Music on Shabbat
In an article in Techumin, volume 26, (on the subject of changing the level of a current) you wrote that one is permitted to increase and decrease the amplification of a hearing aid on Shabbat.
I would like to know if this is also true for a radio with a rotating dial which was left on from before Shabbat or which was turned on by a Shabbat timer – can the sound level be increased and decreased? I am not asking about listening to a radio station, where there would be a problem of benefitting from a Shabbat violation, but to listening to a disc or an MP3 device that is connected to loudspeakers.
From the point of view of halacha, in principle, you are right. From a practical point of view, there are related issues when a setup that has been planned in advance is involved – such as "perhaps a repair will be necessary," avsha milta (making a loud noise), and muktze (objects that should not be handled on Shabbat).
In addition, specifically with respect to music, there are those who feel that the decree prohibiting the use of "musical instruments" on Shabbat refers among other things to music that is played without any human intervention. And this matter is also related to issues of halachic policy and the public image of Shabbat.
In conclusion – what you describe is not permitted on Shabbat.
A Hot Water Urn with a High Temperature
I am looking for an electric urn which maintains a very high temperature. Can you help me?
Zomet Institute is involved with companies that seek approval of their equipment and we do not sell urns, so we cannot give you a specific model number that will suit your needs. We can recommend that you choose an urn whose temperature control uses a simmerstat (where the heat is turned on and off according to a fixed time schedule) or one that has a dimmer for a control (a rotating dial which sets the intensity of the heat).
Here is a link to our page with information about electric urns. This includes a list of model numbers which have been certified by Zomet Institute and their technical specs, with details about how they work.
Chagaz – Instructions for Installation and Operation
I have a question about the Chagaz. Is it suitable for every kitchen? I am not sure if it fits properly in the section of the stove where the gas is. Can you help me with this information? We are interested in using the Chagaz but we want to make sure that it is suitable for our kitchen.
The Chagaz is a gas timer that has been approved for use by the Israel Standards Institute, and it is suitable for all the gas systems in Israel. As it happens, the valves in the device are manufactured by the well known company Supergas. Here is a link to our internet instruction page where you can see how to install the Chagaz and how to operate it.
Using Computerized Communication Device on Shabbat
Shalom Rabbi Rosen,
Please write the rules of the correct conduct with a computer communication device on Shabbat. I would like to point out that the computer is used as the only means of communication and linguistic learning for a girl with language dyspraxia, which prevents it the ability to speak. Many thanks for taking the time and willingness to help, Regards,
I am grateful to you for sharing your problem with me, operating a computerized communications device for your daughter which is her means of speech.
I will answer briefly, without explaining the halachic background related to the disabilities handicapped, etc., and I hope I answer your questions. You can also pass this mail to others in need, and to relevant organizations.
Under the circumstances and need for utmost consideration I suggest the following:
A. The computer should be turned on from Shabbat eve and throughout Shabbat and of course plugged in to a charger.
B. If it is necessary to move the computer and disconnect it from the plug - if it is for an important reason you can unplug/plug the charger to the electricity using a Gramma method, i.e. have a Shabbes clock timer turn on and off every 15 minutes when the electricity is off you can then plug / unplug the charger.
C. The screen-saver should be shut off so that using the program won't cause unnecessary added actions.
D. Your child can definitely use this media, which has a capacitive touch screen, including playing the desired word audio through the internal speaker.
E. This applies also to kids who have reached Bar / Bat Mitzvah.
F. I do not remember exactly all the procedures, but if there is a click sound, when you press the screen it should be canceled for Shabbat (if possible in settings) and only use the playback sound of the desired word (or sentence).
G. If it is necessary for communication, and the parents need to use the device, they should avoid using the audio when clicking / touching.
H. If you encounter a situation where it is also necessary for parents to play the audio - 'don't worry'!
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, an engineer
Head of the Zomet Institute
Digital Hearing Aid
I am hard of hearing, and I use a model "Resound 30ITC" hearing aid. My aids are digital and therefore instead of a "volume" control they have a "program" which in principle is related to the status of the device. When I press a button, I hear a beep and the status changes. One of the settings is a "wait status" which prolongs the battery charge. When I press the button, I hear a number of beeps, and the device seems to be turned off. But the truth is that even though nothing can be heard the device is still on.
Am I permitted to change the status of the hearing aid in this way on Shabbat?
We are not familiar with this specific hearing aid, but in principle it seems to us that there might be a problem performing this action on Shabbat. The only thing that is permitted on Shabbat is to change the strength of the electric current using a dial or a continuous slide bar. The action that you describe is similar to a remote control device (used for television or air conditioners) which performs a series of operations in a preprogrammed sequence. Every press of a button closes an electric circuit that sends a signal for a function to be performed. The case that you have described is a command to put the hearing aid into a "wait" status.
Is it absolutely necessary to perform this function? Can the hearing aid be left on for all of Shabbat without any buttons being pressed?
A "Lift" on an Electric Scooter
We are a young couple with children aged 4-6. My wife uses an electric scooter with a Shabbat mechanism approved by the Zomet Institute. My question is whether she can take the children on the scooter on her way to the synagogue. In addition, am I allowed to join her on the scooter, since she is riding it in any case?
We have been asked this question in the past, and the answer is that the scooter is meant exclusively for the use of the handicapped person. The only exception is a rider who cannot drive himself or herself because of physical limitations or because of age – in this case a second rider is permitted to join the handicapped person. Nobody else is allowed to ride on the scooter.
With all my blessings,
Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Transparent Ink on Shabbat
I have a question about using a pen on Shabbat. I understand that there is an "Et-Shabbat" where the ink fades away after a specific time, such that the writing is not permanent. I would like to suggest making a pen whose "ink" is completely transparent when it is liquid (I am a chemistry student). The solid that remains after writing with this ink will be white (like salt or sugar). When the ink is used for writing, nothing will be visible at all. After Shabbat, the paper can be sprayed with a chemical that will react with the "ink" and transform it into visible writing. The writing will not fade away after this but will remain permanently. Another possibility is to write with "ink" that is normally invisible but can be seen under a UV light. In this case, it will be possible to read the text even on Shabbat. My question is whether one of these alternatives is permitted on Shabbat or is at least at a lower level of prohibition than the existing Et-Shabbat.
A few years ago the Zomet Institute performed a detailed study on the subject of writing on Shabbat, and a long summary of the results was prepared. Both of your suggestions were discussed in the report, which is unfortunately not available in machine-readable form.
Both proposals do not seem to be practical. It is very difficult to write anything if the writing cannot be seen (except for single words written onto prepared forms). And if the writing is even partially visible, it is no longer permitted on Shabbat!
Helmet Intercom on Shabbat
Shalom to the rabbi: I am a soldier in the tank corps, and I have had occasion to use a "Gentex" (intercom system built into a helmet) on Shabbat. Sometimes the discussions are not about vital security matters. My question is: Is it permitted to participate in such conversations?
I am not familiar with the details of the device. If the equipment is left on all the time such that there is no need to press any switches in order to talk, its use would be permitted under the implied circumstances. If it is necessary to operate switches while using the device, it would be permitted only for needs directly related to security. It seems to me that the equipment serves as an internal intercom and is left open all the time, and if so it could be used even if one person could physically move closer to the other one instead of using the device
Chemical Warming Bags
As part of my army service, I was given chemical warming bags before going on guard duty. (This has an inner bag that holds a special solution. Removing the inner bag from its outer cover leads to a chemical reaction that raises the temperature to about 50 degrees C.) I would like to ask: (1) May such warming bags be activated on Shabbat? (2) Am I allowed to use a bag which was activated on Shabbat by a friend?
I discussed this matter in an article in Techumin volume 17, from the point of view of "cooking on Shabbat without a direct flame." My impression is that we can permit using this method of heating, although I noted that it is difficult to give blanket permission to use such a novel device without very convincing proof.
With respect to your specific question: If this is a case of harsh field conditions including severe cold, so that the heat is needed to maintain military awareness and is therefore directly connected to security needs, the device can certainly be used. Even if these conditions are not fully met, in a case of doubt I would not refrain from using the device if it has been turned on by somebody else. Of course it is important to avoid desecrating G-d's name, where it might appear that a religious soldier refuses to activate the bag but asks another soldier to do it for him. A sensitive person will know how to act.
Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Magnetic Cards for Hotel Doors
I was asked by a couple who will be flying to Prague next week how to open the door of their hotel room on Shabbat. The doors have no physical keys and can only be opened with magnetic cards. Inserting the card into the proper slot opens the lock and turns on electrical appliances in the room (such as lights, air conditioning, etc.).
My question is: Can the mechanism be neutralized by blocking some eyehole with masking tape?
I do not know of any simple technical solution to this problem, except for sealing the doorjamb open with tape. But then the door remains unlocked for the entire time (it is very important to place all the valuables in a safe before Shabbat).
This leaves a problem of service people and maids who might discover the tape and lock the door. It is thus necessary to leave a request at the desk or to hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door of the room.
Because of the dire need and for reasons of "human dignity," some rabbis allow asking a Gentile to open the door (similar to what is often done with elevators, which is problematic in itself, but I will not elaborate here). This is in spite of the fact that it is almost impossible to do this without making an explicit request to the Gentile. I did this once on a trip abroad. It takes into account the fact that electrical activity is only forbidden by a rabbinical decree, so that it involves asking a Gentile to violate a rabbinical decree in a case of great need and in order to maintain "human dignity."
However, if inserting the card also turns on the lights in the room, its use is a direct Torah violation. In this case, a second magnetic card (which can usually be obtained from the desk) should be left in the proper slot inside the room, so that the lights will remain on all the time. Another possibility is to leave the light on only in the bathroom or at the entrance of the room.
Loudspeaker on Shabbat – Reply to Objections
I have heard that some people object to using Shabbat amplifiers installed by the Zomet Institute because of mar'it ayin – it gives the appearance of sin. I would like to know your reaction to this opinion.
In the "Yeshiva" website, I saw a response by Rabbi Dov Lior about using a loudspeaker system for the Pesach Seder, etc. His response centered on the question of mar'it ayin, in that not everybody would be able to tell "if the system was operated on a principle of gramma or not," as he put it.
I would note as follows:
(1) The Zomet system of using a loudspeaker on Shabbat is not related at all to the principle of gramma (indirect action). Rather, it is based on the concept of "modifying an existing current." This is similar to hearing aids, where all the rabbis – without any exception – allow the user to adjust the volume. It is not related to gramma at all. (See Minchat Shlomo volume 1, question 9; Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata chapter 34, chapter 28; Yavia Omer Volume 1, Orach Chaim 19.)
I find it hard to understand that everything in which the Zomet Institute is involved is discussed by others as being related to gramma. This is simply not so! Just as a Shabbat elevator does not operate on a principle of gramma, just as a hot water urn in a hotel is not related to gramma, just like the system of heating food in a hotel and the metal detectors in the Machpelah Cave – the principle of operation of the Shabbat amplifier has nothing at all to do with gramma!
(2) The amplification system for Shabbat was built according to a responsa of the late Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, who was asked during his lifetime for a practical ruling and replied that this is permitted according to the application designed by the Zomet Institute. See Chavat Binyamin, Volume 1, chapter 26. (This first appeared in "Barka'i," where the rabbi responded to those who disagreed with him and defended his position.)
(3) We published a comprehensive article about this subject in Techumin Volume 15, page 371. This includes detailed instructions that the Zomet Institute developed in the home of Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, who then signed an approval in his own hand. He was later joined by other rabbis, whose letters were published in Techumin: Rabbi Chaim David Halevi, Rabbi Nachum Eliezer Rabinowitz, and the head of the London Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Pinchas Betzalael Toledano. Recently (this has not yet been widely publicized) the head of the rabbinical court in Beer Sheva, Rabbi Eliyahu Abargil, added his written approval of these conditions in a responsa to the Jews of France.
(4) There is not enough room here to go into the halachic details of the ruling permitting use of this equipment. For now, we note that it is impossible to fix the equipment on Shabbat (so that there is no fear that "one might repair it"), and all the parts are fixed in place and cannot be moved, including the microphone and the cables. The device is turned on and off by a locked timer, and the system includes additional electrical safety devices.
(5) With respect to the question of mar'it ayin – our response is to attach a large and prominent sign to the system. In some cases, the special nature of the system is also announced in separate signs, such as on the bulletin boards of synagogues and hotels.
(6) Dozens of such systems are currently installed in Israel and abroad. Outside Israel, the main application is in synagogues (Orthodox only). In Israel, they have been installed only in halls, hotels, old age homes, cultural centers, etc. Every installation has been approved by the local rabbi (sometimes with his knowledge, where the rabbi does not object to a declaration by the Zomet Institute that he has given tacit approval).
The Zomet Institute makes no attempt to influence others to accept our approach. "One who hears will hear, and one who desists will desist." We will end this brief discussion with the words of Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli: "It seems to me that in this case the lenient opinion is to be preferred."
Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
A Gentile Using a Timer to Operate an Oven
I recently heard that there are Shabbat timers operated by a Gentile using a method of gramma (indirect action). Thus, a Gentile turns the oven on and off using the timer.
In our hotel ... in Tel Aviv, we have many ovens which are connected to Shabbat timers. I would like to have more details about the timers mentioned above and to know if they can be installed in our hotel.
The Zomet Institute does not approve the use of a gramma mechanism for ovens in a hotel. Use of this principle is based on halachic permission in a case of a vital need, and it is suitable for hospitals, old age homes, and similar institutions.
What we approve for use in a hotel is an oven or a food heating cabinet using a timer that has been set before Shabbat begins. The precooked food must be put into the equipment before the heating begins. And even then, this only applies to "dry" food (such things as a main course of dry vegetables must be discussed separately). Cold liquid (such as soup) cannot be warmed by this method, since Shabbat laws prohibit cooking a liquid even if it has already been cooked beforehand.
We are aware that some (?) hotels allow a Gentile to put cold liquids into an oven before the timer turns it on, subject to the approval of the local kashrut authorities.
It should be noted that the Zomet Institute approves the system of putting cooked food into the ovens before they are turned on only if two other conditions are met (this is well known by the manufacturers of the equipment):
(1) The safety switch is deactivated on Shabbat, so that opening the door will not directly influence the operation of the oven.
(2) On Shabbat the buttons and switches on the oven must be covered in an esthetic way and locked.
Does an Electric Thermos Constitute Hatmanah?
While studying the halacha of Shabbat, we reached the subject of hatmanah (covering a dish in a way that "enhances the heat"). We saw the discussion by recent rabbis about using a thermos jar on Shabbat, which is based on two reasons given by the Chazon Ish to allow using this equipment: (1) Hatmanah is not relevant in a kli sheini – a vessel which was not directly heated by a heat source. (2) The law of hatmanah does not apply unless one vessel is placed inside another one, but not when there is only a single utensil.
The first reason given above – kli sheini – certainly does not apply to insulated electric thermos jugs that are now available on the market (some of which have kashrut approval from the Zomet Institute). We would like to know if your approval for an electric urn of this type depends only on the Chazon Ish's second reason (note that he introduces this with the phrase "it is possible that..." and that he gives it in combination with another reason). Is there some other lenient factor involved?
We view this type of equipment as a single utensil and not "one vessel inside another." This is similar to the older style of electric urns with heating elements (not thermally insulated), which are not considered hatmanah, since they do not have one vessel placed inside another. The same is true for thermos jugs, whose heating elements are not inside the vessel but wrapped around the outside.
For this reason, this device is different from slow cookers, where the law of hatmanah is relevant, since the cookers physically are one vessel inside another. As noted, the thermos jug is a single vessel.
Is Cooking with Electricity Considered Gramma?
Responsa "Ateret Paz" (Volume 1: 2, note 6) quotes Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba-Shaul as saying that food baked in an electric oven is not considered as having been cooked by a Gentile, even if the Gentile switches the oven on. This is because the electric current that resulted from the Gentile turning on the switch has passed along and did not have enough energy to bake the food. And the current that came along later cannot be attributed to the Gentile, since it is a secondary result of his action. Thus, only cooking with gas or kerosene is prohibited because of cooking by a Gentile, since this results directly from his action. In the end, the Responsa quotes from Yavia Omer and Titz Eliezer that food baked by a Gentile is forbidden. I would like to ask if there is any rabbi who accepts the reasoning of Rabbi Abba-Shaul as a basis for a more lenient ruling.
A continuous action that stems from turning on an electric switch cannot be considered gramma (indirect action) in any way whatsoever.
Rabbi Frank (Har Tzvi Orach Chaim 143) suggested that one might be stringent and consider electricity as acting through gramma, so that one would not be allowed to recite the blessing of the Shabbat candles over an incandescent light bulb. But this proposal was strongly rejected in Responsa Achiezer:
"With respect to electricity on Shabbat, it has been accepted by all the communities of Yisrael that its use is prohibited... And it is best that this dispute should not appear in an open journal which will lead to arguments and might serve as an obstacle for the public. For people are searching for a way to be lenient... And what you sent me from a long letter that appeared in a monthly magazine 'Beit Vaad Lachachmim' from New York in 5663 allowing turning on an electric light on a holiday is relevant only for a holiday, because the author does not consider this as violating the prohibition of molid. And he added a suggestion that this is gramma... and can be compared to what is brought in Sanhedrin – one who tied up his friend and directed water towards him is considered as the same as if he shot an arrow and he is guilty (of murder). And if you will ask... that if there was something blocking the water which he removed before the water reached the friend he is not guilty, because when he released the water it was blocked... The RAMA explains that if an arrow was very close to the barrier and he removed the barrier... this is considered the same as his own direct action, and he is guilty in the same way as having shot the arrow."
Thus, Rabbi Frank refused to accept that turning on an electric switch on Shabbat is gramma even when this led to a stringent ruling (not allowing the use of an electric light for Shabbat candles). It stands to reason that this definition cannot be accepted in order to be lenient, as in the case of cooking by a Gentile. And this is the accepted halachic approach. Just as it is widely accepted that an electric bulb must not be turned on during a holiday, even though in the past there were some who considered this as the equivalent of transferring fire from one place to another – this suggestion cannot be accepted even as support together with other reasoning.
With respect to cooking by a Gentile, there are other considerations that might be relevant which are not related to issues of gramma or a secondary force, such as the fact that Jews participate in creating the electricity. This might then be similar to a case where a Gentile puts a pot on a flame and a Jew adds more wood later on. But such suggestions are based on considerations that must be clarified further.
Actuating a "Momentary" Switch on Shabbat
Three reasons are given in the sources for the prohibition of turning on electrical devices on Shabbat: (1) Lighting up a glowing filament. (2) Boneh – construction – according to the Chazon Ish. (3) Molid – "giving birth" to something new – according to the Beit Yitzchak and Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach.
As far as I can tell, none of these three reasons applies to using a keyboard and a mouse to write on a computer screen on Shabbat, because of the following considerations: (1) The screens (at least modern LCD screens) do not have a heating element. (2) The keys are pressed in a "momentary" fashion (that is, after being pressed they quickly return to their former state). (3) Such a momentary action cannot be considered molid.
This leads me to suggest that a person who is dumb should be allowed to use a computer-aided speech system on Shabbat. What is the Zomet Institute's postition about this?
You suggest that pressing keys on a keyboard should not be considered boneh or molid, since the key is pressed for a very short time. This approach is not at all accepted by the rabbis. If it were true, there would be no prohibition in using a telephone, a computer, a remote control switch, and any other electrical operations which are activated by a momentary touch on a switch, leading to some long-term result stemming from a preprogrammed reaction.
While one may indeed ask what the basis is for this ruling, the fact is that no rabbi permits closing an electric circuit even for a very short time if this leads to an intended result that is a normal mode of operation of the equipment. (Some people have suggested that even the Chazon Ish does not consider a brief pressure on a button which causes a momentary change to be boneh. For example, this might include pressing a doorbell. But it is definitely forbidden if the switch permanently turns on some electrical device.)
In the Zomet Institute, we are searching for solutions for the problem you raised and for similar distressing situations. We soon plan to release a "virtual keyboard" which is operated by touching the cursor to a symbol on the screen, without any need to press a button. When it is necessary to press a switch (for example, to activate a specific program), the Shabbat mouse has one or more gramma switches.
Immersing a Hot-Water Urn in a Mikveh
I bought a hot-water urn made abroad, which has kashrut approval by the Zomet Institute. The letter accompanying the urn includes instructions on how to immerse it in a mikveh. As a way of protecting it from water damage, you recommend immersing only the internal parts of the urn while wrapping the outside in plastic to prevent the water from getting in.
Please give me a summary of the halachic considerations that are the basis for these instructions on immersing an urn.
(1) In the approval certificate of a hot-water urn for Shabbat use we indicate that it must be immersed in the case of a device manufactured outside of Israel (and this includes most of the urns sold in the country).
(2) We propose two alternatives. The first is complete immersion of the equipment, which entails a danger of damaging the electrical and electronic systems which are normally protected by warranty. The second alternative is what is discussed in the question above, to wrap a thermos jug in a plastic cover, sealing off the edges of the plastic with tape, such that the water of the mikveh will only come into contact with the internal surface of the device.
(3) The second alternative is based on a response in Igrot Moshe (Yoreh Dei'ah, volume 1, 57), which indicates that this type of equipment is considered two separate vessels and that only the internal one must be immersed. The outer vessel is not a "food utensil" but a heating device. Since the inner section remains permanently inside the equipment, its outer shell is a "hidden device" and therefore evidently does not have to be immersed, as noted by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe.
(4) We were told about this possibility by a prominent halachic expert whom we regularly consult. He recommends this procedure because of the danger of damaging the electrical mechanism if it gets wet.
(5) The basis of this ruling is that in public decisions one should be as lenient as possible, because otherwise people will simply refuse to comply.
(6) In addition to the above, an opinion has been voiced among the rabbis, and I do not know the source for this, that there is no need to immerse equipment which might be damaged by immersion. I think that this is the common practice with a toaster.
(7) The possibility of having a Jew take the urn apart and rebuild it does not appear to us as suitable advice for the general public, and we decided not to mention it in the letter, since it is not practical. It would not be sufficient to make a small modification such as replacing one screw, what would be needed is complete disassembly by a skilled craftsman.
(8) In addition, the method suggested by some rabbis of "giving the device to a Gentile" is not viable for most people, and as a public institution interested in practical solutions we did not mention it in the letter.
Preparing "Sili-quartz" or "Sili-granite" for Pesach
I am interested in buying kitchen equipment from a company named "Hermon Sinks" which is made of material called "sili-quartz." Can this be purified for use on Pesach? Or must it be treated like earthenware, which cannot be purified? I would also like to know the status of "sili-granite," another material that is used for sinks.
We have no information about these materials. We will only be able to look into this matter if we are approached by the manufacturer or the importer.
Milk and Meat Dishes in the Same Dishwasher
Shalom rabbi: I would like to know if the same dishwasher can be used for both dairy and meat dishes (not at the same time). I have heard that some rabbis permit this while others forbid it. What does the Zomet Institute say about this matter?
Thank you for the question. Indeed I know of rabbis who permit washing both dairy and meat dishes in the same dishwasher, obviously after removing all vestiges of food whenever the dishwasher has been used. However, I would tend to forbid this, certainly as practical advice on an institutional level. My main reason is to avoid conflicts with the normal way that a kitchen is designed – in other words, this would be a policy decision. In our kitchens we keep separate dishes for everything, including pareve, and now, suddenly, how can we permit putting both dairy and meat dishes into equipment which might have food remaining between washing cycles, on the same day, and at a high temperature (halachically defined as so hot that a hand will be "scalded")?
From the halachic point of view, the main problem is food particles that tend to remain at the bottom of the dishwasher, sometimes even for days or weeks. This means that we are concerned not only about food traces absorbed in the walls but about actual pieces of food. In many homes which are not very particular, especially where young people live, dishes full of food are sometimes loaded into the dishwasher.
Those who would like to depend on various lenient opinions (based on the fact that any remaining food particles are spoiled by contact with detergent) should not be reprimanded as long as they make sure to remove any visible food that remains, and especially if they have separate trays for dairy and meat. As far as I am concerned, this is not a good policy, and I myself do not accept it (I have one large dishwasher outside the kitchen and another smaller one inside the kitchen, to provide easy access).
Revoking Existing Conversions
To Rabbi Yisrael Rozen: Can you confirm what was quoted in your name in the rabbinical court decision written by Rabbi Avraham Sherman with respect to Rabbi Drukman and Rabbi Avior (concerning the subject of forgery)? If so, why did you participate in a gathering in support of Rabbi Drukman? I am not asking out of disrespect – I want to know since I am studying in Rabbi Drukman's yeshiva and it is important for me to go to the source to find out about this matter. Thank you in advance.
The question is not clear to me.
I fully support all the conversions performed by the Conversion Authority, without exception, including those that were performed by the most lenient rabbis (and some will claim that I am among them...).
I see the Conversion Authority as one of the most important institutions in which I have been involved in my life, and ever since the court decision that you mention I have been terribly upset, and I greatly fear what may happen in the future. Many converts, both men and women, have phoned me in tears, and it took all of my powers of persuasion to calm them down.
I participated in the conference of "Tzohar" rabbis in order to show my support for all the conversions, including those performed under the authority of Rabbi Drukman. This also includes 1999-2005, the years when the Rabbinical High Court has implied that it might revoke the conversions. At the end of the conference signatures of support were collected – and I did not hesitate to sign.
In the year 5760, I think, when I was head of the Conversion Authority, I was surprised to discover that Rabbi Drukman sometimes signed documents for courts in which he did not physically participate. The text of the court records is a statement that the convert appeared before those who signed the approval, was interviewed by them, was found to be worthy, and declared that he or she accepted the mitzvot, etc. But someone who did not participate in the court sessions cannot sign such a statement.
I was terribly upset because of my public responsibility, and I was not sure what to do from the points of view of halacha, the public, and the legal situation.
I reported to Rabbi Lau, who was my superior, and on his advice (or perhaps after he accepted my suggestion – I am not sure) I turned to Rabbis Shapiro and Eliyahu to ask what to do. I also asked if it was necessary to inform the converts involved and to call them to reappear before a court and reaffirm their commitment. Because of my administrative obligations (and possibly also legal and ethical requirements), I wrote my questions and fears down in a letter to Rabbis Shapiro and Eliyahu. This letter was later quoted in the more recent decision of the Rabbinical High Court.
As it happens, in my letter I accused Rabbi Avior of being responsible for Rabbi Drukman's actions, and I suggested a reason for what he did.
As far as I remember, both rabbis called Rabbi Drukman (separately) and discussed the matter with him. (I did not participate in the meetings, but this is what I was told by people close to the rabbis.) I understood that Rabbi Drukman promised not to sign similar documents in the future.
With respect to the conversions that were performed – in any case three rabbis participated in the court in each case and the conversions are valid, since the certificate itself is not a halachic requirement. Even an internal inconsistency of the document does not invalidate the conversion. Note that this decision implicitly implies that both the one who signed the "false" declaration and also Rabbi Avior who asked him to sign because of his own personal interests (and who also signed the documents) still remain acceptable as rabbinical court judges.
At the end of this "procedure," I calmed down and the subject no longer interested me. As far as I was concerned, this case was closed.
At the end of that year I left my job with the Conversion Authority. The file with the correspondence remained in the offices of the rabbinical courts. Years later I heard that the file was "expanded" with other cases of which I have no knowledge.
It goes without saying that I never wrote anything suggesting that because of his actions Rabbi Drukman should be considered as personally invalid as a judge (or perhaps even as a witness), as the judges of the High Rabbinical Court dared to claim. It goes without saying that I never discussed this matter with the press. And until I read the decision by Rabbi Sherman I had no idea that it included this old information, which was put to use in a completely disproportionate way.
It is not clear to me why – or perhaps at whose request – you have now turned to me. In any case, I feel that it is important to clarify these matters, and you can make fair use of the information by distributing it or passing it on to anybody who suspects that I might have had a hand in this injustice.
With my blessings,
Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Putting on Tefillin during Conversion
A boy in a religious dormitory setting has reached the age of thirteen. The boy's mother is not Jewish. He prays and does other practices the same as the other boys in the dormitory. If he does not wear Tefillin, this will lead to questions that will upset him and put him to shame. Is there any way that he can put on Tefillin? For example, one suggestion might be to have him wear Tefillin that are not valid.
In Israel, the common practice in conversion workshops is to allow somebody who is in a process of conversion to put on Tefillin, in accordance with rabbinical rulings. Is this boy undergoing conversion, which would correspond to the fact that he is studying in a religious environment? If so, or at least if he declares that he is considering conversion, I feel that he can be allowed to wear Tefillin. (This follows the principle that human dignity is very important, which also applies to a Gentile, certainly if his father is Jewish.)
If he is not at all interested in converting to Judaism and in fact is not interested in having a Jewish education, what is he doing in that school? If he is not interested in Judaism, I do not think it is proper for him to wear Tefillin, which are a holy symbol.
The certificate of a Conservative conversion that took place in New York is signed by three rabbis, one of them a woman. Will there be a problem having a Conservative wedding ceremony in Israel?
Conservative conversion and marriage are not recognized by the halacha as it has been practiced for many generations.
Heating the Water in a Mikveh on Shabbat
What should be done with water in a mikveh that is to be used for immersion after Shabbat? Is the law different for the night after a holiday?
I think we can assume that every mikveh today is automated, with a timer for heating the water. Having a heating system activated by a timer on Shabbat or a holiday does not present any problem.
Actually, Friday night (and the eve of a holiday) presents a more serious problem with respect to taking a shower. This is because using hot water (on Shabbat in the mikveh) causes new cold water to enter the system, and this water is heated ("cooked") by the hot water in the tank. The Zomet Institute has halacho-technical solutions for this situation.
Recycling Weekly Parsha Sheets
In Shabbat-B'Shabbato, I read your position with respect to the weekly parsha sheets and the wide diversity of subject matter, including advertising. I am among those who benefit most from the great increase in the number of weekly bulletins, and it goes without saying that I do my reading at home and not in the synagogue.
I personally collect the pages of the bulletins and do not throw them out after I have read them, but I know that in our synagogue and probably in many others a large number of unread bulletins remain after Shabbat. It seems to me a great pity that there is no way to recycle this material.
I wonder if it might be possible to recycle the parsha sheets in such a way that the contents are not desecrated or harmed.
Shalom Yael, I appreciate your question very much.
More than twenty years ago, the Zomet Institute was involved in a study of paper recycling. It seems that making a special line for recycling holy printed material would be financially prohibitive. Somebody who could organize nationwide collection of the material (at least in the big cities) for economic or philanthropic reasons in order to recycle it would receive the blessings of many rabbis – although on the other hand some might object because of such issues as desecrating the sheets and erasing the holy name of G-d.
We have some ideas about this matter, but the main problems are related to logistics and finance. The halachic considerations are secondary to these issues.