Those of you who read my columns, know that I'm more of a political commentator and national security buff. I fear G-d and strive to keep His Law, but I don't see myself as a particularly religious man in the commonly used sense of the word.
Therefore I'm normally content to leave the Torah commentary to the Torah scholars and stay within my own “daled amos,” as it were. Then something like this comes along, and try as I might, I simply cannot remain silent. So please, bear with me.
If it can deliver on the halakhically-compliant features it promises (and that's a very big “if”), the Shabbos app sounds like it could be just the thing for emergency use—perfect for Hatzalah volunteers, frum doctors, or even pregnant women and their husbands. (Quick question: Is it accurate to refer to Torah-observant orthopaedic surgeons as Orthodox ortho docs?) For all those who would technically be permitted to break Shabbos for the sake of saving a life, these workarounds could prevent them the aggravation of having to actually violate any laws.
But for mundane everyday text messaging? It's just not Shabbosdik (in the Sabbath spirit), or as I like to say, “Shabbastic” (rhymes with “fantastic”). Is it theoretically possible that something like the Shabbos app could allow us to use our phones in a way that doesn't technically break any rules? Sure. And technically, I could leave my TV on all Friday night (or, better still, set it on a timer beforehand), and sit down to my favorite programs after kiddush and a nice dinner—but that doesn't mean I should!*
During this High Holiday season let us remember that the Jewish way of life is about acknowledging that G-d is the One in charge, and endeavoring to living our lives accordingly. Torah observance might not be an all-or-nothing proposition, but Torah acceptance absolutely is. To put it another way, we should all be in a constant state of teshuvah, in a never-ceasing quest to improve and bring ourselves closer to the Creator, may He be blessed.
But the minute someone decides that what Hashem has forbidden is somehow okay for them, that this time they are right and the Torah is wrong, he or she is no longer practicing Judaism. They're practicing Bob-ism, or Laura-ism, or Shmulie-ism.
Bottom line: A kosher-for-Shabbos cell phone might be the lesser of two evils, but it's still an evil when used for in-app-ropriate purposes. (That's the last “app” pun, I promise!)
If viewing Shabbos as a day of rest, and an opportunity to unplug from the appliances that bind us in our day-to-day lives somehow makes a Jew backward or primitive (as I see some of the app's supporters implying, or declaring outright, on my Facebook feed), then by all means count me among the savages!