Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Next Battle... Sabbath Mode Ovens

Yeshiva World is reporting that several Gedolim both in the North America and Israel have forbidden the use of "Sabbath-mode" ovens on Yom Tov*. The translation of the kol koreh (according to YW) is below:

The development of “Sabbath Mode” operation of ovens seeks to permit the raising and lowering of oven temperatures on Yom Tov. The change in temperature settings is accomplished by pressing keys on a keypad that is connected to the microcontroller built into the oven. Pressing the keys while in “Sabbath Mode” does not result in an immediate change in oven temperature nor does it have any other observable effect. Allowing this activity is based on the presumption that pressing the keys is merely a “Grama” and is therefore permitted on Yom Tov.

In our opinion, pressing the keys on Yom Tov is strictly forbidden since pressing a key immediately closes an electrical circuit and instructs the microcontroller to carry out an action. Pressing the key is forbidden just as all manipulation of electricity is forbidden on Shabbos and Yom Tov either because of “Makeh B’patish” or because of “Mesaken” as described in Igros Moshe (vol.3 §42 and vol.4 §84) whereby there can be a Torah violation immediately upon pressing the key even if no “fire’”is created. This operation is not considered “Grama”. [Furthermore, according to a number of authorities, “Grama” does not apply to situations where the eventual outcome is intentional.]

In our opinion, use of “Sabbath Mode” to change the temperature of an oven on Yom Tov represents an assault on the sanctity of Shabbos and Yom Tov and will lead to deterioration in their observance. We hereby declare that one may not rely on “Sabbath Mode” operation to adjust oven temperatures on Yom Tov despite the presence of a Hechsher on these ovens.

To all of the above we affix our signatures:
{HoRav) Yosef Shalom Elyashiv
I have seen the lengthy words of the Rov that permitted the above and they are Halachically incorrect and it is clearly forbidden.

(HoRav) Nisim Karelitz
There is no Heter for the above, nor will Grama accomplish here.
I affix my signature, awaiting the redemption.

(HoRav) Shmuel Wozner
Surely, surely one is obligated to protest this leniency with all our might. Such leniencies are a great degradation in the foundation of Shmiras Shabbos and those that are careful with the honor of Shabbos will bring an eternal Brocho upon themselves.

(HoRav) Yechezkel Roth, Head of Karlsbad Bais Din
Aside from the actual prohibition, there lies herein a breach in the wall of Shmiras Shabbos and Yom Tov through which the Jewish nation is sanctified thoughout the generations.

(HoRav) Yaakov Horowitz, Rav ,Telz Minyan
(HoRav) Elya Ber Wachtfogel
(HoRav) Shlomo Miller, Rosh Kollel, Kollel Avreichim Toronto
(HoRav) Yechiel Tauber, Rosh Kollel Mechon L’Hoyroa, Monsey, NY
(HoRav) Gershon Bess, Rav Kehilas Yaakov, Los Angeles

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the halachos well enough to say yes or no on this. However, I'd like to know if the underlying assumption ("In our opinion, pressing the keys on Yom Tov is strictly forbidden since pressing a key immediately closes an electrical circuit and instructs the microcontroller to carry out an action.") is correct. That can be verified by an engineer who is familiar with the product. In addition, the Sabbath-mode oven is not a new product... I've owned one for over four years. Why is this coming up now?

Also, please note that here is Rav Heinemann's teshuva allowing the ovens to be used on Yom Tov.*

The Wolf

* Note -- by not allowing, what is not allowed is to change the temperature. You can still use the oven as a regular oven on Yom Tov according to the above rabbanim.


The CameraMan said...

Pressing a button absolutely closes an electrical circuit. I do not know the halacha but I'd say the Rabonim are spot on with this one. For once.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Rabbi Watchfogel was one of the main people involved with Slifkin ban as well. Something to think about.

Also, another thing that does not make sense - R' Gershon Bess from LA works with the Star-K - he does the medicines for their Pesach guide.

Frum Heretic said...

Here's a pretty exhaustive article regarding electricity on Shabbos & Yom Tov:

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach basically said that there are no issurim related to Makeh B'patish, Boneh, or Molid with regards to electrical circuits.

Zach Kessin said...

Whenever I see one of these things I just have one thought...

Someone has Way too much free time on their hands.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

The Jewish Press used to run a whole full-page discussion on the use of electricity on Yom Tov. There were poskim who prohibited it, nd wuite a few who allowed it, most notably the Aruch HaShulchan (R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, who, in my Rabbi's opinion, is one of the most underrated achronim around). I don't recall all the halachic specifics, but IIRC, the allowability had something to do with the fact that opening or closing an electrical circuit was temporary, and non-permanent boneh was permitted on YT. In other words, if you think of an electrical circuit as a door, then turning on a switch is like closing a door. Not locking it- it can be easily opened again. You can close a door on Yom tov, can't you? Or maybe a more appropriate analogy would be a faucet- turning on a water faucet is like closing an electricla circuit, allowing for the flow of electrical current, which can then be turned off also.

Anonymous said...

As an engineer it does appear to me that the button press closes a circuit and the pseudo-random delays occur after the circuit is triggered.

As the designer of it, I'm partial to the Oven Temperature Adjustment circuit called the "Tweaker" that was written up on the Torah Technologies web site and use this solution myself.

The Tweaker avoids the circuit creation problem completely.

The Tweaker confuses the oven controller into thinking the oven is hotter than it really is, thereby resulting in a cooler oven when that is needed.

The change in effective temperature is accomplished by an add-in knob that resembles the permissible "Landlord Oven" mechanical thermostat control.

Please check with your own rabbi to see if the Tweaker would be helpful to you to avoid the issues in this Kol Koreh or other issur letters.

And if you do build a Tweaker, please use it as an aliya for the neshamos of my sponsors in making the design freely available to all to benefit from.

Anonymous said...

I view this is a legitimate disagreement between Halachic authorities.

Interestingly, Rabbi Gershon Bess collaborates with the Star-K Pesach publication to include his excellent medicine list. So what if he disagrees with R. Heinemann on this issue? To me it's a sign of progress to disagree but still collaborate on other things.

Leah Gayle said...

I have a degree in architecture, which you might consider "close enough" because a certain amount of engineering and electrical circuitry goes with the territory. First of all, closing a button or flipping a switch does not cause a fire of any kind - and sparks are not supposed to be there and every effort is made to avoid them, because they cause fires in your walls. The electricity is generated at power plants, where the actual "burning" takes place, and is present in the electric lines the same way that water is present in water lines. It is permissible to generate the electricity because people with oxygen, home medical equipment, hospitals, emergency workers of all kinds, etc., need the power. And as we know from the famous story about the boat and the plank, it is permissible to use something on shabbat that was already there. Pushing the button or flipping the switch is no different in an electric circuit than it is in turning on the spigot of your sink or faucet - it simply allows the product that was already present to become accessible. The water is pumped to your house using powered pump stations which use electricity to function - so if using your water taps is acceptable on Shabbat and Yom Tov, then using your electric lights and applicances should also be. They both arrive and operate in exactly the same manner.

Of course, the Rabbis have ruled the complete opposite, largely due to their ignorance of how electricity works. Not one bit of electricity is generated in your house, and even if you had a hydroelectric generator or solar panels, they aren't using "fire" to make the electricity, anyway, and therefore arguements about using combustion to generate electricity don't even apply in real life, though I'm sure the Rabbis will figure out some way to make sure your Sabbath is as annoying and unjoyful as possible. They always do.

ProfK said...

Last year we had to buy a new oven. Because I wanted one that I could change the temperature on on Yom Tov I looked to see if there were any. The star K had a few models. And then I did what we all used to do before the "super stars" started muscling in on day to day shailos--I went to my shul rav. And he spoke to the people at star K and spoke to a frum engineer in the shul. And the engineer looked at the circuitry and reported back to the rav. And he looked at the halachas. And then he said that he sees no problem with the stove.

These stoves have been around for a while and yet there is only now some outcry from some rabbis? And just by the by, you are not actually pushing a button in the traditional sense. You are touching a key pad.

Re the medicine and engineering with the rav who gives the medicine list for the star K--medicine and engineering are not the same field and expertise in one does not confer expertise or knowledge in the other. Last I looked I'm not going to ask an engineer to take out my appendix nor a surgeon to fix my breaker box.

Whatever happened to the old advice: ask your local orthodox rabbi?

Anonymous said...

Pushing a button does not necessarily close a circuit. It's trivially easy to design a circuit which is closed at random times. If the button has already been pressed then the circuit will be made; if not, it will not. Alternatively, you could have a circuit that is "closed" through induction or something similar, with no mechanical buttons at all. My point in all this is that there are many sorts of switches that might be used, and I don't think this Psak addresses all of them.

As for the poster "Ahavah" with a degree in electrical engineering: yes, you're quite right, electricity is not generated in most of our our houses and electricity is not "fire". The Psak does not suggest that it is; I am unaware of any contemporary Poskim who suggest that it is. The issues raised by contemporary Halachic authorities are the conceptual nature of electrical circuits: are they objects in themselves, or merely different states of an existing object; and whether a deliberate act whose result is merely conditional is necessarily a causative one. The questions you address are not the subject of discussion and the attitude expressed in your comment suggests that you're unprepared for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

"Pushing a button does not necessarily close a circuit. It's trivially easy to design a circuit which is closed at random times. If the button has already been pressed then the circuit will be made; if not, it will not. Alternatively, you could have a circuit that is "closed" through induction or something similar, with no mechanical buttons at all. My point in all this is that there are many sorts of switches that might be used, and I don't think this Psak addresses all of them."

And, in fact, most traditional keypad scan routines do just that, they scan through the keypad stimulating the rows and checking the columns. When one of the rows and columns are shorted (because the button is already pressed), it detects the keypress. This method has no direct causation of electronic action due to the keypress itself.

However, there are more modern keypad scan routines that in addition to the rows and columns, there is a third connection to cause an immediate interrupt when any button is pressed. That interrupt begins the traditional keypad scan. This method is truly a case of a closure of a circuit causing a direct electronic action.

We have an oven that is certified by Star-K, it is one of the KitchenAid models. We also have a KitchenAid fridge with a "Holiday Mode" switch that disables the light, randomizes the compressor trigger, and disables the icemaker. The designers made a mistake and disabled the ice maker (there is no problem with the fridge automatically making ice on shabbat and chag, completely muttar) instead of disabling the ice dispenser (there is a problem with using the ice dispenser on shabbat and chag, it's ossur)!

Mark [a long-time electrical engineer who has designed consumer products, with keypads, for almost 30 years]

Anonymous said...

Ahava is ignorant. Not the Rabbonim. It is well known that Rav S.Z. Auerbach did a tremendous research about electricity in his youth. He and all gedolim, such as the Chazon Ish surely had a usable understanding before issuing pikei halacha.
A not so well known story: Rav Auerbach wrote a pamphlet in his youth why turning on an electric switch is NOT considered boneh. (He held it was assur for other reasons.) He went to the Rov of Yerushalayim (I think Rav Bengis) and showed it to him. The Rov said why would anyone think it's assur that you're trying to prove it's muttar. Rav SZ"A replied that he had a hava mina it's assur, but he wants to prove that it's really OK. He never published it then because Rav Bengis felt there wasn't even a hava mina- the idea of boneh being too far fetched. A few years later the Chazon Ish zt"l wrote in his sefer that closing a circuit is assur b/c of boneh. Rav SZ"A was upset that he hadn't published his earlier chiddush b/c now it would look as if he's just trying to get back.
Anyway, until recently the chiddush of the Chazon Ish was not very widely accepted. Therefore, regarding that point, Rav Heinemann is Ok. Recently, however, many poskim seem to be quoting the Chazon Ish. This of course goes directly against R. Heiemann.

ProfK said...

I was thinking about this overnight. Anyone notice which American rabbanim signed on the the Kol Koreh? Not really any "heavy hitters" among them. Where are the "big names" and the roshei hayeshiva of the big yeshivot? Why are they keeping out of the argument?

Could this be an Israel vs. America issue? An American rav says the stoves are okay--Israeli ravs who say not, smaller American rabbanim riding their coattails. Pardon the cynicism but it does sometimes appear that two groups are vying for the title of "true leaders of yiddishkeit" and we sometimes get stuck in the middle between them. And no, rabbanim are not above playing politics.

Anonymous said...


I do not pardon the cynicism.

Anonymous said...

If one closely examines the technology behind the "button", one would clearly grasp that there is no way that this psak is correct.

Clearly there is no permanent change to the Keili as required in order for there to be Makeh B'patish or Mesaken.

Furthermore, Ones ability to impact whether the fire goes on or off by pressing these buttons is limited to a making suggestion to the controlling program in the oven.

Rabbi Heineman's position that this is a Gramah is absolutely correct.

Whether you Pasken that one can "create" a grahmah or not seems to be the only remaining issue.

Many Poskim pasken that you can move a pin on a shabbos clock on Yom Tov which is creating a Gramah.

This is the same.

Speak with your local Ruv and don't let him tell "better not". Get a Psak.

Leah Gayle said...

Dear Joe,

I merely demonstrated that electric in power lines works the exact same way as water in water lines - and is delivered to your house the same way.

So why is it permissible to turn on your spigot and not your light? The fact that electricity is not "fire" is the point, as a matter of fact, just like water is not. They are not delivered or used in any different way - so why is it permissible to turn on water on shabbat and yom tov, seeing as it is delivered by electric pump and you have to open a spigot, opening the circuit to allow the water to go from your supply pipes to your drain pipes. The process is EXACTLY the same. If it's not acceptable to use electric lines during shabbat then it should not be acceptable to use water lines - yet it is. Claiming that opening the water line is not work while opening electric line is work is inconsistent, to say the least.