Could New Gadget Change Shabbat Observance?

Several rabbis endorse 'Kosherswitch' to allow lights on Shabbat. High-voltage project could send a current through Jewish world.

Tova Dvorin,

Turning off the lights (illustrative)
Turning off the lights (illustrative)
Thinkstock

Will Shabbat observance change forever with a flick of a switch?

A new gadget was released to the mass market on Monday promising Orthodox Jews a solution to the age-old problem of leaving lights on or off on Shabbat and then being prevented by Jewish law from flipping the switch.

The new invention, dubbed "KosherSwitch," has been beta-tested since 2009 - but an indiegogo campaign launched Monday promises to bring the project to the masses. 

KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc (KSTI) Founder Menashe Kalati explains in the promotional video for the project that he was inspired to invent a new solution after his Shabbat clock turned off in the middle of a Friday night meal. 

The switch uses a series of light pulses fired at random to stop - or start - the electric current to flip the switch, which is fired at a randomized series of intervals and at a randomized rate of success when a piece of plastic (the toggle) is moved.

A green indicator light demonstrates when the system is inactive, allowing for the observant Jew to flick on the switch on Shabbat, as it is simply moving a piece of plastic; the randomization process allows for the system to work based on a number of halakhic (Jewish law - ed.) principles preventing indirect toggling of electric switches that leads to a definitive outcome. 

The switch has a separate toggle to be used during the week as well as a normal light switch. 

Kosherswitch argues that the device allows not only for more comfortable Shabbat observance, but also for saving electricity - both a "green" energy-saving solution and a financial boon for consumers. 

For now, the system is only widely available in the US and Canada; it has recently received certification from safety giant UL. 

The indiegogo project has raised over $14,000 over the first 15 hours of the campaign, with a $50,000 end goal.

While innovations involving Shabbat are often met with skepticism from the wider Orthodox community, the gadget has a surprising number of endorsements from leading rabbis as well.

Endorsements for the project include blessings and approbations from R’ Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, halakhic leader; Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, author of the prolific and definitive Shabbat work Shmirat Shabbat K'Hilchata; Breslove leader Rabbi Shalom Arush; and Chabad-Lubavitch leader Rabbi Manis Friedman, among others.

The campaign runs until May 20, 2015.


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