Truth About KosherSwitch®
©2011, KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. Permission to cite portions of this document is granted conditional upon inclusion of the full URL to this web page: http://www.kosherswitch.com/live/halacha/truth
24 Elul 5771 [the yahrzeit of the Chafetz Chaim!]
פְּצֵנִי וְהַצִּילֵנִי מִיַּד בְּנֵי-נֵכָר אֲשֶׁר פִּיהֶם, דִּבֶּר-שָׁוְא וִימִינָם, יְמִין שָׁקֶר
Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hand of strangers, whose mouth speaks falsehood, and their right hand is one that writes lies. (Psalms 144:11)
Starting on 9/18/2011, a number of articles have been posted regarding KosherSwitch®, and have unfortunately generated a significant amount of misinformation about us – ranging from false assumptions and misunderstandings to loshon hara and blatant lies. Within a few days, what seems to have begun as an article by Rabbi Gil Student on TorahMusings.com (link) spread like wildfire to countless public news reports, posts, comments, tweets, etc.
Shortly thereafter, a formal letter dated 9/20/2011 from Rabbi Yisrael Rosen was circulated (link). In his letter, Rabbi Rosen makes accusations that are utterly unsubstantiated and outright defamatory: That we misrepresented our KosherSwitch® technology as intended solely for exigent circumstances, and that we somehow fooled an endorsing rabbi into writing and signing an approbation approving use in non-exigent circumstances. We did not do this, as you will see below.
In just a few days, this proliferation of slanders has not only damaged the reputation of our company, after years of work, study, invention and investment, it has also brought shame to Torah scholars who have no interest in the outcome other than the interests of Klal Yisroel. In their frantic rush to attack and discredit, what the slandering rumor-mongers have really managed to do is to defile the honor of Torah scholars that we all emphatically strive to protect. This is something that all G-d fearing Jews should mourn, regardless of one’s personal stance on KosherSwitch®. See the section below, “Attacks on our credibility.”
Clearly the poskim gave written statements. The vicious attacks by bloggers and others have caused some poskim to back pedal. Some have disavowed any knowledge, while some others have qualified their previously issued written statements. Others have not disavowed a thing. However, the actions of the accusers have made some rabbanim appear irresolute and others appear inconsistent or forgetfully incompetent. Yes – the first rev of the KosherSwitch® web site had some problems in that links to all poskim’s written statements did not operate, so users could not immediately see that some poskim had given qualified approbations or mere blessings. Rather than contacting us for correction of the link and review of the actual written statements from the poskim, the accusers ran to the poskim and sought their wholesale repudiations of KosherSwitch®. In some cases, these accusers successfully persuaded or intimidated the authors to revoke or revise their prior written statements. The accusers have thus cast their mentors into the shadows of incredibility, memory lapse, or worse. Is this the Torah way?
Indeed, look at some of the challenges that arose from the public and which question how these accusations against KosherSwitch® could be accurate (quoted from TorahMusings.com):
- I have to say that I am most disturbed by these poskim who are giving letters saying one thing, and then saying that the letters don’t mean what they appear to say. (link: September 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm)
- The bigger story here may be how these authorities wrote letters that were so contrary to their own positions. (link: September 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm)
- “Rav Nebenzahl doesn’t remember this at all, thinks there is no room for such a device, and is puzzled by the whole situation.” But he wrote a letter saying that he did see it and he was amazed by it… Did he really sign the letter? What was he amazed then but now thinks differently? If he’s puzzled, he’s not the only one; I’m puzzled too but he’s part of that puzzle. So, if you’re going to make further inquiries, please try to straighten out what happened with Rav Nebenzahl. It goes to the credibility of both the company and the rabbanim whose names were used. Neither are looking particularly great right now. (link: September 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm)
- Orthodoxy (at least in its institutionalized charedi version) seems on the verge of becoming a false gerontocracy – false in the sense that it is not even the rabbis, who, as we witness here, cannot even always remember what they said about a particular topic, but rather their minders and others, whose motivations are often far from either transparent or benevolent. (link: September 22, 2011 at 11:25 am)
In some cases, the accusers themselves have the most dubious of motive. Consider Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, one of our strident accusers. Rabbi Rosen is head of the Zomet Institute, located in Alon Shvut, Israel. Like our company, Zomet’s business develops compliance solutions within the techno-Halachic market, including gramma based timer switches for Shabbos use. Naturally, our innovative and patented KosherSwitch® technology is competition for Rabbi Rosen and his organization. Rabbi Rosen is clearly a person with great conflict of interest when it comes to KosherSwitch®. How is it then, that Rabbi Rosen feels he can attack KosherSwitch® wrapped in the mantle of righteousness, when, in fact, he acts in his own interest? Is this the selfless act of a scholar or a cynical act to preempt competition? See further details and evidence, discussed below, section “Attacks on our credibility.”
Here at KosherSwitch®, we are mystified as to why anyone with honest questions and pure motives would not have attempted to contact us for clarification before taking such decisive, damaging, and virtually irreparable actions. The accusers are so busy accusing us of publishing doctored letters, forged signatures, and distortions, that they omit any discussion of the many approbations and responsa approving KosherSwitch® that leave absolutely no room for ambiguity (see links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). In fact, some of the very approbations that the accusers claim as forgeries or distortions were actually written by their authors upon the paper setting forth approbations that unambiguously rule KosherSwitch® is viable for non-exigent use.
Character and Integrity
To create a phony appearance of validity for the accusers’ otherwise baseless claims, the character, integrity, motivations, and/or methodologies of our company and its representatives have been viciously attacked. However, documents readily available on our website give ample testimony as to the founder’s integrity. For example, regarding the KosherSwitch® inventor and founder:
Additionally, having known Menashe for over a decade, I can personally attest to his fine character and his motives for inventing such a device. Through his many consultations with several Torah scholars in the course of the development of this project, he has reaffirmed that his motivation has always been to save Acheinu Beit Yisrael from Chilul Shabbat and for enhancing Oneg Shabbat in our homes. (Rabbi Shlomo Shoub, Iyar 5768).
It is because I know Rav Menashe very well, who is known for the fact that his fear of God precedes his wisdom, and who does everything according to Jewish law and all legality honorably in all aspects combined, that I praise his feat. He seeks Halachic council on every step of the way with God fearing Halachic authorities. His entire purpose is holy and serves to benefit the masses. (Rabbi Pinchas Zabihi, Cheshvan 5768)
If any doubts remain, there are many reputable rabbis who will give further convincing testimony in support of our claim. Our primary focus has always been Zikuei HaRabim in a manner that is in full accordance with Halacha. Our diligence in this matter is attested to by the many rabbis and poskim with whom we have consulted during the maturation of this undertaking. We have always been mindful that our technology should be used only in ways bringing benefit to the masses IY”H.
Will the real truth please stand up
Two accounts of the same story. One truth. But which one is the real truth? If only we had access to King Solomon’s sword, things would be easy. Until then, you decide…
On 9/18/2011, Rabbi Gil Student posted an article littered with inaccuracies and misinformation about KosherSwitch® (link). He continued to do so in numerous comments, twitter posts, and emails. His irresponsible actions also triggered countless baseless reactions — unstoppable ripples from the hurling of a massive boulder into a small pond. Why did he not reach out to us before initiating such irretrievable actions? We would have happily met and demonstrated our technology, hopefully averting such unfortunate outcomes in an undertaking that has been blessed and encouraged by so many of our honorable leaders. And this phenomenon is not limited to Rabbi Student, but include most of our critics. One is left wondering if there is any real desire to learn the truth. In fact, on 9/19/2011, well before deciding to publish this rebuttal, we extended an invitation to meet with Rabbi Student, but that invitation was ignored. We decided to print a full rebuttal on this website because it was clear that Rabbi Student would not agree to publish our response without imposing his own edits. He wrote on his blog, “I have already told them that I will allow them to defend themselves but whatever they write will first be reviewed by me and my posek.” (link: September 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm)
Rabbi Gill Student/TorahMusings.com: Inaccuracies & misrepresentations
Before one even begins to read Rabbi Student’s article, the title sets the tone one may expect. The cynical “Will The Kosher Switch Bring Mashiach?” is aimed to belittle and ridicule. No, we don’t believe, and never suggested that KosherSwitch® will bring Mashiach. We do believe, as do most of the rabbis we’ve asked, that “KosherSwitch® makes Shabbat and Yom Tov observance easier to attain and maintain.” We also believe that which our sages taught regarding proper Shabbat observance expediting Mashiach’s arrival, and are proud to be zoche to perhaps play a tiny role in it!
Rabbi Student has published many inaccuracies about KosherSwitch® with respect to its technology, and consequently, its Halachic implications. Some of his major technology misstatements are described below, however a complete Halachic debate is well beyond the scope of this document. For the proper Halachic consideration, we will continue to showcase our innovative technology in a more interactive fashion, and with reputable Halachic authorities, as described in “Our methodology.”
Mistakes happen, and are forgivable…
To remain true to the Torah’s requirement of dan l’kaf z’chus, we afford Rabbi Student the benefit of doubt, and assume that these were innocent mistakes. We’ll even go further and speculate that it’s because maybe he could not understand some technical information on our website. However, it’s important to note that other independent assessments with access to exactly the same information were able to discern a much more accurate understanding of KosherSwitch®; (we invite those who are interested, to listen to a short shiur on the topic, as published on YUTorah.org (link). Here are just a few (not the all-inclusive list) of Student’s errors, as published by him on his blog:
- He wrote: “…it [KosherSwitch®] calculates a random number below 100 and only sends the impulse if the number passes a threshold (usually over 50)” (section III). Wrong. Threshold is a dynamic, random range and adds more uncertainly, unpredictability, and doubt.
- He wrote: “The [KosherSwitch®] receiver also calculates a similar random number and only receives the light impulse if the number passes a threshold.” (section III). Wrong. The receiver and the “impulse” [transmitter] function based on the same algorithm, and within the framework of the first safeik. See our How Does it Work page (link).
- He wrote: “These two levels of uncertainty [in the KosherSwitch®] separate the action of moving the switch to the on (or off) position from the closing (or opening) of the circuit.” (section III). Wrong. The second safeik has to do with whether or not the device can act on the resultant of the process that passed the first safeik. Again, a cursory reading of our How Does it Work page makes these points very clear.
- “[KosherSwitch®] functions the same way as other switches (from the user’s perspective)…” (section IV). Wrong. From the user’s perspective, the KosherSwitch® Classic does not function the same way as other switches. The KosherSwitch® even functions differently from itself, depending on what mode or “personality” it is set to, Shabbos or weekday. The user’s experience and behavior varies significantly, depending on the mode. In its Normal Mode, the user simply uses it as one would use a regular switch, with no regard to the Status Light, whereas in Sabbath Mode, he must look for a green Status Light and determine if it’s “safe to use” before even touching the on/off button.
But what about flagrant and intentional misrepresentation?
Unfortunately, Rabbi Student has committed the very misrepresentations of which he accuses us. The differences are (1) that we did not in fact intentionally misrepresent anything; and (2) we provide proof of his misrepresentations about KosherSwitch®, in contrast to his complete lack of any proof supporting his own erroneous allegations!
In section VI of his article, Rabbi Student argues that use of the KosherSwitch® Classic is forbidden based on the concern for “Confusion”, and quotes reputable sources in defense of his position. (Interestingly, R’ Yitzchak Halperin, author of the source cited, is also the inventor in gramma device patents #US3980980 and #US4031435, long expired since their issuance in the 1970s. The US Patent and Trademark Office, through its issuance of KosherSwitch® patent #US7872576, has agreed that our technology is a novel and innovative method/device over any prior art.) Student wrote:
The difference between a gerama switch and a standard switch is not readily discernible to a layman. A person seeing someone using a gerama switch might conclude that the action is permissible with any switch. As a result, people could mistakenly permit many prohibited Shabbat actions, resulting in mass desecration of Shabbat. Under such circumstances, it is appropriate not to permit actions that should otherwise be permitted. (R. Levi Yitzchak Halperin and R. Dovid Oratz, Shabbat and Electricity, pp. 32-33):
In further support of his position, Rabbi Student presents a picture of the KosherSwitch® Classic alongside four other switches (image from TorahMusings.com is shown below) and writes, “I show below five pictures of switches. Four are from my house and one is the Kosher Switch. Can you tell which one is the Kosher Switch? It doesn’t look particularly different to me. There are many different types of switches and the Kosher Switch looks to me like just another one.”
But what Rabbi Student fails to admit is that he took a copyrighted image from our website, and intentionally cropped it to exclude the bottom portion of the picture. What anyone seeking truth needed to see is that the missing half of the image shows the proprietary KosherSwitch® logo etched on a unique plastic door that swivels open to reveal a unique Mode Selection button with idiosyncratic markings indicating that this is anything but an ordinary electrical switch. Several different pictures on our website would have served this purpose, including the ones shown here (click on image to zoom).
Furthermore, Rabbi Student makes a mere tangential reference to other key design elements in the KosherSwitch®, that were engineered specifically to resolve this concern for Confusion; he wrote: “The designers of Kosher Switch, in their halakhic defense (sec. 7), argue that this [exigent-only restriction] is unnecessary for a number of unconvincing reasons. Among them is that the Kosher Switch looks very different from regular switches.” He then totally fails to explore what those other “reasons” are. Although he feels that they are “a number of unconvincing reasons,” Student does not disclose to his readers that others who have evaluated the KosherSwitch® during the past five years, including Torah scholars of far greater wisdom and repute than he, have accepted the distinctive appearance of the KosherSwitch® with regard to the avoidance of Confusion. See the discussion of KosherSwitch® distinctiveness and the avoidance of Confusion (links: 1, 2).
Since Student failed to enumerate the reasons our company has cited for why KosherSwitch® does not cause Mar’is Ayin, we present a summary below. These concepts are explored in greater detail in various sections of our website and are also presented in what he calls our “halakhic defense” (link):
There are a number of factors that alleviate any concerns that use of a KosherSwitch® may lead to Mar’is Ayin. While the information below is proof-positive for the vast majority of readers, those who still find it difficult to visualize are encouraged to witness an actual KosherSwitch® Classic in action. The tangible is obviously more convincing than the abstract.
It’s impossible for someone directly watching another person use a KosherSwitch® Classic to mistake what he sees as the use of a regular light switch (this is in complete contrast to the well-known Mar’is Ayin example of seeing a man wearing a yarmulke in a non-kosher restaurant). The KosherSwitch® Classic has been custom engineered to look completely different from any other switch available in the market. It is designed with several Halachically-significant heikers (distinguishing factors):
- It looks nothing like the rocker-type (“Decora”) or classic toggle-type switch, which together make up over 99% of the switches installed in theUSA.
- It is clearly marked with the KosherSwitch® brand/logo, etched into the plastic of the Mode Selection door.
- It contains a unique Status Light which provides several critical distinctive elements: 1) The fact that it’s there, as a cutout in the front cover, and in perfect line-of-sight of the user is itself unique. 2) In Normal Mode, it’s always off, while in its Sabbath Mode it’s always on. 3) In its Sabbath Mode, the Status Light is constantly cycling between green and red, every few seconds.
- The very presence of a Mode Selection door is an important heiker over the vast majority of classic wall switches. Other devices that contain such a door represent a small percentage of a tiny fraction of all switches, and do not contain the other elements present in the KosherSwitch® Classic, such as the sliding on/off button or Status Light.
- An On/Off button that looks like it will slide up or down, but in fact, it moves into its on or off positions with unique tactile resistance and a “snap”.
- When the Mode Selector door is open, there are many markings indicating that this is a special kind of switch, and a Mode Selector button to choose between a Sabbath Mode and Normal Mode.
Perhaps most importantly, the switch functions and behaves very differently than a regular switch (and from itself when it’s in Normal Mode). Here’s what one would witness if they were watching someone using a KosherSwitch® on Shabbat or Yom Tov: 1) He walks up to a switch; 2) looks or waits for something (he’s actually looking for a green Status Light or waiting for it to turn from red to green); 3) flicks the switch “on”; 4) nothing happens (guaranteed); 5) some time later (unknown exactly how long because of uncertainty from safeiks), the attached fixture turns on. The onlooker either knows this is a KosherSwitch® or will ask, “hey, what were you doing, and why isn’t the room light switching on?” By definition, this cannot be mistaken for Mar’is Ayin.
Incidentally, this point is vitally important in eliminating confusion for the users themselves, as opposed to onlookers. The way that the KosherSwitch® Classic “behaves” in Normal Mode is pointedly different than in its Sabbath Mode. Accordingly, users’ interactions will also be markedly different. In its Normal Mode, the above scenario would be identical to using a traditional light switch: 1) He walks up to a switch; 2) flicks the switch “on”; 3) attached fixture turns on “instantly.” In Normal Mode, he doesn’t even look at the switch, whereas in Sabbath Mode, he must look for a green Status Light and determine if it’s “safe to use” before even touching the on/off button.
Attacks on our credibility and the authenticity of our endorsement letters: Rabbi Yisrael Rosen (Zomet Institute) and others
Several sources have raised concerns regarding the authenticity of written materials we have secured from various rabbis. Claims that we have forged letters and signatures are ludicrous (in some cases, the accusations were regarding letters written in the rabbi’s own handwriting). Moreover, accusations that we have deceived, tricked, or misrepresented our technology to a rav are repulsive. Indeed, this is what Rabbi Rosen has claimed in his letter:
אני משער כי מי שהצליח להוציא מרבנים חשובים חתימות ‘מכר’ להם המצאה מעין גרמא מסובכת לצורך רפואה או בטחון וכד’, והצליח לדלג על תנאי זה בחתימות
I suppose that whoever managed to get the signatures of important rabbis ’sold’ them an invention that is a kind of a complex Gramma used for the purpose of medicine or security, and succeeded in skipping this condition when they signed.
Our methodology when presenting to a posek
To appreciate our transparency, one must first understand the methodology used when presenting our technology to a posek. Here is how we typically go about seeking a rav’s opinion:
- We give a comprehensive demonstration of our technology using our unique proof-of-concept units (and once they became available, also our prototypes) (link). These units are visible in some rabbi photographs on our website (link). We explain exactly how it works technologically and by way of analogy. Meetings usually entail lots of questions, and back-and-forth discussion between us and the rabbi(s) present.
- We offer the rav abundant literature regarding our endeavor in a binder currently 60+ pages long (the binder is actually visible in some rabbi photographs on our website) . This literature is invariably reviewed at the initial meeting – perhaps not exhaustively, but well enough to understand the varying positions on the matter. The binder is left with the rav for further review. It contains a brief summary of the technology and pictures of the KosherSwitch® Classic with markings regarding Sabbath use and clearly highlighting the many unique and distinctive design elements of the device.
- The binder also contains a collection of existing approbations and responsa regarding KosherSwitch®. This point is critical in order to understand how ridiculous our opponents’ claims of deceiving or misrepresenting (“’sold’ them”) to a rabbi really are: Many of these documents state (and sometimes prove through classic Halachic discourse) other poskim’s opinions that our technology is permissible l’chatchila and with no qualifications or restrictions. There is not a single document authored by our company that would indicate intent for our technology to be used only with the “purpose of medicine or security”, as some have suggested. Little could more clearly attest to our transparency and honesty than this point!
- We then seek the rav’s opinion on the permissibility of KosherSwitch®, presenting its many benefits but stressing the one we feel is most significant: its unique ability to prevent Chilul Shabbos both b’mezid and b’shogeg. There are many facets to our Torah, and invariably, there are many ways that a posek may rule: L’chatchila? Only in healthcare? For Shabbat or only for Yom Tov? To alleviate amira l’akum issues? For kiruv only? We encourage poskim & rabbis to endorse our technology in a way that they feel makes sense.
- When a posek is willing to spend more time with us, we also seek a more in-depth analysis as well as consultation regarding the many parameters that are used by the technology – randomization ranges, delays, and behavior. We attach our unique transparent proof-of-concept units to a laptop, and interactively look at the different ways things can work, allowing the rav to advise us on the optimal design path. In fact, the current version of our technology incorporates much of the feedback we’re received during the 5 years we’ve been working on this project.
- Finally, we ask the rav for his opinion in writing. For someone who has witnessed a rav write an approbation, it’s obvious how meticulously and carefully every word is calculated, weighed, and chosen – what to write, how to write it, and if being written as a reaffirmation of an existing approbation, which one to pick – such that the correct message is conveyed. This point is critical in order to understand how ridiculous our accusers’ claims of deceiving or misrepresenting to a rabbi really are (see below): If a rabbi intends that KosherSwitch® should only be used in hospitals, he will ensure that message is very clear. And if a posek writes his endorsement or blessing on a page that clearly states an unrestricted approbation, one may be certain that if the second, endorsing rabbi’s own position is opposed, the second endorsing rabbi would leave no doubts for the reader regarding the meaning of his own ruling! Certainly, one would not expect the rav to write “I agree” if what he really means is “I disagree.”
HaGaon HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, shlit’a
This is what Rabbi Rosen reports, along with the image that he provides, in his letter:
אתמול נכנסתי אל מו”ר הגר”י נויבירט שליט”א ושאלתיו האם התיר מתג זה להפעיל חשמל בשבת למטרות של עונג שבת וכד’. הוא ממש נזדעזע ואמר שמעולם לא התיר כזאת. כשהראיתי לו את הסכמתו הוא הוסיף בכתב ידו: “רק לרפואה ובטחון” (ראו צילום להלן
Yesterday I went to my teacher and rabbi HaGaon Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, Shlita, and I asked him whether he permitted to use this switch to activate electricity on Shabbat for the purposes of Oneg Shabbat, etc… He was really shocked and said he never permitted that. When I showed him the endorsement letter, he added in his handwriting: “Only for medicine and security” (see facsimile below)
But what Rabbi Rosen fails to disclose is that we believe he did not show Rabbi Neuwirth a full copy “[w]hen I [Rosen] showed him the endorsement letter”; we believe that instead, he used subterfuge to confuse Rabbi Neuwirth, similar to Rabbi Student’s subterfuge, as described above. We believe Rabbi Rosen copied a document from our copyrighted website: The original of that document included not only Rabbi Neuwirth’s approbation, but also the rest of the page upon which Rabbi Neuwirth’s original approbation was written. The rest of the page was an unqualified approbation by HaGaon HaRav Pinchas Zabihi shlit’a and it is this additional portion of the page which provides the critical context necessary to understand the meaning of Rabbi Neuwirth’s endorsement. We believe Rabbi Rosen then intentionally cropped the bottom part of that page in order to isolate Rabbi Neuwirth’s words, discarding the essential context, and even managing to hide that the border containing the rav’s words is actually part of a large “callout” box to the original text on the full page. What he didn’t want the world to see, is the following image of Rabbi Neuwirth’s approbation (link) within its original context because the Halachic meaning of Rabbi Neuwirth’s approbation is missing without its context. We believe Rabbi Rosen showed a self-serving cropped version to Rabbi Neuwirth and used it to confuse him into amending his original words! We sat in consultation with Rabbi Neuwirth for hours, on several occasions, basing years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars in product development on his and other Torah minds’ rulings that KosherSwitch® is permitted l’chatchila. Rabbi Rosen attempted to shatter it in an instant. One can’t help but wonder, “who’s really the one that ‘sold’ the rabbi on something, and why?”
A closer look
This is what Rabbi Neuwirth’s approbation states, and how he intended it when he wrote it:
גם אני כיהדה לקרא מסכים להמצאה. והשם יתברך יברך אותו בזכות שמירת שבת כהלכתה ונזכה לגאולה למה
I, too, humbly agree to the invention. And may Hashem Yisborach bless him in the z’chus of Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasa. And may we merit to the complete Geula.
“I, too, humbly agree” What is the subject of “I too…”? It is the approbation of HaGaon HaRav Pinchas Zabihi shlit’a (link), which he used as his canvas to write his calculated words.
“…agree…” Agree fully, partially, have any qualifications or objections? No additional words were written, because it was an agreement in full. This is what he ruled after our long sessions, and this is what he wrote.
“…with the invention”: Which invention? Without Rabbi Zabihi’s context, this has no meaning; but, read with Rabbi Zabihi’s text, the “invention” clearly refers to the KosherSwitch®.
“And may Hashem Yisborach bless him…” Who? Without Rabbi Zabihi’s context, this has no meaning; but, read with Rabbi Zabihi’s text, the “bless him” clearly refers to the addressee of the letter – the inventor of the KosherSwitch®.
“… in the z’chus [merit] of Shmiras Shabbos [Shabbos observance] Kehilchasa [in accordance with Halacha].” This is clearly a statement that KosherSwitch® will facilitate proper, Halachic Shabbat observance, just like Rabbi Zabihi’s ruling, to which Rabbi Neuwirth was affixing his approbation.
Summary of historical events
The eye witness specified below is a reputable Rosh Yeshiva from Bnei Brak, unaffiliated with the company, and who has not ruled on the permissibility of the KosherSwitch® himself. He has recently agreed to confirm the account presented below. We will consider arranging this communication with an upright member of the community who will commit to publically reporting what he hears.
- During the summer of 2008, while we were in Eretz Yisroel, this Rosh Yeshiva suggested that it would be valuable to present the new technology to Rabbi Neuwirth, shlit’a. He arranged for the meeting and accompanied us to Rabbi Neuwirth’s home in Bayit V’gan,Jerusalem.
- On 6/22/2008, we held a long meeting with the rav, and demonstrated the technology; we sought his opinion not only with respect to its permissibility, but also sought his counsel regarding the various technical parameters that are utilized in KosherSwitch® technology.
- We also presented the rav with the only two approbations that we had at that time, i.e., those from HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu BenHaim (link) and HaGaon HaRav Pinchas Zabihi (link). These approbations clearly rule that KosherSwitch® is permissible l’chatchila and not just for medical or security purposes, as has recently been alleged by Rabbi Rosen and others.
- After a lengthy analysis and many questions asked, Rabbi Neuwirth gave his verbal psak and ruled that he agreed with those opinions that KosherSwitch® is permissible l’chatchila, and verbally expressed his support and blessed the project for success. However, he refused to give us any statement in writing at that time, and asked that we return in a few days.
- On 6/26/2008 we returned to the rav’s home with the same Rosh Yeshiva and had a followup meeting with the rav. He repeated the same ruling and blessings as he did a few days prior and, this time, he also agreed to give us his written approbation. Instead of writing his approbation on a blank sheet or on letterhead, he deliberately chose to write it on Rabbi Pinchas Zabihi’s prior approbation, with the language, “I, too, humbly agree to the invention. And may Hashem Yisborach bless him in the z’chus of Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchasa. And may we merit to the complete Geula.” The rav’s psak was very clear to us, and to the independent Rosh Yeshiva who accompanied us.
- The Rosh Yeshiva continued to assist us, facilitating meetings with other poskim who saw our technology and our approbations, including the one added by Rabbi Neuwirth.
- On 1/6/2010 we again visited the rav in person and we gave him an update on our Halachic and technological progress. He again blessed us for success and IY”H to return with a finished product.
HaGaon HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlit’a
This is what Rabbi Rosen reports in his letter:
.גם הרב אבגדר נבנצל שליט”א, החתום על מכתב דומה, אמר לי אתמול כי לא זכור לו שאי פעם חתם על משהו כזה, והביע דעתו שאין שום מקום לכך והוא תמה על כל הענין
Also, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl shlit’a, who signed a similar letter, told me yesterday that he does not recall ever signing anything like that, and expressed the opinion that there is no place for such, and was puzzled about the entire matter.
First of all, Rabbi Nebenzahl did not simply “sign a similar letter.” To refer to such a letter so casually is to undermine its author and its contents. We have presented a long and detailed handwritten approbation (link) from him, and signed by him, along with a picture of him analyzing the KosherSwitch®.
This is a letter that he carefully wrote in our presence, after a lengthy meeting where we demonstrated our technology and shared the existing documentation on it. Included in the documentation was a letter from HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Dzimitrovski (link), his esteemed colleague, with whom we met the day before (incidentally, that meeting took several hours and was attended by a talmid of the rav’s who was an expert in electronics, and computer programming). This is the text of Rabbi Dzimitrovski’s letter:
ב”ה י”ז טבת תש”ע
חות דעת הלכתית
בענין הכשר סויטש (המתג הכשר) נראה לי שאין בעיה הלכתית להשתמש בו בשבת קודש אפילו לכתחילה והריני מברכו שיצליח לזכות את הרבים בהמצאה זאת
הרב ישראל דזימיטרובסקי
ר”מ בישיבת הכותל
With regards to the KosherSwitch, I find that there is no Halachic concerns with using it on the holy Shabbos, even l’chatchila (the ideal & “a priori” Halachic condition). And I hereby bless him that using this invention, he should be successful in bringing its merits to the masses.
Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva HaKosel
A closer look
This is what Rabbi Nebenzahl’s approbation states. One should bear in mind that it was written with full consideration of the technology and the existing approbations presented, including the newly secured letter from R’ Dzimitrovski:
ג’ פ’ שמות תש”ע ירושלם עיה”ק תובב”א
ראיתי את (ההמצאה) למתג כשר לשבת והתפעלתי ואני מברך את כבוד הרב מנשה כלאתי שליט”א שיזכה להפיץ את המצאתו ולהציל בזה רבים מאחב”י מחלול שבת ח”ו. והקב”ה ינחילהו נחלת יעקב ויזכה ליום שכלו שבת ומלאה הארץ דעה בב”א
כעתירת צעיר הלויים
I saw the invention for the switch that is “kosher” for Shabbos and I was astonished, and I bless Rav Menashe Kalati shlita that he should merit to distribute his invention and save with it many of our brothers from desecrating Shabbos, heaven forbid. And may Hashem bless him with “Nachlas Yaakov” and he should merit “a day that is completely Shabbos” and “the world should be filled with wisdom” speedily and in our days, Amen.
Again, Rabbi Rosen’s self-interested attempts to discredit KosherSwitch® as a competitor instead end up displaying a very unfortunate image of a great Torah scholar by showing that a great scholar could be cowed into disavowing a previous endorsement:
- In his original endorsement for KosherSwitch® the rav referred to KosherSwitch® as the “switch that is ‘kosher’ for Shabbos.” He did not qualify it as being “kosher” for medical purposes only, as Rabbi Rosen would have us believe.
- The rav wrote in his original endorsement that “I was astonished…” and that we “should merit to distribute his invention and save with it many of our brothers from desecrating Shabbos…” Isn’t Rabbi Rosen doing a disservice to Rabbi Nebenzahl, to us, and to the rest of the world who seek the truth in this critical matter of Halacha? If, when Rabbi Rosen asked Rabbi Nebenzahl about the KosherSwitch® endorsement, Rabbi Nebenzahl did in fact, as Rosen states, say “that he does not recall ever signing anything like that…” did not Rabbi Rosen owe a duty to Rabbi Nebenzahl, as a matter of respect, to show Rabbi Nebenzahl the original endorsement and help Rabbi Nebenzahl to refresh his recollection on this matter? Instead, Rosen apparently chose to solicit a disparaging quote, then to use it to try to accuse KosherSwitch® of dishonesty. In fact, it was Rabbi Rosen who was placing Rabbi Nebenzahl into a compromising position because the elder posek did not remember something he had ruled on before. Without regard for the damage he might do to Rabbi Nebenzahl’s reputation, Rosen grabbed onto this memory lapse to accuse KosherSwitch® and plunge Rabbi Nebenzahl into the controversial and awkward position of denying a written endorsement of which there can actually be no doubt as written evidence and photographic evidence exist. Even if Rabbi Rosen disagreed with Rabbi Nebenzahl’s earlier ruling on KosherSwitch® and wanted to reverse it, would not the proper and respectful thing to do have been to help Rabbi Nebenzahl to recall all the facts and then to have an honest discussion of the matter – perhaps even including an invitation of participation for a KosherSwitch® representative, so that all issues could be clearly and fairly revisited. What is the meaning of Rabbi Rosen’s conduct in baselessly procuring (or at least reporting that he has procured) a summary dismissal of KosherSwitch® from Rabbi Nebenzahl? Rabbi Rosen reports that Rabbi Nebenzahl “was puzzled about the entire matter.” Actually, it is we who are puzzled, along with many who seek the truth.
Again, one can’t help but to ask the same question that Rabbi Rosen asks: “Who’s really the one that ‘sold’ the rabbi on something?”
Other false assumptions and misunderstandings
Some other culprits for the misinformation are presented below.
- KosherSwitch.com launched on 9/8/2011. At launch, some of the web pages on the site had links that did not work (so that “clicking” on a highlighted hypertext did not bring up the related window). Since the launch, most of the links that weren’t working are now working. (Usually this was made possible because thoughtful end-users on the site wrote to us to point them out). In a few cases, links to a rabbi’s endorsement letter were not working. (That is, highlighted text in a table, e.g., the word “Written”, relating to a particular rabbi, did not display, as it was supposed to, a PDF copy of such rabbi’s letter about KosherSwitch; instead the link did nothing.) Because of this bad link, the actual content of a given rabbi’s endorsement was unavailable and the end-user could not see the actual text of the letter, nor that of any qualifications the rabbi’s letter may have contained. We have since corrected all the bad links we are aware of.
- On our endorsement/blessings page, we prominently displayed a statement asking readers to note that the different quotes, comments and endorsements represented a range of opinion on our technology and that some included qualifications on how KosherSwitch® may be used. The page clearly stated: “Endorsements/approbations may refer to varying degrees of permissibility, and in varying contexts ranging from l’chatchila (“a priori”) use at home to limited use within healthcare settings. Verbal snippets are provided as a synopsis of in-person meetings and are not intended, and should not be considered, as a substitute for a formal written endorsement.” Unfair critics have completely disregarded the alert we gave, and instead they have alleged the most foul accusations of misrepresentation against us despite the clear fact that KosherSwitch® went extra distance to alert the end-user to read carefully and note distinctions. It is not only clear that KosherSwitch® had no intention to deceive – we actually took steps to remind readers to note the finer distinctions between statements of the different poskim.
- Quotes of Oral Statements: Unfortunately, we did make one error. We displayed quotes from certain rabbis/poskim oral statements without asking them in advance for their consent to be quoted on our website. To the extent we listed them this way, we clearly indicated that the quote was from an oral statement by using the hyperlink label “Verbal” instead of “Written”, and we offered a short snippet of the oral statement with the date of the meeting at which the it was made. Again, note that we emphasized in the alert at the top of the web page that “Verbal” snippets “should not be considered, as a substitute for a formal written endorsement”. We do however regret that on the Endorsements/Blessings page of the web site, we used quotes from poskim who had not all given their express consent to have their oral comments published on a public web page. The blessings and encouragement we took from the support of these scholars, albeit in oral discussion, is extremely important to us and we have only the greatest respect for them. It was our shortcoming not to realize that we should have sought their consent before we shared their words of encouragement and blessing with our readers. Since some of them were not comfortable “going public” we have removed all the “Verbal” quotes from our web site until further notice. We sincerely apologize to all for the righteous error into which our earnestness led us.
Given the nature of our innovative KosherSwitch® technology, we anticipated we might encounter some opposition. We expected this opposition to voice their opinion in a manner that is respectful not only to their adversaries, but much more importantly, to the honorable rabbis who may be “caught in the crossfire.” Instead of pressing them (and us) with baseless misinformation, as was unfortunately done this week, we expected meaningful intellectual debate from both opponents and proponents of our technology. Indeed, we regret that those opposed to our mission would take such a drastic approach that it would necessitate a decisive and telling response from us.
We lament that this week, our technology and our mission were the subject of much in-fighting and loshon hara. To the brave minority who refused to blindly follow the attacking herd, and who insisted instead that we should be judged favorably while seeking the truth about KosherSwitch®, we extend a heartfelt Yasher Koach! We are certain that with this document and with time, public support for KosherSwitch® will crescendo into a resounding voice, as we enlist the backing of those who sincerely seek truth. We hope and pray that as we progress, the debates will also mature into the healthy and productive arguments of the study halls, rather than the slanderous chatter of the internet.
Wishing all of Acheinu Bnei Yisroel a Shana Tova and a Chasima Tova. May it be a year filled with all of Hashem’s blessings and our Geula.
KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc.
©2011, KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. Permission to cite portions of this document is granted conditional upon inclusion of the full URL to this web page: http://www.kosherswitch.com/live/halacha/truth