What’s (Shabbos) App?

Yielding to the many who have asked for my take on the now-infamous Shabbos app, here is the quick and dirty version:

It does not do what its developers say it does – “The Shabbos App will give all Yidden a way to keep Shabbos with all the chumrahs.” Not only does it fail to address all or many chumros, it does not address many issues of ikkar ha-din. By that I mean real, normative issurim. We don’t even have to go to “spirit of Shabbos” halachos, which also happen to be binding.

For some people, using the app will be worse than texting without it.

The notion that a time-delay turns an action into a grama is wrong on two counts. Grama is still forbidden mi-derabbanan – not as a chumra. And there is little to support the notion that a delay in an action manifesting its desired consequence makes it a grama.

Without providing much detail, consider the melachah of tzeidah according to the Rambam (Shabbos 10:22), where temporarily causing a deer to freeze out of fright is chayav mi-dorayso when it delays a hunting dog (after a delay!) to seize it. Or removing oil from a lamp, which causes it (after a delay, according to the Rosh according to whom the Mechaber paskens) to be extinguished earlier than otherwise – and is chayav (According to the Ramo, it is “only” a derabbanan – but many acharonim according to the Mishnah Berurah 514:23 are machmir like the Mechaber. Finally – a real chumrah!) Or placing grain in a hopper where water-driven millstones will grind it later – which is chayav according to the vast majority of acharonim who take issue with the Magen Avraham. (See Shut Achiezer 3:60 who writes that they all hold that when a melachah is commonly done in a particular manner, it becomes meleches machsheves, and is an issur d’orayso even when it would ordinarily be seen as a grama.)

Readers who wish to see halachic analyses of greater length can find them in all nooks and crannies of the Orthodox world, including R. Moshe Elefant of the OU, and Rabbi Yisrael Rozen of Tzomet (the leader in the development of halacha-friendly technology)

Is it conceivable that the use of the app might reduce the number or severity of the prohibitions that a smartphone user violates? It is conceivable that according to some formulations of particular melachos this might be true. Is it conceivable that it will eliminate all important halachic issues? No.

In fact, some users will be particularly ill-served by it. Whatever advantage there might be, if any, will accrue to those who turn their eyes Heavenward and say, “Ribbono shel Olam! I am weak, and I feel terrible doing what I am doing! May it be Your will that You take note of the fact that I am trying hard to reduce my violation of Your holy Shabbos.”

Alas, there are other users who are telling themselves something very different. “Violating d’oraysos scares me. I can accept their authority, and am happy to find a work-around. The fact that my texting will still be forbidden mi-derabbanan does not scare me. I don’t believe that the Rabbis really have the authority to make life miserable for me.”

Those users could wind up losing, particularly if what they think is d’orayso is really only a derabbanan to begin with. Acting on a contemptuous attitude towards issurei derabbanan is a violation of lo sasur. While usually a derabbanan is a derabbanan is a derabbanan, violating one in a manner of rejecting the authority of the Rabbis to legislate is an issur d’orayso! (See R Elchanan Wasserman, Kuntrus Divrei Sofrim 1:35)

Bottom line – the Shabbos App pushes all the wrong buttons.

You may also like...

16 Responses

  1. brooklyn refugee sheygitz says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein – to pick up a point I raised on Rabbi Gordimer’s post about community.
    Just how are the users of this app any different than most Orthodox Jews in the United States of America who refuse to even consider moving to E”Y to fulfill what is by chaz’ls definition a mitzvah on the level of limud hatorah and shabbat and equal to all others combined?
    Do you think that some guy who has heard “hock” about how mitzvas yeshuv haaretz is only a mitzvah kiyumis or that according to the quote in the tosafos from Rabbeinu CHayim (which some poskim are of the view is a scribal error…) one is not obligated to go there because of supposed dangers on the way or all other sorts of “chakiras” and “lomdus” about this is really going to be able to parse this and somehow see how shabbat is different?

    [Yup. For better or worse, said yeshivishe hocker has heard (as did his father and grandfather) that it is “accepted,” that it is the normative halachic position, that yishuv Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah kiyumis, at best, and that there are excellent excuses for not fulfilling it. (Don’t shoot me. I’m only the messenger.) He has heard OTOH innumerable shiurim on the fine points of hilchos Shabbos, which his rabbeim took very, very seriously.]

  2. dr. bill says:

    Green buildings, embedded technologies, etc. will raise issues that will have to be dealt with creatively. The responses given by RSZA and RMF ztl to R. Rosen’s question about security cameras published in Techumin decades ago, is a good example. Cases of need, like a Shabbos scooter, represent an area that has received considerable attention. I realize that 1) defining a case of need, 2) delimiting uvdin de’hol or 3) Ramban’s aseh of shimirat Shabbat, etc. is hardly trivial. (God help us if to some (hopefully not many) violating the spirit of Shabbos has become an addiction.)

    Independent of the impact of the three areas above and specifically relating to grama, there have been major disagreements among both poskim and talmudists, that create difficulties in designing a widely acceptable case of grama. With apologies to halakhists for over-simplification a grama device 1) involves an unnatural / unusual / unexpected time delay, 2) contains a non-deterministic component and 3) creates the desired result differently. Reading the basis for the app is hardly convincing. And btw, I strongly believe such devices have, can and will have to be built in various circumstances. This, however, appears to be a less than convincing design for a wholly unnecessary application.

  3. Nachum says:

    All true, but I think you’re missing a very important detail here. No one felt a need to text on their smartphones before about five years ago. Now it has become such a pressing “need” or “desire” that it *must* be accommodated. Why?

    This is, of course, part and parcel with many other aspects of modern life and halakhah today, and I don’t think I have to spell them out. We’ve lost the will to simply say “No. Forbidden. And not good for you besides.”

  4. David says:

    I don’t know which one of their inaccuracies to correct firs.

  5. A yid says:

    Im pretty sure that is satire. I especially liked their solution to mimtzo cheftzecha.

  6. Dr. E says:

    Unfortunately the app was not developed by Tzomet for doctors and Hatzala volunteers.

  7. Nachum says:

    Dr. E: They don’t need it.

  8. David Lapin says:

    Apart from the direct Halachik problems, Melacha at the core of its essence, means “technological activity.” Early in the evolution of electricity the Chazon Ish brilliantly introduced the element of Boneh in the closing of any circuit to put an end to the debate about whether or not activating electricity was hav’orah – the debate became irrelevant, use of technology was off limits. The value of the gift of Shabbas is higher now than ever before. In an era when people are paying thousands of dollars to “detox” from technology we have been doing it weekly for millennia. Other spiritual disciplines are now advocating a day of meditation – or a day free from technology. With all the wonders of technology, today we understand how its indiscriminate usage destroys depth of thinking, depth of being and depth of relationship. Habitual texting is now classified by many as an addiction. Why “in heaven’s name” would anyone want to destroy our haven, a sanctuary in time, when we can disconnect from technology to reconnect with ourselves?

  9. brooklyn refugee sheygitz says:

    then there is a serious problem with the yeshivish educational system. There’s too much access to other information and today’s youth can see right through the “hock” and the hair splitting and probably start out much more cynical than the father and grandfather.
    also circusmtances change. kids come here and see things with their own eyes. some just won;t accept the cognitive dissonace – some, like teh Satmar Rebbe’s great-grandson, will stay religious but go on anothe path
    Others will just say – if my rebbe lied to me or didn;t give me all the information about X then maybe they are hiding something about Y – and thus is born half-shabbos and the shabbos app.

  10. Shua Cohen says:

    I really can’t believe that anybody is taking this “Shabbos App” seriously. I watched the YouTube video…it’s an hilarious satire in the same genre as the Xtranormal Text-to-Movie animated frum satires that were produced by YouTubers in past years (like “Yeshiva Guy Says Over a Vort,” and “Conversation About Modern Orthodox Judaism”), with their cute little bears conversing in hilarious computer-generated yeshiva-speak voices. Yaakov Menken is 100% correct (in his essay, above), but he really needn’t have gone so far to meticulously discredit what is, on its face, a satire. And I certainly don’t agree with R. Menken that it’s malicious in intent. For anyone with a self-deprecating sense of humor, as satire, it’s dead-on. It remains to be seen how many frum-world naifs are taken in by it, and actually send money through KickStarter.

  11. Yaakov Menken says:

    Shua, I did all that research precisely because anashim chashuvim have taken this very seriously and spoken out against it. I am quite convinced, now, that it is entirely, 100% baseless, and it was important to share that — in my opinion!

  12. Michael K. says:

    Nachum, one hundred years ago, no one felt that having a refrigerator in the home was a pressing “need” but ask yourself if you could do without it now.

    Times change and technology evolves. In less than a hundred years we will be hard pressed to find a printing press to make our siddurim, chumashim and machzorim. It will likely be impractical to daven without a tablet or eReader. It’s not up to you to decide what the device is for or how important it is, only if it halachically permissible.

  13. Brooklyn Refugee Sheygitz says:

    Rabbi Menken – if these “anashim chashuvim” really spoke out against this because they took it seriously as an app (i.e. not speaking out against the satire; rather against the chilul shabbat and the app) then I think they (along with probably many other “anashim chashuvim”) have really lost touch with the concept expressed by chazal as “pook chazee mai ama daber”. are they so out of touch with today’s younger generation???

  14. Yaakov Menken says:

    Brooklyn, it’s not about the younger generation. It’s about the technology. If one isn’t an engineer, it sounds feasible that one could do the things they claim and thus Rabbonim were speaking out against the app. I am saying that this is much ado about nothing; please see my post.

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    R Adlerstein sums the issue very well-The halacha of Grama was never meant outside of the medical context to render Shabbos a Yom Chol. It takes ignorance in Hilcos Shabbos on a grand scale to peddle the so called “Shabbos App” as a means of keeping Shabbos.

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested see the annexed interview with one of the heads of Tzomet http://www.srugim.co.il/. The notion that Grama was meant for anyone other in the IDF or the medical world should be viewed as beyond the halachic pale.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This