My new oven has a Sabbath feature! Huh?

Okay, given the trials and tribulations of our old stove, burundi and I just purchased a new one. It’s your pretty basic stove – except for the Sabbath Feature.

The manual just has a brief explanation that this feature complies with Jewish Sabbath law or something. The instructions for its use are unclear to me; the main weird thing the feature seems to do is that:

  1. You tell it how long to cook at what temperature and then press the Sabbath Feature button (or code or something);
    2) It waits a random amount of time between 30 and 60 seconds; and
  2. It starts cooking.

Huh? Can anyone explain to me how this feature satisfies laws around the Sabbath? I’m pretty ignorant about Jewish law, mind you, but it’s obviously dealing with the restriction against work on the Sabbath; I’m just curious how a random length of time between pressing the buttons and the oven’s turning on gets around this restriction.

Can anyone explain this to me?

I think the random time feature is the key. As you are not supposed to work on the Sabbath, the feature in effect means YOU didn’t turn on the stove, or timer.

More information soon I’m sure.

The Word Spy has this to say:

It sounds like the feature DanielWithrow’s stove has is different than the feature jovan’s Word Spy quote is talking about.

Perhaps DanielWithrow’s stove’s Sabbath feature is because it is not permissible to use fire (or turn on electrical devices, which can create a spark, as I understand the reasoning) on the Sabbath. So all you have to do is initiate the process, and the oven itself turns on the fire (if a gas stove) or powers up the coils (if an electric stove) randomly. Thus allowing you to get stuff done while still following the letter of the law.

But maybe my thoughts are completely off-base and it has to do with the work thing that GaryM suggested.

Well, this Kenmore page has a more detailed explanation of what their Sabbath mode does:

I also found an article that explains the delay thing:

Holy sophistry, Batman!!! :eek:


Thanks, jovan! I’d found your first article, but not the second one.

To be honest, I suspected the reasoning was something like this (the random delay was sufficient to trick God into thinking you weren’t actually doing work on the Sabbath), and my reaction was similar to godzillatemple’s – it seems like a pretty blatantly cheaty way to get around the rule.

Is there a significant number of Orthodox Jews who observe the restriction on using an oven on the Sabbath but who are willing to use a workaround like this? It just seems so, I dunno, legalistic or something.


I’ve gotta say … were I an observant jew, I’d spend the sabbath eating cold leftovers. Period. Not doing any work is way too much work.

Anyone know what a “blech” is?

Also, if someone can explain how the random interval between adjustment and result makes the action “kosher” (probably not the right term, but I hope you know what I mean).

I guess I can see setting a timer on Friday, before the Sabbath starts, and putting the food in the oven beforehand so it will be ready for dinner on the Sabbath, but I don’t get the random interval idea.

Am I right in thinking that it is OK to take food out of the oven, but not put it in? Or can you do this if you don’t adjust the temperature? And is the thing about the oven light not coming on for Sabbath mode because you can’t turn a light on or off on the Sabbath?

Obviously, if any of my questions are offensive, please disregard and forgive. Some Jewish Dopers were very kind to me in answering some cooking questions when I had a Jewish co-worker to my house for dinner once. And you must get sick of answering stupid questions.


I just wonder if Jewish kids spend the last five minutes before the Sabbath turning on all their TVs and radios and computers and PlayStation 2s in the house… :wink:


A “blech” is a sheet of metal that covers an entire range top, on which there will usually be one open flame. Items can be placed anywhere on it to stay warm if they are already warm and fully cooked, and there are various restrictions on placing cool items too close to the flame.

Basically, the only cooking not allowed on Sabbath according to pure Torah law is to make raw items cooked, and no problem with warming items that are already fully cooked. But the Rabbis decreed that warming up fully cooked items should also not be done on the Sabbath since it’s too easy to make a mistake in the matter. However, if one covers the flame, then that serves as a reminder that will help avoid transgressing the Biblical prohibition. (This is, obviously, an oversimplification.)

The reason is a concept in Jewish law called “grama”, which basically means “indirect cause.” (again, oversimplifying in the following) There is no prohibition in doing an action which will be an indirect cause of forbidden Sabbath work getting done. However, something is not considered “grama” if it is a positive action which will defnitely result in the prohibition being done.

The switch in question circumvents this (IIRC) by being a negative action, not a positive action. The classic halachic example of this is if a deer is inside someone’s house with the door open. To actually close the door would result in the forbidden Sabbath work of trapping the animal. However, if it’s a windy day, and the door is being kept open only by a doorstop, then removing the doorstop is not considered to be a forbidden act of trapping. One is allowing the wind, at some undetermined time, to slam the door shut, but his action did not directly contribute to the shutting of the door and there was no certainty that it would happen.

Inside this switch is actually a light beam which is being blocked. pressing the switch will remove the blockage (as the doorstop in the above example) and allow the light beam to render the circuit complete. However, if the light beam was steady, or emitted on a steady schedule, then the completion of the circuit is considered a direct result. By randomizing the light beam’s schedule, the element of certainty is removed (like the wind in the above example).

You are correct in both of those assumptions. And you can’t put the food into the oven to warm even if you don’t adjust the temperature because of the Rabbinic prohibition mentioned in the first portion of this post…there is (as far as I know; there are, however, more knowledgeable dopers than I on the board. Hopefully IzzyR will check in) no equivalent to that “blech” for the inside of the oven.

And yes, a lot of the above is legalistic sophistry. But it’s also legitimate Jewish law, so…big deal. What’s permitted by technicality is still permitted.

Thanks as ever, cmkeller.


[hijack]Since the New York KosherDopers apparently tend to check out GQ before MPSIMS, and at least one of them is here, I thought I’d note here my MPSIMS thread NYC KosherDopers – January Dopefest Planning Help, Please.[/hijack]

Well, in my house, turning the computer off is the absolute last thing I do before the Sabbath, since I can’t bear to be parted from my precious email for any longer than necessary. But no, TV/radio/etc are considered activites not conducive to the Sabbath spirit. I remember one Passover when I was maybe fifteen I accidentally left my alarm set, so it woke me with the radio for the first two mornings. I felt very weird having the radio on in my room, and spent as little time as possible in there for the hour before it turned itself off.

Isn’t the Sabbath a fasting day? I went over to a Jewish friends house when they were fasting to work on a high-school project. It took me ten minutes to convince him that I could type 50 times faster than he could hunt and peck in his starved state. I think complicated machines should be off-limits for this reason if no other! ;j

Every Friday evening the Rabbi across the street comes and knocks on the door and leads me back to his house in order to push some button or other. I have turned lights on and off, adjusted the timer (which controls the household electricity), taken things out of the oven, etc.

The Rabbi is a great guy…his kids are cute too, not to mention extremely polite. But he goes through a lot more “work” trudging across the street, waiting for me to get shoes, and dragging my butt around than he would if he’d just poke the dumb buttons himself. I confess to not understanding this issue of what constitues “work” and why they adhere to it.


Nifty feature. Nothing like getting God on a technicality, eh?

The Sabbath involves eating. Much, much eating. Three nice meals are actually required, plus I tend to snack quite a bit. In the winter, when I have no Friday afternoon because sunset is so early, I start cooking Wednesday night (I work during the day, so I have to get my cooking done in the evening). Then I wonder why people make such a huge screaming fuss about Thanksgiving, when I single-handedly cook a three course meal weekly (FWIW, I’m in my early twenties and a mostly self-taught cook).

There are six fast days a year, but if any of them (other than Yom Kippur) happen to fall out on a Saturday, they get pushed off until Sunday, since the Sabbath, eating included, is considered more important. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and takes precedence over even the Sabbath; it’ll be on Friday night/Saturday next year, and I’m sure it’ll feel deeply weird.


What constitues “work” is any creative activity that was necessary in the process of making the Jewish Tabernacle during the Israelites’ sojourn from Egypt. There is a list of 39 categories of such actions in halachic (Jewish legal) literature, and each of those categories includes actions similar to the “main” action itself (e.g., threshing wheat is one such “main” action, and squeezing juice from a fruit is an action of similar nature that is also forbidden).

As for why we adhere to it…well, I’m sure you do understand that…has something to do with believing it was commanded by G-d…

Chaim Mattis Keller

Aaah, but have they? Is the verdict in?