Jerusalem – IDF Developing Shabbath-Friendly Keyboard, Computer Screen

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    Add-on touchscreen, Sabbath keyboard, Sabbath mouse. (IDF website)Jerusalem – The IDF Rabbinate is hard at work on the development of a special touch screen that would make it possible to use vital computer systems without violating Sabbath, reports IDF magazine BaMachaneh (In the Camp).

    Operational considerations mandate the use of computer systems like ‘Masua’ or ‘Sheder Cham 400’ during the Sabbath. These systems inform their operators of the location of IDF units during operations and battles. Other systems, like the IDF’s medical information system, named CPR, must also be used on Sabbath.

    “The CPR system, for instance, serves medical personnel whenever a soldier walks into a clinic, and we cannot avoid using it on Sabbath,” explained Capt. Rabbi Ronen Aharon, Staff Officer for Halacha and Technology at the Rabbinate.

    While Halacha (Jewish law) stipulates that the Sabbath can be violated for life-saving activity, the IDF Rabbinate has been searching for ways to cut down Sabbath violation to a minimum.

    The IDF Rabbinate has developed two options for Sabbath-friendly screens. One is a specially designed touch screen and another is an add-on that is connected to a regular screen and turns it into a touch screen, for all intents and purposes. There is no decision yet as to which system will be put into use.

    Another project, currently in its pilot phase, involves special Sabbath keyboards. Three prototype Sabbath keyboards have been put into experimental use in recent months, after being approved by the military’s Computer and Information Systems Center (MAMRAM) and Information Security Department. The Rabbinate is awaiting feedbacks from the soldiers who use them, in order to decide if they are preferable over the virtual keyboard/Sabbath mouse combination currently being used by the IDF.

    The IDF is also examining the possibility of changing the incandescent bulbs in the IDF’s communications equipment with LEDs (light emitting diodes), since turning on an incandescent light involves the actual lighting of a fire, which is explicitly forbidden by the Torah. An LED is activated by an electrical current – an act forbidden by the Sages and not by the Torah, and thus more flexibly permitted in cases of dire necessity.

    Rabbinate crews are also planning to install special electrical switches that will enable opening of electrical gates on Sabbaths in IDF bases that use them. The device is currently being tested at five entrances to IDF bases, including Yafo Gate at Tzerifin Base.

    The Sabbath-friendly switch is one of the Rabbinate’s earliest developments. It also saves the IDF money, because manufacturing it inside the IDF is cheaper than buying it outside the army.

    The internal mechanics and electronics of the Sabbath mouse, which was developed by the Tzomet Institute for Halacha and Technology, employ the Talmudic concept of ‘grama,’ which allows an observant Jew to indirectly cause certain events to take place on Sabbath, without direct action on his part. The same concept makes it possible to re-adjust certain Sabbath timers during the Sabbath.

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    46 COMMENTS

    1. This is a disgrace, plain and simple. That Rabbanim would put a haskamah on zilzul Shabbos. There is no end to our descent during this Galus. I am DISGUSTED WITH THIS!

      • And most of us are disgusted that any yid would be upset about using yiddeshe ingenuity and creativity to circumvent all these chumras about what we cannot do on shabbos kodesh. This is not a disgrace and would bring a smile to the faces of the many gadolim of past generations who were involved in crafting similiar “workarounds” (relative to the technology of their times) so as to make it easier to enjoy shabbos.

      • I don’t understand your complaint and disgust.

        If there is a battle going on, then soldiers need to know troop locations — Shabbos or not. It’s sakanas nefashos to not know, plain and simple.

        Likewise, medical cases that are necessary could very well be the result of sakanas nefashos as well.

        The Wolf

        • If it’s mamash sakonas nefoshos, then this technology isn’t really necessary, though it’s still important to minimise the chilul shabbos to whatever extent is possible. But the real purpose of this technology is in cases where it’s NOT sakonas nefoshos, but still an emergency; melochos de’oraisa are absolutely prohibited, but if you can minimise the issur enough it can be allowed.

          Shaarei Tzedek hospital has been developing such technology for decades; most medical needs are NOT sakonas nefoshos, and therefore there are strict limits on what can be done on Shabbos, so it’s necessary to find ways to do what’s needed while staying within those limits. This is where most medical halacha is located: in the grey zone where there is no sakonas nefoshos, and therefore no blanket heter, but still a “tzorech godol” that justifies whatever leniency can be found.

          That electric scooter from Tzomet falls under the same rubric. There is no way it would be allowed for a healthy person, but it minimises the issur enough that it can be allowed for a disabled person who would otherwise be condemned to sit at home all Shabbos.

      • If this is “zilzul shabbos” than you are a real am haor’etz. These kinds of innovations raise shabbos to a higher madrega for most yidden who have a need to use computers. We can get the kindlach to study and learn online on shabbos rather than kvetching that all their friends are playing video games and they have to stay home.

        • You got it wrong too. They are not designing it for us to use on Shabbos, they are designing it for those who need to do it anyhow, that it should be with the minimum Chilul Shabbos. This is not the Shabbos light or the Shabbos elevator.

        • You’re nuts. This is not what it’s for, and it will never be allowed for that purpose. If your kids are complaining that their friends are playing video games on Shabbos, you should find them a better class of friends.

      • The first time a rav in the 19th century approved using a telegraph line, and then later the first electric power and telephone lines, to create a substantial part of an eruv, there were mindless yidden such as you who yelled, gavalt, “der bist a groise chilul shabbos”.

    2. What a kiddush Hashem B’H we have wonderful engineers dedicated to making torah and technology work together. I wish people would have more appreciation for the “zionoists” and realize they also follow torah and mitzvos.

      • if u must be mechallel shabbos then there there is no problem using anything even if if its a dorysa. the torah is not mechayv you to look for heterim when someones life is in danger. someone is making big bux here in the name of judaism

        • Whats wrong with “making big bux in the name of judaism”. The last time I checked, thats how my rebbe makes his parnassah, thats what supports seforim stores, sofrim etc. As to only using this in an emergency, I can guarantee you that if the technology works, within a very short time thereafter, b’yirtzah hashem, everyone will be web surfing on shabbos and even VIN will be “open for business” on shabbos.

          • Um, you just gave a reason to oppose this technology, and thus support for commenter #4. If it is ch”v inevitable that it will lead to everybody using it for whatever they like, then it should be stopped in its tracks. Fortunately, I don’t think it is inevitable, or even likely. Amei ho’oretz may be nichshal in using this technology without a solid justification, but so long as they act out of genuine ignorance they’re shogegin; but faithful yidden will not use this without first asking a rov whether their need is sufficient to justify it.

            • I hope you are right but over time many innovations that had been designed for limited circumstances or for limited portions of the population have evolved into widespread general use. Most yidden going to a hotel with a “shabbos elevator” today will use it even if there are stairs nearby and they are not invalids.

            • As far as I know, a properly constructed shabbos elevator (such as the one designed by R Levi Halperin’s Institute for Technology and Halacha) can be used lechatchila.

        • You are wrong. The Torah does require us to look for heterim and minimise the issur to whatever extent is possible, even when someone’s life is in danger.

      • of coarse not you shoteh this is only used when its pekuach nefesh and muktza would usually be used. how mutter this systom is i got no idea

        • Reading VIN on shabbos would not be mechalel shabbos any more than reading a sefer or newspaper. Its HOW we read it that creates a potential problem. This technology could evolve so that the computer could be adopted so it would not be mecahalel shabbos.

    3. if a doctor tells you that if u fast on yom kipper u can die. does that mean that this person was mechallel yom kipper by onays? of course not. his mitzva for yom kipper is to eat. same to by someone who needs life threatning help on shabbbos. there is no chillul shabbos. that is his job to say a life and you should not go looking to be frummer then the toira

      • “you should not go looking to be frummer then the toira”

        If half the people on VIN would only take your advice, we would have little to argue about. There is a growing cadre of yiddin for whom layering chumrah on top of chumrah has become an obcession and a measure of their committment to daas torah. Just doing a fraction of all the mitzvot the torah has given us would be a kiddush hashem…to insist on doing more for its own sake is vanity

      • No. Shabbos is dechuya for pikuach nefesh, not hutra. That means it’s still chilul shabbos, but nebach we have no choice; and therefore whenever the issur can be minimised it must be. If a sick person needs two figs, and there are several stems with one fig each, and one stem with three, one should pick the one stem with the three figs, rather than picking two stems and thus doing two melochos. The same applies on Yom Kippur: if a person must eat he must eat, but he is not keeping yom kippur.

        • wrong millie . his mitzva of yom kipper is to eat . your mitzva on shabbos is to save a life and procrastinating to find less of a way can be detrimental to the patient and it would be on your shoulders if he or she dies . dont be more machmir then the tora

    4. Millie, this is a question not a position, so don’t go postal on me. It is my understanding, based on an explanation by a respected Rav and posek in Monsey(name available on request), that use of a computer on shabbos is assur m’derabonon. Modifying the keyboard to be “shabbos friendly” by, say, introducing a gromma (random time delay) whould then produce a shvus d’shvus condition. Wouldn’t that make the computer use muttar l’chatchila?

      • Maybe u could make the call but you could be causing the person receiving the call to violate shabbos if they don’t have the corresponding equipment. However, I think this whole thread has gone way too far since the objective of the technology was to use it in time of war or real skanah…

    5. WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD U WANT THIS. theres a reason that theres a shabbos. whhy add all these mishugasim. seriously, the comp. keeps u from resting.
      this is completely ridiculous

    6. I know I will be attacked for this one. But…..

      I am not happy with this. To MY Vies, …. It really IS Zilzul Shabbos.
      We have already had psaks on similar items which clearly stated that engineering designed to do the job indirectly, have the same issur as if they were direct, etc.
      Also, the issur which applies to an item which is normally used, applies to an instrument designed to get around it.
      This may not be the opinions of these people, but it is the opinions of the rabbonim whose opinions I do trust and rely on.

      That having been said, I (and I am usually on the machmir side) will stick my neck out and say that we are going about all this tush backwards.

      The issue here is that over a century ago, poorly informed rabbonim, great tzadikim and talmidai chachomim, had to make a decision on the limited physical science knowledge available to them at the time, and they ruled that electricity is related to fire, and applied the issurim of Fire on Shabbos to electricity.

      Today’s knowledge of physical science tells us that now we know that electricity and fire are unrelated.

      This means REALLY we should never have assured electricity on Shabbos under the laws of AISH….

      The problem is that no frum rov today has the courage to admit that maybe we do need to “re-explore” that area.

      They are all afraid they will be accused of taking the ways of the Reform and others who use electricity in on Shabbos as well as violate Shabbos in most other ways too.

      It will take a few BRAVE rabbonim to get together, and gather more gedolim, and have a meeting over this issue. But, it really does need to be re-explored. As, from what we now know, it is likely that electricity by itself should never have been assured… at least not under the issur of “Fire”

      However, until that issue IS re-explored, and the halachic giants all agree to it, these “work-arounds” are not something to be proud of…. that is my opinion.
      Though I could understand the other side, and make my disagreement as we call, “Respectfully Disagree.”

      • Excuse me, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was an electrical engineer, and certainly knew what electricity is. And he led the fight against microphones in shuls, and against sailing in Jewish ships on Shabbos, precisely because he knew the metzius better than all the “ibber-chachomim” who were lenient.

    7. Theres 2 completely separate discussions here as usual.

      Does the equipment shomrim use michalel shabbos ? 99% of their cases are non pikuach nefesh.. whilst the army can be classified in many casses as what the Lubavitcher rebbe argued (shulchan aruch hilchos shabbos siman shin chuf tes.. ) for inyanei kash v’teven.. and tiftach haaretz lifaneihem so every small situation on the border is clearly needed

      • They’re not really so different. Where the emergency is not life-threatening, these solutions are necessary, because there are strict limits on what can be done. Where the emergency is life-threatening, these solutions are not absolutely necessary, but they are desirable, because we must reduce the issur as much as possible. Either way, this development is a good thing.

      • Shomrim’s heter is the same as the IDF’s and Hatzoloh’s: they carry the equipment so they can respond to those cases that are pikuach nefesh. If not for those cases, it could not be justified. With this technology, though, they could do many things even in non-pikuach-nefesh cases.

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