You can’t cook on Shabbos but you can use your oven if you have one with a Sabbath mode. Sabbath mode has become an increasingly prominent feature of new ovens that is supposed to let users keep food warm on Shabbos and cook on Yom Tov. But there’s still a problem: The way most Sabbath mode systems are designed, you can only open the oven once on Shabbos.
GE Appliances has solved the problem by making a device called Shabbos Keeper in conjunction with ZMAN Technologies of Clifton, New Jersey. When attached to a compatible GE Appliance refrigerator or oven, the Shabbos Keeper regulates the appliance according to a calendar of Shabbos and Yom Tov days and times programmed until 2050. The Shabbos Keeper was made first for GE Appliance refrigerators and has just been introduced for selected range ovens. The Shabbos Keeper regulates the heating element so that the oven door can be opened and closed as many times as necessary.
Each week and before every Yom Tov, Shabbos Keeper for ovens will automatically prompt you to accept Shabbos or early Shabbos. After accepting, you can cook normally until Shabbos or Yom Tov arrives and the oven automatically switches into Shabbos mode at the correct time. It also switches between Shabbos and Yom Tov when applicable. When Shabbos and Yom Tov coincide, Shabbos mode will always operate. Once set, Shabbos Keeper for ovens automatically enters Enhanced Shabbos Mode 90 minutes before sunset on Friday, maintaining a keep-warm temperature of 200 degrees F, and then reverts to weekday mode 90 minutes after sunset. On Yom Tov, Shabbos Keeper alternates the oven temperature around the time of meals: 350 degrees F for four hours after sunset and from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. the next day. In between, it reverts to the keep-warm mode.
Shabbos Keeper for refrigerators has an algorithm that regulates light and temperature so there are no longer any issues with switches and bulbs. All electronics in the refrigerator are completely computer controlled. In Enhanced Shabbos Mode, the defrost is set to automatically activate every few hours, with no user input. It completely controls the compressor, damper, fan(s), condenser, cooling valve and evaporator, including all temperature reading. Enhanced Shabbos Mode eliminates all electrical flow through door switches and sensors, completely disabling them during Shabbos and preventing any detection by internal computers. Shabbos Keeper will store information during a power failure for up to 72 hours, ensuring the proper mode is activated when the power comes back on.
Rabbi Tzvi Ortner, founder of Halachic Tech USA and director of the OU’s Division of Halacha and Technology, certifies GE Shabbos Mode appliances and was one of the initiators of the project. He has been involved with the development of Sabbath mode technology for over eight years, initially working with Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky, zt”l. “He always wanted us to get to the next level of finding the perfect solution to the problem,” Rabbi Ortner explained in a telephone interview.
Rabbi Ortner met Kevin Nolan, now CEO of GE Appliances, through Motty Gross, owner of AJ Madison, a large, Brooklyn-based appliance retailer, with whom he frequently discussed halachic issues regarding appliances. Gross told Rabbi Ortner that Nolan, who was then chief technology officer of the company, was a person who got things done when he thought it was important. “He was the first one to understand the issues and believe in serving our community on a higher level,” said Rabbi Ortner.
Nolan introduced him to the team at GE’s incubator for new products, called First Build, and they began working on a process to align refrigerators with Shabbos requirements. Then they brought ZMAN Technologies into the picture, and Shabbos Keeper was created. Shabbos Keeper for ovens was next.
Shabbos Keeper is compatible with selected GE Appliance ranges (not wall ovens) and refrigerators and purchased separately. For more information, visit www.geappliances.com/shabbos and www.zmantechnologies.com.
By Bracha Schwartz