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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sabbath Mode Revisited

Blogger being what it is, this site scores high on Google searches for certain topics. Everyday I get several hits on this post that I wrote about the Sabbath Mode feature on the oven we bought last year. And every so often I get a new comment. Here's an exerpt from one I received over the weekend (from "Dan"):

I have issues with the notion that God cares if you turn on the
oven during the sabbath, and I seriously doubt God approves of the waste and pollution that goes along with leaving the oven running all sabbath long, and I would love to know how pressing a button is work but opening and closing a door is not, but I'm just a lapsed *reform* Jew who's in it for the food and never goes to synagogue, so what the hell do I know, anyway.

Even knowing how various details of halacha end up being reinterpreted to apply to modern technology, I still can't necessarily disagree with what he has to say. In particular, because we hear every year about houses burning down and people dying because of ovens left on for cooking purposes over Shabbos or Yom Tov.

What do you think? Is this a case where safety issues should trump the halacha establishment? What can or should be done to reevaluate the situation?


Doctor Bean said...

[For those who don’t know me, I belong to a Modern Orthodox synagogue. My home has a kosher kitchen. I drive on Shabbat only to go to and from the hospital in which my patients are hospitalized. I may be a heretic, but I’m a religious heretic.]

(1) Safety issues should trump the halacha establishment in all cases.

(2) Rabbinic rulings move slower than molasses in January. If the Orthodox rabbinate actually felt responsible for the large population of Jews and issued rulings accordingly, they would have realized that they themselves had a serious problem when Reform and then Conservative split away. The halachic establishment will respond to a serious problem in Jewish law in about 3 generations. This leaves two options for serious religious Jews who identify such problems.
(a) Leave Orthodoxy. This has been a well-beaten path for the last century and a half and is one of the reasons why the majority of Jews aren’t Orthodox. This isn’t a bad solution for the individual Jew who then is able to find a more rational religious community, and it certainly helps the community that he then joins. The main problems with this solution are that the other denominations haven’t (in my opinion) constructed thoughtful and serious legal systems but merely ones aimed at convenience or at political agendas. The other main problem is that this seriously hurts Orthodoxy. For 150 years, those frustrated with the rate of change in rabbinic law have left Orthodoxy. This has left the movement with those least likely to press for change and has made Orthodoxy even more ossified and intransigent than it was in the 1800s. That’s a problem. It also lets rabbis not have to be responsible for the broad consequences of their rulings, since those most irked by these consequences will just leave.
(b) Rebel within Orthodoxy. The second option is to learn the specific law in as much detail as possible, and if it’s clear that the law is bad and will not be addressed by the Rabbis anytime soon, to violate it while remaining in all other respects an Orthodox Jew. The law should be violated publicly and without shame, and every opportunity should be taken to explain to other Jews the rationale for the violation and other Jews should be encouraged follow suit. Of course, depending on the level of Rabbinic power in the community, this will lead to uncomfortable tensions and will require much courage. In small communities this may be totally untenable because of the risk of social ostracism. Nevertheless most Rabbinic decisions in the last couple of centuries have followed, not led, changes in behavior. The entire population would suddenly be doing something that previously was wrong, then the rabbis realized that they had to get together to legalize it. That’s the only way they move nowadays; they have to be dragged.

When possible, I recommend (b). My silly long-term dream is to have a community of Orthodox Jews who turn lights on and off on Shabbat and stop with the goofy tape over the refrigirator door-light-switch. But you may want to start with things that burn houses down.

Robbie said...

In our little shtetl of Lake View, the MO Rav declared, soon after a horrible accident with a gas stove over a shabbat, that turning off stoves on shabbat and yom tov is completely permissible - even if the safety concern is only in one's mind.

He said that the worry that would be caused over shabbat/yom tov would defeat the purpose, and better safe.

PsychoToddler said...

I think what's really touched a nerve in some people is not just that the appliance manufacturer modified the oven to cater to Orthodox Jews, but that they went out of their way to make it LESS SAFE.

We're not talking about switches to turn off the refrigerator light or pre-cut toilet paper here.

We're talking about disabling the automatic cutoff that keeps the stove from inadvertantly burning down the house or asphyxiating the family.

True, we never had an issue with this before auto-cutoff's were introduced, but maybe because wink-wink nobody realized we were leaving our stove tops on for 3 days at a clip.

ball-and-chain said...

I agree with everything that my husband said, including the words "ossified" and "intransigent." Bean, do you remember where you read about the use of electricity on Shabbat? Perhaps you could refer these readers to it.

tuesdaywishes said...

Leaving the oven on for 3 days at a clip isn't really neccessary. I have never done it, in the 17 or so years I've been a balaboste. I cook in advance and warm food on an electric blech. I also leave on an electric crock-pot. I often take advantage of the safety feature that turns my oven off so that I can have it on for the first night of Yom Tov.

As for electricity and Halacha, the issue is not as black-and-white in the earliest resposa on this topic as we consider it to be today. A gas flame is a flame, but an electric circuit is what?

I think it's a good thing that our rabbis eventually agreed not to permit us to control electricity on Shabbat, because our Shabbat would never have the unique character it does today if we were using our usual electrical and electronic devices. However, this might explain why there is a bit more wiggle-room in the Halacha than the lay person might expect, especially when dealing with safety issues, and compounded by issues surrounding the second day of Yom Tov.

Stacey said...

...I seriously doubt God approves of the waste and pollution that goes along with leaving the oven running all sabbath long, and I would love to know how pressing a button is work but opening and closing a door is not

Dan, I'm with you. I find it to be ridiculous, actually.

Doctor Bean said...

b&c: It was in an issue of "Halacha and Modern Society", a real edge-of-your-seat-page-turner of a periodical.

Robbie said...

For what it's worth, (and that amounts to not much in the context of Orthodox practice, but,) the reasoning behind electricity use in Conservative Judaism is:

- A flame is a flame, electricity does not have the same properties.

- There is no worry of "completing" the circuit every time a light is turned on - rather, the electrician completed the circuit, we just move it - much like turning on a faucet -the water's there and ready, we're just letting it out.

- There's a difference in electricity use for needs and wants on Shabbat/YT - computers are a no no, turning off the bathroom light at night's just fine.

Ezzie said...

Not commenting on the halachos, but there's no reason the oven should be on 3 days straight. Couldn't the Sabbath Mode just have a setting the cycles the oven on and off? (Don't some already?)

Doctor Bean said...

My religious community mandates that I soak my underpants in kerosene whenever I smoke a cigarette.

ball-and-chain said...

Robbie: I knew I was a conservative Jew. I just wish they had some vibrant communities!

Mrs. Balabusta said...

And a big hello goes out to all those of you I haven't seen for a while, but now that I'm back hold on to your seats.

First of all, things were just fine when stoves had pilot lights and dials that could be turned without extinguishing the pilot and without a little led changing. When the manufacturers "improved" the stoves, they created problems, so they had to create back doors - and then they made the mistake of putting the back doors in the book. The cruel irony is that it isn't really a Sabbath mode at all, it's a Yom Tov mode, hence the new 72 hour cutoff, but I digress.

To get on Beanie's soapbox there are plenty of slacks and pants out there that were never meant for men to wear, and are clearly "women's clothing" not men's clothing, so I don't know why women couldn't wear them. Also, I will shoot down the "tzinus" aspect, because I have seen skirts that don't have slits and are more provocotive than your average wool slacks.

The bottom line is that common sense, taste and logic don't really have much to do with Halacha as you think. However,it is our adherence to a certain standard, wherever you draw that line, that leads to the coherence as a people. That's why you don't have the vibrant conservative communities, because everyone is doing their own thing.

Personally, I wish you could customize your appliance the way you detail your car.

Rachel said...

To be honest, this sounds like some weird control issue. I understand that there are halachot that should be followed, but to TAKE AWAY the ability that every man and woman was given by Hashem to reason is pretty crazy. I mean, chances are that if you have this sort of oven, you are planning on using it for Shabbas in the first place. So why disable the one function that would allow the appliance to be safe? To make sure that you don't get paranoid and turn it off for no reason? I think that the authorities should trust that if you are a Torah Jew, you will act as such and use discretion.

Ayelet said...

Robbie: How is "turning off the bathroom light" a need?

Dan: The interpretation of m'lacha as "work" is inaccurate. (Not that this will be meaningful because it requires much in depth examination which I certainly cannot help you with but..) the things which are prohibited on Shabbat are "creative activities". We desist from "creation" on Shabbat because G-d created the world in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. Even the terms "creation" and "rest" have the problem that they don't imply the connotations inherent in the lashon kodesh (lit. holy tongue; refers to the hebrew of the Bible, not to be confused with modern Hebrew).

In my little brain's understanding, it is not the job of our halachic leaders to "make up" or "decide" new halachot as new situations arise with the passage of time and innovation of technology. Rather, their "job" is to analyze the situation, compare it with other situations that have already been ruled on, and determine how the situation fits in with halachic precedence. It certainly is not a matter of revising or deciding halacha to fit around our lifestyles. I presume that they are (made) aware of safety issues involved and I am sure they are aware of halachot regarding the different ways we treat d'orayta and d'rabanan when it comes to health and safety.

Dr. Bean and b&c: Don't you guys cohabitate? You might consider good ol' fashioned talking :)

PsychoToddler said...

This is a great discussion, everyone, keep it up.

I just want to clarify something.

Rachel: I'm not sure it's clear to you what exactly the "sabbath mode" is.

It's not a special oven for Jews. It's the standard oven that they sell in stores, by Kenmore or Maytag (in our case). It has all the features of a regular stove, plus one extra.

In 1994, safety features were added to new stoves to automatically turn off the oven and burners if they were left on for more than 12 hours continuously. This was done presumably to prevent fires or gas leaks in case people forgot to turn off the oven or burners. Because what kind of nut intentionally leaves on an oven for more than 12 hours?

Orthodox Jews. Those kind of nuts. Because according to halacha, you can't turn an oven or range on or off on shabbos. And on Yom tov (say the extra special 3 day yom tovs we've had this year), while it's ok to cook on an existing flame, you can't turn them on or off because these new ones use electric ignitions instead of ye olde tyme pilot lights.

So if you want to use your brand spanking new oven over Pesach to cook lunch on Day 2, you're out of luck because it turned itself off in the middle of night one.

So somebody (over at Star K?) got the manufacturers to put in a little software feature that enables you to disable the 12 hour cutoff and leave the stove and range on for up to 72 hours (as long as you would need for a 3 day yom tov). If you don't invoke Sabbath mode, it functions normally.

I'm actually surprised that it's featured so prominantly in marketing for these stoves.

We found out about it from a Black saleswoman at Sears in Milwaukee: "S-A-BB-A-T-H Sabbath! (snap)"

But to me, what this really does is call into sharp relief the realtively unsafe practice that Jews have had with gas stoves for many years, leaving them on and going to shul, going to sleep, etc. There's gotta be a better way.

We use the electric hot plate too, but we have to leave the oven on to cook.

Robbie: Not to comment on whether it makes sense or not, but there is a fundamental difference between an electrical circuit and a fawcett. Electricity will only flow through a closed circuit. So when you close it, you are creating the electrical loop. Opening a fawcett should be more akin to opening a container or a bottle.

PsychoToddler said...

Oh, and Rachel, you can manually turn off the oven at any time, even in Sabbath mode. It just disables the auto-cutoff.

PsychoToddler said...

Ayelet: Turning off a bathroom light is not a need. But I can tell you from experience that turning one ON sure can be!

You're right about the definition of "work" not being logical by our standards. When I spoke to a group of Christians, I likened it to the definition of work in physics, which has to do with moving someting over distance, irregardless of the energy you expend. You may feel like you're doing work, but it only counts if something moves. Not intuitive, but it makes sense within its own little rules-set.

Robbie said...

Ayelet -

It's not a need anymore than leaving it on all night. In my opinion, it makes more sense to turn it off and stop wasting the electricity.

PT -

Yes, they're different - the analogy was mine, not the tshuva's. Theirs is the closing of the circuit - that we don't close it, the electrician did. We just move it every so often.

And for me, I don't get the point of leaving things on. To me it's more of a distraction and a waste of energy.

LubyVitcher said...

Great disscussion. A few things, we also use the electric blech--and I sleep soundly too--and find no need for the oven as well. Are you preparing anything before Yom Tom? What is the temperature in your house with the platta(Israeli electric blech) AND the oven on? We bought a "fancy" timer that goes on and off--hopefully at the correct times-- so that the blech is not on all of the time.

Doctor Bean said...

Here’s the algorithm that has worked best for us and has been approved by our rabbi:

1. Leave all burners on the stove on ‘high’ at all times, thereby avoiding any of the hassles of figuring out when holidays or the Sabbath are.
2. Disable all safety mechanisms on stove. Do the same for our cars and our firearms.
3. Sleep soundly knowing that our lives in every detail are obeying the will of The Creator of the Universe, hallowed be His Name.
4. Our house frequently burns to the ground, usually while we’re all in synagogue praising the Holy One.
5. Move into a new house.
6. Repeat.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I don't think it's necessary but not a crime either. Come by. How do I join kids speak email me. For some reason my hotmail doesn't allow me to use your email thru outlook express.

PsychoToddler said...

Robbie: Obviously the issue with leaving things on is that it's forbidden by halacha to turn them off, or turn them back on again. You know that. Nobody's doing it because they like wasting electricity (we pay for it). Waste is an issue with certain things in Judaism (food comes to mind), but not electricity.

Bean: In all seriousness, I'd like to hear your Rabbi's take on all of this (anonymously, of course). Being left of MO center, you may be surprised by what he has to say.

Luby: Welcome. It does indeed get hot in the kitchen even with the electric blech. Timers make me nervous. We have one on our Crackpot for the cholent. I'm always afraid I'm going to get the times reversed and we'll eat soggy barley on shabbos mornings.

Emah S said...

This whole discussion reminds me of a shabbat dinner in 1988 when I was a guest at a random orthodox family's home in Jerusalem. In the middle of said dinner, the TIMER BUZZER on the oven went off, as in, started buzzing! Everyone was in a panic because they didn't want to turn it off, but it was so loud that it was ruining the dinner atmosphere, or even a basic conversation! Luckily after about 10 minutes of buzzing, a worker or someone who was apparantly the "shabbas goy" came in and turned off the buzzer. Not being religious myself, I was so ready to just get up and turn the darn thing off, but didn't want to offend anyone!!! too funny!

PsychoToddler said...

Emah, thank you for opening this week's "Shabbos Goy Anonymous" meeting. I'd like to add that on at least one occasion, when one of my kids has opened the fridge only to discover that the light was still on, I have nonchalantly gone up to it and taped it myself. If somebody is going to burn, I'd prefer it was me.

Robbie said...

PT - that's where my point comes into play. Why spend so much time worrying about the fridge light and everything else when the time can be better spent enjoying the chag/shabbat?

PsychoToddler said...

Well, Robbie, I think that is the point of the whole matter. I make light of covering up the fridge button on shabbos, but my kids were horrified.

The issue is where do you draw the line? What do you "throw out"? What do you have to be serious about?

The majority American Jews have decided that the line shouldn't be moved or crossed, but erased outright. And they no longer have Shabbos and many no longer have Jewish kids.

Orthodoxy sets the line at Rabbinic halacha and says "don't cross, no matter what". Modern Orthodoxy seems to move the line somewhat. Don't cover hair. Wear pants. Go mixed swimming.

Progressively more liberal branches have moved it farther or done away with it, but we see what happens to those communities over time. I don't believe that we can arbitrarily do away with certain rules because they seem silly or quaint or inconvenient.

On the other hand, I would prefer that the Orthodox establishment (such as it is) should evaluate its stance on certain issues in light of technology or society and adjust so that the religion continues to make sense (like Mrs. B's "slacks").

Ralphie said...

Robbie - that is the point, indeed. And I (and I assume many others like me) am quite aware of how absurd such a thing can seem. I would posit that anything can seem absurd if you look at it a certain way, but that's not my main point here.

Recently I heard an mp3 shiur about Halacha and Spirituality (to my regret I cannot find it at the moment). The bottom line was that our joy in the "enjoy shabbat" mitzvot is enhanced by our observation of the "protect shabbat" mitzvot, that is, the "don't do this" commandments. The latter creates the vessel with which we hold the former.

That is, when we carefully follow the prohibitions of shabbat, we are creating for ourselves the mental framework that we are obligated to serve Hashem. So, when we restrict our actions because we are obligated, we are at the same time restricting ourselves to remind ourselves that we are obligated. We are making ourselves into servants of God. And only then can we truly serve God with the proper joy.

This does not speak to the specific issue of electricity, of course. There are many problems with it - the first and foremost being that turning on an incandescant bulb that generates heat would be a violation of Torah law. Many uses of electricity do not violate any actual melachot - but the halachic authorities know this. Aside from the complications of determining which uses of electricity would do so or not do so. The point is to create a special "oasis in time." I believe that R' Auerbach explicitly writes this concerning telephones - technically there's nothing wrong but it violates the spirit of shabbat (a concept mentioned above in others' comments).

Bean & B&C - spoken like true liberal activists. Conservatives (small "c" except when beginning a sentence) like myself prefer change to be incremental and only after much deliberation. While I don't have any examples refuting your claim, I do not think that any rabbinic or otherwise halachic change has ever been effected through public flouting halacha, as you suggest.

While I have the podium, I'd like to share my two favorite anecdotes regarding Conservative rabbis and electricity on Shabbat:

1. When I was at Pardes, a fellow student - a physicist - was making the same argument, that electricity doesn't really fall into the realm of "final hammer blow" (completing the circuit). His wife, a Conservative rabbinical student, essentially told him, too bad, we aren't using electricity on Shabbat.

2. I was once at a hotel over Shabbat for a wedding weekend thing. The Conservative rabbi (who would conduct the ceremony) and I were in the hospitality room getting some supplies ready for Shabbat. I asked her how she was going to deal with the fact that the keyless room doors required using an entry card and electricity. She said, "It's not a problem for me - I use Chashmal on Shabbat." I replied, "Oh, well, since you use the Hebrew for "electricity" it's okay." (Come on, I didn't really say that - I'm only a jerk online.)

Jack's Shack said...

Robbie: I knew I was a conservative Jew. I just wish they had some vibrant communities!

They most certainly do and there are many of them. Too many people miss out because they do not spend any time looking.

That's why you don't have the vibrant conservative communities, because everyone is doing their own thing.

Again, this patently false. Have you ever sought out a Conservative community?

They exist and they are in many places.

it is not the job of our halachic leaders to "make up" or "decide" new halachot as new situations arise with the passage of time and innovation of technology. Rather, their "job" is to analyze the situation, compare it with other situations that have already been ruled on, and determine how the situation fits in with halachic precedence.


I don't completely agree with this. There are situations that simply are without precedence. They require an explanation that the rishonim couldn't possibly have foreseen.

But the reality is that I am a proponent of saying that we should do things one way because the tradition says that is always how they were done.

The same sort of argument could be made to promote slavery.

kasamba said...

What a FANTASTIC post!
Personally, it all boils down to 'Shamor VeZachor' Keeping and Remembering' that the idea isn't just to keep Shabbos but to do or not to do things which would interfere with the essence of Shabbos.
BTW, I'm a hot-plate girl!

dilbert said...

Nothing like a simple topic to get into a long and involved discussion of complex issues. Here are my two cents, and I will try to be brief. When trying to figure these things out, one has to start by looking at the halacha, and how it applies to the situation.

1. safety- the Torah tells us 'v'chi bahem' you should live by them(the mitzvot). I think it is Rashi who adds, you should live with mitzvot, and not die because of them. We are NOT ALLOWED to endanger our lives in order to fulfill mitzvot, with only three exceptions- murder, incest, and worshipping other gods.

2. What is the level of risk that triggers this concept? There is risk walking across the street to go to shul. There is risk in anything we do. So, obviously there is acceptable risk, and unacceptable risk. I dont know where exactly the line is drawn, but on one extreme you could make a case that everything is risky and so one doesn't have to do any mitzvot. I have a Shabbat oven and over 5 years it has worked perfectly, and I have not heard of any of them blowing up because of the Shabbat mode.

3. Electricity on Shabbat- Early on there was a very interesting debate on the status of electricity, and very respected decisors felt it wasn't work. However, the consensus coalesced around the idea that it is work, and halacha goes by the majority(in the famous story in the Talmud, regarding the ritual purity status of an oven, God himself testified that Rabbi Joshua had the correct opinion. However, he was opposed by a majority of sages, and his opinion was not adopted). It is very difficult to go against what has been universally accepted by the community. Change does occur- for example the acceptance of Bat mitzva ceremonies in shul, etc. Rav Kook's gives an outline for change, where the pioneers are considered to be outside Halacha, but eventually halacha expands to encompass the view of the pioneers. I am not sure that would occur with electricity. And, do you really want your kid's Shabbat activities to include watching TV, playing video games, computer, and everything else that goes along with electricity?

3. The light in the fridge and the bathroom(by the way, my wife found these plastic things(doo hickies? thingamabobs?) that stick to the fridge next to the switch and then you can slide part of it over the switch, and then back after Shabbat- no more duct tape). I have closed the fridge or retaped it. I dont think it was the right thing to do. I dont think that turning lights on/off for convenience is halachically appropriate. There are instances where you can- so that a sick person can sleep, etc.

The Observer said...

Someone recently brought to my attention a relevant comment in this year's edition of Blumenkrantz's Pesach guide. Its around page 697, at the beginning of his discussion of appliances. There he brings down a psak of R. Moshe Finestein that, given certain likely conditions, you can turn off a gas burner on Shabbos or Yom Tov. (Absent an automatic igniter, lighting one on Yom Tov from an existing flame is obviously possible as well.)

The argument is that by cutting off the flow of gas you are not extinguishing the fire, you're just not adding more fuel. Consult your own Rav for a psak, but with this, much of the listed dangers are moot.

REReader said...

I'm always afraid I'm going to get the times reversed and we'll eat soggy barley on shabbos mornings.

We figured out a few things to make sure the times weren't reversed: 1. We use a timer with removable trippers, and only use one "off" tripper. That way it won't turn on after lunch is over. We tweedle the little knob to turn it on. 2. We got a crock pot with a nice little light on the front, so we know if it's on. If it's not on before Shabbos, we tweedle the little knob some more. This way it's on when Shabbos starts, and won't go on again before Shabbos ends.

This should also work with hot plates. (And we use regular--Heavy Duty, of course!--timers for air conditioners, since who needs the living room/dining room a.c. on in the middle of the night?

Of course, if the power goes off for a bit, the times will be off. And if the timer dies, which sometimes happens, you're stuck. Nu.

PsychoToddler said...


Ralphie: I worry about the whole, "yeah it's ok, but it's not in the spirit of shabbos deal." People use that logic to make my kids feel bad for reading books on shabbos. I wouldn't want them playing video games or watching TV, but you need to be careful with that approach. Certainly if there is something that would augment the shabbos experience, like say using toilet paper the normal way, I'd rather do it than keep up some feel-good prohibitions that make me think that shabbos is all about denying things.

Jack: But the reality is that I am a proponent of saying that we should do things one way because the tradition says that is always how they were done.

I love you but you are a freakin hypocrite.

kasamba: Hot plate girls are hot!

Dilbert: That's a very interesting notion, the idea that there is an "acceptible risk" that is ok for the rabbonim. I wonder how that risk is measured or defined? Life is all about risk. Risk...risk is OUR BUSINESS.

BTW I agree taping the fridge in front of the kids sends a mixed message. But honestly, WTF are you supposed to do in that situation?

Observer: a psak of R. Moshe Finestein that, given certain likely conditions, you can turn off a gas burner on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

What do you mean by that? Do you mean it's ALWAYS ok to turn off the burner on shabbos or only if "certain conditions" occur? Obviously if a fire is breaking out, you can do whatever you want. Dilbert's point was how likely is that and is it enough of a risk to give carte blanche ok to turn off burners on shabbos.

REReader: Mrs B does the same thing.

REReader said...

BTW I agree taping the fridge in front of the kids sends a mixed message. But honestly, WTF are you supposed to do in that situation?

After many experiments, we decided the easiest fix is to take out the bulb in the refrigerator--not before Shabbos, just take it out period. We have never had the slightest problem seeing anything in the frig without the light in the frig. (Food we can always find. Keys, glasses...not so much.)

Ralphie said...

Ha! Our fridge is dark 24/7, too.

PT - um, have you noticed the title of the 2nd linkback on your original shabbat appliance post?

PsychoToddler said...

H*&% F*&#ing S&$* yeah!

Ralphie said...

Allrighty then...

Okay, back to the topic: reading books as violating the sanctity of Shabbat is, well, scary, I agree. Nevertheless, the "spirit of shabbat" is not some touchy-feely catchall for things you shouldn't do. It's a real, bona fide, halachic, um, thingy. I guess it comes down to "aseh l'cha rav" - git yerself a rabbi. Different rabbis and different communities will hold different ways. Time will tell, I suppose, what works better.

In the meantime, I'm off to make sure my timers work so I can be sure the lights are on so I can see which books I'm not reading.

dilbert said...

The Rosh Kollel I study with recomended a book entitled( I think) "All for the Boss"(has nothing to do with Tony Danza or Judith Light, sorry), which is about a guy growing up and trying to be frum in New York in the 40's or 50's. Apparently there is a story there where the police come to his house on Shabbat and tell him his store is on fire, and he has to come to help save it. He tells them he will not ride in the car with them on Shabbat, but goes over after Shabbat, and finds out it was the store next door. The lesson here is that we should not violate the Shabbat simply for convenience or economic loss, only when there is a real risk to health/life. I guess I am not at the stage where I am willing to let the fridge stay open all day so I wont turn the light off when I close it, but something inside me says I should be willing to make that sacrifice for Shabbat.

2. Acceptable risk. The first responsa on living kidney donation said that it was totally forbidden to donate a kidney, even to save a life, because the risk to the donor was too high. In the recent decades, living kidney donation is encouraged, as the risk of donating a kidney has plunged(thanks to excellent surgical technique, I am sure), and the risk is acceptably low. There is a line(or a zone) there somewhere, I am not sure where it is and how it changes in response to different pro's and con's.

One more bit of halachic trivia. In the 1700's, people were not sure if the dead were really dead, and on rare occassions someone would get up from the grave(a bit dusty to be sure). The ruling powers(duke of something) decreed that bodies had to lay in the casked above ground for three days to make sure they were quite dead. Obviously this is a problem with Jewish law, because burial needs to take place ASAP. One decisor wrote that even if 1 out of 50,000 would be saved by watching for three days, we are still obliged to bury everyone right away, and that 1/50000 chance is not enough to do away with the obligation of swift burial.(I'm not quite dead yet)

Jack's Shack said...

But the reality is that I am a proponent of saying that we should do things one way because the tradition says that is always how they were done.

I left out the NOT. It should have read

But the reality is that I am NOTa proponent of saying that we should do things one way because the tradition says that is always how they were done.

Shira Salamone said...

I will behave myself and refrain from linking to my post about almost burning down my apartment last Shavuot when a plastic challah board slipped from the pile on which it was drying and landed on a burner that I'd left turned on for Yom Tov. Suffice it to say that we were extremely fortunate--no one was hurt, and the repair person was able to get the stove and oven working again. But we do have a well-toasted stovetop and wall behind the stove to remind us that eternal vigilance is the price of leaving stove burners turned on for Yom Tov.

PsychoToddler said...

Dilbert: (not really on topic) We have that book. My sister-in-law gave it to us when she got engaged to Mrs. B's brother. It's about her great-grandfather.

Jack: nevermind

Shira: I was thinking about you when I wrote this post. Although I suppose the same thing could have happened if you had had the burners on briefly and went into another room to do something.

PsychoToddler said...


reading books as violating the sanctity of Shabbat is, well, scary, I agree.

Why do say that as if it's so ridiculous? There are communities that say it's not any better to read Animorphs on Shabbos than it is to watch a baseball game with your TV set on a timer. And frankly, their policy of "no distinctions" makes more sense than yours.

There is an arbitrary line being drawn somewhere. Who draws it?

Ralphie said...

I don't think it's necessarily arbitrary - it depends on the community and its leaders.

In the meantime, there are yet other fire-related Jewish dangers afoot: The Spontaneously Combusting M&M Menorah

Anonymous said...

I just purchased a new electric range and questioned the Sabbath Mode feature. So, I turned to the internet to research it a bit. Good grief! I had no idea there was so much to it! Being Catholic, I don't feel very well qualified to comment, other than to say that I'd like the manufacturers to now consider making a Confessional feature that would allow me to open the oven, recite my confession, close it, and be done with it! Seriously, I respect all of your expressed viewpoints - but do agree that leaving any appliance on for 72 hours poses serious risks. But hey, we Catholics have lots of our own issues to deal with!

PsychoToddler said...

a Confessional feature that would allow me to open the oven, recite my confession, close it, and be done with it!


Go for it!

stormpilgrim said...

My mom (she found this blog in her search to decipher the Sabbath Mode) better make sure the oven is OFF before making that confession. Sins and fire...a little too close an association there.

When I think of "Sabbath Mode" I see a picture of a woman on the phone with technical support while looking out the window at her husband crashed out in a hammock saying, "Help, my husband is stuck in Sabbath Mode again!"

How about a refrigerator that dispenses Manischewitz? Even we goyim would dig that. Well, that might not be a good idea. Is picking somebody up off the floor on Shabbat considered work?

That M&M menorah damaged my impression that Jews had much more tasteful holiday decorations than us Christians. The look on the blue one's face says, "How did I let my agent get me into this gig?" I think the designers should have made him look more happy to be Jewish, rather than making him appear to have just heard about his upcoming bris. It still beats a singing Santa Claus made in Red China.

PsychoToddler said...

Stormpilgrim: (very cool alias, BTW, sounds like you're going out to kill vampires at night or something) (what, no blog?) Thanks for the funny comment. We use Christmas lights and decorations in our Sukkah (Tabernacle?).

Ralphie said...

We do the same, although it's a little difficult getting the tree into the sukkah. Hmmm... maybe we should just throw it on top...

A real sabbath mode should include a timer - the oven is on just around lunchtime and dinnertime, with enough power to heat up. As for actually cooking, get a dutch oven or whatever allows you to use the stove...

stormpilgrim said...

I don't kill vampires, but I do work the graveyard shift as a weather observer in Tulsa. Hence, my pilgrimage from the East Coast to see the real storms of the Plains. No blog, either. What's one more person ranting about politics and religion on the Internet? I could derive some enjoyment from it, but I'd rather read novels or play golf.

Out of curiosity, I was once at an Orthordox home on Shabbat and I flushed the toilet. How does pushing a handle to move water differ from turning on a light? Is there an exception for hygiene? That would be perfectly sensible to me. After all, nobody wants their house to smell like a Port-a-john by the end of Shabbat.

PsychoToddler said...

I'm going to qualify this response by saying that I am not a plumber, I have not training in plumbing, and I do not intend to represent plumbers in any way. If you have questions concerning your own plumbing, consult your plumber:

I don't think there's any electricity involved in flushing a toilet. I think it's just a simple process of opening plugs or valves and having water pass through under pressure.

However we have an electric toilet at my new job and it's scary as heck. Another good reason not to work on Saturday.

Ralphie said...

What is electric about your work toilet? When I was in Japana couple of years ago, I saw electric toilets all over the place (well, okay, only in bathrooms). The only thing I could really figure out electric-wise was that the seats were heated. I couldn't make out what all the little LED lights were for...

PsychoToddler said...

No, this thing has like a super-turbocharged flush mechanism that fills the toilet with a powerful burst of water even before you fully depress the button. It's got some serious horsepower in there.

In fact, they usually leave the lid off the septic tank, and this thing looks like a 6.1 liter Hemi-engine or something. It's like a Muscle-Toilet. I'll nab a picture today with my cell phone.

PsychoToddler said...

OK, I have a picture, but I thought video would better:

The Muscle Toilet

stormpilgrim said...

Japan has been a pioneer in toilet tech. I remember seeing something on TV about a toilet with heated seat, a retracting sprayer for those who like a hose-job afterwards (temperature adjustable, too), and I think it even had sensors that could detect certain medical problems. How would you like your toilet to say, "Oh, you really shouldn't have eaten THAT!" Perhaps that will be the Jewish Mother 3000 model. Apparently, the Japanese are also sensitive about certain...noises...and some public toilets and bathrooms have sound-masking devices. Such curious folk.

Anonymous said...

I just learned about this "Sabbath Mode" for appliances and think it's utterly ridiculous and somewhat offensive that as a non-Jewish consumer, I am sold this feature that makes absolutely no sense to my life or that of 90% of the population.

Why no "Chinese language mode" or "blind-person mode"? And does anyone else find it offensive that these absolutely ridiculously absurd religious rules have infiltrated the design of household appliances?

I have no issues with Jewish people or people who are religious. But why is there an appliance mode that helps one very specific religious group circumvent its very specific rules using technicalities?

Absurd. Ridiculous. Offensive. Mind-bogglingly stupid.