Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dial, Shabbos Style! With Your Teeth!

I have to thank my friend Ryan for bringing this article to my attention. He sent the email to me with a query about why Jews can't use their phones on the Sabbath when it comes to life-saving purposes. Now, I'll admit this article is a little misleading. Here's the article, it's pretty brief, so read on!
JERUSALEM, June 10 (UPI) -- A religious ruling permits ultra-orthodox Jews to operate their mobilephones on the Sabbath and religious holidays with their teeth.
Many of the ultra orthodox volunteers and workers at Israel's Magen David Adom emergency services work on the Sabbath and were confronted with the dilemma of how to active their mobile phones without violating religious rules, reported.
Recently, the agency began replacing workers' paging systems with modern mobile phones equipped with GPS technology that locates workers and volunteers closest to the scene of an accident, shortening the response time, the report said.
MDA asked the Scientitific Technology Halacha Institute to come u with a solution. Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Halperin issued a new set of rules involving the use of a specially designed case that prevents phones from being sut down accidentally. To confirm response to dispatch, workers are permitted to hold a small metal pin between their teeth and press the necessary buttons on the phones, the Web site said.
And the sort of misleading part:
According to Judaism, the Sabbath, which is observed from sunset Friday to Saturday night, is considered a day of rest. Religious Jews do not travel, cook, work or use telephones. They also are prohibited from turning on electricity or driving but allowed to violate the Sabbath to save lives.
Now, in a worse-comes-to-worse situation, the telephone is used on Shabbos to save lives. In Israel, and even in the US in Chicago, New York, and other walking cities, not every frum Jew owns a car. If a woman goes into labor on the Sabbath or there is a life-threatening need for medical attention, even a frum Jew will pick up the phone and call a cab or an ambulance. In the case of someone who is frum and he/she has a car, they will drive to the hospital if needbe, and there are many hospitals (including one in Waterbury, CT) where the staff are trained in how to welcome the frum Jew, how to turn off their car, park it, etc. So even when it comes to the cellular phone, in the right instance, there is no problem with dialing.

So why the teeth? Well, if you do have to break Shabbos in some way (let's say you accidentally turn on the garbage disposal -- can't leave that running all Shabbos!), you should fix the situation in a way that is not normal -- use an elbow, a shoulder, etc.

But man, what a wacky ruling, no?