The Kosher Switch saga continues. KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. ("KSTI"), the maker of this clever device, has published a response to the critiques his invention has received. He deserves the right to speak in his defense and raises many important points for consideration. However, in his understandable frustration he has also lamentably lashed out personally at some of his critics. I am honored that KSTI felt this blog sufficiently important to be the subject of one of the sections of his response. He offers a number of criticisms of my essay. He lists a few inaccuracies in my technical description of the device’s function, important points that, I believe, fail to move the halakhic dial but are worthy of mention. As I wrote in my original post and KSTI seems to agree, his device is built on the misnamed “Gerama switch” but breaks new ground with added features. While the Kosher Switch satisfies some of the criticisms facing the “Gerama switch,” it fails to answer some of the most important concerns and is therefore forbidden according to many significant hakakhic authorities.

In Defense of the Kosher Switch

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The Kosher Switch saga continues. KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. (“KSTI”), the maker of this clever device (discussed in this post: link), has published a response to the critiques his invention has received (link). He deserves the right to speak in his defense and raises many important points for consideration. However, in his understandable frustration he has also lamentably lashed out personally at some of his critics.

I am honored that KSTI felt this blog sufficiently important to be the subject of one of the sections of his response. He offers a number of criticisms of my essay. He lists a few inaccuracies in my technical description of the device’s function, important points that, I believe, fail to move the halakhic dial but are worthy of mention. As I wrote in my original post and KSTI seems to agree, his device is built on the misnamed “Gerama switch” but breaks new ground with added features. While the Kosher Switch satisfies some of the criticisms facing the “Gerama switch,” it fails to answer some of the most important concerns and is therefore forbidden according to many significant hakakhic authorities.

KSTI’s most important criticism of my post is that I claim that the Kosher Switch “functions the same way as other switches (from the user’s perspective).” He objects that “[f]rom the user’s perspective, the KosherSwitch(r) Classic does not function the same way as other switches.” I disagree. A Kosher Switch slides in an up-down fashion like many other kinds of switches. It does not move side-to-side, diagonally or clockwise like a dial. It is an up-down switch. From the user’s perspective, you flip it up and down like you do the many other kinds of switches. That was my point in reproducing the pictures of switches in my house juxtaposed to the picture of the Kosher Switch (I cropped the logo, as I cropped all the pictures, so you can compare the actual switches). It is very easy to get used to flipping the Kosher Switch on Shabbos and to then mistakenly flip other switches. That is the issue of “confusion” about which R. Halperin, whom I quoted, objected. The logo may serve to obviate the problem of maris ayin, appearing to violate a prohibition, but it does nothing regarding the confusion of habituating the flipping of switches. Flashing lights and other indicators exist on other kinds of switches and nothing inherently requires the user to look at the lights.

The author then attacks as biased R. Yisrael Rosen, who confirmed in writing that R. Yehoshua Neuwirth only approved Kosher Switch for exigent circumstances and obtained a denial of support from R. Avigdor Nebenzahl (link). He is right and he is wrong. R. Rosen is not a competitor of Kosher Switch but not for lack of trying. Some 30-40 years ago, he came up with similar ideas and was broadly turned down by leading halakhic decisors. He therefore focused his energy on other approaches and building devices for only exigent circumstances. You can imagine his surprise when the very halakhic authorities with whom he regularly discussed these issues for decades suddenly reversed course and entirely permitted something they have long told him is forbidden. For this reason, he is not to be set aside and disparaged as a competitor but valued as one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. His testimony is worth many times that of unknown people like me (see Chullin 7a).

KSTI gives great detail about his process of obtaining rabbinic endorsements. However, his claim that rabbis have been intimidated into retraction is hardly plausible. Some of these rabbis are known for refusing to buckle under pressure and, frankly, there is no evidence of anything other than confirmation rather than intimidation. In particular, R. Nachum Rabinovich wrote a responsum forbidding these types of devices and Kosher Switch quotes him as permitting it! I had a close student ask him about it and he does not recall permitting it but rather stands by his published responsum, which essentially forbids it. There is no intimidation in that. Anyone wishing to know any of these rabbis’ opinions can and will ask them. I have confirmed that R. Yisrael Belsky and R. Moshe Sternbuch both consider Kosher Switch completely forbidden. It is hard to believe that they, or anyone, publicly permitted such a radical device as this without anticipating a surprised public reaction. And if they truly accept it then all they would have to do is respond “Yes, I believe it is permitted.” What intimidation is there?

My theory, which is total conjecture but maintains the respectability of all parties, is that KSTI enthusiastically presented his device to these busy rabbis and overwhelmed them with reading material. In his enthusiasm, he interpreted any interest or even minor approval as complete agreement. Some rabbis completely approved of the device but most others did not. However, they gave various indications of partial approval or at least appreciation (“amaze[ment]”) of his ingenuity and after receiving substantial thanks for the even slightly positive response agreed to write down what they thought was limited praise or approval. Misunderstandings abounded and ad hoc scribbles to please an energetic visitor became taken as complete endorsements.

This is all conjecture. I don’t know what really happened and the only eyewitness account coming from outside Kosher Switch tells a very different story (link). Be that as it may, everyone should consult with their personal halakhic authority before using any new device such as this. If he allows it for you, then feel free to use it. If not, don’t. We don’t decide halakhic practice based on websites and blogs.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

74 comments

  1. Kosher Switch (KS) admitted error in the way they handled verbal “endorsements.” Reb Gil did not admit error (clear error in my judgment) in what I suspect and would hope was an unintentional misrepresentation of the way the switch looks. That Gil does not apologize for the cropping (indeed, he inexplicitly defends the indefensible) makes me very sad. I would hope he would reconsider.

    After reading Gil’s original post and the KS website, R. Rosen’s letter, KS’s response and Gil’s response, it is pretty clear to me that there is plenty of blame to go around to all of these parties as well as some of the rabbanim who gave written endorsements. Unfortunately, what has been done cannot be undone and what has been written cannot be erased. I would hope, however, that all concerned would take a deep breath, let things rest over the yomim noraim when introspection is the nam of the game, and then perhaps, with the guidance of some previously uninvolved religious leaders, the various participants could meet, discuss matters calmly, and present to us a clear picture of where they agree and where they disagree about this matter in a spirit of lehagdil Torah uleha’adirah. But I’m not holding my breath.

  2. Of course it was ad hominum — you bismirched his name even though you are not a posek but a blogger who. what rav rosen did is his business. what is yours?

  3. MODIM D'RABANAN

    I don’t understand the point of your follow up article,torah musing you clearly did not read the whole kosher switch response, if you did you wouldn’t write the same silly statments. I don’t think you did yourself a favor with this one. Not every “Hirhur” you need to write down. Modim D’rabanan Haynu Shabchayu. Shana Tova

  4. Rabbi Gil,

    Care to respond to all of the things which you misrepresented about the facts of KS?

  5. V'es vahav v'sufah

    Gil, do you honestly still believe what your writing or do you do it to boost your blog?

    “He deserves the right to speak in his defense and raises many important points for consideration”   – how nice of you to finally give the accused a chance to defend himself .

    “he has also lamentably lashed out personally at some of his critics.”   – pointing out his accusers kniving offenses is not cosidered “lashing out”, that’s called putting them in their place and letting all see the truth.

    “While the Kosher Switch satisfies some of the criticisms facing the “Gerama switch,”   – Gil, you continue to gloss over the main differnece between this new switch and any other grama switch; THERE IS NO GRAMA HERE. 

    “it fails to answer some of the most important concerns and is therefore forbidden according to many significant hakakhic authorities.”.  – no important concernS here, just a single concern: kvod shabbos. It is a blatant lie to say, that due to these “concerns” they forbid it’s use. From where did you even get this impression? Be honest and point us to it.

    “From the user’s perspective, you flip it up and down like you do the many other kinds of switches.”   – true, but only after you pause, check for the go-ahead light, and instinctively pause again for the light to turn on (which again, you neglect to mention all this). You yourself posted a number of types of switches and not a single one had these charachteristics of this KS, contrary to your false cover-up that “Flashing lights and other indicators exist on other kinds of switches and nothing inherently requires the user to look at the lights.”. So perhaps you and R. Rosen “intentionaly” confuse yourselves, but the rest of us (the majority) aren’t familiar with such products. Gil, please don’t take us all for fools. I assume your reference to Chulin 7a, was to say how R. Rosen is a ‘gavra rabba testifying’. Once your refering to that page, notice the Gemara’s earlier comment “as time went on and egotists accumulated, so did the quarreling in the jewish nation”.    

    “Some 30-40 years ago, he came up with similar ideas and was broadly turned down by leading halakhic decisors… You can imagine his surprise when the very halakhic authorities with whom he regularly discussed these issues for decades suddenly reversed course and entirely permitted something they have long told him is forbidden.”   – your constantly lumping KS and Zomet together while hiding the critical (“game changing”) difference: he was turned down because his devices were aided by grama! Yes they suddenly reversed reversed course, because the technology too took a different course, the first NON-GRAMA switch. Refresh your selective memory and refer to KS’s response on pg. 5, it’s quite clear why these rabbanim didn’t aprove past devices, and yet very sensible why they were enthusiastic by this new device presented by KS.

    “frankly, there is no evidence of anything other than confirmation rather than intimidation.”   – how do you respond to KS if you clearly don’t recall what they wrote? Is not proving Zomet (R. Rosen) presented R. Newurth with a doctored document to fool him into thinking he signed something else, damning evidence? Is it not suspicious why he didn’t try to remind R. Nebanzhel what he initialy wrote, or for heaven’s sake, why he didnt show the rav his origional handwritten (unedited) haskama so he shouldn’t come out looking incompetent?

    “And if they truly permitted it all they would have to do is respond “Yes, I believe it is permitted.” What intimidation is there?”   – the public is begging for the same; if they truly never said what is being spread in their name all they would have to do is respond “No, I believe it is prohibited”. And no, a gabbai (among many) orally repeating what he hears is not good enough for the mass and especially not enough to destroy a buisness along with their reputation.

    “R. Kalati enthusiastically presented his device to these busy rabbis and overwhelmed them with reading material.”.  – the fact that he gave them reading material is information you only know from this new letter KS released where they describe their meetings. So this part you like, but the part where they report how they sat for long periods of time and in some cases gave the rabbanim days to think things through, this you dont like and ignore? Even worse, if you think they were simply overwhelmed, how then can they write such enthusistic remarks and aprobations? You don’t write off haskamos if you still have any questions or doubts. 

    “However, they gave various indications of partial approval or at least appreciation (“amaze[ment]“) of his ingenuity”.  – here’s another cover-up. For the sake of your readers who you keep trying to pull the wall over their eyes, please point to one letter that would illustrate this comment of yours. Where do you sense partial approval? Or wait, are you now jumping over to the rabbis who initially clarified their stance on this product? If you are, that’s completely irrelevant. The names under discussion were specifically the ones that KS was accused of misrepresenting. So from their letters alone, where exactly do you sense ‘partial’ approval?

    “This is all conjecture.”   – no, this is more prevaricating and less conjecture.

    Saying nothing is sometimes the best response.

  6. It’s clear from many of the “letters of blessing” that the Rabbonim involved were not intending to agree, but were giving their nice but non-commital answer “Hashem yivorech otcha.”

    Look at Rav Sheinberg’s letter. “I had the pleasure of meeting Reb Kalati at my home… I gave him a bracha to be matzliach.” Nowhere does he agree or endorse. He doesn’t refer to him as a Rabbi. He doesn’t even refer to the switch anywhere in his letter. Yet Rav Sheinberg is quoted, based on this letter, to have endorsed the switch. What he in fact did is give a letter “to be matzliach” which is the Rabbinic mannered version of a shrug.

  7. v'es hannechalim arnon

    I think Gil was clear in his last post that it still is Grama accd to many important poskim. The difference may be that a few more shittot view it as non-grama, but there are certainly other opinions to be dealt with.

  8. It seems that bein hashmashot is when I always remember that I’ve forgotten to leave some light on that I wanted to.

    Any room for greater leniency there with the kosher switch? (I’m not kidding)

  9. If the biggest problem is that the switch goes up and down, they can easily produce a switch that goes side to side.

  10. While I can see the argument about confusion as a point of design, I don’t see how that can change the halachic permissibility of the switch. We do not make new gezeirot.

  11. Joseph Kaplan: Reb Gil did not admit error (clear error in my judgment) in what I suspect and would hope was an unintentional misrepresentation of the way the switch looks.

    I admit error in misrepresenting some of the technical details of the switch. I admit to cropping all the pictures of the switches but do not consider it an error.

    I intentionally held back on this post and tried to be as generous as possible. I will try to continue doing so in the comments section even though I see his supporters, assuming they are more than one person, have come out in strength here.

    AG: you bismirched his name even though you are not a posek

    I did not besmirch his name but, for what it’s worth, I did speak with my posek after the fact and he agreed with what I wrote.

    MODIM D’RABANAN: I don’t understand the point of your follow up article,torah musing you clearly did not read the whole kosher switch response

    I did, multiple times.

    Mashadi: Care to respond to all of the things which you misrepresented about the facts of KS?

    I did not want to write a line-by-line response because that is tedious. I responded to the issues I think are important. Please let me know if there is something you wish me to address.

    V’es vahav v’sufah: Gil, you continue to gloss over the main differnece between this new switch and any other grama switch; THERE IS NO GRAMA HERE.

    That is, indeed, very important. There is no gerama in the Gerama Switch either. Please read my original post where I explain and, toward the end, quote R. Halperin’s explanation of why he called it the Gerama Switch.

    “it fails to answer some of the most important concerns and is therefore forbidden according to many significant hakakhic authorities.”.  – no important concernS here, just a single concern: kvod shabbos. It is a blatant lie to say, that due to these “concerns” they forbid it’s use. From where did you even get this impression? Be honest and point us to it.

    Read my original post. There are 4 approaches to Gerama. Two of them would forbid this device. Of my two main posekim, each holds of a different reason to forbid but they both consider user the Kosher Switch to be melakhah be-yadayim.

    “From the user’s perspective, you flip it up and down like you do the many other kinds of switches.”   – true, but only after you pause, check for the go-ahead light, and instinctively pause again for the light to turn on (which again, you neglect to mention all this).

    You are supposed to look for a green light but you don’t have to. You can just flip the switch.

    your constantly lumping KS and Zomet together while hiding the critical (“game changing”) difference: he was turned down because his devices were aided by grama!

    No, they do not. You either misunderstand the halakhah or the technology (or both). They use meni’as meni’a, just like Kosher Switch.

    how do you respond to KS if you clearly don’t recall what they wrote?

    There is still no evidence of intimidation, as I wrote.

    if they truly never said what is being spread in their name all they would have to do is respond “No, I believe it is prohibited”.

    What do you mean? R. Yisrael Belsky is telling people he holds the Kosher Switch is “vadai assur” and R. Moshe Sternbuch asked that his view that it is assur be publicized. That is exactly what would be expected if their view was mistakenly reported.

    Where do you sense partial approval?

    The letters that wish him hatzlachah without saying they approve of the device.

    MJ: Any room for greater leniency there with the kosher switch? (I’m not kidding)

    According to my posekim, no. It is still assur min ha-Torah (assuming incandescent lightbulbs).

  12. Mike S: R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach did not agree with your premise.

  13. Gil, why did you label the post in defense of the kosher switch, if your purpose is to defend your post which forbids it?

  14. “I admit error in misrepresenting some of the technical details of the switch. I admit to cropping all the pictures of the switches but do not consider it an error.”

    I’m sad that while you are so clearsighted about what you consider other’s failings you are so blind to your own errors.

    “My theory, which is total conjecture but maintains the respectability of all parties, is that R. Kalati enthusiastically presented his device to these busy rabbis and overwhelmed them with reading material.”

    Well, at least you call it “conjecture” although I’d call it “guessing without factual support.” But taking your “conjecture,” let’s look at the alternative scenario. No written documentation and no prototype; just a short overview with no details. I can just hear how you would have attacked him for not telling the whole story to them, to misleading them, to tricking them. So he does tell the whole story, gives them documentation, sits down with them and explains things, shows them a prototype and you disparagingly call it “overwhelming them with reading material.” Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

  15. Joseph: I think you are reading too much into the word “overwhelming”. It was not intended to disparage but to explain what could have happened. I’m trying to create a scenario in which he did everything right. Maybe I’m being too generous but I’d rather err in that direction.

  16. Mark: why did you label the post in defense of the kosher switch, if your purpose is to defend your post which forbids it

    Because of the last two paragraphs.

  17. GIL:

    “I disagree. A Kosher Switch slides in an up-down fashion like many other kinds of switches. It does not move side-to-side, diagonally or clockwise like a dial. It is an up-down switch.”

    so if they were redesign the switch to make it obviously different from standard up down switches that would remove this problem? this seems like an easy problem to cirvumvent. (admittedly i haven’t followed this debate closely and i’m not sure if this is your main criticism, but in this post you focus on it a lot)

    “I see his supporters, assuming they are more than one person”

    can’t you check the IP addresses of commenters?

    shanah tovah

  18. abba: so if they were redesign the switch to make it obviously different from standard up down switches that would remove this problem?

    Not necessarily because there are many different kinds of switches. But in what they did, it is almost exactly like many common switches.

    can’t you check the IP addresses of commenters

    It’s very, very easy to change your IP address. The most basic sign is that they are clearly not regular commenters but suddenly all comment on this post last night.

  19. GIL:

    “Not necessarily because there are many different kinds of switches.”

    ok. but presumably one could develop a switch that differs signifigantly enough. (different shapes, colors, movements, multiple action, etc., or combination thereof.) or is this still not the major problem for you so it doesn’t matter?

    “It’s very, very easy to change your IP address.”

    really? so then when you get a lot of new (or anon) commenters supporting you we should get suspicious then as well? 🙂

    “The most basic sign is that they are clearly not regular commenters but suddenly all comment on this post last night.”

    i figured mostly one person here because of the unusual names

  20. e.g., if it were a hexagonal pink switch with blue stripes that you flipped up and down and then twisted around

  21. Abba: but presumably one could develop a switch that differs signifigantly enough

    It seems to me that this is the concern and therefore, yes you can. But it could be that the concern is simply that people will get confused if they are easily able to turn lights on and off. I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything explicit in writing about it.

    really? so then when you get a lot of new (or anon) commenters supporting you we should get suspicious then as well? 🙂

    So far, I haven’t had that problem.

    i figured mostly one person here because of the unusual names

    That too.

    e.g., if it were a hexagonal pink switch with blue stripes that you flipped up and down and then twisted around

    Or a corkscrew you screw in. Or a bolt you have to slide across, down, across and up in the shape of a square.

  22. R. Gil: Which premise? That we don’t make gezeirot or that prohibiting a type of switch on the basis that it looks like others would be a gezeirah? And is it published so I can learn from what he wrote?

  23. GIL:

    “It seems to me that this is the concern and therefore, yes you can. But it could be that the concern is simply that people will get confused if they are easily able to turn lights on and off. I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything explicit in writing about it.”

    there are innumerable examples of forbidden/permitted activities on shabbat that people may confuse. i understand that the possible advent of a kosher switch may confuse some people, etc., but that is because we’re living in the moment. step back and consider the longer picture. or has shmiras shabbos really been that static for the last 3000 years?

  24. abba: there are innumerable examples of forbidden/permitted activities on shabbat that people may confuse

    Sometimes pesak requires judgment calls.

  25. My commment seems to have not been posted, so I’ll try again.

    Their whole website seems a a bit too over-commercialized, from their social media bar to their patent claims. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to make some profit on a “kosher product”, one could see why they might end up exaggerating certain claims. Clearly, they displayed many haskamos in a misleading manner. For example, they came to R’ Rabinovitch initially to work on a “kosher switch” and he gave them wishes of hatzlacha, but they never came back to him for a psak on the actual switch (personal communication). Yet they try to imply that he endorses it, and they market the switch as a l’chatchilah all over their site.

  26. I have not posted previously, and have no connection to Kosher Switch.

    Please change the title of the post. It comes off as very condescending.

    While it seems that the KS people might have overenthusiastically presented the haskamot that they received, I think that you also went over the line with your counterclaims. I found your original post pretty convincing, until I saw the trick that you used cropping the photo that was, simply put, deceptive.

    I assume many readers have an alternate “theory” or “conjecture” – perhaps some Rabbanim, who originally agreed to approving an innovative idea, were pressured into changing their original statement. But to quote you: “This is all conjecture. I don’t know what really happened…”

  27. No one is the least bit offended that this guy’s livelihood is subject to the caprice and whims of the “Gedolim”? What checks and balances are there to ensure that these “experts” don’t just change their minds and leave you in the lurch? I think we need some kind of independent Gedolim notary who will certify their meetings with people and keep copious evidence of their pronouncements. I mean the whole thing is completely arbitrary, but it seems like now you can’t even trust the veracity of the arbitrary thing.

  28. Chakira: Yes, we need Gedolim rating agencies because that system has worked really well in the financial world. The way things should happen is that people ask their synagogue rabbis, who ask their mentors and that’s it.

  29. For the record, the person at Kosher Switch asked me to remove his name from this post and replace it with Kosherswitch Technologies, Inc. (“KSTI”) and I complied.

  30. MODIM D'RABANAN

    Dov wrote “It’s clear from many of the “letters of blessing” that the Rabbonim involved were not intending to agree, but were giving their nice but non-commital answer “Hashem yivorech otcha.”

    Who in the world blesses somebody with sucsess if you believe this invention can cause chillul shabbos?

  31. No one is the least bit offended that this guy’s livelihood is subject to the caprice and whims of the “Gedolim”?

    The actual situation is apparently that the gedolim were misquoted and now we have a correction, not that the gedolim changed their mind due to caprice or otherwise.

    In any case, if you don’t want your livelihood to be subject to changes in rabbinic opinion, then don’t base your livelihood on the exploitation of an debatable halachic loophole.

  32. “The actual situation is apparently that the gedolim were misquoted and now we have a correction, not that the gedolim changed their mind due to caprice or otherwise.”

    Really? R. Neuwirth handwrote “I agree to the invention” on the same page as the unqualified endorsement from R. Pinchas Zabihi. Only after the brouhaha began did he write a qualification. Where was he misquoted? How could he have been “misquoted”? — they linked to his ac=tuak handwritten document! Can’t ahve a more accurate quote than that. And how is the change from no qualifications to qualifications not a change of mind? Or did he simply forget to put the qualification in his original endorsement or not understand that since it was on the same page as an unqualified one people would assume that his, too, was unqualified? Who’s drinking the kool-aid?

  33. Joseph: Do you believe that no one was misquoted? Not R. Yisrael Belsky or R. Dovid Cohen or others?

  34. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: Fair question. But to reverse the question: Do you believe that there is no case of a gadol (say Rav Neuwirth, as my brother has pointed out) who was accurately quoted and who has since, for whatever reason, changed his mind?

  35. No, I do not. Given his past rulings on the subject, it would be inconceivable for him to change his mind and permit it (against his rebbe R. Shlomo Zalman) and then quickly do an about face. I think there must have been a misunderstanding.

    But I do believe that serious poskim approve of the device. Although R. Ben Haim has clarified that he had in mind a community that is about 85% non-Shabbat observant.

  36. I proposed a notarizing service, not a rating service. These “gedolim” constantly change their minds or are misreported or something. Its a problem thats easy to solve.

  37. “Joseph: Do you believe that no one was misquoted? Not R. Yisrael Belsky or R. Dovid Cohen or others?”

    No, apparently some were misquoted. But you, Shlomo and others seek to place ALL the blame for the problems in the endorsements section on the shoulders of KS. As I’ve said before, there’s plenty of blame to go around, including some blame that falls on the shoulders of the rabbanim. But you continue to seek out every possible explanation for the rabbanim; “some misunderstanding” as you gently write about R. Neuwirth. I assume you’ve read what R. Neuwirth wrote originally and the context in which he wrote it; “some misunderstanding,” sure. That’s not an “oral” misquote; taht’s black on white for all to see, though some seem to refuse to see it. Neither you, Shlomo nor R. Rosen has even attempted to explain it in light of KS’s detailed discussion. But if you want to give the benefit of the doubt to the rabbinim, especially in this period of preparation for the yomom nora’im, okay, I’d go along with that if you gave the same benefit of the doubt to KS; maybe there was a “misunderstanding” concerning R. Belsky and R. Cohen? But your “misunderstandings” only go in one direction to protect rabbanim and that’s unfair.

  38. In my opinion (hunch) even the verbal endorsments seemed genuine (Rabbis Shternbauch,Belsky etc…) they each had a unique quote. However they probaly did not want their words publicized.

  39. You can’t just backtrack on stuff and be a leader. These “gedolim” need to learn to stay on message and not change things depending on how the wind is blowing. The constant denials, insinuations etc lead me to believe that these guys should be focus grouping and market testing before they roll out, not after. If corporations and people’s lives rise and fall on these pronouncements, than the informality and constant disagreement needs to stop. From the Republican Party to Tide Detergent, all the other brands in the world manage to have a coherent, single message. The “Daas Torah” brand of Judaism looks ridiculous by comparison

  40. Joseph: You blame everyone. I blame no one. I think it was just a lot of misunderstandings all around and no one retracted anything or distorted anything. I find it implausible that after all these years, and the continuing trend of additional stringency in editions of Shemiras Shabbos KeHilkhasah, that R. Neuwirth would make such a radical leniency and then immediately retract.

  41. Gil, I reread your post and all your comments and you are right; you did not blame anyone; you placed blame on misunderstandings among all concerned. Not all the posters were as reasonable as you so while my comments stand with respect to them, I apologize to you for including you among those who blame only KS and seek to protect the rabbanim.

  42. orthodox feminist

    Hey, guys. Wake up. The game is over. Within 5 years, 99% of Orthodox people will be using iPads, PCs, Kindles and iPhones on Shabbos. 90% will be turning lights and appliances on and off, with or without a rabbinic switch. It’s over, the majority of people will not abide restrictions into their personal lives that are nonsensical. The rabbis can bury their heads deeper in the sand, or they can shout “Asur Asur” louder and louder, but it will have no effect. The electricity prohibition, including lights, is an irrelevant taboo already collecting dust in the bin of misguided mannerisms.

  43. orthodox feminist

    And Gil, you should not poke your head into this dispute. Especially with a post, “In defense of…” which is in fact the opposite, an attack on the device. Your stock has hit a new low with this post. And how sad, right before the Day of Judgement, to play so fast and loose with the emes.

  44. lawrence kaplan

    orthodox feminist: Your “satire” is getting even more tiresome. We get it already. Jonathan Swift, you’re not.

  45. Lawrence, you can reprimand him for his style but the fact is he has a point. I don’t know if you side with Gil or not, but you clearly have the same techniques; evade the critical points and harp on the side stuff with your twisted methodological way of writing in order to throw the readers attention from focusing in the truth. “lamed li’shoncha lomar eini yodea”.

  46. I proposed a notarizing service, not a rating service. These “gedolim” constantly change their minds or are misreported or something. Its a problem thats easy to solve.

    Sounds like a good idea. Whenever a “godol” wants to issue a halachic opinion, someone should be around to write down the essence of their argument and the conclusion. And then the “godol” could sign it, to show that they agree to what is written. And then the written summary could be distributed.

    For extra clarity, we could even have the “godol” write the summary themselves to make sure there are no misinterpretations.

    We could even start calling this summary a “teshuva”.

  47. If only the blessing givers and responsa writers had written down as well the question they were being asked.

    Then we would know if it was promoted to them in one way (for those who turn on switches anyway or have a pressing need) and to the public in a different way (“Let’s revolutionize Shabbos by making it permissible to turn lights on and off, anytime!)

  48. lawrence kaplan

    anonymous: There are times when I believe I have not studied the matter under discussion carefully enough to make a general judgment, but do feel that I know enough to comment on a particular point. If you feel that my method is “twisted”–I note you offer no examples–so be it.

  49. Too much negative karma here. A new invention, even patented, supported by written, signed rabbinic endorsements, deserves a kinder and gentler reception. As discussed on Daas Torah, Rav Moshe Feinstein first objected to Shabbos clocks, but when he observed they were being properly used, he wrote otherwise. I don’t foresee widespread adoption of Kosher Switch in frum homes, including my own, but perhaps, for institutions, they may be appropriate – e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, hotels. In the written, signed words of one endorser, R Peretz Steinberg, there will be “prevention of Chilul Shabbos to the masses.” I’ll grant that KS should have been more careful in claiming some borderline endorsements, and its now paying the price, but to its credit, has made the corrections.

    When I first read about this new product, an article, I believe in Mishpacha, not so long ago, came to mind. The subject of the article was the last living talmid of the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveichik. He witnessed an episode where a dormitory of yeshiva boys had taken very sick, and the Brisker Rav and a well known doctor went inside the building to assist the boys. The Rav told his son to turn on the light – on Shabbos. The boy said something about why is it pikuach nefesh. With a little more authority in his voice, the Rav just said, turn on the light, which he did.

    Presumably, the light would enable the doctor to better examine the patients, see their complexions, facilitate communication. I could definitely see rabbis paskening that a halachic light switch is preferable in such situations.

  50. william gewirtz

    Elliot Pasik, IIRC, in the original story the part of RYZS was played by R. Chaim, the sick boy by RYBS and the son by RMS. You kinda wonder if it happened twice or perhaps….

    i think no one disputes the use of the switch in situations of varying levels of need, it general use either for strictly halakhic or merely customary reasons is in dispute.

  51. And I think the last living talmid of the Brisker Rav was Rabbi Yaakov Nayman.

    And was the doctor’s name Shereshevsky?

  52. “Although R. Ben Haim has clarified that he had in mind a community that is about 85% non-Shabbat observant.”

    “In the written, signed words of one endorser, R Peretz Steinberg, there will be “prevention of Chilul Shabbos to the masses.”

    Looks to me that this is the source of the confusion. Whether the rabbonim were agreeing it could be used lechatchila, or what they were saying is that if they were to be installed in less religious homes, it could reduce chilul Shabbat (ie. be’deeved, if they’re going to turn on lights, at least this goes a long way to making it approach acceptability).

  53. is this a way to prevent a sin? who would oppose that?

  54. “Is this a way to prevent a sin? who would oppose that?”

    Perhaps because it’s being marketed in a way that encourages its use not just by the ones who would otherwise be sinning, but to those who until now left their lights alone.

    Perhaps if the device were marketed differently, there would not be any significant opposition to it.

  55. With a little more authority in his voice, the Rav just said, turn on the light, which he did.

    Presumably, the light would enable the doctor to better examine the patients, see their complexions, facilitate communication. I could definitely see rabbis paskening that a halachic light switch is preferable in such situations.

    The whole point of the story is that either 1) in situations of pikuach nefesh you act immediately rather than waiting for a psak, or 2) shabbat is “hutra” rather than “dechuya”, so once pikuach nefesh arises you don’t need to worry about minimizing shabbat violation.

    Either way, a psak about which kind of switch should be used would not be relevant.

  56. What nonsense about ‘the last living talmid of the Brisker rav’ – his own son is still alive, and there are other of his talmidim still ‘giving shiur’. R. Elyokim Schlesinger in London is still going strong.

  57. Shlomoh quoted this well known story about RYBS and MS;

    “With a little more authority in his voice, the Rav just said, turn on the light, which he did”

    Yet, it is also well known that when RYBS accidentally turned on a light in his house on Shabbos, family members found RYBS crying inconsolably because of what was to RYBS not just a Maaseh Misasek, but rather what RYBS knew was Chillul Shabbos, something that he never thought would ever happen in his life.

  58. orthodox feminist

    No, that story about RYBS never happened. It is utterly out-of-character, nonsensical and pure fiction, beyond apocryphal. Why Steve would repeat it here is without any logic. The Rav “knew” no such thing and “he never thought” any such thoughts. Be certain of that.

  59. Orthodox Feminist-whoever you are, I have heard the story repeated by two eminent Talmidei Chachamim who heard directly from family members that RYBS was in fact crying over what he viewed as Chillul Shabbos.

  60. FWIW, I mentioned the story because it showed how RYBS viewed the incident as not just a matter of heter visssur, but as an incident which impacted on a not insignificant aspect of RYBS’s Avodas HaShem, namely Shmiras Shabbos. Halevai that we would view similar transgressions in such a manner.

  61. Orthodox Feminist-Contrary to your comment, it is well known that RYBS was hardly a “Kalte Litvak” in what he regarded as the bases of his religious outlook and observance-RYBS frequently invoked memories of a Chabad cheder rebbe, his memories of RCS making Kiddush, and reciting the Avodas YK, and how RMS reviewed the Avodas YK and the relevant portions of the Yad as a means of enhanicng his appreciation for the Kedushas HaYom.

  62. Orthodox Feminist-Contrary to your comment, it is well known that RYBS was hardly a “Kalte Litvak” in what he regarded as the bases of his religious outlook and observance-RYBS frequently invoked memories of a Chabad cheder rebbe, his memories of RCS making Kiddush, and reciting the Avodas YK, and how RMS reviewed the Avodas YK and the relevant portions of the Yad as a means of enhanicng his appreciation for the Kedushas HaYom. I would be remiss if I did not mention how participants recalled RYBS’s recitation of Hallel after the Pesach Seder.

  63. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve: Orthodox feminist is a troll. He really agrees with you, but finds a nasty way of making his point. Don’t bother to feed him.

  64. Unlike the controversy over whether the Noda B’Yehuda was a Mekubal or approved of Kabbala, we are dealing with living people here in an age of advanced communication. I read all the “he said” , “he didn’t say” “he changed his mind” “he didn’t change his mind” “he meant this” “no he meant that” and wonder why people don’t embrace the obvious solution: namely, go out to each of these “serious” (as Gil calls them) Poskim, grab your iPhone/Camera and ask very pointed questions and record the answers. Rav Heinemann, put out some multimedia when he was attacked over the issue, Rav Beslky had shiurim published on anisakis. Where are the serious religious journalists? All this conjecture is just academically flaccid!

  65. I did not hear about that story of RYBS, and the maaseh misasek, I read it somewhere. I felt it should not have been publicized, but what do I know?

  66. Isaac; I’ll second that. For the life of mine, I can’t see why there can’t be more closure either. As unfortunate as it may seem, today this alternative seems to be our only plausible option to find out a posek’s opinion. Sit him down, and record it. Otherwise all you’ll end up with will be “no, that’s not what he meant” “it’s not true, he never said anything like that”, or one of my favorites “he only said it on condition it’s not repeated in his name” (gee, thanks for the help then). Mind you, it’s not even an “I meant” or “I said”, it’s a “he meant” or “he said”. Today, it’s nothing direct, only from the mouths of their secretaries after they apply their own censorship.
    (I’m not Sephardic, but in truth, I think the Sephardic rabbonim today have more backbone. Now I’m sure you’ll have some hotblooded people throw around some examples of Sephardim changing their mind or the likes, but ha’meivin yavin.)

  67. So let me get this straight.
    Say I’m a posek.
    A guy comes to me and says to me he’s got a switch that lets people turn lights on and off on Shabbat.
    Lights. On and off. On Shabbat.
    What do I do?
    Do I consult my comprehensive halachic knowledge?
    Nope. Too much mental effort. And anyway (sez you) my memory ain’t what it used to be.
    Do I … (what is it again that poskim do exactly? oh, right…) ask the guy how it works, maybe pull out a Shulchan Aruch?
    You must be joking. I’m a far too busy and important for that.
    Do I express mild concern about potential chilul Shabbat? Warn the public about this terrible michshol being perpetrated by a charlatan? Throw a choteh umachte et harrabim out of my office? Or just tell the man, “Uhh, that sounds like a really bad idea. Now go away.”?
    Nah, I’d just hate to cause a fuss.
    Fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-doo. What’s a posek to do?
    And then–get this–the man pulls out a letter praising himself and his invention, and wishing both lots of success. And asks me to sign it. I mean, I was baffled before, but now, this–this is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a potato knish.

    So let’s simplify. Multiple choice, three options:

    A. I sign the letter if and only if I consider the switch obviously and indisputably permissible. (Crazy, right?)

    B. I have no earthly idea how the switch works; if it is muttar, or under what circumstances; if it will lead to massive chilul Shabbat; or if permissible use, if that’s even possible, will enhance Shabbat or destroy it.
    So naturally, I sign. Because what could possibly go wrong? Nobody would ever misinterpret that as approval, right?

    C. Same as (B). At least initially.
    But then things get controversial, and it looks like I might get called the L-word.* And THAT’s when I get all “not one inch.”
    (Hey, you can call me apathetic, lazy, incompetent, gullible and even senile all the livelong day. But to suggest that I might bend to political pressure–how dare you, sir!)

    (* Lenient)

  68. Larry Kaplan-GMT and thanks for the advice!

  69. Dave: Entertaining. Really. If we were to make this whole episode into an Improv performance, your narrative would be right on target. Because for those of us who read between the lines, that is what’s happening.

  70. Dave we all realize thats whats happening(more or less). What bothers us is the fact that our LEADERS dont have the backbone to go with the “please leave me alone” option. the one where he kindly explains he does not want to get involved in such controversial innovations. Or if he does, then take a good week or two, research the topic and come out with a solid conclusion. Its like the poskim dont realize people go to them for psak or something.

  71. So if Larry Kaplan calls someone a troll and says to ignore him, Gil does not delete that as a personal attack. Got it. Gmar Tov.

  72. Steve, whoever you are, I have heard the story is false from two even more eminent Talmidei Chachamim who heard directly from closer family members that RYBS in fact never cried over what he viewed as Chillul Shabbos.

  73. R’ Gil,

    How can you say that intimidation is easy to respond to? You yourself publicized a letter opposing Weprin for Congress saying that you knew was it forged. The alleged signatory was intimidated into not admitting to the public it was forged and he never signed in the first place.

  74. He wasn’t intimidated. They sent me a copy of the signed letter against Weprin.

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