Religious soldiers
Religious soldiersIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The IDF rabbinate has developed a Shabbat-friendly phone that will allow soldiers to speak on the telephone without desecrating Shabbat. The military magazine B'Machaneh reports that hundreds of the new devices will be distributed on IDF bases in the upcoming months.

The phone makes use of bluetooth wireless technology, and allows for fast dialing. Soldiers can answer calls using an earpiece attached to the device. While the device makes use of some technologies that would normally be prohibited on Shabbat, the technologies are used in an indirect manner, making use of the phone permissible.

The devices will replace an earlier phone designed for use on Shabbat, which was expensive and could be used only on select lines. The previous phone also received complaints for its relatively lengthy dialing time and delays in conversation.

Soldiers are permitted to desecrate Shabbat when necessary for security reasons, due to the precept that Shabbat laws may be violated in order to save a life. However, the rabbinate works to minimize Shabbat desecration whenever there is an option to do so.

Israel National News turned to Rabbi -- and engineer -- Yisrael Rosen, well known head of the Tzomet Institute for Halacha and Technology based in Gush Etzion, to get his reaction to the new technology.

"It is wonderful to see religious Zionism in action in the latest initiative of the Unit for Halacha and Technology in the IDF Rabbinic Corps,” Rabbi Rosen said. “They are in constant communication with our Insitute from the time this unit was formed in response to the increasing numbers of religiously observant officers, combat and commando unit soldiers  who turned to  IDF Rabbis for solutions to halachic problems that arise in the fight against terror and on the battlefield."

"The IDF Rabbinate", he continued, "under the last two IDF Chief Rabbis, Weis and Ronsky, expanded the chaplaincy's halachic activities beyond the traditional kashrut, prayer and enablement of religious practice to dealing with these new technological combat issues. The halachic authority figure in the unit is IDF Colonel Rabbi Ayal Krim whose assistant, IDF Captain Rabbi Ronen Aharon also has an extensive technological background."

Rabbi Rosen explained that the technologies developed by the Unit for Halacha are not meant for general use. "The two fields of security and medicine are areas where there is room for special, specific 'heterim', i.e. lenient halachic decisions, due to the fact that these may affect issues of life and death,” he said. “They are generally not applicable to economic areas, such as tourism, agriculture  or industry, but can be used, with Rabbinic consultation, in old age homes or for the handicapped."