The IDF Rabbinate’s Halacha (Jewish Law) and Technology Department was only established last year but already has a slew of new developments in the works, most if not all of them Sabbath-related.

The IDF website reports that one such development is a Sabbath-friendly electrical socket, for connection of essential security and life-saving devices to the electrical current during the Sabbath. The first such sockets are scheduled to be installed in IDF bases in the coming weeks.

Like most of the Halacha and Technology Department’s inventions, the socket operates on the ‘grama’ principle. Grama, which means ‘cause’ in Aramaic, is a Talmudic principle by which one can indirectly cause an event – like an electric current – without doing so directly.

According to this concept, if one plugs a machine into a Sabbath socket, the machine would not immediately receive a current from the socket. Rather, the socket would be fitted with a device that automatically – and at regular intervals – checks if anything has been plugged into it. If, for instance, such a device checks for the presence of a plug in the socket every ten seconds, then a few seconds after the machine was plugged in, the device would sense its presence and connect it to the electrical current.

Gate switches and refrigerator ovens

20 'grama' switches have been installed in the electrical gates in IDF checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria, making it easier for religious soldiers to serve at these checkpoints on Sabbath.

Another Sabbath-friendly IDF Rabbinate invention is the “refrigerator-oven.” This device was invented for the sake of religious Navy sailors who until now have been unable to enjoy warm meals on the Sabbath day, presumably because cramped and unstable conditions on the high seas make rewarming food especially difficult. This causes undue suffering on the Sabbath – especially when it is a cold and wintry one. The new device, which is scheduled to go into use several months from now, will make it possible to cook the food on Friday and put it into the special refrigerator. On Sabbath the refrigerator will turn into an oven and warm the food.

New devices currently still in the development phase include automatic water pumps as well as a car ignition switch which uses a delayed-start mechanism. 

More awareness of the need

“In recent years, the IDF has been putting into use numerous electronic devices, and this makes it necessary for us to find a proper solution for turning on these devices during the Sabbath,” explained Col. Eyal Krim, head of IDF Rabbinate’s Halacha and Technology Department. He said, however, that “when a soldier has to carry out security work, this is less of a problem. The difficulty arises when the need is not a security need.”

The website reports that in recent years, decision-makers in the IDF have become more aware of the importance of minimizing Sabbath desecration. The military’s Logistics Section cooperated with the IDF Rabbinate on a staff project that was recently approved by the Deputy Chief of Staff. This project developed criteria for characterizing construction of new military structures in a way that will make it possible for religious soldiers to minimize Sabbath desecration.

In addition, every large-scale construction project – including the new “Bahad City” which will house the IDF’s instructional bases – will have an external Halacha-technical advisor following it from the planning phase onward. This advisor will go over construction plans, map out the needs that arise and recommend to the Rabbinate what to do in order to enable optimal functioning during the Sabbath.