[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]
It is an Indiegogo project. As of this writing, approximately $40,000 has been raised to market something called Kosherswitch – a technological device for Shabbos that will allegedly allow a person to allow the light to turn on. What you have just read is not a typo. This is the “legal mechanism” which is used by those backing the project. The project has a website and a youtube video designed to promote the item. The advertising literature makes a lot of claims. These claims need to be examined for accuracy.
HOW 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.
INNUENDO IN ADVERTISING
The Youtube video promoting the device has a section in it that this author finds, distasteful in the extreme. An ostensibly religious man, searching for a Shabbos goy (a woman in this case) inadvertently crosses a moral line. There is no question in my mind that the Rabbis who appear in the promotional video would never have agree to appear in it if they knew that there was innuendo of such a nature in the promotional material. The Rabbis were clearly misled. The question is, were these Rabbis also misquoted? But before we go there – let’s get some basic halachic terms and concepts down.
I would like to introduce three terms to the discussion.
• Direct Action – generally a Biblical prohibition.
• Grama – generally a Rabbinic violation.
• Semi-Grama – also known as not considered a Grama and thus fully permitted.
Grama means a “causation force” rather than a “direct force.” The laws of grama on Shabbos are derived from the Talmudic passages of grama in damages and in murder. Not that “causation force” is permitted, necessarily. At times it is forbidden by Rabbinic decree. The Shulchan Aruch and Ramah (OC 334:22) rules that a grama is forbidden on Shabbos except in cases of loss or great need.
The trick then is to create a switch that would halachically not even to be considered a grama – a causation force, but rather a semi-Grama. The makers of the KosherSwitch claim that they have accomplished this – the manufacture of a switch that does not even constitute a grama. But did they?
UNDERSTANDING LIGHT SWITCHES
We must first understand what the halachic status of a general electric switch is. Our system of alternating current (AC) is in actuality a river of flowing ions moving back and forth as they pass around an electric circuit. If the circuit is blocked, the ions stop flowing. When the break in the circuit is removed, the ions continue flowing and eventually turn on the electric light. Indeed, Rav Chaim Ozer Groszinsky zt”l believed that the electric light switch was a direct force – so much so that he even recited havdalah on an electric light switch!
But according to our explanation, a regular electric switch should be considered a grama – a causation force and not a direct force. Why? Because the switch is only removing the prevention to the flow of electrons. It is not causing the electrons to flow, it is merely removing the impediment to their flow. That should be a grama, not a direct force!
Halacha, however, views this either as direct force or as a forbidden type of grama. The reasons why this is so is subject to some debate. Primarily, the immediacy of the causation force makes it as if it is direct.
GRAMA VERSUS SEMI-GRAMA
What are the halachic factors that would make something that is causative a semi-Grama rather than a Grama?
There are three main approaches in the Poskim:
1. Some Poskim hold that if there is a delay in time between the person’s action and the result then it would be considered a semi-Grama.
2. Other Poskim hold that if the secondary action will not perforce occur then the causative action is not even considered a grama. In other words if it is not definite that the secondary result will happen – it would be considered a semi-Grama, not a Grama.
3. Yet other Poskim hold that if it is not the normal way in which this causative action is performed – then it is considered a semi-Grama.
ADDRESSING THE APPROACHES
The inventor attempt to address all of the various approaches, but the question is are these really adequately addressed?
The inventor believes that the switch between the two different modes is sufficient to address whether it is “the normal way of doing it.” This is questionable, however. How so? With the KosherSwitch, you still move a switch up and down just as you do during the week. Is flipping a vertical switch on a Friday truly sufficient to make this an abnormal way? True there is also a green light, but who says that this is sufficient to make it not a normal way of doing it?
Another question is while it is true that the light emitting diode may not work the first time, nor the receiver, but after a series of them, it is a mathematical certainty that the secondary action will happen. Who says that the criterion of whether it will definitely happen is determined by one and not the aggregate total? While it is true that previous versions of a gramma-switch allowed for this leniency, it is my understanding that many Poskim disagreed with it.
Yet another issue about this switch is whether it will train children to turn on and off lights on Shabbos in places that do not have the KosherSwitch. There is a product called “NearBeer” that does not contain significant traces of alcohol. Is it a good idea to give our pre-teens and teens “NearBeer” simply because it contains no alcohol? The results might be devastating. To make the KosherSwitch available to all would undermine Shabbos observance and proper Chinuch.
NOT FULLY QUOTED
Finally, there are a number of Rabbis who have been quoted to the effect that they permit it entirely, when in fact they only issued their permissive ruling under certain caveats. For example, this author saw a letter from Rav Harpenes (Author of ishmas Shabbos) that states that he only permitted it for hospitals or for nursing homes. Other Rabbis say that there is an issue of Zilusa d’Shabbsa – denigrating the Shabbos and that each person must ask his own Rav or Posaik.
RAV ELYASHIV ZT”L
A technological development with such far-reaching repercussions should be presented to the outstanding Gedolim of the generation before it is presented to the general public. If this switch was developed in 2014, or 2015 that would be one thing. The KosherSwitch has been around since before 2011 – plenty of time to have been presented to Rav Elyashiv, and yet he did not back this device.
It is this author’s view that the switch does not reach the criterion of semi-Grama according to the majority view of Poskim. There are serious dangers involved in Chinuch and the promotion of this technology. It can also precipitate a new slippery slope where the very concept of Shabbos can be undermined, Chalila.
The author can be reached at [email protected]
I agree. I was asked by the inventor to evaluate this product and found his arguments far from convincing and many of his supposed endorsements lacked credibility.
Thanks for this article, Rabbi Hoffman.
R. Hoffman is correct about the offensive and immoral innuendo used in the video (which is not linked). Even the video linked above is highly offensive and distasteful with its use of an intentionally prettied up woman in makeup and polish for obvious reasons.
I agree with you, NOVOL BERISHUS HATORAH
Even if this 100% kosher, how far can this technology go. Every fan or heater can be turned on and off at will. Why stop there, can we drive a car with this technology? Type on a computer, answer a phone. Anything electrical can be turned into a semi Grama.
Once again, Rabbi Yair Hoffman is just creating further confusion without bringing any halachic sources for his indecisiveness. If this were a true halachic debate, he would need to quotes some sources, and not just ask emotional questions.
Why hasn’t anyone reached out to those Rabanim that supposedly are quoted for verification? Asking were Rabbanim misquoted without proof is careless.
I am not saying that I support this technology, but what R’ Hoffman is doing is not correct either.
I rarely comment on articles – but this is a must. This item removes the mesiras nefesh for Shmiras Shabbos. So what if a light goes off early – or stays on too late – are we that pampered? EZ lights for Chanuka are the same poison – what happened to preparing wicks – preparing the Chanuka neros – is that too much of a hassle? This item will be a churban in klal yisroel – a tragedy.
Thanks Rabbi Hoffman for writing this article
I agree 100% and that sick bedroom joke in the video is further proof that something is not kosher with this
Rabbi Hoffmans articles aren’t meant to be complete halachic presentations. He always states conclusions rather than quoting all sources. If you really want to know, go do some homework. But the fact is that the inventors did fool many rabbonim about the switch. and for one reason alone it would be assur, that its an uvda shel chol. a non shabbos act. and may tend to promote chilul shabbos. much like having a timer on a TV or radio. very different than a timer for an AC.
If you want to outsmart the whole yiddishkeit you could do it, and do all the lavvin in the Torah with a heter.
This is typical novel brshis hatorah. And needs to be exposed to the public as it is.
In some way it’s a good thing they put this in the video, as this shows their true colors.
while reasonable people can disagree as to the appropriateness of the video, i dont see how it could be called fooling if their website has the written psak and full length video of the rabbonim. You need not search far and wide to see which rabbonim paskined its okay for the sick, old and young children and which said its completely muttr.
by the way if you read the piskie din on the KS you can see that rabbi hoffman oversimplified the issues to a point where this article is misleading.
I just received this from a friend, who is a student of Rav Nevenzahl, today:
“Rav Nebentzal said, that anyone who uses the shabbos switch (except hospitals etc) is mechalel Shabbos. He also explained that if you read his haskama it was a congratulatory message to help with avoiding shabbos desecration when nessasary. He said he never allowed it to be used in a house or any other situation. This was asked to him today, after being showed all the paperwork of the kosherswitch by Rav Ami.”
The Kosher Switch promotion doesn’t indicate that Rav Nevenzahl’s haskama is only for nursing homes, hospitals, and the like. If one does a Google search, he will find other rabbonim making similar claims.
One of my Rabbis told me he has inside information that this product was shown to Rav Ovadia Yosef Z”L, and he rejected its use. His son, Rav Yaakov Yosef Z”L wrote a teshuva rejecting it too. None of this has been publicised yet.
The Rav who gave me this information requested to stay anonymous for political reasons.
Exactly. We just saw this same mentality with Pesach “food”. What used to be assur to eat on Pesach, is now Kosher Viyosher. Pizza bagels, cereal, donuts, mock this, mock that, etc etc… A child growing up today will never know the difference between the Shalosh Rigalim. Only difference is, on Succos we sit in a Succah. On Pesach & Shavuos we eat in the house. No restrictions necessary.
This was definitely a very big mistake. But then again, for years there was NO Eruv in Brooklyn. Every Talmud Chachom respected the Gadol/Posek Hador, Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L when he said there can be no “Heter” for an Eruv! But todays “cutting edge” Rabbonim know better! Everything done in the name of “COMFORT”! No need for a little Mesiras Nefesh for Yiddeshkeit. The saying “ZI SHVER TZU ZEIN AAH YID” is back in vogue! Then these idiots wonder why their kids are going off the Derech!!!
The KosherSwitch and ShabbosApp will be marketed as allowing the use of a smartphone to make calls, texts and web browsing possible on Shabbos C”V.
Subject: Kosher Switch for Shabbat
In response to your request, I shall refer to the electric switch presented as the ‘Kosher Switch’, and to the website link you sent me, which explains the Halachic background, and even appends a long list of rabbis who have expressed a blessing or support.
The following is my position:
A. Truth be told, I was amazed how easy it is to receive endorsement letters from rabbis. It is apparent that one relies on the other, without taking personal responsibility, and with the fall of the foundation the entire house falls. I do not know what was explained to the rabbis that ‘signed’; however it is clear to any reasonable halachic man that there is no way to permit prohibitions of Shabbat (D’Oraita or D’Rabbanan), not even with Halachic tricks or acrobatics.
B. The whole proposed story relies on the leniency of ‘Gramma’, which no consensus rabbi would permit L’chatchila for domestic and personal use. All ‘Gramma’ or similar halakhic arrangements carried out by the Zomet Institute or Technology Institute in Jerusalem were permitted solely for medical, security and similar needs. Even if they added to the ‘Gramma’ additional apparatuses, and even if there is a one in a thousand chance that the action will not occur, I have received from my rabbis (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Shaul Yisraeli) that this does not change in any way the halakhic status of regular ‘Gramma’ (just like Gramma D’Gramma and other artificial arrangements).
C. Even if the method of operation is non-active from the point of view of the agent, i.e. because he merely removes the “preventing element,” Rabbi S. Z. Auerbach and others wrote that this remains forbidden and is treated like it was done directly by the person, since the action occurs immediately after the human intervention/action. Even if the result comes only after a delay caused by an additional factor, this is plain Gramma, which is still not permitted L’chatchila.
D. And here is the main part of my remarks: Yesterday I went to my teacher and rabbi HaGaon Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, Shlita, and I asked him whether he permitted to use this switch to activate electricity on Shabbat for the purposes of Oneg Shabbat, etc… He was really shocked and said he never permitted that. When I showed him the endorsement letter, he added in his handwriting: “Only for medicine and security” (see photo in attached Hebrew article). Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl Shlita, who signed a similar letter, also told me yesterday that he does not recall ever signing anything like that, and expressed the opinion that there is no place for this and was puzzled about the whole thing.
I suppose that whoever managed to get the signatures of important rabbis ‘sold’ them an invention that is a kind of a complex Gramma used for the purpose of medicine or security, and succeeded in skipping this condition when they signed.
E. With regard to the the claim, written in their accompanying halachic responsum, that it is permitted to use this Gramma switch to minimize the prohibition of those who willfully the violate the Shabbat, we have never heard of such rabbis who permit this. I am sure that those who ‘agreed’ did not see this argument, and this is an argument that should not be stated.
With prayer L’Ktiva Vachatima Tova to all of Israel,
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, Head of the Zomet Institute
This topic requires much more than the cursory treatment which is presented by the author. Additionally, the reference to R Chaim Ozer’s using an electric light for Havdala is not on point – it does not prove that an electric switch is direct force. One would ostensibly be permitted to make Havdala on fire that is kindled through indirect force.
#1 the video of rabbi yossef mizrahi is not for it rather against it #2 shabbat is shabbat menucha so stop making it as if its a pain and the video was (eib) it made it as if shabbat was a sad day and also it was inappropriate with the black lady
Indiegogo (the site that is running the crowd-funding campaign) has rules that Kosher Switch is violating with the many factual misrepresentations in the campaign itself and on their website, as others here have detailed.
I believe it is appropriate to report these violations to Indiegogo so that they can be corrected and to avoid mass chiul Shabbos on the part of people who were led to believe that the switch is a blanket heter to use electricity on Shabbos.
To report the campaign go to Indiegogo, search for “kosher”, go to the campaign and scroll down to the link, “Do you think this campaign contains prohibited content? Let us know.” It’s on the right side of the page, after the listing of perks.
Simply state that the company is misrepresenting the utility of their device and if the facts were honestly presented most of the contributors would not have done so.
This is a shanda that we can do something about so I urge everyone to do this, and to spread the word.
In response to “Not getting involved says:”
Yes – you are spot on. My Rav speaks about this each year before Pesach – and says very clearly that there is no reason for all the Pesach products that mock chametz – what ever happened to enjoying and appreciating the beauty of the Yom Tov.
And yes – the video with the goyte is appalling – and indeed shows that not all is kosher with the kosher switch.
#16 – “Yesterday I went to my teacher and rabbi HaGaon Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, Shlita – Didn’t Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth zt”l die several years ago?
by the way for a real thorough analysis of the pros and cons of the kosher switch you should check out the shiur by rabbi aryeh lebowitz about the actual device.
I think it’s very immodest to show frum women all glammed up in long wigs and makeup in a video that men are looking at. This is what’s done now to promote a kosher Shabbos product? The scene about the bedroom is very disturbing, it was obviously meant to be funny but I think it just ends up offending people.
I think people should just ask their own Rav if they are allowed to use this product or not.
welcome everyone to the dishonest & corrupt generation. if you give the senator or Rabbi a donation sure we will stamp our signature approving your product… its a disgrace to yiddishkeit & what will be with our children-the future generation of klal yisroel?
Aicha…woe to us that we have lowered ourselves to such a low level way down.
I don’t have smicha and am certainly not a posek. This situation certainly demonstrates the very sad situation of the lack of a sanhedrin which be the final authority if a lower beis din could not decide the question .We all know that in the beis hamikdosh certain melochos were permitted
on shabbos It always easier to be machmer than to be maikel.There is no miztvah to make things difficult if they dont have to be.Until meshiach comes we have to follow the current gedolei hadoar (poskim)regardless of what we think !
I agree that the advertising is deceptive. That does not mean. however, that the switch does not have significant halachic basis.
See the following analysis:
Then. get back to us as to why the Rav is wrong.
KosherSwitch has videos of some of those who gave them endorsements giving shiur on their YouTube channel.
Kedai to watch if you have Youtube allowed on your computer at home. I agree with the sentiment that the innuendos are improper. But they are irrelevant, it’s the halacha that matters
From a business prospective, I would not recommend investing in this product, since the only thing he’s worried about is meeting the manufacturer’s minimum requirements. That’s the least he should be needing my money for. And yes, the video is utterly discussing. A shanda. Please listen to Eli willner and go to Indeigogo to report violations.
Disastor…if this thing goes big
Rabbi Oelbaum’s son says that his father’s view was misrepresented.
The sole fact that turning the light on is not a need on shabbos unless for security or health reasons makes turning a light on on shabbos totally muktzah no matter how u do it-it demoralizes the shabbos. Also the part of the video with the black lady was totally immoral and shows that the inventor is not a very kosher person, therefore his invention should be deemed very unkosher. And u ppl who are saying it is kosher……..I advise u get to a doc quickly so he can fix ur damaged brains b-4 it’s too late
I do not agree with all rabbi Hoffmans articles, but I DEFINITELY agree with this one. He is 1000 percent right
For the record, ad as can easily confirmed, Rav Heinemann’s heter for the so-called Shabbos mode on electric ovens is ONLY for yom tov, when there is much more to rely upon regarding g’rama. The teshuva is found in the Star-K’s Pesach guide.
I know first hand that Rav Elyashuvs attendants often blocked people they didn’t consider to be valid. I’m talking about major rabbanim from around the world who had to call in protectsia to keep their meeting because the gatekeepers blocked their meeting because they didn’t deem the rabbanim “worthy” of the meeting.
R Hoffman, did you contact the rabbanim in the video? They are mostly in NY and are incredibly accessible.
I never post comments on these sites but after seeing the poor and tasteless attempt at being funny with the inappropriate Shabbos goy bit I had to comment.
How can someone think that was funny and approve it for public release for a product that directly addresses frum Jews? I grew up not so frum and this is something my friends and I would’ve found funny. The implication of where the light was and who the Shabbos goy is, as well as his repeating the question in that way is hard to miss. To use this innuendo when addressing the frum public about something no less than the kedusha of Shabbos really puts to question the “purity” of this project.
Aside from the questionable attempt to portray some of these heterim to be for all circumstances, the implications of something like this being mainstream are scary. Unless you install this on every switch in your house it will not take long before you are so used to turning switches on and off on Shabbos that you will start doing it where no switch is installed.
In addition, the chinuch and maareis ayin issues this may cause are scary. Regardless of what you hold, if this is used in everyday homes (Not hospitals, etc..) it is hard to see how the benefit outweighs the consequences.
To end off, quite a few times in my life I thought I absolutely knew what/why someone did something and was later proven quite wrong. That lesson was humbling. I am completely dan lekaf zchus that the owners and all affiliated with the ad are not being represented and should not be personally judged by these actions and that there can be some explanation that I can’t see for this. I wish Hatzlacha in their lives and much needed siyata dishmaya to do the right thing in regards to this product.
I truly regret my previous comments about this video. While I don’t think men should watch videos with women in them, I think that publicly posting negative comments about other Jewish people is not okay. I’m sure all the people in this video had good intentions and were just trying to help advertise what might be a useful product.
bakingmom: Your first comment (#23) is 100% correct and on-target and must be said.
Disclaimer: I am not a Rabbi, so check out what I am saying with your Rabbi. Nor am I trying to claim anything different from Rabbi Hoffman or back him up (as if he needs my help!). I’m just trying to bring out some food for thought.
To my understanding, there are several opinions on what the Issur of Electricity is on Shabbos.
3) Uvdeh D’Chol
I was once told by a Rabbi in America that the later (Uvdeh D’chol) is the generally excepted reason among contemporary poskim. However, I never confirmed that as it never became an issue.
None-the-less, let take for argument sake, that this is true. If so, we see that Uvdeh D’Chol is considered a serious matter in the eyes of our Chachamim. With that said, we really have to consider that flipping this switch may constitute Uvdeh D’Chol! Even though that actual process differs slightly from a flipping of a normal light switch, none-the-less, that action is not “visibly” different and therefore falls in question due to its appearance of an Uvdeh D’chol.
Furthermore, their is a major Nafka Mina between a standard “shabbos clock” and this switch. A standard Shabbos clock is set “before” Shabbos and not touched at all on Shabbos. This product, however, is designed to be manually used on Shabbos and being that it “looks” like a prohibited act, it therefore (in my opinion) should not be used in homes even if there may be halachic grounds to make exceptions.
There is also a VERY SERIOUS oversight that has been missed in my opinion.
Everybody has focused on the switch, which is merely a plastic piece that is flipped. But there is a more important component that shouldn’t be overlooked. In order to allow for flipping the switch, the kosherswitch needs to be turned on to Shabbos mode. If not, it totally invalidates the usage of this product and causes Chillul Shabbos. The Hakpada I have with this is that the switch for the Shabbos mode is covered with a non-transparent cover. That means that in order to know that it is switched to Shabbos mode you need to either move its cover or be conscientious that the little green light above it is on, which leads to another issue. The little green light!
Even with the Shabbos mode switched on, it is still prohibited to flip the switch unless the green light is on. This totally defeats the purpose of the invention.
This invention was created to resolve a common problem… “HABIT”!
How often is a light switched accidentally flipped on or off due to “habit”. We call this “shogeig”.
So here we have someone that “habitually” flips the bathroom light on/off EVEN on Shabbos (due to having a Kosherswitch). Do you really think that it will never come to the point where someone (out of habit) will “forget” to check for the green light first BEFORE flipping the switch?! I highly doubt it!
Assuming this product does indeed conform to Halachah, I don’t see room for this product outside places/situations that are pressing such as in hospitals, old age homes, or homes of the elderly and the like in which Shabbos violations are often necessary and such a product may minimize actual violations. However, in the standard house environment I only see the possibility for more Chillul Shabbos that could be avoided. Accidental chillul Shabbos in the home can usually be avoided by proper preparations such as light switch shields and the like.
Bakingmom (Post #36) I couldn’t agree with you more. As soon as i posted my comment, despite being dan lkaf zchus, as we all should be, i immediately regretted it. I emailed the mods asap to block my post but they got it too late. I feel extremely wrong about criticizing other Jews, especially in a public forum. Even when something doesn’t seem yashar. Not everyone is Pinchas!
Despite my best attempts not to judge those involved and be dan lekaf zchus, I still must ask for forgiveness from those i may have wronged/hurt by posting my view publicly. I will leave it to our Rabbanim to decide when criticizing someone publicly is appropriate for kavod hatorah issues. I certainly am not qualified to decide.
I have no comment on the halachic issues here. I would like to comment on the videos. Kal kivuda bas melech penima. The video should have used Jewish men, and not Jewish women. Period.
Regarding the segment where the man unsuccessfully attempts to indirectly ask a gentile woman to turn off his bedroom light, this part could have been done much differently and better.
He should have said his KIDS’ room light is on and they can’t sleep with the light on. This would have avoided any potential innuendo.
But, regardless, I don’t think the producers were trying to make an inappropriate joke, even if they should have done better on the video.
ny100k Apr.16,3:45 asks “Why weren’t the misquoted rabbis consulted again”? Because they are not alive! A better question would be, “Why is he quoting dead rabbis to begin with?” Rabbi Scheinberg, zcher hatzdick l’vracha, passed away three years ago and for a couple of years before that he was not giving haskamos on anything. He never would have agreed to this and the whole quote is one big lie. Rav Neuvert also passed away four or five years ago.
Great invention! I also have pending patents that will make us forget our Jewish life style and will finally let us live us goyim without doing any avierah. Here are some of them:
– Kosher Sekanah: Creates a “Fake Sekanas Nefashos” which makes eating on Yom Kipur “mutar lekule alma”.
– Kosher Chutzpa: Hit your Father and split on your Mother without passing over Kivud Av vaEm.
– Kosher Big Mac: A device that avoid the punishment of Kares and let you celebrate the Pesach Sedarim in Mac Donalds (you will be able to lean toward your right side)
– Kosher Gyrosknife: will open a whole on your head, so you will wear your yarmulke under your hair. No more Yarmulke falling on the floor.
– Kosher Siccors: Finally, cut your hair during Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed and Omer !!! Watch the video on you tube with the approval of all the barbers of Boro Park and Monsey, even the cashier agrees!!!
– The Non Plus Ultra Invention: Kosher Geula: Forget about Yerushalayim, it is too far!, this device let you rebuild the third Bais Hamikdash in Manhattan bimhera biyameinu !!!
…Common’ do not try to play games with Hashem. Love your Torah and enjoy the Miztvos Lo Taase as much as the Taase. Enjoy your Shabbos as it is !!!
I think everyone in the videos have good intentions however everyone else should ask their Rav if the switch is allowed according to halacha. The endorsements should not serve as a psak halacha for everyone.