Shabbos and technology: two great tastes that taste great together? The makers of the new Shabbos App, available in February from the iTunes Store and Google Play, want to convince you that, though it may seem counterintuitive, their spirituality-practicality hack will allow you to keep the Sabbath better from the comfort of your own phone.
Some are skeptical, and for good reason: smartphones and other modern electronic devices—computers, cameras, lights—are verboten on the Day of Rest. But the founders, who, according to the site, include “programmers, marketing professionals, and Rabbis who want to make it easier to be Jewish and fully observant,” have devised halakhic and technological workarounds to enable us to use our smartphones for good and not merely for Bejeweled. How will this app enable us to roll on Shabbos, as Walter Sobchek might say? For one, it might encourage more folks to observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy and relevant.
Still, smartphones exist to help us 1) work, and 2) distract ourselves, whereas Shabbos is about taking time out from our normal mundane lives. (Hence the Day of Unplugging.) Taking into account both keva and kavanah, can a smartphone—however rabbinically modified—ever really be kosher?