Keeping Shabbat not chore, app unnecessary

posted in: November 2014, Opinion | 0
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By Jake Baum Jake Headshot

In the modern age of technology, the modern Orthodox world has fallen victim to one of the worst plagues of the 21st century – obsession with cell phones.

It is clear that since the invention of the cell phone, younger Jews, even ones who run in the most religious of circles, have given in to texting on Shabbat. Jews who would otherwise be keeping Shabbat perfectly have fallen prey to the phone obsession and are unable to stay off — even when required by Jewish law during Shabbat.

Enter the Shabbos app. A Kickstarter campaign recently surfaced claiming to be funding a new kind of app called the “Shabbos App,” which would supposedly allow the user to text on Shabbat in accordance with Halacha (Jewish law).

The fundraiser campaign reached its goal faster than the creators anticipated, but the newly-created website showed that it is not an actual “Shabbos App” at all.

The website explains that the original intent of the app was to give those who could not stay off their phones a way to keep Shabbat. In a way, it’s encouraging people to keep breaking Shabbat instead of just giving up their phone for a day – not something I’m very comfortable with.

The developers claim that the app addresses problems with using a phone on Shabbat by muting the sound and periodically erasing the messages so that they are not “permanent writing,” but the facts remain that a phone is still being used. It’s still against Halacha, and it always will be.

Halachic problems aside, the spirit of the app itself seems to come in direct conflict with everything for which Shabbat stands. Shabbat is supposed to be a day during which you can separate yourself from the world and have a personal connection with G-d.

UMD Chabad leader Rabbi Eli Backman asks, “Could you imagine if someone comes out with an app that allows you to quietly text during your next job interview?” He goes on to explain that “Shabbat is a gift which teaches us how to live in the moment … So, why would I want an app to text on Shabbat?”

The app is just unnecessary. I agree with Rabbi Backman when he said that the app contradicts the real purpose of Shabbat. Shabbat is an escape from the week, and creating an app which would allow you to text during it is not just a Halachic problem but actually a slap in the face to G-d himself. It is an affirmation that the traditional nature of Shabbat is not enough for people anymore.

Essentially, against all the overwhelming evidence that the app is simply not fit for Judaism, the developers have set up a battle against G-d himself. If He’s not enough to fill a Shabbat, then can an app really fill the void in our Saturday schedule? That’s one question I certainly don’t need to ask.

The Shabbos app is set to be released Dec. 1. Develop your own opinion about the app by visiting www.shabbosapp.com.

Jake is a freshman international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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