Opinion: The “Shabbos App”? Really? By Psachya Skaist

saBy Psachya Skaist. My wife’s youngest sister first brought it to my attention on the family WhatsApp group.

“It’s terrible!”  “They have to do something about it!”  “Someone should tell Rabbi Wallerstein!”

For the uninitiated, the “Shabbos App” project is an attempt by a group of people to create an app for smartphones that would enable one to use it without being mechallel Shabbos)

My immediate reaction was, this has to be a joke!  The promoting text was dripping in satire.

“No, it’s real!”

“Check it out!  You’ll see!”

Then I thought, “how brilliant”!

A social media campaign to unite frum Jews to think that the smartphone infiltration into our lives is just too much!

I’ll be very honest. As a video professional, I’ve always used and enjoyed technology in work and personally as well. It can be a great way to keep in touch with old friends, get the word out about important projects and in so many ways enhance our lives. When the first Internet Asifa  was held in Lakewood a good few years ago, I was skeptical.

It was heavy. Threats implied about kids not being let into schools, Ishurim from your Rov that you have a real need for the Internet in your home. I was not a happy camper!

I would think, and you think that most mature thinking people think (was that too many thinks in one sentence?!) that although there are definite benefits to the progress of technology and using it responsibly in our lives, there is the risk of taking over our lives.

I struggle with that issue and I’m sure many struggle with it as well. Cell phones during davening (even if it’s in your pocket on vibrate- “was that a text or a twitch in my leg?!”), The compulsion to check email, Facebook and so much more.

In this world of advancing technology, the intrusion into our personal lives is felt by non-Jews and secular as well, with the “thinking” people in all ranks coming up with creative ideas to limit the intrusions.

Let’s be honest.

Today, you don’t have to embrace technology to be up-to-date with the latest and greatest.

It’s there. It’s here. It’s everywhere you go.

The asifa of years ago in Lakewood was hard to swallow.

Here I thought – “they finally came up with a genius marketing campaign!”

I was already resisting it emotionally, refusing to condemn the Shabbos app because – – – that’s what they want me to do!
They want me to condemn this stupid app and throw my iPhone in the toilet because – “now it’s gone too far!” Well it seems my sister-in-law was right – it is a real concept.

The interesting thing is if the creators would have marketed the app as a way of making the phone less problematic for people like doctors who have legitimate uses for the phone, that would probably be met with resistance but ultimately would find its use for a limited group of people.

For the Shabbos App people that wasn’t enough.

It has to be marketed as a way of enhancing our Shabbos!

Okay let’s forget about any rabbinic resistance (because as they say in their marketing video “who cares about the rabbis!”)
I think that St. Louis rap artist “Prince Ea” would disagree with them. He put out a rap video illustrating how for the intrusion of technology – social media has affected our lives.

Thank G–d we have what should be natural breaks from our connection to technology – and no – you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see how a Shabbos clock and an oven differ from a smart phone!

(Let’s put aside for now the concept of “uvda d’chol”, the issur of reading “shtaros hedyotos”, and if a bug in the app causes chilling Shabbos)

What I will say is – look at the sparks of passion for Shabbos that The discussion over the Shabbos app has fanned!

What a beautiful thing! All different stripes of Jews expressing their passion for the gift we call “Shabbos”!

(BTW, in full disclosure. As a video professional and a frum Jew their marketing video is disgusting)

(this article was hand written on paper with ink and transcribed to text with Siri)

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  1. Several Orthodox rabbis have already condemned the app, including Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union, who called the app “very distasteful and not permissible on Shabbos.” Rabbi Elefant, along with other Orthodox rabbis, claim that the app doesn’t eliminate the issues it claims to prevent.

  2. Firstly I want to thank my brother-in-law for sharing his perfectly grounded view regarding shabbos app. It is my hope that most orthodox Jews will share his disdain.
    As technology has been advancing in our lives, so has our reliance upon those advances grown. We have adapted our Shabbos according to Halacha on many fronts including but not limited to Shabbos lamp, timers and many HeTeirim in the field of medicine.
    With regard to our phone I can only say this… if you are looking for (and u may actually find) a Heter to use your smartphone on shabbos, you need a hug… from a real person. If the gift of Shabbos has given us anything recently it is the gift of real relationships with real people. A disconnect from our 600 Facebook “freinds”

  3. I think we are all overlooking a basic halacha that is clearly written in the Shulchan Aruch. It say one may not read anything on Shabbos unless it is Torah. While you may have found a way around some technology issues, getting passed this Halacha you have not.

  4. What happens if the phone freezes and you need to reboot? Chillul shabbos waiting to happen. No matter how good and perfected this app may be (even if it clears all poskim which it won’t) phones always have glitches in them and can act up at any time, believe it or not even on shabbos.

  5. I truly believe this to be a hoax. Unfortunately it’s sad that many people would love for it to be real.
    Let us Daven this Yom Kippur for all Yidden to keep Shabbos properly and hasten the coming of Moshiach Quickly!!!!!!!!!

  6. Frum Jews-stop right there, they are not frum Jews if they are using this. It’s all a bunch of mush! So much takes away from the shabbos spirit already, timers, shabbos lamps, shabbos switches. To me it’s a hoax a joke and sad if any yid was to use this nonsense, even for Kiruv. Even if genuine the joke is on the developers. I wish I could take back the two minutes I wasted reading this junk.

  7. This Shabbos app is not for me & you. What R’ Skaist and the posters dont know, or choose to ignore, is the very sad fact that many, very nice, otherwise frum, black-hatters, and their female counterparts, text on Shabbos. If this app removes or lightens, one of the issurim, and I dont know that it does, it may be hard to condemn – other than the fact it removes the guilt trip they may or may not feel. Either way, this is a very sad reality. Just another thing to daven for this Yom Kippur, HBAL”T.

  8. If you look carefully at the details the app provides you can see that it is a spoof and maybe even has altruistic intentions to get people who would’ve been interested in the app to be aware of some hilchos Shabbos. The app doesn’t even exist and just claims it will be coming out.

    The ridiculous video is so bad it is clear that it’s meant to be that way.

    We should be zoche to all Yidden keeping Shabbos bikarov.

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