New ‘Smart-Shabbatphone’ is kosher even on the day of rest
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New ‘Smart-Shabbatphone’ is kosher even on the day of rest

Specially designed keypad enables Shabbat-observant users in vital positions to dial without violating Jewish law

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Talking 24/7? Special telephones kosher for use on Shabbat have been unveiled. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Talking 24/7? Special telephones kosher for use on Shabbat have been unveiled. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A new telephone that can be dialed on Shabbat without violating religious restrictions was unveiled on Monday by the Zomet Intitute, Maariv reported.

The new smart-Shabbatphone has no buttons, switches, or levers and instead works using a principle of changing electric capacitance. The phone’s electric circuits work constantly; calls are made by touching numbers printed on a smooth, sealed surface. Each touch alters the electric capacitance in the phone to facilitate kosher dialing even on Shabbat.

Ordinary telephones are not used by religious Jews on Shabbat because pressing the buttons to dial numbers completes electric circuits inside the phone. The use of electric appliances is, for the most part, among the activities that are off-limits on the day of rest according to Jewish law.

The Zomet Institute specializes in using technology to create  equipment and appliances that meet the requirements of Jewish law. The institute developed the telephone for those engaged in vital services but who nonetheless wish to refrain from violating Shabbat.

The telephone is an upgraded version of an earlier design that overcame the religious prohibitions against completing or creating an electric circuit on the holy Sabbath. However, those phones proved to be clumsy to use since after a number was dialed it would take up to 20 minutes before the call was placed. The Tzomet Institute spent two years developing the new phone, which can now connect a call in 10 seconds.

According to Maariv, six months ago the Prime Minister’s Bureau ordered 12 of the older phones for use by religious advisers to the prime minister.

The head of the Zomet Institute, Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, clarified that despite the advance in halachic technology the wider Shabbat-observant community cannot count on the new phone for unrestricted dialing seven days a week.

“The halachic approval [to use the phone] is given of course only for cases of vital sectors and for important uses such as medical attention, security services, public services, water supply, and electric supply and similar services.”

A delegation from the army rabbinate visited the Zomet Institute on Monday to examine the new phone. The IDF’s chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz, said that the army plans to obtain the device, Maariv reported.

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