in the Youtube video came up. An ostensibly religious man, was searching for a Shabbos goy (a woman in this case) and had inadvertently crosses a moral line. Rabbi Belsky did one better.

He writes that the entire tone of the advertisement gave the impression that the restrictions of Shabbos are negatives when in fact it is these restrictions that make Shabbos the wonderful, sweet and majestic day that it is.

It was a point made by no other Rav and is profoundly correct.

Other Poskim have signed letters against the product, with the realization that its dangers are the social equivalent of opening up the entire ouevre of pharmacological products and developments to the world. Enhance your life with Ambiance with no prescription, and perhaps set up your own morphine drip too. Thus Dayan Yechelzkel Roth issued strong letter. Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rav Falk, and Rav Shlomo Miller also issued rulings.

2CHILLUL HASHEM

The entire episode is quite sad, because here we had a very talented engineer that may have developed a product that could have been very useful in medical settings. He is described by those who know him as an extraordinary fine fellow who meant well. So what happened? How could something have ended up so disasterously? The miscommunications, combined with the notion that people hear what they want to hear, combined with the idea that people do not check out things as well as they should, has developed into a situation of Chillul Hashem and accusations flying left and right.

It is sad but this person must have spent much time and money promoting this idea. There were Rabbis that were perhaps misled and some that perhaps had back-tracked a bit.

SO WHAT TO DO?

Perhaps there are a few lessons in this entire fiasco. Firstly, we should all do whatever we can to help further and enhance our kavod and Oneg Shabbos in proper ways. There is so much truth to the oft-cited expression, “More than the Jew has kept Shabbos, Shabbos has kept the Jew.” Let’s make sure that no meal goes by without an inspiring Dvar Torah on the Parsha and without participation in Zmiros.

Another place we can start is through learning Seforim that discuss the beauty of Shabbos. The Nesivos Shalom by the Slonimer Rebbe zatzal has remarkably inspiring pieces that have affected the Shabbosim of both kids that were OTD kids as well as married Lakewood yungerleit. The works of Rav Shimshon Pincus have had similar effects. If we can do this instead of tummeling about these issues, then we can most certainly enhance our Shabbosim.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY 5TJT




22 COMMENTS

  1. Also in the kosher switch’s YouTube advertisements it shows the frum lady using her 5 year old child to turn on the lights for her on Shabbos — hence demonstrating the “need” for the kosher switch.

    What kind of chinuch is having your kids be your shabbos goy? That’s where kosher switch is coming from.

  2. The yungerman who developed it cared to help others – others in need: he really did!
    He ought not be lambasted! S’chaar in Himmel he will get more than anyone here wants to give him down here!

  3. Why don’t we talk a bit less about, Who is being Matir, And Who was almost Matir; Instead why don’t we devote just a few sentences to the technical properties of Geromoh. We all learned in Yeshivos, can’t we comprehend more than just names of Poskim?
    Everybody knows that when there is a fire outside, approaching a wooden chair but there is a metal table blocking its approach, you are allowed to push away the metal table thereby causing the fire to advance to the wooden chair. Its not even Geromoh.
    Conversely, you are allowed to push a metal table to a spot between the moving fire and the wooden chair even though this will cause the fire to become extinguished. Its not even a Geromoh.
    The same thing is with these Ions of Electrical currents.

  4. Just wondering – Where is this letter from? Was is put out somewhere? (Not questioning in any way the veracity of it, just curious where it came from?)

  5. #1, Chachom:What really put up my antennas about that scene is that by itself it happens to be assur. I too thought innocently, 35 years ago, that in a pinch I could hold my kid up to the switch and after all, if he turns it off and I didn’t even ask him to, then it’s ok. I learned soon enough that it is actually not ok at all. You are using the kid as an extension of your own hand, and even if he is not at the age of chinuch it is assur because it’s you in effect who are really using the switch. So to have that scene in a video touting a product that he claims is approved halachically ought to tell you about the limited halachic understanding of the product’s producer.
    #4, I do believe he meant well, but you cannot ask him to promote his own product based on a video he created for something he will make money from. No more than you can ask a soffer STaM to check a mezuzah which he himself wrote, or ask a Kosher Butcher to give himself a hechsher, no matter how fine and yirei shamayim he may be. He has halachic “negius.” Bottom line. Go straight to the poskim.

  6. When the “Remote-Bishul Yisroel” machine was developed in close consultation with Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurebach Z”L, And Rav Shmuel Wosner, Z”L.

    When Reb Shlomo Zalman was asked re: having someone operate it from a location that is not Shabbos for a location that is Shabbos? his response was “don’t start with the holy Shabbos”.

  7. “More than the Jew has kept Shabbos, Shabbos has kept the Jew.” – A statement originally made by Achad Haam, a secular Zionist and maskil!

  8. @Yira, just because you learnt a few lines in yeshiva about Geramah, does not necessarily turn you into a posek. There is a reason we have poskim.

  9. I didn’t understand the need for such a switch unless perhaps in a hospital or nursing home. We’ve needed a Shabbos goy on average once every 5-7 years. I assume the inventor, who meant well, only listened to what he wanted to hear as many of us tend to do. I hope he uses his talents to develop products that are needed and present no halachic issues.

  10. #10 Actually refer to הרב שמואל אשכנזי: אלפא ביתא תנייתא דשמואל זעירא who traces it back much further. (I believe to Rishonim. I haven’t seen it in over 3 years, and I don’t remember if it is found in volume I or II). Rav Ashkenazi is an unbelievable resource of knowledge, (arguably the foremost Jewish bibliophile alive) and his works are simply masterpieces. In this particular reference, or so I have been told, he missed a very central source: The Holy Zohar. Unfortunately, I do not know where it is so I call out to our in-house beki’im to cite its whereabouts.

  11. #10 – last time I checked Pirkei Avos says: “Who is wise? He who learns from all.”

    Just because someone is a Zionist and maskil does not mean you can’t learn something from them.

  12. “yubap says:
    April 23, 2015 at 4:41 pm
    “More than the Jew has kept Shabbos, Shabbos has kept the Jew.” – A statement originally made by Achad Haam, a secular Zionist and maskil!”

    He stole that from “ki eshmera shabbos kel yishmaraini”

  13. To Eli Willner

    Whats your problem? Why are you trying to hurt a fellow Jew. Did you not read what Rabbi Hoffman wrote above – that the guy is a well intentioned guy who wanted to be mezakeh the rabbim and it spiraled out of control from misunderstandings? Why are you, someone not involved at all, trying to cause people to attack this guy and cause a chillul Hashem at Indiegogo in the process? Why not use some seichel and tell those who don’t want to use it to donate it to elderly people or people nebach with sick children in the house that can use it lkulei almah? Isn’t that what a kind-hearted Jew should do? Instead of just causing machloket and trying to attack other Jews?

  14. Anyone who bought it and asked their personal Rov and the Rov said not to use it – DONATE IT to homes with the old and ill who according to all poskim can use it without a doubt.

  15. I’m not sure if a major point brought out in this article is clear to everybody, so I’m taking the liberty to articulate it.

    There is a major difference between a Talmid Chacham and a Gadol b”Yisrael. A Talmid Chacham is someone who has a strong grasp of Halacha. A Gadol b”Yisrael, on the other hand, is given the כח to see beyond the letter of the law. He has the ability to see the WHOLE picture and not just what is in front of him.

    Examples:
    The Beis Halevi – A person once asked if Milk can be used for the four cups on Pesach. He answered No and then gave the person a large sum of money. When asked why, he answered, “if they wanted to use milk then obviously they don’t have any meat for the seder, so I gave them money so they could buy whole meals for all of Yom Tov.”

    Rav Chaim Yosef Zonenfeld – once went against the custom and had a young non-married man lead Yom Noriam services (to the dismay of the kehillah) because he realized that the widow of the recently deceased Chazan would have צער when hearing someone else’s voice leading the services, so he sent up her son to lead in the father’s stead.

    The Reform movement – The Gedolim vehemently came out against the Reformers for moving the bimah from the middle of the shul to the front. One might have thought that it was an over reaction, but with their great incite they understood what it would lead to.

    In my opinion, even if this gadget would technically be within guidelines of Halachah, the risks of breaking down the foundations of the Holiness of Shabbos is not worth the investment. This is what I believe the Gedolim are mainly worried about here (not to mention that their are those that are stating that in fact this invention does not circumvent the prohibitions that it was created for).

    It should also be noted that the sanctity of Shabbos is so important to uphold that Chazal invented the Halachas of Muktza to instill the holiness of Shabbos within the hearts of Klal Yisrael when they observed that there developed a laxity of Shabbos reverence at that time. How much more so do we need to put in place guards to instill the sanctity of Shabbos in our days when so many violate Shabbos in front of our eyes.