Will the Shabbos App Change Jewish Life, Raise Rabbinic Ire, or Both?

shabbat app

The makers of the new Shabbos App say that it can allow orthodox Jews to use their smartphones on the Sabbath without violating Jewish Law.

Call it Shabbos or Shabbat, Jews who adhere to the strict guidelines of the day are prohibited from using electricity or even touching electric devices out of fear of accidentally turning them on or off. This prohibition extends to all telephones and especially battery operated cellular phones.

But smartphones come with many other possible transgressions on the Sabbath. For example, writing is prohibited because it is permanent and so one should not write texts. The phones also make all sorts of sounds which could lead to violating the prohibition of making music on the Sabbath and the lighting of the touch screens could be considered similar to lighting a fire which is literally forbidden in the Tora.

Unfortunately for the Orthodox community, many of its youth disregard these rules and continue to send texts on Shabbat anyway.

The Shabbos App says that it can solve these problems.

It features two options for those who want to text on the Sabbath. A delayed typing option which will cause a slight and random delay when typing. Such a delay, some believe, overrides the transgression. Then there is a Wipe Data option, which will cause the app to reset all new data every hour. This will effectively render any text typed not permanent.

As for sounds, they are all disabled when the app is active. The user can choose to receive a vibration for new notifications, visual indicators, or both vibration and visual. The visual indicator on the information bar will display any new notifications.

Finally the app forces the screen to stay on the entire time (you can set the brightness prior to app activation), which inhibits any problems of turning the screen on and off.

The app, however, will not make any changes in the policies of the ultra-orthodox community to ban the use of smart phones in their entirety. The ultra-orthodox rabbis prefer that their people not use the internet at all or engage in any texting for fear that it might lead to immodest behavior. They also do not like the internet because they do not want their people to have easy access to information nor a connection to the world outside of their communities.

Check out Rabbi Eliyahu Fink’s The Shabbos App (Yes it is Real).

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