New York – Shabbos Texting App Stirs Controversy


    Screenshot of the web page of shabbosapp.comNew York – A soon to be launched Kickstarter campaign, which hopes to raise funds for the development of what is sure to be a much-discussed smartphone app, has already become a topic of conversation several days before its launch.

    Designed by California resident Yitz Appel and a group of developers who describe themselves as Orthodox Jews, the Shabbos App attempts to circumvent any halachic issues that arise while texting on Shabbos.

    Developer Yossi Goldstein of Colorado likened the Shabbos App to other innovations that have evolved over the years, including the Shabbos elevator, the Kosher Switch and Shabbos modes for ovens.

    Goldstein noted that many rabbonim would not be in favor of the Shabbos App, particularly in the more yeshivish circles.

    “Any time you get involved with anything electronic on Shabbos it is going to be controversial,” Goldstein told VIN News.

    Goldstein was quick to note that the Shabbos App is not aimed at encouraging anyone to start texting on Shabbos.

    “Our main goal is to let people who are already texting on Shabbos know that they can text on Shabbos and not completely fall off the derech.” explained Goldstein. “Many people are already keeping a half Shabbos because they find that they can’t get off their phones and they feel like once they are already breaking Shabbos they might as well give up on other mitzvos too. Hopefully this will alleviate that.”

    The Shabbos App addresses several issues including rising heat of the phone’s battery with usage, the prohibition against permanent writing, chimes that notify users of incoming texts and the phone’s screen lighting up when receiving or entering text messages.

    The app claims to circumvent those problems by keeping battery usage at a constant level, introducing a delay on display of characters entered, as well as the option of wiping all text at periodic intervals, muting the phone’s sounds and keeping the screen permanently illuminated.

    According to Goldstein, there are several rabbonim on board with the project who he described as “Orthodox and knowledgeable in Torah and halacha.” He hopes to have their names listed on the app’s web page in the near future, but declined to name them at this time.

    Calling texting “the plague of our generation,” Goldstein said that the problem continues to escalate at an alarming rate and touted the Shabbos App as the solution to the problem.

    “Soon every kid will be texting on Shabbos,” said Goldstein, the father of a 15 year old son. “We might as well make it muttar.”

    The Shabbos App is completely unacceptable from a halachic standpoint, according to Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union.

    “There is a famous Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim that says that at times something can be halachically permissible but is still not permissible,” said Rabbi Elefant.

    “Assuming that this is halachically permissible, and I’m not convinced that it is -what they consider to be a grama, is not in our experience a grama. And even if one could make an argument that it is halachically permissible, it is very distasteful and not permissible on Shabbos.”

    Noted halachic authority Rabbi Yair Hoffman said that while the app could transform texting from an issur d’oraysa to an issur d’rabanon, it is still strictly forbidden and should be avoided at all costs.

    “It is clear to me that this will make texting a rabbinic prohibition according to many poskim,” said Rabbi Hoffman. “Texting cannot be done in a manner that is not at least a rabbinic prohibition. If these poskim are indeed real then they are left field poskim because the universal norms of psak halacha are that every angle that they have gone through is at least a rabbinic prohibition.”

    Rabbi Hoffman observed that according to some, texting with the Shabbos App would be still be an issur d’oraysa and is also contrary to the spirit of Shabbos.

    “In addition to the meta-halachic considerations here that would undermine the practice of yiddishkeit and the d’veykus that the yomim tovim and Shabbos have been designed for thousands of years to achieve, this is something that, in my opinion, should not be pursued.”

    Allowing that there might be some value to the app for those in the medical field Rabbi Hoffman said, “If doctors require it and it is truly pikuach nefesh, , then when you have issues that are not time-is-of-the-essence, but still life threatening, there may be a use for it.”

    But Rabbi Hoffman was unequivocal on the Shabbos App’s suitability in any other situation.

    “It should not be available as an app for the general public,” said Rabbi Hoffman.

    Scoffing at the notion that allowing texting on Shabbos would enhance the observance of other mitzvos Rabbi Hoffman remarked, “For someone to text, and to continue texting on Shabbos, will not enhance their Judaism.”


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      • It isn’t. The guy who is doing it, Yitz Appel, appears to be as serious about this as he is ignorant of halakhic methodology. This is more KRL stuff. Karaism of Rabbinic Literature, where people who don’t get how things work in Judaism pull information out of books, with no context, and try and make chiddushim based on their finds. It’s a shame, but there will be people who take it seriously, so we shouldn’t just laugh it off.

    1. Even if it was completely Muttar (unlikely because even with gramma, it’s still an issur D’rabbonim), it wouldn’t be better than watching TV on Shabbos with a Timer; which no one has suggested would make some more likely to keep Shabbos! Additionally, the Gramma phone (made by the Israeli Gramma Institute) which has been around for at least 25 years for Doctors and other Emergency Personnel, has never been marketed to teenagers who would otherwise not keep Shabbos at all!

      (BTW, I’ve ofter wondered if certain “accommodations”, like a Minyan for Shachris until 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon do more damage than good; would the attendees otherwise skip Davening [or certainly skip Minyan]; or would they force themselves to wake up earlier?)

    2. When I first heard about this I thought it was a joke…….”you might as well make it mutter” why don’t you start keep shabbis properly and maybe your son will stop texting on Shabbos

      Instead of sleeping all afternoon spend time with the family, instead of talking LH at the table talk about your week and whats on your children’s mind……but definitely don’t encourage texting on shabbis

    3. i am on my phone much of the day for business not whats app -to be honest i always wondered 10 years ago when the gedolim were busy “warning the public about the pitfalls of the cellphone i thought thats niaeve – if i want to do something wrong the internet is the place….the phone is just a phone- now i see how right they are the addiction…

    4. When I first heard about this app I thought it was just a joke.
      If it operates as advertised it would need to be plugged in constantly or the battery would die quickly. Recharging would definitely not be permitted. There are numerous other things wrong with this piece. It has to be a joke and the joke is on all those who think it’s real.

      • Unfortunately, for those who think it’s a joke, it’s 100% true. The information was not based on hearsay, but from an actual conversation with the reporter and developer.

    5. The issue is whether or not this is a good idea bedieved from a chinuch perspective, not whether it satisfies “all opinions.”

      It seems to me that the chinnuch question would be best answered by those who are involved with the type of kids who are engaged in Shabbos Texting, not by those who worry about whether “all opinions” are covered.

      Personally, I would think it a bad idea, even from a Chinnuch perspective, although I think it silly to discuss being yotzeh shittas Chazon Ish when talking about the potential clientele for this app r”l.

    6. why is everyone so shocked? you have DOZENS of devices meant to create loop holes to get around muktzah on shabbos, this one is just more high tech. Either keep shabbos completely, or dont. Enough with the shabbos elevators, shabbos lamps, shabbos phones, shabbos crock pots, shabbos ovens, shabbos skateboards, etc, etc, Cant carry on shabbos? no problem, run an invisible string around your entire city! – everyone is so concerned about the letter of the law, they completely lose sight of the spirit of the law, which in my opinion is just as important.

      • #11 please don’t show your ignorance…see mes Shabbos 19 a youll understand why crock pots…what you say about eirev puts you in category of ‘eino modeh boeiruv..’ lot more to say but…

    7. Texting on shabbos is already a drabanan assuming you don’t print out anything. The letters you see on the screen are really a bunch of numbers in computer code. So for the people who text on shabbos save your money and for the rest of us that don’t this is just sad and pathetic.

    8. Why is it allowed for frum kiruv organizations to advertise on radio on shabbos with frum Jewish people singing. Walking to shul on shabbos you can hear these commericals blaring from the radios of gentiles, it’s a real boosha!

    9. For many teenagers and adults the smartphones have turned into an addiction where they have withdrawal symptoms over Shabbos. For those that say ” they don’t care about Shabbos or Muktzah” are wrong. Many wish they could stop, but their anxiety levels get so high, they use this to relieve the anxiety. Don’t be so quick to judge.

      • Pardon me but this is utter nonsense. Nobody is so addicted to phones (smart or “stupid” – they are all capable of texting) that they can’t stop using it on Shabbos/Yom Tov. And for anybody to claim that they want to stop but can’t, or worse yet, that they are victims of severe anxiety, if there are indeed people who claim that nonsense, they are not merely stretching, they outright lie. They just WANT to use their phones, and who knows what else, and some of them are ready to resort to the most preposterous excuses for basically not wanting to be Jewish.

      • Anyone who is having withdrawal symptoms because they are addicted to their smartphones, does not need a heter to do whatever they want. They need:

        serious psychological help, as with any other addiction, and
        a program designed to wean them off their addiction.

        You want to compare this to smoking or drugs (the classical addictions) — well, I suppose we actually DO simply make it legal to own drugs, darn it. But we shouldn’t, and until just recently we didn’t. I blame political correctness for this, as with so many other things…

        And even there, most sane people would agree that even if it is legal to own drugs (depending where you live, and/or how good you are at making excuses) that you shouldn’t be. And rehab is a venerable and accepted method of dealing with tobacco and drug addiction.

        And of course, you are correct — we shouldn’t judge someone for their addiction.
        We should probably try to find out if they are truly addicted or merely using it as an excuse (I suspect most prospective users of this app are).
        Then form a rehab group to help them deal with their sickness.

        Yes it’s a sickness. You specifically named it an addiction.

    10. Rav Moishe zt’l said the Shabbos clock was mutar for lights only. we think we are smarter than Rav Moshe zt’l so we said if he was alive he would let an air conditioner as well. Well I hope we are all happy it started with the air conditioner to the oven to the Shabbos texting app next time we should listen to Rav Moshe zt’l. I believe the only way to stop this out of control spin is for the rabonim to admit they erred by not following Rav Moshe zt’l – either that or be matir the new app but saying some things yeah some things no without a rav Moshe zt’l to base it on is ridiculous and our children who we claim we are worried about see our hypocrisy

      • # 25 c’v to minimize the igros moshe but there was gedolei poskim who had no problem with air conditioners with very valid reasons. so please don’t come with this ‘spinning out of control’ do you use the heater Shabbos?…same goes for air conditioner…

        • So basically you are saying you don’t follow Rav Moshe zt’l- it’s your right. but you are picking and choosing and if this app has credible rabbonim who verify that no melachos are being violated you should feel as comfortable using it as you use your heater. – by the way most heaters do not use a time clock -for an air conditioner you would use a time clock which is what Rav Moshe zt’l said was assur.

      • you are forgetting one important detail – kmaat every other posek – from RSZA to RYSA and Minchas Yitzchak permitted Shabbos clocks for air conditioners. Rav moshe’s chiddush that it is like amira lakum was not widely accepted. Therefore, that plus his own children – stating how common shabbos clocks have become – that most will not assume [maris ayin] is actually being turned on on shabbos is why the oilam is meikel – not due to a slippery slope of morality or hypocricy!! That is why we have gedolim who can apply the psak – not find a way to lessen issurim people are doing. why dont you check up what halacha dictates [especially r ovadia’s teshuva] about non married women going to the mikva? ‘well let them not be oiver kareiss’ is not a proper halachic response!!

    11. If they can’t turn off their phone for 1 day a week (and 10-13 or so other days a year) then they’re addicted. Even people who smoke will tell you that the day off, Shabbos, helps them recharge. That said, if there is a way, with real poskim (not Modern Orthodox, who are now the new Reform, including the “OU” ones who are against it, largely for political reasons, and whose opinions are halachically irrelevant), then it should be looked into lafrusei mei’isura, but off hand I can’t see how. The writing, even if delayed, is a dovor shemiskaven and a psik reisho and a direct action. Maybe an automatic response that answers “I’m proud of my heritage and am keeping Shabbos to reconnect with Our Creator” to every person’s first text is more in order, vyesh lachkor gam al zeh, not because it’s ossur, but because of the people receiving it and the isur for them.

      • In your rant you forgot to mention “and they hate chareidim”
        i always wonder when i read such trash, if you speak for yourself, as a devisive jewish antisemite or does your rebbe or rov actually condone such bile?
        A kal vichomer during the aseres yimay t`shuva?

        • True, their leadership has declared open war against frum Jews, who they derisively call “chareidim.” Yet more similarities with the ancient “haskola” movement (they had not yet changed the pronounciation of loshon hakodesh at that time or used it for chol). Or aren’t these the ones who openly favor arresting yeshiva students who want to be mekayem Eretz Yisroel and who give a shmira to all of Eretz Yisroel. The movement is truly the enemy of Torah today. Notice also, the original commentor attacks no individual person. Not so the detractors.

    12. כִּי לֹא, אֲשֶׁר יִרְאֶה הָאָדָם–כִּי הָאָדָם יִרְאֶה לַעֵינַיִם, וַיהוָה יִרְאֶה לַלֵּבָב.

      Far be it for me to question the motives of the creators of this App. Furthermore I don’t know how this App works. However, as a collective we should also seek to increase Shabbos observance, and praise those who observe it meticulously and make that something to aspire to. We should not concede defeat and settle for mediocre observance.

      Remember, in addition to the rules of Shabbos there is also the spirit of Shabbos…

      אַשְׁרֵי אֱנוֹשׁ יַעֲשֶׂה-זֹּאת, וּבֶן-אָדָם יַחֲזִיק בָּהּ–שֹׁמֵר שַׁבָּת מֵחַלְּלוֹ, וְשֹׁמֵר יָדוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת כָּל-רָע
      וּבְנֵי הַנֵּכָר, הַנִּלְוִים עַל-יְהוָה לְשָׁרְתוֹ, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֶת-שֵׁם יְהוָה, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לַעֲבָדִים–כָּל-שֹׁמֵר שַׁבָּת מֵחַלְּלוֹ, וּמַחֲזִיקִים בִּבְרִיתִי

      אִם-תָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ, עֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצֶךָ בְּיוֹם קָדְשִׁי; וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג, לִקְדוֹשׁ יְהוָה מְכֻבָּד, וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ, מִמְּצוֹא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר

    13. “Soon every kid will be texting on Shabbos,” said Goldstein.

      NO THEY WON’T, at least not in the communities in Brooklyn that i grew up in, and if you feeel that that’s case at your community, then you should reevaluate your Chinuch and Yiddishkeit as a whole as a community.


    14. #31, way to go. You are so proud to know a couple if Halachic terms…..yay.
      You just besmirched an entire segment if Orthodox Jewry, and for that you get an Issur Daoraisa during the Asseres Yemai Teshuva. Be honest, when is the last time you stepped foot into an OU synagogue. You know nothing about running a Shul, leading a community, or treating your fellow Yid with respect.
      That should matter far more than one if the 5 million apps that you and I will never use.

      • Actually, he somewhat misquoted Rav Aharon Kotler zatza”l who noted that the essence of “Conservative” and “Modern Orthodoxy” are the same.

        Of course, they should still be treated with respect. But the facts are still what they are.

        • The Lubavitcher Rebbe also called modern orthodoxy “di neieh conservative” (the new Conservative) and wrote how Torah is itself for all times and anything suggesting otherwise (like adding “Modern” to it, with a whole new set of customs) is hepech HaTorah.

      • Very good and right thing to point out how Modern Orthodoxy as a shitah is against halacha and it’s you who’s besmirching a fellow Jew during Aseres Yemei Teshuva. Read any poskim on how to deal with those who make a new Torah, and this is exactly what Modern Orthodoxy has become (a movement very beholden to secular, anti-Torah values). Pointing this out to others is praiseworthy.

    15. First of all I did also believed it was a joke! I could write 100 pages on this insane topic but I am not.I have only one thing to say.These kids that are texting on Shabbos do have a problem,but the problem is not only that they are at risk so this product will help them text in a more kosher way.TEXTING ON SHABBOS IS FORBIDDEN! Now for the real issues:these kids have an addiction that has to be addressed by the parents with the help of professionals.What these crazy people are doing is “Putting on a band-aid and watch it heal”.PLEASE STOP THIS FROM REACHING OUR INNOCENT KIDS.

    16. The issue of texting on shabbos is complex. First, what’s the halacha of electricity on shabbos? R’ Shlomo Zalman had an interesting opinion widely available on the web. Second, what is a smartphone in halacha? Has anyone defined it? What does writing with it mean? Is it like a computer screen, itself a complex halachic issue? The way apps work? The way calls are made? It should be examined by people who understand halacha and electronics/computers. Then you can come to a conclusion as to what it is and decide how to approach it. Speaking as a physician who regularly uses a cell phone on shabbos both for speaking and texting for emergencies, I can tell you that it is much better than a gramma phone, which I also have and do not use. The gramma phone is extremely cumbersome. Modern day medical communication has evolved to the point that instantaneous communication is routine and beneficial in patient care. It is simply faster. I think there’s a utility for the program in the medical field, for those who feel that it’s important to minimize melacha.

      • Yup we can’t judge haw many things were done back in the day only for עם מירוצים the whole thing of ויכלי Friday night is only for the people that couldn’t daven imagine if someone would wanna do that today the oilem would freek out and say he is trying to change yiddishkiey oif course this is not for normal frum people but to say he is a shigitz for trying to help jews that are not on our level is wrong

    17. I do not understand why a frum website, with frum hashkafa feels the need to publicize something that clearly is not with in it’s hashgafa. Why are we letting everyone know this app even exists. Just dont say anything, dont spread something that can easily lead to chillul shabbos

    18. This so-called “shabbos app” is a completely un-funny, disgusting joke and the people behind it a laughing, there is NOTHING kosher about this, there is nothing serious about this.


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