As if, “What will they think of next”, the Zomet Institute for Halacha and Technology located in Alon Shvut outside of Jerusalem, has come up with its contribution to keeping our communities safe during the Covid Pandemic: A Shabbat thermometer that can be used to monitor congregants in synagogues.
According to Rabbi Menachem Perl, the Rabbinic mastermind behind the device, straight forward solutions were found to override both issues. The Shabbat mechanism programs the thermometer to automatically check the temperature every 4 seconds. It operates without the need for activating the device. Thus there is no human intervention in operating the device, it works automatically. Since no buttons have to be switched on or off, there is no closing of an electrical circuit. This overcomes the major Shabbat prohibition of an electrical device.
On a more technical level, that of changing the electrical output: in this thermometer it occurs via a process call shinui zerem chashmali, modifying an existing current, which is permitted by most Rabbinic authorities, given the prevailing public health requirements.
The second major Shabbat consideration is the question, “what constitutes writing”? In the event, the temperature reading which appears on the LCD screen does not involve any act of writing. In this thermometer, the numbers appear on the LCD display through changing the angle of the light molecules. According to Jewish law, this does not constitute writing.
Addressing the question of the permissibility of measuring on Shabbat, there is a consensus that measuring temperature for the ill or for the purpose of a mitzvah is permissible. Monitoring temperature as public health measure enabling them to pray in the synagogue is therefore permitted.
This thermometer brings together many of the elements which Israel is becoming famous for. Israel has been at the forefront of protecting its citizens from the ravages of Covid -19. A recent international study ranked Israel # 3 in the list of safe countries during the pandemic. At the height of the Covid chaos, Israel ranked # 1. Israel is also a world leader in technological innovation. Today there is a generation of Torah scholars who are equally conversant in the technological world. Machon Zomet stands at the apex of these two worlds.
The Shabbat thermometer is just one of a number of medical based technological innovations that Machon Zomet is famous for. Here is just a sample of how Zomet has made life much easier in the health care environment:
Shabbat computer keyboard - allows attending physicians in hospitals to update patient data.
Baby Sense- keeps track of the breathing of infants in cribs.
Electrical stair lift, wheel chair and scooter all of which have enhanced the mobility of the physically challenged.
These in addition to tens of other valuable health related applications.
Israel was once referred to as a great country in a dangerous neighborhood and Zomet has made signal contributions in personal and communal level security arrangements on Shabbat. To list just a few:
Hand held metal detectors- a standard security feature of all Israeli institutions;
Closed Circuit security installations – allows for monitoring the security conditions for large population concentrations;
Patrol vehicles allowing for security checks around the perimeters of neighborhoods and towns.
With hundreds of technological modifications of some of the most essential devices used in Israel and around the world, Mahcon Zomet has become a world leader of narrowing the gap between the needs of modern life and the demands of conscientious Jewish observance. With the Covid threat an ongoing reality in our world, Machon Zomet’s Shabbat thermometer has taken the lead in maintaining a vibrant and active life-style as Shuls and other Jewish organizations get back on track and return to normal activity.
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