New York – Shedding Light on KosherSwitch


    In this photo illustration a Jewish woman is seen asking her child to close the lights on ShabbosNew York – A new light switch that has been under development for several years and claims to be approved for Shabbos use is one step closer to being available to the public, but whether or not the device is actually halachically acceptable has become the subject of debate over the last several days.

    A crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo raised $50,000 for production of the UL certified switches, which developers say skirts any issues of chilul Shabbos by randomizing electrical impulses generated by the switch, within four days. A video explaining the purpose and workings of the device garnered more than 90,000 views on YouTube over the same time period.

    “The response has been above and beyond our greatest expectations,” Menachem Kalati, inventor of the KosherSwitch, told VIN News. “We feel that this will bring a lot of good to the community.”

    Below video Menachem Kalati, inventor of the KosherSwitch,explains how it works.

    Kalati, who left a successful information technologies business to bring his dream of a Shabbos-friendly light switch to life, said that he has invested ten years of his life in the device.

    “The inspiration here was the frustration involved with managing timers to control lights on Shabbat and the possible prohibitions that would be involved in asking gentiles or children to perform melacha and also to promote the enjoyment of Shabbat,” explained Oren Bezalely of KosherSwitch.

    Bezalely acknowledged that the KosherSwitch concept might take some getting used to.

    “Obviously in previous generations Shabbat was experienced differently,” said Bezalely. “The Rambam did not enjoy Shabbat the same way we do now and we have used technology to enhance the oneg Shabbat.”

    KosherSwitch’s Indiegogo page claims the device has been widely approved for general Shabbos usage saying, “Many poskim and Orthodox rabbis have ruled that the KosherSwitch is not even considered grama (indirect causation), involves no melacha (forbidden/creative act), and is therefore permitted for consumer use.”

    The company’s site lists approvals and well wishes from of 30 rabbonim in Jerusalem, Ashdod, Bnei Brak, Los Angeles, Great Neck, Kew Gardens Hills, Kew Gardens, Manhattan, Minnesota, Monsey and Brooklyn. Kalati noted that some of rabbis listed offered blessings, others gave endorsements for general use and other approvals were granted only for specific situations.

    But since the debut of the Indiegogo campaign, several of those listed as having endorsed KosherSwitch have come out forcefully distancing themselves from the device and its developer.

    A letter dated this past Friday from Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Harfenes accuses developers of losing all credibility by listing a 2010 letter from him as an approbation.

    In that letter Dayan Harfenes says that he joins with Rabbi Yechezkel Roth in approving KosherSwitch “only for the needs of the sick and those who care for them” and clearly states that the device is not permitted for use under any other circumstances.

    Listing his statement as an unqualified approbation on the KosherSwitch is a blatant lie, explained Dayan Harfenes in Friday’s letter.

    “I want to publicize that those who are saying in my name that I permit the use of that which is called ‘KosherSwitch’ are doing so in falsehood,” wrote Dayan Harfenes. “I wrote only that there is reason to be lenient for cholim … As I see that those who are behind this device are publicizing my name to say that it is permitted under any circumstances, without specifying that it is only permitted for use for the sick, as written in the letter I wrote for them … they have completely lost all of their credibility in this matter.”

    Further continuing, Dayan Harfenes expressly prohibits KosherSwitch from using his name in conjunction with the product.

    “I am withdrawing all support from this and I forbid them to publicize my name in any way with his matter. I lend my support to all of those who have taken upon themselves to publicize this matter.”

    Another of the endorsements, that of Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, author of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, has also become the subject of considerable controversy. Rabbi Neuwirth added his approval at the bottom of one written by Rabbi Pinchas Zabihi in October, 2007, with the words, “I too agree to this invention and Hashem Yisborach will bless him in the zechus of shemiras Shabbos k’hilchasa”

    A 2011 letter published by The Zomet Institute in Gush Etzion, which offers halachic solutions for home, medical, agricultural, institutional and security purposes, raises questions about Rabbi Neuwirth’s endorsement of KosherSwitch.

    “Yesterday I went to Rabbi Neuwirth shlita, and I asked him if he had permitted the use of a switch to use lights on Shabbos for the purpose of oneg Shabbos,” wrote Rabbi Yisroel Rosen, a Zomet engineer. “He was literally shocked and said that he had never permitted this and when I showed him the approbation he had written he added by hand ‘only for medical and security use.’”

    In the same letter, Rabbi Rosen also called into question the KosherSwitch endorsement given by Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl.

    “He told me yesterday that he didn’t remember that he had ever signed on a letter like this and he gave his opinion that there is no place for something like this and he was surprised by the entire issue.”

    In fact, KosherSwitch’s endorsement page notes that both Rabbi Neuwirth and Rabbi Nebenzahl have made changes to their original endorsements, after allegedly being “coerced” by “zealous individuals” to “revoke and/or revise” their earlier written approvals.

    An article released by Rabbi Rosen last week once again reiterates his position that Rabbi Neuwirth never agreed to endorse the switch for general usage. While KosherSwitch says that the device doesn’t fall under the halachic classification of ‘grama,’ indirect causation, which is forbidden on Shabbos, Rabbi Rosen disputes that position saying that KosherSwitch would indeed fall under the Shulchan Aruch’s definition of ‘grama.’

    “No Orthodox rabbi, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, has permitted this ‘Gramma’ method for pure pleasure,” wrote Rabbi Rosen.

    Rabbi Rosen’s article also includes a letter written by Rabbi Neuwirth to KosherSwitch dated January, 2012, bearing the words, “Regarding what you wrote in my name to permit a type of grama – ‘ kosher grama.’ To permit the use of electricity, l’chatchila, on Shabbos cannot be, and at no time did it enter my mind to permit this, only for the needs of the sick and for security. Please publicize this so that no incorrect action will be taken because of me. May you merit that Jews should keep Shabbos according to the Jewish religion and Jewish law.”

    Both the KosherSwitch website and Bezlalely slammed Zomet and Rabbi Rosen, describing the letters as unfounded slanderous accusations leveled by another player in the kosher technology business.

    “When we approached Rabbi Neuwrith he made no qualifications and he signed on Dayan Zabichi’s letter clearly saying it was l’chatchila,” said Bezalely. “He said this was okay under any circumstances and there were no misunderstandings and no qualifications. That this mysteriously came up is extremely suspicious, especially from a company in competition with us. If he did retract the letter, under what conditions did he do so? Who was manipulating him? Was he not sane when he spoke to us? It is a horrendous accusation that is being made against us.”

    Kalati further noted that Rabbi Neuwirth’s approval of KosherSwitch was clearly a thought out process, that took place over two lengthy visits to the respected rabbinic authority.

    “At the first meeting he sat with me for an hour or more and at the second meeting he told me that he would go ahead and sign, looking through our binder of endorsements for a specific page before finally signing on Rabbi Zabichi’s page,” said Kalati. “If he thought the device was just for a choleh, why would he even need to think it over? There would be no chidush here as Zomet already has things for this purpose. He spent not minutes but hours with us going through the device. He really got the full experience and then to go and claim that he didn’t know who we were and what it was for is really quite unimpressive.”

    Below video: Rabbi Mordechai Hecht reviews KosherSwitch

    After reviewing the KosherSwitch materials, noted contemporary Halachic author Rabbi Yair Hoffman offered his opinion that KosherSwitch does not necessarily meet some of the required parameters that would make it halachically acceptable for Shabbos usage: ensuring that there is a time delay between when the light switch is flipped and when the light goes on, turning on the light in a way that is different than during the week and performing an action that may or may not yield a desired result.

    While the built in randomization may ensure that there is a time delay from the time the switch is activated until the lights go on, there is no doubt that, mathematically, the lights will eventually go on, which may not satisfy the third criteria according to Rabbi Hoffman.

    Rabbi Hoffman also expressed concern that there is little difference between the way the switch would be used on Shabbos and during the rest of the week.

    “They are of the opinion that if there is a side switch which says ‘Sabbath mode/Weekday mode’ that that is considered not using the switch in the normal way on Shabbos , but from the perspective of the person flipping the switch that controls the lights you are doing the same action all week long and I am not convinced that that would be considered a different way of doing things.”

    From a chinuch perspective, having children becoming accustomed to turning on lights on Shabbos is problematic, according to Rabbi Hoffman.

    “You are going to be teaching your kids that they can turn a light on and they will be in places where there is no KosherSwitch which can create problems,” said Rabbi Hoffman.

    Kalati expressed surprise that both Rabbi Rosen and Rabbi Hoffman would question the halachic status of KosherSwitch, given approvals given by respected rabbonim, including Rabbi Noach Oelbaum, who Kalati claims endorsed the product wholeheartedly.

    “Each rabbi we spoke to said ‘Wow,’ when we showed them the switch,” said Kalati. “Rav Oelbaum, he is a gadol. So how could Rabbi Hoffman and Rabbi Rosen completely ignore and disregard this? We have a gadol saying that this is not a grama, why are they disregarding that?”

    In a video posted on KosherSwitch’s website, Rabbi Oelbaum praises Kalati and actually appears to be offering a qualified endorsement of the device, saying that while technically using the switch would not be classified as melacha, each person should speak to their own rov to decide if KosherSwitch usage is within the spirit of Shabbos.

    Mrs. Helen Oelbaum, however, said that her husband never gave his stamp of approval to KosherSwitch.

    “He did not endorse it and they misrepresented what he said,” said Mrs. Oelbaum.

    A statement released by Rabbi Moshe Oelbaum leaves no doubt as to his father’s stance on KosherSwitch.

    “I regret that my father’s position on KosherSwitch was misrepresented by stating that he endorses it l’maaseh. His position is that there is serious concern of zilzul Shabbos. Before it is used one should ask a shaila from his rav.”

    Mrs. Oelbaum further explained that she asked Kalati to remove her husband’s picture and that his name be removed from the list of KosherSwitch endorsements, but as of this writing, Rabbi Oelbaum’s name is still listed third on the site Endorsements/Blessings page, after Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg z’l and Rabbi Neuwirth.

    Adding insult to injury, said Mrs. Oelbaum, is a snippet of the YouTube video promoting KosherSwitch that shows an obviously Orthodox Jewish man dressed in Shabbos clothing hinting to a female passerby that he needed her to turn off the lights in his bedroom which had inadvertently been left on and making what could be construed as suggestive facial gestures. While the ten second exchange was clearly intended to demonstrate the difficulties of amira l’akum, suggesting to a non-Jew that help is required with a Shabbos related issue, the scripted dialogue has raised more than a few eyebrows. “It is disgusting and in very poor taste,” observed Mrs. Oelbaum.

    Rabbi Hoffman echoed Mrs. Oelbaum’s sentiments, also noting that it was inappropriate to have prominent halachic figures in a video featuring innuendo.

    Below video Rabbi Eliyahu BenHaim reviews KosherSwitch

    Kalati said that he had approached Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, rabbinic administrator of the Star-K which offers kashrus certification on appliances, about his device several years ago.

    “I asked for an audience to go meet with him and I explained it briefly on the phone,” recalled Kalati. “I tried to compel him to let me show it to him since it is hard to explain on the phone. He asked me to tell him about the switch and unfortunately, he dismissed it quickly.”

    Kosher Switch’s site has a full page devoted to explaining the halachic differences between the Star-K’s Sabbath Mode and KosherSwitch, neither of which is universally accepted by all poskim. The site includes several documents showing the halachic discussions regarding Sabbath Mode and explains that while some forbid use of Sabbath Mode since it still involves direct interaction with a computer, KosherSwitch is free of these problems.

    “The stark contrast between KosherSwitch and the Star-K is that with KosherSwitch you are not really doing anything, not interacting with any electricity,” said Kalati.

    Kalati made it clear that he personally can make no halachic claims about KosherSwitch and encouraged the public to speak to their rabbis regarding it’s usage.

    “We are not halachic authorities here, but the rabbis are telling us that this is not grama and that this is permissible on Shabbat,” said Kalati. “We don’t want anyone to use the product if their rabbinic authority doesn’t endorse that. Every community is different and there are many uses here that can avoid chilul Shabbat. We feel that this can do a lot of good for the community and hopefully the ugly part can be put aside and we can focus on the halachic angles, the unity of the Jewish people and enhancing the observance of Shabbat.”

    Below video Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff reviews KosherSwitch

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    1. Even if there was no halachic controversy regarding the switch, by putting in the clip of asking the woman to “come up to his bedroom”, they ruined it for themselves. That clip was totally inappropriate.

    2. I do not wish to criticize the translation that appears in this article. As translations go, it is quite accurate. But as is often the case- something is lost and the original is more clear and more powerful. In addition, the letter is not quoted in its entirety. However, anyone who is fluent in Hebrew, who reads Rabbi Harfenes’ original letter, will not go near this device.
      A thorough understanding of Hilchos Shabbos is beyond me, but I can read and understand Hebrew. And I know how I feel about duplicity, deviousness and dishonesty.

      • What chutzpah??? The Rambam was also a great believer and advocate for healthy living and would never have endorsed yidden fressing on Shabbos on gefilte fish and starchy kugel rather than fresh grilled fish and lower carb delights. We don’t eat on Shabbos today the way are parents did in the alte heim nor should we. The same applies to the inuyim of shamiras shabbos we inflict on ourselves rather than focusing on hidur mitzvah on ways of enhancing oneg Shabbos. Rav Gavornlik and other gadolim have said this device should be ok once several minor questions on its operations are resolved and those rabbonim who now question its legitimacy are themselves raising issues as to their own integrity.

      • To all you misogynists, there is NOTHING wrong with the photo depiction of a yiddeshe mother and her child alerting him to Shabbos kodesh or the clip about having to use a Shabbos goy which is totally appropriate

      • Much of this broigas is the result of poor communications by the developer of the switch and the efforts by some second tier rabbonim to backtrack from their original endorsements because of the negative reaction. I wonder if any of them were paid for their endorsements (“paid” in the sense of a quid pro quo contribution to their mosdos)

      • Actually, this concept is not a new one. In fact Machon l’Halacha approved a more primitive device using the same principals as this new device a number of years ago for a terminally sick patient in Israel and made it very clear that it was most definitely NOT a l’chatchila. It was ONLY a heter for a specific situation.

    3. Please note that Rav Harfenes’ retraction is more than simply a change from “muttar” to “only for the needs of the sick and those who care for them”. He is being mattir only for pikuach nefesh. His reference to “hakal hakal” involves pikuach nefesh. According to this letter, he is mattir only where there is a possibility of mortal danger.
      The vignette in the video is truly inappropriate, at least during Ne’ilah or Nesaneh Tokef. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a humorous way of reminding us about the problems we’ve all had trying to convince a gentile neighbor to help us.

      • Rav Harfenes’ original letter was previously on the original kosherswitch website in its entirety with the qualification of use for exigent circumstances only. It was never presented in any other context. I don’t understand the retraction! can someone explain?

        • The original letter on the website states clearly that he is mattir for a choleh kol haguf. The second letter is mattir only for sakanah. I suppose he was upset that the approbation attributed to him was not limited to cholim, but still, the second letter is far more restrictive than the first. In the teshuva also he also seems to lean toward the greater kulah.

    4. Perhaps the promoters of this device have raised some important and legitimate concerns regarding the accidental activation of light switches on Shabbos, the questionable practice of using non-Jews in certain situations and the various shortcomings of common devices known as Shabbos clocks. Approximately a year ago a product known as the Zman Switch was brought to the market by a company called Zman Technologies. This device was developed with the active input of a broad group of highly respected halachic authorities and satisfactorily resolves all of the above mentioned issues. Beyond just earning rabbinic approval, this device has received the strong encouragement and advocacy of the OU and rabbonim from across the spectrum as a promoter of the sanctity of Shabbos and as a practical facilitator of Shabbos observance. Leading rabbonim advocate the use of the Zman Switch for all the halachic advantages and practical benefits it provides.

    5. Whether you use it or not is a matter of personal preference. There are Rabbonim who endorse it and there are Rabbonim who do not. There are Rabbonim who originally endorsed it and changed their minds for a number of reasons – they did not understand the science, they did not want to look like fools because another Rav ossered it, etc.

      This article is an attempt to make people look foolish. Everyone who either endorsed it, or prohibited it did it for the sake of heaven. The people who are arguing now are causing sinas chinum to occur. Grow up.

    6. The Kosher Switch had brought us to a new low in kedusha. It will change the face of Shabbos – it will increase Chillul Shabbos – and it will bring a Churban to Klal Yisroel. What little mesiras nefesh we have is slowly being whittled away – either with EZ lights for Chanuka – because it would just be too much work to prepare the wicks and Chanuka neros – or with the sorry advent of every type of Kosher L’Pesach food so that we should not Chas V’sholom be without anything for even 7 days! There is a point to where science and technology should end – and pride in the little mesiras nefesh we have left should not be polluted.
      PLUS – the video and all it’s grubkeit – whether it is the completely inappropriate mother, and whatever contraption she is wearing on her finger – or the completely unacceptable and racist clip about the Shabbos Goy sheds light on the caliber of who is behind this plague.
      I also understand that many of the Rabbis were taken out of context – such as Rabbi Olebaum and Rabbi Nebenzahl. Rabbosai – please – let’s keep the sanctity of Shabbos and the identity of Shabbos intact.

    7. First ask a Rov.
      If the MeKoshsesh Eitzim would have asked Moishe Rabeinu, before doing it, and explained that his children are cold and need a fire to warm up, Moishe Rabbeinu would have asked Hashem and would have been been Matir.
      Just like we see by the Pesach Sheni, or by Bnos Tzelofchod, and the Bnai God, they asked and got a Heter.
      The problem is when you don’t ask.

    8. It’s somewhat odd that no one has yet mentioned פסיק רישיה ולא ימות- or, “If the head of a living thing is cut off, is it possible it won’t die?” In other words, inevitability. While the ‘Kosher Switch’ does not directly come into contact with anything electrical, isn’t it still a פסיק רישיה that the light will go on/off? Isn’t that why they developed some device for a refrigerator, to keep the motor constantly running in order not to activate the thermostat when the door is opened (or, something to that effect)? I’m utterly afraid that the true answer to this cannot be found in אורח חיים, but rather, in חשן משפט, which is more appropriate when it comes to the inarguable rule of ‘Follow the buck!’

      • You missed, “there is no doubt that, mathematically, the lights will eventually go on, which may not satisfy the third criteria according to Rabbi Hoffman. …”

        • “You missed, “there is no doubt that, mathematically, the lights will eventually go on, which may not satisfy the third criteria according to Rabbi Hoffman…..”

          Actually, Rabbi Hoffman’s exact words are, “KosherSwitch does not necessarily meet some of the required parameters that would make it halachically acceptable for Shabbos usage: ensuring that there is a time delay between when the light switch is flipped and when the light goes on, turning on the light in a way that is different than during the week and performing an action that may or may not yield a desired result.”

          What does he mean by “Performing an action that may or may not yield a desired result.” Is he saying that the product may not work? That certainly does not sound like a פסיק רישיה to me.

    9. The factor of Psik Reshe is only relevant if one does a dovor sh’eino miskaven – meaning he had no intention for the outcome. Flipping this switch can never qualify as a davar sh’eino miskeven, so even if the operation of the switch would not be a psik resheh it would still be assur.

      • “The factor of Psik Reshe is only relevant if one does a dovor sh’eino miskaven”

        Where is the מקור that a פסיק רישיה is only relevant in a דבר שאינו מתכוין? The entire point of the פסיק רישיה is that everyone on the planet knows that if the chicken’s head is cut off, it will die. That everyone is aware of the inevitability is the entire כח of a פסיק רישיה, which is a דבר ידוע, and not a דבר שאינו מתכוין. Your מקור, please.

    10. The not being mesiras nefesh argument is so ridiculous it’s not even funny. Based on this absurdity you should never eat with any electric lights cause are forefathers didn’t have electric lights, or more recently we shouldn’t be allowed to use printed sefroim because the previous doros didn’t use them!!! and certainly opening an art scroll gemara is tantamount to outright kefirah because our fathers did not use them when they learned. if something is 100% mutar ,and if your rov says it is then for you it is 10% mutar, you not doing it is not mesiras nefesh it’s just stupidity!!!

      • No, that is certainly NOT (see- I can also use CapsLock) what we are saying. We are saying that Rabbis wrote and signed letters and then the people marketing the device quoted the letters and OMITTED a few words here and there to change issur to heter. Got it NOW?


        We could even say that רבנים sign things WITHOUT READING THEM AT ALL! As with many קול קורא , the signatures are obtained because other people have signed and not because they have carefully read the contents. This is similar to what Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky admitted when he explained why he signed the ban against Lipa Schmeltzer.

    11. Back in the 60’s the term was ‘kosher style ‘
      This light will bring darkness on the yidden because Shabbos will not be the same. To some degree the idea of the eruv has allowed some people to play ball on shabbat and carry items not permitted on shabbat


      YOU’RE ALL ABSURD IGNORANT SISSIES! I would bet that most ppl commenting here and other places were NOT present when certain Rabbanim gave their Psak. Furthermore, pick up a Shulchan Aruch and learn it properly before you pass judgement AND before you quote hearsay!

      Most importantly,you’re all sissies for not being having the brains and courage to develop you’re own opinion (partially bec you don’t know Hilchos Shabbos) and secondly bec you live in a bubble.

      • “YOU’RE ALL ABSURD IGNORANT SISSIES! I would bet that most ppl commenting here and other places were NOT present when certain Rabbanim gave their Psak.”

        Wait a minute! What does being a sissy have to do with any of this? Do you even know what the word sissy means?

        Second, your remark of not being ‘present when certain Rabbanim gave their Psak’ clearly displays that you lack a rudimentary knowledge of how the process of הוראה works. Responsible פוסקים publish their opinions, and you know, a lot of us can read. An uncle of mine would describe you as follows:

        ער איז נישט א גרויסער חכם און נישט א קליינער נער

    13. I am certainly not advocating this and would not install it myself, but we do all open a refrigerator door even though it is mathematically certain that the electric fan will soon spin.

      • The bulb never goes off or on in a kosher lamp, you are simply covering or uncovering a window where the light can escape. If you can’t see the difference between the two then go watch the YouTube video afew more times.

        • that’s exactly what I’m saying man people are trying to make your life easierand it should be according to Holocha so be open to new ideas instead of saying that everything has a problem with all kinds of ivda dechal most of these folks never opened a yddish sefer just shoooting stuff like ivda dechal maris hien

    14. As per the נאמנות of this ‘KosherSwitch’ company, the words of Rav Harfenes’ sum it all up:

      הנני לפרסם בשער בת רבים שמה שמפרסמים בשמי שאני מן המתירים להשתמש עם הנקרא קאושער-סוויט”ש בשקר יסודו

      The term בשקר יסודו is strong language which denotes that this company is simply not to be trusted because they misrepresented Rav Harfenes’ original words that under normal circumstances the KosherSwitch SHOULD NOT be used on שבת ויו”ט. In Rav Harfenes’ words:

      אבדו נאמנותם בזה

      “With this (misrepresentation) they (KosherSwitch Company) have lost their credibility.”

      Regrettably, in this דור עקש ופתלתול the maxim ‘Follow the buck’ always applies, even at the cost ח”ו of violating the תורה הקדושה. It’s really קצתי בחיי.

    15. why has no one brought up the fact fact that the switch is MUKTZAH to touch on Shabbos?

      It is not something \necessary to be used on Shabbos, and should therefore not even be touched l’chatchilah.

    16. I am upset that this inventor has usurped and stolen my idea and invention of a shabbos car, that randomly turns on and off every few seconds. The chaap is that you only steer, brake and accelerate when the car is in the off position.

      I intended to promote this invention as soon as I finished getting a hechsher on my method of eating cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, burger king, and Taco Bell products, which involves biting these foods but not swallowing until the person holds his nose and closes his eyes in order not to get the taste of the maichel while it is being swallowed, and also holding the food with your non-dominant hand or your elbows in order to introduce Shinu’i, and additional sofek.

      Anyone who would like to join me in funding these ground-breaking advances in frumkeit please contact me here. If successful, this could grow to the point whre someday it will no longer to keep shabbos, kosher, or any of the other TarYag “suggestions” by using technology rationalizations!


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