Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

The Kosher Switch May Not Be So Kosher After All

Marketed as a way to keep kosher during the Shabbat, many rabbinical sources fear the Kosher Switch may rely on a Jewish loophole to keep “kosher”

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: April 17th, 2015 in Business » World

Photo: Kosher switch

Credit: YouTube Screenshot


The Kosher Switch is causing a stir as it promises to change the way a light switch works to make it kosher for the Sabbath, and flaunting Rabbinical endorsements. In just the last three day’s, it’s already raised $45,000 on Indiegogo, putting it only $5,000 from its fundraising goal.

According to the inventor of the Kosher Switch, Menashe Kalati, as reported by JTA, he considers it to be a, “long overdue, techno-halachic breakthrough,” (Halachah refers to Jewish law). When the switch is turned off, a piece of plastic prevents an electric light pulse from being received that would allow the light to be turned on. When this plastic switch, which isn’t connected to anything electrical, is turned into ‘on’ position, it frees up the pulse to work as normal. According to Kalati, it’s kosher for use during Shabbat.

However, many Rabbinical sources feel otherwise on the matter, worrying that it relies on a loophole known as “gramma,” which waves the rule concerning the use of electrical devices on Shabbat for emergency, life threatening, reasons. So while you may not be able to use your computer during Shabbat to check your email, someone in the hospital relying on a respirator to stay alive is permitted to continue using their device for obvious reasons.

But Kalati insists that the Kosher Switch doesn’t rely on gramma for the Shabbat. “[It] adds several layers of Halachic uncertainty, randomness, and delays, such that according to Jewish law, a user’s action is not considered to have a caused given reaction,” he touts on the product’s website.

Another concern Rabbinical sources are having with the Kosher Switch is its website’s claim that says, “we’ve been privileged to meet with Torah giants who have analyzed, endorsed and blessed our technology and endeavors.”

Yisrael Rosen, the head of the Zomet Institute which is considered to be one of the leading designers for electronic use fit for the Sabbath, says the Kosher Switch is anything but kosher.

“Today, Israeli media reported the invention of an electric ‘Kosher switch’ for Shabbat, with the approval of various rabbis. This item was recycled from 2010 and already then denials and renunciation by great rabbinic authorities were published regarding everyday use for this product. No Orthodox rabbi, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, has permitted this ‘Gramma’ method for pure convenience,” he wrote in a statement on the institute’s website.

He also claims that Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, the first rabbi to endorse the Kosher Switch, has been greatly misquoted during the product’s promotional video. In it, they claim Neuwirth wrote them, “I, too, humbly agree to the invention,” but Rosen says there’s more to the letter.

“To allow one a priori to turn on electricity on Shabbat — impossible, and I never considered permitting except for the needs of a sick person or security,” the letter to the Kosher Switch inventor also reads. “And please publicize this thing so no [Sabbath] violation will be prompted by me.”

Rabbi Noach Oelbaum, the son of a second rabbi whose supposed endorsement is in the video for the Kosher Switch also feels like the message his father had been intended to send is different than the one perceived. That although his father doesn’t believe it violates the technical aspect of labor concerning the Shabbat, it does cheapen and demean the Shabbat spirit.

“I regret my father’s position on kosher switch was misrepresented by stating that he endorses it l’masseh (regular use),” Moshe Oelbaum said, reports JTA.

The Kosher Switch isn’t the first invention to come around in order to help people circumvent the use of electricity on the Shabbat. The Zomet Institute has invented baby sensors, hot water heaters, switches to modify wheelchairs, hospital beds, scooters and elevators that can be used during the Shabbat and still remain kosher. Timers to control lights, stoves, and a variety of devices are also frequently set up before Shabbat in order to control electrical use. And in 2004 Shmuel Veffer, a Canadian rabbi and inventor, created the Kosher Lamp, which allows users to turn off bulbs by turning a contraption secured around the bulb and obstructed it from view.

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